Dallow Lock (copyright Tuesday Night Club)

Dallow Lock (copyright Tuesday Night Club)

We exchanged our UK driving licences for Irish ones only last year. When we knew we were moving, we wished we hadn’t. But full marks to the DVLA: one phone call without hours of tinny Vivaldi, one form, one photo and new licence by return of post. Simples. I wish I could say the same for utilities and car insurance.

The Trent and Mersey canal is a few streets away. Barges, holiday makers, fry-ups at Shobnall Marina café, watching and helping at Dallow Lock, gardens backing on to the towpath. I’m put in mind of the Cam. Colour, gentle movement, industrial archaeology, swans guarding their territory and hissing at Og the dog, moorhens and chicks, ducks and ducklings. Delightful.

People talk about beauty of moor and mountain, but a rural Cumbrian childhood in the 1950s was mind-numbingly monochrome. The Lake District (Sunday drives) was slate grey, conifers and rain. Fellside village culture was repressive and lonely for a boy who liked neither football nor cricket. Perhaps this is why I like colour and variety. Richness. Religion too: ritual, colour, fine sights, fine sounds, fine smells, with prayer and lots of parties. No more sensory deprivation.

On the one hand:

Protestantism – the adroit castrator
Of art; the bitter negation
Of song and dance and the heart’s innocent joy –
You have botched our flesh and left us only the soul’s
Terrible impotence in a warm world.
R S Thomas 1995

… and on the other:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,

There’s always laughter and good red wine.

At least I’ve always found it so.

Benedicamus Domino!
Hilaire Belloc

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