and the end of the summer brings an end to the silly season
I felt more keenly than usual the dearth of news stories this summer. It may have had something to do with envy – the fact that I didn’t have any holiday booked until half way through September and simply everybody I tried to contact during July and August was on holiday. And it was (and as I write, still is) such a glorious summer that working in an hermetically sealed glass box in Milton Keynes while colleagues and their families were out enjoying the sunshine was all the crueller.
While the national press had far more grave and serious concerns, we had the Berkhamsted ‘willy map’ to keep us busy. A map of things to do in and around the Grand Union Canal in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, that had been in circulation for a year hit the headlines when Haresfoot Brewery put it on their Facebook page and someone spotted that the shape was rather phallic. In the old tradition of saucy seaside postcards, the ‘willy’ story ran and ran and became the top news story on the BBC News website. The Independent even acknowledged that old maxim, that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
When I finally did embark on my holiday, Amsterdam – the ‘Venice of the north’ - was my destination. Of course, any city with canals has a head start in my book, and Amsterdam boasts one hundred kilometres of them, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main 17th century canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht form concentric belts around the city (no willy shaped tourist maps here). And whereas UK canals were built mainly as a result of the industrial revolution and the need to move goods to and from factories, the Amsterdam system is the outcome of city planning, with three of the main canals built for residential development and the fourth for flood defence and water management.
Now back from my busman’s holiday, emails read and dealt with, the silly season has well and truly come to an end. Everyone is back and it’s business as usual – until half term that is…
Liz Waddington is editor of The Source, the Canal & River Trust’s monthly staff newspaper. She has been in love with canals and their industrial heritage since her first holiday on the Grand Union Canal when she was 10 years old. Liz likes nothing more than getting out and meeting her colleagues on the cut.See more blogs from this author