It isn’t true, as the Beatles will have us believe, that there are 4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire. There are 4001. And the extra one is the tear in my right retina.
Don’t worry, there will be boating in this blog, and most people who read this know at least part of this story, but here’s the whole for the sake of completeness. If you don’t like talk of matters medical, skip a bit, Brother. (Not you, Jason, that’s a quote from Monty Python.)
The last time I updated the blog we were in Withnell Fold and I’d had a rather nasty fall because I’m clumsy. The next day we set off with our friends Trev and Jenny and the gorgeous Ralf. The plan was I’d drive the boat and Martyn would operate the locks. So there I am approaching the first lock of the six in Blackburn where Jenny on The Life of Reilly is waiting – and my right eye went black; like a wandering spider had crawled across it. I drove the boat in and clonked poor Jen in the process because I couldn’t see. When we got to the top, in full panic mode I called 111 and they told me to go to A&E straight away. They even offered an ambulance. I said no, I’d walk (it was only a mile) only to be told no; I wouldn’t, I’d be in a taxi.
They took a look at me at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and sent me to Burnley General (on the hospital bus!) to the emergency eye clinic. The doctor there diagnosed a posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD, probably due to being shortsighted since birth, possibly due to the fall. There was also a bleed, so I had to come back three days later, by which time they’d really be able to tell what was going on. Three days later was when they found the tear. I made the trip from Burnley to Blackburn this time and underwent laser treatment. We were cruising nowhere for a while. The worst part was being instructed to lie on my left side as much as I could for the next 2 weeks. After the novelty wears off it becomes uncomfortable, and there’s not much you can do perpendicular to the floor with a gammy eye.
Martyn cruised Beau Romer to the visitor moorings at Wheelton at the top of the Johnson’s Hillock Locks. We had friendly faces and all boater facilities there. As the Canal and River Trust kindly allowed us to sit tight on a 48-hour mooring we stayed there for 3 weeks while I healed up.
Now I’m left with a peripheral blind spot, and some really distracting floaters that I’m trying to learn to ignore, but the most important thing is I can see and I’ve been given the okay to move by the hospital. I’m just not allowed to do anything strenuous for another few weeks.
So we are on the go again and if you zoned out you can come back now.
We’re not in Lancashire anymore,, but just over the border in Yorkshire. Trev and Jenny, who have been amazing throughout this whole sorry time, running me backwards and forwards and providing all sorts of help, have remarkably decided we’re doing exactly what we planned a month ago, cruising to Skipton together.
We made it through Blackburn without incident this time. I quite enjoyed the mill towns we’ve seen so far, apart from all the debris in the water. Once upon a time the Blackburn skyline had over 200 chimneys, although thanks to Fred Dibnah and his ilk, few remain. We cruised through some beautiful countryside in Rishton and Church and on to Burnley. It takes us a lot longer by boat than it does whizzing up and down the M65, which is what we’d been getting used to. We’re extremely well acquainted with the motorway. We’ve been over it, under it many times and alongside it for miles. I keep waving at the drivers as they speed by but they don’t see us at 3mph while they’re doing 70.
We’ve now encountered another of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, (bonus points for anyone who can tell me the other six!) the Burnley Embankment, or the Straight Mile, which takes you through part of the town, past the back-to-back terraces and Turf Moor (Burnley Football Club’s home ground) at rooftop height.
We’ve just come through the Foulridge Tunnel (the first I’ve driven through from end to end). It’s so nice we did it on the boat and not like the unfortunate Buttercup the cow in the title of this post. In 1912 poor Buttercup fell into the canal at the western end of the tunnel and swam all the way through. That’s no mean feat as it’s 1640 yards long. She had to be revived with brandy when they rescued her at the other end. Dumb bovine – what animal in its right mind would head towards a gaping black hole in the hill instead of staying in the light?
Now we’re on the summit pound of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, moored up at Salterford and looking forward to a dinner in the pub tonight. From tomorrow I’m expecting to be enjoying the reputedly beautiful Yorkshire Countryside and more good times. Like Buttercup I’m just going to keep swimming and enjoying strong drink!