"THERE'S FROGHALL UP THE CALDON"
GREAT CANAL JOURNEYS OF OUR TIME by Ensign David Brindley
Mr Brindley in his working clothes
THE RETURN JOURNEY
Froghall was the end of the line for the lads.
It was time to turn Alice around
And head back for Marple and t'Navi,
To tell everyone what they had found.
Of course, seeing as how they had found nothing,
Like Froghall at Consall, you might say,
They could put what they wanted in t'story,
Nob'dy else would be going that way.
It’s worth recording at this point in time
One o'th'Ensign's unusual routines.
He's apt to get up very early in t'morning,
And wander about full o’beans.
Of course, our Captain has not never known
Of this kind of practice at home.
In fact, when disturbed at 5.30am,
He went crackers and started to foam.
There was only one way of ending this madness,
And the Ensign knew the best cure,
He'd put on the kettle, fill up the teapot,
And wave a white flag round the door.
The Captain would always accept this peace offering,
And sip the Ambrosian brew,
Which caused great postern blasts to issue from Jack,
(He indulged in odd practices too!!)
"Great postern blasts"
And so it was time to sail back down the Churnet,
One quiet, peaceful morning in June.
But the lads decided to shatter the silence
By singing some songs out of tune.
They bawled out sea shanties with gusto,
Dirty ditties and Rugby songs too,
And while they were singing, they ate sausage butties,
Chased down with a mug of home brew.
'Queen Street Girls" was their number one favourite,
They'd both learn it while serving the King.
But they stopped after eighty four verses,
They'd run out of swear words to sing.
With all t'noise they'd frightened the horses,
Scared the cattle, the sheep and all t'fish,
They'd also put t'wind up some anglers.
But didn't care much about this.
For during their journey to Froghall,
They'd seen these chaps lining the banks,
With faces just like wet weekends,
Never saying, "Good Morning!" nor "Thanks."
Psst! Have you heard the one about the 2 men in a narrow boat?
Now, if fishing screwed me up that much,
As though I'd a pain in the gut,
I'd smash all me tackle, then let all me worms go,
And then dive head first into t'cut.
Meanwhile, back on the Alice,
They would wave at the anglers and say,
"Good Morning, you miserable buggers,
Have you drowned any maggots today?"
The temperature soared in the eighties that week
And the sun's searing heat was ferocious.
The Ensign, a lad with a delicate skin,
Screamed out as it burnt his proboscis.
The tragedy was, he'd no oil to smear
On sticky-out bits, like his nose.
Captain Jack found the sight very funny,
And laughed till they near came to blows.
He suggested that David retire to his bunk,
And keep his red conk out of t'light.
And if that didn't work, he could stand up at t'front
To warn other boats off at night.
By this time they'd reached t'pub at Foxley,
Where they thought they might dine, a Ia carte.
And they eagerly sat down at a table,
Wondering how they should start.
Should they start off the meal with some d'oovers?
Horse's were best, they'd been told.
Then follow that up with some French soup,
'Coq au Leekie' sounded quite bold.
Next, the piece de resistance,
The main meal, a thumping big steak.
Entrecote, T-Bone, or sirloin?
All this thinking had made their heads ache.
So they quickly decided on t'pudding.
Spotted Dick sounded quite nice.
It weren't exactly, 'haute cuisine',
But to the lads it meant sheer Paradise.
Hold steady, I think I've found me 'am
Then the waitress arrived at the table,
Pointing out that most things were off.
They finished up ordering 'am salad,
Which is hardly yer 'Cordon Bleu' scoff.
Caterpillars had been at the lettuce,
They'd been at the other greens too.
And under one leaf, that looked like a doily,
The lads saw their 'am peeping through.
They set off again down the Caldon
With the sun blazing down on their heads,
So much so that they moored up at Hanley
And immediately took to their beds.
Th'Ensign's conk still glowed like a beacon.
Pulsin'light shone outside, from within.
And hundreds of kids started queuing,
Asking when did the Disco begin?
They'd now reached the Trent & Mersey Canal,
And the Potteries industrial grime,
Making haste for the Harecastle Tunnel,
It was Jack's turn for steering this time.
Half a mile from the tunnel, they stopped near a lake,
Mooring in shade, somewhat frugal.
"This 'II do nicely" said th' Ensign to Jack
"It'll keep that there sun off me bugle!"
"I've decided we're dining 'alfresco'." said Jack.
It's Greek and means 'under a tree."
"Damn clever our Captain." mused David, 'cos he'd thought
Some AIf bloke was coming to tea.
