I have been on the River all my life, and like to think that I have read just every book out there that relates to the Shannon. I have a collection of books and maps, many of which came from my Dad, and including some books that are rare and out of print. But I am always delighted to find new books about My Lovely Shannon. And I have found 2 interesting books about the Shannon recently. The first is called Reedbound, and I stumbled across it in the Bastion Art Gallery in Athlone.
Reedbound: A year on Ireland’s Waterways
Reedbound is written by Giles Byford and illustrated by Jill Parkinson. It is an account of their life in the UK living on a narrowboat, their wish to build a bigger boat and the difficulties and stress that entails. All of which leads up to their precarious journey to explore our waterways. They bring their boat Hawthorn across the Irish Sea, and the book continues with an account of their first year in Ireland, during which time they travel extensively covering the Shannon, Grand Canal, River Barrow and many smaller rivers.
This book is easy to read, whether or not you have an interest in waterways and boats. It is punctuated by beautiful sketches from Jill. They are black and white and at first I was disappointed that there weren’t beautiful colour photographs of the River and its scenery and wildlife. But her sketches are simply stunning, and she has captured many evocative scenes that colour wouldn’t do justice to. Some of her work is for sale in The Bastion Gallery.
Living the dream
Ultimately, this book is about one couple’s desire not to be beaten by lack of money, or poor weather, or dodgy craftsmen, or any other problems they encounter. It is about hard work, the ability to change, being positive and determined, and realising a dream.
Reedbound is an easy read for anyone, whether they are a boater or not.
The Bastion Art Gallery
Now this is my kind of shop! It is an eclectic mix of stuff: handmade, Irish, unique, quirky, useful, useless, pretty, interesting, colourful…. There is soap handmade locally, fair trade goodies, ceramics by Jeanette Everson, crystals, jewellery, books, a section for children’s toys and books, lamps and throws, mirrors and angel cards, furniture and … well you get the picture. It is a great place to buy gifts and cards. A lovely place to browse.
I reckon the owner just goes shopping and buys stuff she loves and has the shop for when she can’t fit all the lovely goodies into her own home!
Well, whatever her reasons and wherever she gets it from, I love it!
Pay a visit, and I dare you, in fact I defy you to come out empty-handed because The Bastion Gallery has such a huge range of possibilities for gifts. So…. if I am on your Christmas shopping list… now you know where to shop for me….just saying 😉
The C Word
Ok so I used the C word possibly for the first time this year. I have a hatred of all things Christmassy at any time of the year other than actually at Christmas. But it is December, so I suppose I better get over myself. While it was not intentional, this blog post might give you some ideas for Christmas. Happy shopping!
I should mention that on the same day, I called into the new organic shop, Lowe & Co, just a few doors up the street. I had lovely coffee and a piece of beetroot chocolate cake which the owner assured me was healthy. It was sticky and gooey although I am not sure if chocolate and healthy go together, but hey, who am I to argue?
Left Bank Antiques
And, also on the same day, I dropped in to the antiques shop near Sean’s Bar. I was expecting a shop full of beautiful but cost-the-earth antiques and was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of pockets catered for in this little gem of a shop. From vintage 1950s handbags, just the thing to transform a nice outfit into the Hollywood bracket, to a copper and brass jewellery casket lined with luxurious red velvet, to antique gold jewellery I fell in love with, to a vintage coffee set in cream and gold that would look classy in any home…. I could go on. Athlone continually surprises me with what it has to offer the visiting tourist. And remember I am only discovering Athlone because Alexandra has moved to a new base in nearby Lakeside Marina.
Donal’s book: The Mid-Shannon Waterway
And the second book was sent to me by the crew of Pamel. Donal Boland’s book is a pictorial guide of designated and tranquil moorings, between Portumna and Athlone. At first glance, Donals’ book seems more of a coffee table book because it has lots of aerial photography, and is easy to pick up and browse through it. But his book is much more than that. The excellent photographs show My Lovely Shannon from a new (to me anyway) and stunning perspective. Donal has marked each photograph with mooring spots, and details of where you can and can’t go. He also includes notes on each picture.
