I was born, like so many others, in Hemel Hempstead. It’s just north of London, and the part my parents lived in had been newly built post-WW2 to house all those new young families moving out of London.
It’s quite tricky to be far from the sea in Great Britain, but my parents had managed it and this was especially annoying as my dad certainly loved the sea. He had grown up on Barry Island in South Wales and had the sea in his blood, his grandfather being the famous channel pilot Lewis Alexander.
The closest my dad could get to water in Hemel Hempstead was the canal, and so every Sunday afternoon we went for a walk along this canal, which scared me absolutely stiff. I hated the greasy dark water and was petrified of the locks, imagining how it would feel when all that water smashed down on top of me if I happened to be at the bottom at an inopportune moment.
This was the Grand Union Canal, which stretches for over 200 km from London to Birmingham and includes 166 locks.
I went back to dear old Hemel a few years ago and was (of course) surprised at how small that canal, and lock, really were:
The first thing I do in the mornings (after I have said ‘Good morning’ to my lovely husband) is check my mobile phone to see if any messages have come in from my Borneofamily. Sometimes there are photos, or some news of what they have been up to already, seven hours ahead of us.
I miss them so.
Anyway, one day last week my daughter had written: “Pleased to announce that I have not blocked the Suez canal today.”
“?” I replied.
“You haven’t looked at twitter yet”, she wrote and of course then I looked and saw the Ever Given. Stuck.
This week the whole world was looking at a canal, namely the Suez canal and it all made me realise how little I had ever thought about it and how even less I knew.
If I had ever thought about the Suez Canal, it was in connection with the ‘Suez Crisis’ of 1956, still often mentioned today as some sort of trauma for Britain, which was apparently left with egg on its face.
“Politically, the intervention in Suez was a disaster. US President Dwight Eisenhower was incensed. World opinion, especially that of the United States, together with the threat of Soviet intervention, forced Britain, France and Israel to withdraw their troops from Egypt. In Britain too there had been widespread outrage.”
After marching in, British troops had to be withdrawn, leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister Anthony Eden two months later.
(The narration is really fast! Sorry…)
Back to last week, when the huge containership ‘Evergiven’ got stuck (and it wasn’t my daughter’s fault).
We all saw the pictures, and I wondered, not that it had happened, but that it had never happened before. Fortunately, and thanks to the clever Dutch, the ship is now moving freely again.
All this talk of water reminds me of happier times. Pre-Covid 19 I flew regularly to Borneo, my suitcase bursting with (hopefully) exciting and fun presents for my adorable grandchildren. One of my biggest hits so far was Billy Bass:
So I will now batten down the hatches and wish you all fair winds and following seas.