They both got down to their separate tasks,
Buzzing about like a swarm.
The Captain got the table and cutlery out,
While the Ensign cooked up a storm.
The wine had been chilled to the right temperature
By the Ensign, who'd thoughtfully put
Two bottles of plonk in a bucket,
Filled up with some water from t'cut.
The orgy of wining and dining began,
By the side of Westport water park.
Passers-by said how much they envied the lads,
Then pinched all their chips in the dark.
Is there anything sweeter in life than to dine
Outside on a fine summer's night?
The air just like wine, and the wine just like nectar,
With all worries and cares put to flight.
(Well, everybody's entitled to at least one lyrical waxing....)
The food and drink did strange things to the Captain
Making the most of this idyllic setting,
And the most of four bottles of wine,
And the most of a bottle of brandy,
The crew were well,--- mostly fine.
At some point in their carousing,
A couple arrived and sat down,
They were moored nearby, next to Alice
A vessel they knew by renown.
They wished to know more about Alice
But mainly about her fine crew,
So the Captain, he plied them with brandy,
Whilst plying himself with it too.
He proceeded to tell his life story,
And he got thirty years back in time,
When he noticed their eyes glazing over,
So he gave them some Blackberry wine.
Then, needing to go somewhere urgent,
And having the Ensign to pass,
He happened to fall, and go aft over elbow,
And sent them both sprawling in t'grass.
This set them off laughing and giggling,
With their legs waving round in the air.
And the nice couple gawped in amazement,
At the state of this drunken old pair.
The Ensign apologised profusely,
Embarrassed he said, "If you please,
It's the brandy, it acts like arthritis,
When it gets near the poor Captain's knees."
The visitors, being nice people,
Understood and said, "Never mind,
We'll brew you some nice hot, black coffee,
It'll make you feel better, you'll find."
The Captain's reply to this gesture,
Was to wave t'brandy bottle around.
And slosh liberal amounts in their coffee,
As he slid with panache to the ground.
The guests, at this point, thought it wisest,
To withdraw and retire to their bunks,
As from under the table came sozzled, "Good -byes"
Burbled by two legless drunks.
After a while they both staggered up,
And the Captain started to gripe,
"Nobody leaves this place 'till I say so,
I can't find my favourite pipe."
They searched high and low for the pipe
Tired and emotional, Dave gave a groan
"Oh, no. What a daft thing to lose."
"I'll just have to look in the obvious place."
Yes, you've guessed - it was stuck in his shoes.
The Captain, with pipe clutched firmly in hand,
Tried three times to climb in his bunk.
And each time the Ensign heaved him back up
Jack's head cracked the roof with a clunk!
You'll appreciate how this helped him to sleep,
Along with the brandy and wine.
Before very long he was snoring that loud,
That the Richter scale registered nine!
It goes without saying, Dave didn't sleep well,
He got up around quarter to five,
And decided to go for a swim in the lake,
Perhaps it would help him revive.
As he swam slowly away from the shore,
Getting caught in a tangle of weed,
He saw a flotilla of whacking great swans
Heading towards him at speed.
He went very cold and started to shake,
His face turned a curious green pallor.
He made for the bank whilst quickly deciding
Discretion the best part of valour.
Then wandering about in just underpants,
He'd almost reached t'boat when he saw
A girl on a bike who tartly remarked,
"Don't you flashers wear macs any more?"
Back in the galley he made a quick brew
And waved a cup under Jack's nose.
It made no impression, he just kept on snoring,
He was obviously still comatose.
At last, about eight, they got under way,
Passing the friends of last night,
And surprising enough they shouted, "Good morning."
It's nice to meet folk so polite.
The Harecastle Tunnel was all down to Jack,
Once through they'd be near th'end o'trip.
But whilst in that hell-hole the cook bottled out
And dived in his bunk for a kip.
Never once did the Captain bang into the sides
Of the tunnel, he steered straight and true.
He reckoned that someone had made it yards wider
Since the Ensign last bumped his way through.
Nothing at all to do with the story - but the Ensign's joke about "Do you want to come to a stag party?"
The sun was still blazing and cracking the flags
When they moored up in Congleton town.
There the lads found a pub that was called ‘The Wharf Inn’
Where lunch cost them all of a pound.
It was quite an old place and went back a bit,
On the walls sepia photos were hung.
Every room had some antique furniture in,
And the Juke Box still played Jimmy Young.
