By Arachne


Willows, swans, teaching, an egret, some bends in the Nene, swifts flitting, a lock, lesson-planning, herons rising from the reeds, a building, some thinking, more swans, more buildings.

At a lock coming into Northampton a young man carefully watches what we are doing: opening the lower gates, driving the boat in, closing the lower gates, winding up the paddles of the top gates, monitoring the water rushing into the lock as the boat rises. He asks me whether he is right that a lock is for moving a boat up or down a level and I tell him he is and explain how it works. He nods slowly then helps us open the top gate. He has never been on a boat so I invite him on for a ride to our lunch mooring place, not much further up-river. I show him round. He's intrigued that our sitting area is our eating area is our teaching area is our sleeping area. We stop and tie up. A friendly wave and he is off to retrieve the car he was wise enough to leave outside a pub last night, despite his long walk home and long walk back again this morning.

We walk into Northampton and I realise that 100 years ago my grandmother, aged 16, would have walked around these streets. I wonder how much freedom she had just to wander. I see buildings she must have seen and wonder what she saw in the places that now have more recent buildings. She would have been here when Rennie Mackintosh was working on the only house he designed outside Scotland (I visited it though Mackintosh never did). Certainly she would have known the elegant renaissance-style All Saints Church in whose portico John Clare used to sit and write. Now his painfully sad poem, 'I am' has been painted on a wall by the entrance. I read it, with difficulty, to one of our students and explain the words she doesn't know.

Back at the boat we discover that the flight of locks we'd planned to go up this evening is closed for the rest of the day so instead my co-teacher does a lesson with the group while I have a walk along urban canal: buddleia, cyclists, bramble, rubbish, a vast industrial brewery, a Sunday-deserted shopping centre. And back again.

Apologies again for the lack of comments. Mostly rural internet combined with paradoxical full-on activity on this slowest of journeys make it impossible to follow what anyone else is up to.

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