The designated moorings (the ones we are familiar with from our navigation charts) are included. But this book is really about the undesignated moorings. Those places that are off-chart, but have enough depth to go exploring. Donal has highlighted areas behind islands, disused sections of river, and plenty of places to stop, albeit by tying off a tree or using the anchor. Some of the suggestions will not be suitable for mooring in poor weather or for overnight stops. But that will just add to the charm of these spots and certainly won’t stop me from trying them.
I have often taken Alexandra onto sections that are navigable but not charted – I am sooooo my father’s girl! But it is a risky business, and requires concentration. I have never had any problems because I am careful and always rely on local knowledge of channels and depths. And of course, I have the comfort of knowing that I can call on Mike if I mess things up!
Donal’s book is a delight. It means that I can explore areas I never thought possible. With Alexandra now based in Athlone, Donal has opened up an array of exploring and mooring opportunities for next season. And there are lots of them! Shannonbridge, Shannon Harbour (that little river just off the main channel is navigable for quite a distance), an area I call the private lake above Banagher, several sections between Banagher and Meelick, behind the islands between Meelick and Portumna and many more. And for anyone who hasn’t been into Munster Harbour, try it. Donal has also given me names for many of these areas which are not included on any of my navigation charts.
The photography is very clear – mostly aerial photography (a good use for those pesky drones) which shows off My Lovely Shannon beautifully, although the pictures are intended to provide you with information rather than to be pretty for the sake of prettiness. Donal has also had the sense to produce his book on high quality paper that will be sturdy and withstand the wear and tear of constant use on a dashboard, with pages folding back easily on a ring binder.
Following Donal’s Advice
His book doesn’t mean that you can go chasing around the river on unmarked sections. It is not a navigation map, rather a suggestion of possibilities worth exploring. You will need to follow his directions carefully. This book will still be a great addition to Alexandra’s collection of books, and I reckon I will return to it again and again.
Well done Donal. I don’t suppose there are plans for something similar for other parts of the River??? Hint hint 😉
An excellent book and it will be a joy to anyone who wants to explore lesser used sections of the river, to the boater who wants to travel off the main navigation, go fishing, or just find somewhere quiet to while away the hours or to enjoy the wildlife in peace.
Talking of Christmas…
Christmas for the boater. Well, if you are like me, all I want is nice girlie things for the boat, maybe some softer ropes, and ties (ties that match, that is) for the canopy, and new carpets maybe. And maybe replacements for the 3 wine glasses I broke that got broken this season. Oh, and a holey bucket. Yes please! Oh, my kingdom for a holey bucket!
And for the girlie boater in your life, how about Melanie’s suggestion of a 12volt hair straightener? Yes, there is such a thing for the glam girlie in your life. Melanie is an Irish blogger, and was using the hair straighteners in a car but I don’t see why it couldn’t be used on a boat.
But I think most boaters would like electronic gadget stuff like depth sounders and fish finders and navigation systems. Or maybe enginey things like pumps, gennies, switches, etc. Or how about a simple 12 volt fan to clip to the dash for clearing condensation off the windscreen? Very handy.
The best present ever
One of the best presents I ever got for my parents was a pair of mirrors, etched with the shape of Alexandra. One is still on the boat, and the second is hanging in my Mom’s home. But the artist is no longer doing this work. Perhaps an opportunity exists here for someone crafty?
An Item of Purpose – the holey bucket
Maybe I should explain. Many years ago, my parents got a bucket with a large hole in the bottom, covered with a rubber flap. They bought it in Union Chandlery in Cork. Once a rope was tied to the handle, it was a really useful thing. Seriously. Think about washing the boat, dropping this bucket into the water, the flap opens, water fills the bucket, and you use the rope to pull it out of the water.
I kept the crew of Cassandra amused on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road some years ago. I had to demonstrate the handiness of the holey bucket to them. They were drinking. I was washing, more fool me.
But alas! The rope frayed and the bucket fell into the water and sank. Well, it did have a big hole in it. And we have been unable to get a replacement. Goodness knows we have tried and tried. You will see me peering into buckets on display outside hardware shops, to see if they have a hole in the bottom. Yes, I am that sad person. So if you ever see someone looking into an empty bucket, now you know what they are hoping to find!!!!!
Until next time.
Some links related to this blog post:
Reedbound is available widely
Organic shop Lowe & Co