From the same trip as the previous post, this is ‘Chocolate Charlie’ on his narrowboat, Mendip, moored near Preston Brook in the Spring of 1977. Charlie Atkins aquired his nickname from the cargo he carried for much of his working life – chocolate crumb from Ellesmere Port to the Cadbury’s factory at Bourneville, Birmingham.
This is another strong face which has endured a lifetime on the cut – it is deeply lined and reminds me of the poet, W H Auden:
Comrades, who when the sirens roar
From office, shop and factory pour,
‘Neath evening sky;
By cops directed to the fug
Of talkie-houses for a drug,
Or down canals to find a hug
Until you die.
W H Auden – A communist to others – 1932.
(I feel sure Charlie would have come up with something more cheerful).
In his final years Charlie also became a minor celebrity – the revival of the English canals sparked an interest in the dying breed of men who worked the system. He is also remembered in song:
Given the title of this week’s Photo Challenge, it seems legitimate to once more raid the archive. This picture was taken in the early 1980s at the top end of the Trent & Mersey canal near Preston Brook. The lady, Leah, was living out her days on the narrowboat she once worked with her husband, Jack Tolley, although the boat had long since stopped trading. There is a sad nostalgic air to her expression which appears in a photo album from the time alongside these words of J R R Tolkien:
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
And people who will see a world that I shall never know.
I spoke to her and she was very friendly, not in the least concerned at being photographed, just mildly bemused. I have included this second photograph to show more of her narrowboat; look closely and you will see the traces of a smile:
(click on the images to enlarge)