The ‘interior’ traveller

Photomontage by Nick Holt

In the Spring of 1790 Xavier de Maistre was confined, under house arrest, and embarked on a remarkable voyage around his bedroom. It was a journey taken almost entirely in his imagination. The book A Journey Around My Room and the later A Nocturnal Investigation Around My Room were the result.

‘There’s no more attractive pleasure than to follow one’s ideas wherever they lead, as the hunter pursues his game, without even trying to keep to any set route. And so, when I travel through my room, I rarely follow a straight line: I go from my table towards a picture hanging in a corner; from there I set out obliquely towards the door; but even though, when I began, it really is my intention to go there, if I happen to meet my armchair en route, I don’t think twice about it, and settle down without further ado.’

In the two books familiar objects are re-viewed and the furniture, engravings etc. explored as if they were being witnessed for the first time in a strange land.

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‘Eileen’ 30 years ago…

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I’d begun to think that my research into Eileen’s long history was over, as so few new leads have been found in recent months – so imagine my surprise and delight when browsing for something unrelated to the boat to suddenly come across this wonderful image on Wikimedia Commons.

The notes state that it shows ‘N.B. Eileen, Wheaton Aston, Shropshire Union Canal 25.07.1981’ ie. during a period when owner Paul Pepperell was making a solo trip around the English canals in the early 1980’s…

It’s the first time I’ve seen the full extent of the wooden cabin extension that had been fitted after the boat had been sold by Mick & Judy Vedmore.

The Story of Eileen: ‘The Silent Path’

It’s been a while since I wrote a re-navigating Eileen post. These posts are about trying to get under the skin of our old boat and understanding both her history and my fascination with her. There have been two previous ‘re-navigating’ posts, one HERE and a second one HERE, taking a moment to read these posts may help set the scene for any new readers.

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The Story of Eileen: Inch-By-Inch

I’m back ‘Navigating’ again, trying to uncover the hidden history of our 1903 Birmingham Canal Navigation day boat ‘Eileen’. It’s a job that requires both detective work and the occasional creative leap of faith. The detective work is at times frustrating in that day boats – by their very ubiquity around the BCN –  were close to being invisible.

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The Story of Eileen: The ‘Imagined’ Yard

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In trying to uncover (or navigate) the lost history of our old Birmingham Canal Navigation iron day boat Eileen it’s been necessary at times to rely on creative leaps of imagination to help bridge the current gaps in my knowledge.

For some time I’ve been thinking about the yard where she was built by Eli Aston around 1903. Contemporaneous maps provide a tantalising blank canvas. The yard seems to have been little more than a huddle of sheds on flat land adjacent to the canal.

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The Story of Eileen: ‘Finding Spring Vale’

 

I’m trying to get under the skin of our boat. The Story of Eileen is a mixture of social and industrial history combined with fiction, research and imagination. If I’m honest the gaps fascinate me as much as the facts. Given that what I don’t know about the boat would fill a book, perhaps that’s a healthy attitude to have at this point. I’m open-minded about where the journey will take me, and up for a ‘drift’ across the landscape of her stories.

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