Brief shore leave from The Bratch

Moored above Bratch Locks, Womborne

On Tuesday Cleddau had climbed the three Bratch Locks and been moored on the delightful visitor moorings above. What does The Bratch mean?  Boatwif had wondered the other day… Wikipedia, the internet user’s useful friend, explains it as a familiar Staffordshire word referring to new clearings near the edges of ancient forests.

There are no roads nearby and the towpath, though frequently used by local running groups, does not seem to attract cyclists in the same numbers as elsewhere. So, the boat was secured, arrangements were made and the Captain and Boatwif set off on their respective missions.

Enterprise, the car rental firm, yet again provided a superb service of customer pick up and transfer to the local rental office to collect the booked vehicle. Soon the Captain was readjusting his narrow canal speed (2 mph average) to something higher as he negotiated Wolverhampton city traffic and motorways various, wending south east to Bedfordshire.  His was a two-part mission – to collect the postal votes and to inspect for himself the water leak reports. The first was easy, the second less so. Aided by a camera and a running mobile phone commentary back to Boatwif (by then up north in Macclesfield) the evidence was relayed. A leak in the loft had sent water pouring through an area of ceiling above a spare bedroom     and cascading down into the kitchen below. Exemplary Neighbour  had played his part again by alerting the crew, turning off the stopcock and mopping up… Builder had punctured holes in bulging ceilings to release water and Insurance Surveyor wants to lift the carpet to gaze at the floorboards. It could all have been a great deal worse.


Meanwhile, Boatwif had made her (slower than expected) way to Macclesfield, by bus, train and foot.


Her mission, booked several weeks before, was to accompany the Cheshire Three to The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, there to see Persuasion,    a bonnet-free dramatization of Jane Austen’s novel played in the round. (Those interested in theatre design should look at the Wikipedia Theatre section which explains that

‘The theatre features a seven-sided steel and glass module that squats within the building’s Great Hall. It is a pure theatre in the round in which the stage area is surrounded on all sides, and above, by seating.

It is an astonishing setting, a modern steel structure    within a building originally used as a commodities trading hall, rebuilt and extended several times…


The staging of a story set between summer 1814 and February 1815 using modern dress and music and no props (bar a squeezy bottle of red ketchup to indicate blood) seems a brave venture. The stages (two rotating rectangles) are starkly white, the play opening with the heroine Anne prone on the floor.    Yet quickly the social expectations of the period are established: a young lady approaching thirty must gain a husband  – and husbands are best found in fashionable places.  (You can read production reviews here,  , here   and here.

There was interval entertainment’ too, watching four backstage staff clear the acting area of huge volumes of foam…

The play came to an ambiguous end – could Anne / would Anne find eventual happiness…?

Afterwards there was nothing ambiguous about the mood outside the Royal Exchange Theatre. This fine building is about twenty yards along from St Ann’s Square in Central Manchester.  In deeply sombre mood small clusters of people were moving about, pausing here to light a candle or two, pausing there to read some of the many personal messages. It took a minute or two to grasp what lay in front – a paved field feet deep in cellophaned floral tributes, punctuated by colourful balloons. This massive display has become the centre point of grief for what occurred at the Manchester Arena just nine days previously. There were armed police and an ITN news vehicle. But the most poignant image that stuck was the two silver balloons side by side – 22.

It was good to catch up with the Cheshire One. Year 6 SATs are done and gone now, but here’s an equation that probably wasn’t on the Maths papers:

N = 1

Shore leave was short so it was back to The Bratch on Thursday morning for the cruise to continue…

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