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Uxbridge to Leighton Buzzard

So much has happened this week, it’s hard to pack it all into one blog post.

On Friday we were at Hillingdon Boat Club. In the audience was IWA member, Andrew Simpson, who heard that we planned to stop the next day in search of a milepost dedicated to Eily Gayford. Next morning he appeared on his bike and very kindly cycled to the milepost, clearing away the nettles surrounding it, so that we could take a few snapshots. He even helped with the locks. Sorry there’s no photo at this point. For some reason, the website won’t let us add any at the moment.

On Saturday we were at Batchworth Canal Centre. This was an eventful show, a collapsing chair almost pitching someone head first into the water, a boy being sick (rather tidily, and between poems) and a pair of pigeons having ‘the right ten minutes’ behind me, to which I was completely oblivious. (See Kate’s play to fully appreciate the ‘ten minutes’ reference.)

On Sunday in the garden of the Kings Head, Hunton Bridge, the hardy audience braved the cold and were thankful of an intimate indoor location for the second half. The next three days involved a journey to Leighton Buzzard and an unplanned pause when Grove Lock was closed for repairs until 2 o’clock on the day of the show. For that stage of the journey we welcomed three women volunteers. It was good to have Tour Manager Zoe along for a couple of days too, though she did manage to fall in the canal, spending the rest of that day in her pyjamas while her clothes dried in the engine room. We were relieved to eventually arrive at The Globe Inn where we managed to moor alongside the pub.

During the daytime we were interviewed by Fabian Hiscock for the University of Hertfordshire Heritage Hub oral history archive, talking about the wartime women’s work as well as our own.

After the show, which took place in the garden of the Globe Inn, a woman from the audience told me how my vivid description of Ruth standing in the cabin in a state of shock after “a tidal wave had snapped the mooring ropes” took her right back to a similar reaction of stunned shock she had herself observed. The words were part of one of my ‘found’ poems, this one (We met a rocket) blending together text found in books by Susan Woolfitt and Eily Gayford. A young lad responded to Molly Traill’s Report, keen to help in my quest to learn what some of the things listed in the song actually are. He delighted in enlightening me about a ‘blow lamp pricker’ and was pleased to find out what a gasket is from a man who was standing nearby. This kind of interaction gives us such pleasure as the tour is about far more than just the performances.

It went dark during the second half of the evening so we were able to try out our newly purchased ‘lighting rig’ – two battery operated inspection lamps pegged to the ground with mooring pins and tilted upwards – surprisingly effective! One of the aims of the tour is to include descriptions from the women’s books of places on our route. To demonstrate how a ‘found poem’ can be created, I quoted words about passing through Leighton Buzzard, in an article by Jean Peters, which I had started forming into a new piece. As it was dark, a man in the audience volunteered to illuminate the page using the light from my mobile phone. All in all, the lighting rig worked a treat!


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