The landlady served up the grub to the crew,
And she prattled and nattered away,
A local told t'lads, on the quiet, she were clockwork,
And got wound up three times a day.
The Landlady quickly rustled up some food for the staving crew....
They hurriedly finished the meal, and paid up,
Then went back for a kip on the boat.
If they'd stopped much longer and listened to her,
They'd have shaken her warmly by t'throat.
Setting out later, when the day had cooled down,
They ploughed on then moored near a bridge.
The Ensign had wanted to make them some supper
But found nothing worth eating in t'fridge.
The bridge got its name from a small nearby pub,
Which boasted a kitchen and cook.
"I reckon they knew we were coming." th'Ensign said.
"They've gone and renamed it 'Fool's Nook'."
"But it looks like a place that'll serve decent grub,
Let's go in and have a huge scoff"'
"I’m dreadfully sorry " the barperson said,
"You're too late, the chef's just clocked off."
"Bloody hell" said the Captain. "Scuppered again.
I'm so hungry I could just eat a horse."
But all the pub had was a curly ham butty,
Which they cut up between them. of course.
Needless to say, they didn't stay long,
But supped up and went back on board,
Where the Ensign searched all through the cupboards,
Whilst the Captain just threw things, and roared.
"Are you sure we haven't got any noodles?
I like them, they make me feel full.
"Yes we have." th'Ensign said, "You can eat all the lot
To me they're like chewing on wool"
There was a party on board that last night .... boiled knitting and vimto.
But the Captain, you see, had been to Hong Kong,
Where they ate funny things like fried rice,
Bird's nest soup and casseroled cobra,
So eating knitting, for him, was quite nice.
It happened to be their last night on board
Tomorrow meant Marple and home.
Where Jack could write the ship's log up,
And David could work on his poem.
They spent that last night suppin' t'rest of the wine.
And other top pri-ori-ties,
Like gambling, at cards, for the 'kitty',
Which the Captain quickly claimed as his.
The next morning dawned with the sun behind clouds.
Round their nethers, a cold east wind blew.
The crew quickly donned their foul weather gear,
And their long woolly underpants too.
They hadn't sailed far when Alice slowed down,
Then stopped with a splutter and cough.
"Not again!" groaned the Ensign, shivering with cold.
"If the boat needs a tow then I'm off."
In the event, the problem was solved
By Captain Jack's technical brain.
He gave Alice's engine an almighty whack,
And it roared into life once again.
But after an hour, the engine just died,
It meant towing the Alice quite far,
To a mooring just north of Poynton,
Where the owner would wait with his car.
During the time they pulled Alice along,
Thinking thoughts both vile and dark,
It became apparent that some passers-by
Thought the lads were out just for a lark.
"Hello there, have you broke down?" someone said,
Whilst others were heard to retort,
"Are you just acting daft for some charity?"
Or... "Is it a new water sport?"
They didn't take kindly to this, didn't t’lads,
So with big fixed grins they replied,
"We're taking this boat round the Cape of Good Hope,
Could you tell us the time of the tides?"
The arranged meeting place was finally reached,
Were both lads collapsed in a heap.
No doubt liquid refreshment would soon bring them round,
For a while th'engine mending would keep.
The Ensign soon searched out a pub down a lane
And managed to purchase some cans,
But not before he'd supped several pints,
Which he needed to steady his hands.
Then Peter the Owner arrived in his car,
And said t'fuel pump were burnt out again.
He suggested that t'lads had been going too fast,
Overtaking folk in the fast lane.
The pump that he fitted had seen better days,
So the thing was put on with misgiving.
Jack reckoned the pump had first seen t'light o'day
When th'owd King, George the Fifth, were still living.
Nevertheless, the pump did the trick,
And Alice chugged off at a trot,
And managed to get them to Windlehurst Hall,
Where, once again, she just stopped.
It seemed that Alice wasn't quite ready yet
To get back to Marple and home.
It appeared she'd rather the lads turned her around
And like t'Flying Dutchman, just roam.
Although a nice thought, it just wasn't on.
Appealing, but it wasn't to be.
They had to return to a word that would rhyme,
That word was .... Reality.
The weary crew bow-hauled Alice again,
This time without any abuse.
Then a Good Samaritan offered a tow,
An offer they couldn't refuse.
Thus, they limped into Marple Top Lock,
The Alice, The Ensign, Cap'n Jack.
The crew, to a man, looked down the canal
And said, "Don't go away.... WE"LL BE BACK"
"EYUP Lads, looks like they're back. - Go and warn t'pubs quick!