Life on the cut

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I started writing a regular column for Canals Online magazine. For those of you who didn’t believe it, here is one of the aforementioned articles, treated of course with my usual diplomatic reverence.
As mentioned in the last edition of ‘Canals Online’ magazine, spring has well and truly sprung and is now in full swing down by old bridge number 38.

‘How do you know,’ I hear you cry.
Well I’ll tell you a few of the tricks us old timers living down by the cut use in defining the passing of the seasons.
Firstly, during the first full school holiday week of Easter the tourist boats begin to weave their way up from Stourport. ‘Weave’ is the operative word as the novice captain of the vessel struggles with the intricacies of steering left but going right.
Also during this holiday period it rains.
Yes, it comes down in galvanised bloody buckets.
Happy Easter, pass the creme eggs, some oilskins and a sou’wester.
But there are other signs.
Fishermen for a start.
The secretive solitary angler has slowly been shedding his winter plumage. The waterproof green and brown camouflage jacket and camouflage over-trousers with visible bum crack have been replaced by a stunning pair of dungarees in a fetching Grey/ Black ‘shock and awe’ pattern just in case a Russian submarine should surface through the murky waters of the Staffs and Worcs. ‘Can’t smear Novichok nerve agent on my knob, Vladimir – I’m disguised as a rock.’
Flocks of them have now appeared on the banks, freshly returned from their winter migration to The Horse and Jockey or the far more exotic Hinksford Arms.
The calls have changed too. Instead of the customary grunt of the lone fisherman in response to any hearty greeting from passing walkers, the calls echo out as they try to locate their mate – ‘How about them Dingles? Couldn’t pass a ball if they tried!’
‘You need bloody talk, the Baggies ain’t much better.’
The ritual displaying of their wares is in full swing. Boxes on wheels have been dragged through the countryside before being opened up to allow all and sundry to see the bewildering array of hooks and lures lovingly arranged in trays. Phalanxes of carbon fibre rods lie across the towpath, held up on all sorts of tripods, steady’s, stands, racks and bits of old twig, giving each angler more catching power than a fleet of Grimsby trawlers.
A pair of Tupperware boxes, one with cheese sandwiches in cling film which have been mouldering on the windowsill since last Wednesday and one full of maggots fresh from the fridge lie discarded in the grass. Take care not to mix those two up then.
A chorus of disapproval starts at the far end and like some slow motion Mexican wave the only rod each of them ever uses is hoisted out of the water and into the air to let the latest learner skipper zig-zag his way past.
Look out!
Coming toward us now is the latest fair weather visitor, clad in shorts, an Action Heart tee shirt and shiny new trainers. Yes, the occasional jogger has peeked out of its nest, discerned that the temperature is above fifteen degrees and it is unlikely to drizzle for at least the next half an hour. He has set out on a mission to jog up as far as the pub, stop for a crafty half and then head back in an effort to lose a few pounds. As well as his colourful plumage he wears a Fitbit on his wrist to be examined every few seconds as an antidote to his being unable to access Facebook in this wi-fi dead-spot called ‘the countryside.’ He is also sporting a utility belt which would make Batman green with envy. There is a water bottle handily placed to be unslung without
losing pace. An iPod is connected up to his head with the latest in ear-bud technology. There is a spare water bottle and a container with re-hydration fluid for emergencies. A pouch contains a multigrain bar which when opened will look (and probably taste) like something that has fallen out of the backside of a squirrel. There are a packet of plasters because you never know do you? He once stumbled, fell and grazed a knee whilst attempting to
hurdle a particularly well spread dog poo. Another pouch contains an economy tub of Vaseline just in case his nipples start to chafe and create static electricity against the nylon of his shirt. And if his right arm should somehow become incapacitated there is a further water bottle within reaching distance of his left arm, to which is also strapped a blood pressure monitor and a sweat band.
Another recent riser from hibernation is the fisherman’s arch rival. So fast and unwilling to stop are these creatures that it causes the normally reticent angler to swear and cuss like girls on a hen night in Newcastle as they hastily drag their fancy plastic rods off the towpath. In a blur of florescent Lycra the mountain biker swoops past covered in an array of multi-national corporate logo’s like an oversubscribed advertising hoarding, head armoured against attack and bum splattered in mud (well at least I hope that’s what that is!) because his bicycle is far too fancy for mud-guards.
Also leaping out of the way are a pair of ramblers. Quiet and unassuming these shy creatures are also agitated by the cyclists ill-mannered charge past and the male may ‘TUT!’ loudly only to be admonished by his mate who will tap his arm apologetically and whisper, ‘George, really!’ They dress identically in a (whisper it, because the next bit is rude) uni-sex sort of way. Despite the heat they wear long grey woollen socks which are rolled down to the top of their hiking boots. Khaki shorts are topped with check patterned shirt (or blouse). He wears a cap, she a sun hat. He carries an Ordnance Survey map in a plastic cover and a compass which he examines at regular intervals despite being on a towpath which allows only a choice of two directions. She has a canvas knapsack inside which is a tinfoil wrap of egg and cress sandwiches, two packets of plain crisps, four Hob-Nobs in cling-film, a thermos of tea – no sugar, her reading glasses (his are on a string around his neck for map and compass readings) and two sensible raincoats.
If I’m not very much mistaken in that thicket over there, just off the towpath – if we approach quietly… Ah yes, I thought it was, the den of the angst ridden teenager – thankfully unoccupied. Normally raucously obnoxious when in a group but get one alone and it will become monosyllabic, with words like ‘yeah,’ ‘nah,’ or ‘innit.’
Oh, how do I know?
Well it’s very similar to looking out for Otter scat. As you will notice there are many empty cans of lager strewn about and the lingering smell of weed signifies that they have been marking their territory. We’d better get back out into the open in case they come back.
Watch out for the over excited Alsatian bounding along it will probably (ah yes, I thought it would – apologies for the tardy warning, it was running faster than I thought) sniff your groin and drool unnervingly. Here comes the owner, or ‘Dad’ as he likes to be called in Tyson’s presence, with a cheery if hesitant, ‘he’s very friendly, so I don’t think he’ll hurt you.’ He would have been closer to his pooch but he was diligently poo picking before hanging the plastic bag from the branch of the nearest tree like a gaudy Christmas bauble.
And that my friends is how we country bumpkins tell the time of year. Summer will be upon us soon, it’s scheduled for a week next Thursday – we will of course know by the arrival of a pair of Kayakers and a paddle boarder.
Oh yes, and the rain will be warmer.
If you’d like to read my latest musings of life on the cut for ‘Canals Online’ magazine you’ll find them at

I’m a SWAGger…

So I’ve got involved with a theatre group – wanna hear about it? Then read on.

Hi there and a happy New Year to you. 

I know that a lot of you liked and followed our SWAG page some time ago and…

Pardon? SWAG. That’s Stourbridge Writers and Actors Group, madam.

So anyway…


Well I suppose technically it should be SWAAG, but allow us a bit of artistic licence here for heavens sake! 

Honestly, aren’t some people picky?

As I was saying, the group has been up and running for a few months now and we thought it was high time we told you what was occurring.

Firstly what is SWAG, I hear you cry?

Yes, I know that no one actually said anything my love, but remember that artistic licence we spoke about only a few seconds ago? 


Yes it was, when I said, ‘I hear you cry,’ it was in fact a  figure of speech. Are you going to question every remark? 

Thank the Lord for that. So please sit down and try not to shuffle about so much. 

Yes you were. And rummaging about in your handbag too. 

You’re trying to find what? 

Well when you do find them please try to chew them quietly.

Anyone else? Yes, you at the back? Yes, you with your hand up…

…Oh! They’re through the doors behind you and turn right sir. 

Really? Are you!? 

Well turn left then. Apologies, it was the short hair and moustache that confused me.

So, can I start again?

Thank you.


It was formed some time ago by Mr Sean Harris, who then proceeded to do nothing with it until myself and Simon Faux (formerly of Radio D.J, fame) came along and, shall we say, gee’d him up a bit.

Me? Oh, I’m David Robertson- I write kids books and the odd play, as you’ll no doubt find out in due course.

What? Oh, okay, I’ll rephrase that then, ‘the occasional play,’ is that better? Not ‘odd’ as in ‘peculiar,’ although come to think of it…

The aim of the group is quite simple. To write, direct and produce our own work for your critical appreciation. We hope to entertain, possibly inform and give you a jolly good belly laugh if our production is a comedy of course. That may not be appropriate if we put on a drama for instance, please read the write up first – you wouldn’t like to chuckle in the wrong place now, would you?

So, having kickstarted young Mr Harris into action, we began recruiting others of a thespian bent.- yes I thought that might confuse you, madam. I’ll explain it later.

We are currently rehearsing our first play (technically the second as all three of us were involved in a production of ‘pm .com’ with a different group, although that’s another story). 

This current one though is ‘Downside Abbey’ written by the aforementioned Sean Harris. You may recognise that the title is very similar to a recent production which was on the telly box. Obviously ours is far superior as there are far more jokes involved. We are hoping to stage it in early April 2019, so watch this space and I’ll furnish you with the details of when, where and how ridiculously inexpensive admission is, in upcoming blog posts. 


Yes madam, this is set to become a regular feature so you’d better get used to it.

And don’t raise your eyes to the heavens like that. There’s no need!

Following on from that we will be working on ‘Dudley – not quite a musical,’ a potted history of this wonderful part of the country, written by yours truly. Hopefully that will be coming your way in July in time to celebrate Black Country Day with a fit of the giggles.

So that’s it for now, except to say…

…oh what is it now?

How do you get involved as an out of work actress?

Well anyone wishing to get involved is welcome to drop us a message on the Facebook page and we’ll be pleased to furnish them with details.

Sorry, I didn’t realise you were ‘in the trade’ so to speak, madam.

You were? Really? Now you’re taking the…

Well, I don’t doubt you, but I hardly see a little, grey haired old lady would have much of a part in a Bond movie.

Oh, you were his boss!

Dear me, it just gets better and better. Have you thought of comedy writing?

Can I ask your name? After all I do now consider myself something of an expert in the world of luvviedom.

Dame Judy who?

Never heard of you!


Find out more on Facebook search – Stourbridge Writers and Actors Group – SWAG