Last Friday evening saw Sam and I losing 2 hours that we’d never get back again inching along in a 65 mile queue on the M6. We were on our way to an evening cruise along the Bridgewater Canal, which had kindly been organised by author Sandra Robinson (aka Scarlett Flame) as a way of getting to know other writers taking part in the signing event at the Lancashire Mining Museum, Astley Green, near Manchester the following day. Sandra had also arranged the whole author signing event at the museum too.
We finally pulled up at The Old Boat House pub near the museum with 2 minutes to spare! The whole journey from door to door had taken 6 hours, reinforcing Sam’s hatred of driving down the M6 on a Friday night. Luckily we weren’t the last ones to arrive, and after another 10 minutes or so Sandra led a crowd of us over the bridge and down to the canal where our narrowboat was waiting.
A very enjoyable cruise followed, with good food and good company (As well as Sandra and her friends I got to talk to authors Zak Jane Keir and Glen R Stansfield and his wife). As an added bonus there was the sight of a most magnificent heron sitting watching us as we sailed regally past.
The next morning we were out of our hotel and at the signing venue by 9am. The weather was terrible, with howling winds and torrential rain. It didn’t look good as regards visitors to the marquee! However, we were all upbeat as we set up our tables and hoped for the best.
Granted, the morning was quiet, but the sun peeped out in the afternoon and I was pleased to have a little flurry of interest, selling one copy of ‘No Sex Please, I’m Menopausal!’, getting 3 more signatures for my mailing list, and giving a copy of ‘Lily: A Short Story’ away to one gentleman who obviously loves the Isle of Wight as much as I do. He gave me a rock from the Island that he had carved himself in exchange, and vowed to read and review my book in the very near future. It turned out that his brother was a signing author on another stand, Keith Hoare, who took my business card and kindly informed me that he would check out my books and give them more exposure. It’s all about networking, isn’t it?
Another bonus was being able to look around the mining museum and watch the 107 year old winding engine in action. Last year she ran very smoothly but she’s an old lady now, and this year the usual mechanic was not at work and she was playing up a bit in his absence.
Speaking to one of Sandra’s friends who had spent all her life in the area, she told me that until the mine closed in 1970, the miners would come out of the pit, blackened with soot, and go straight into the pub nearby where she worked as a barmaid. She would have the pints lined up. The miners would gulp down the beer, notch the cost up on their tab that they paid in full on Fridays, and then run for the bus home. Can you imagine a pub landlord now letting the customers off paying until they received their wages?
From speaking to the men working on the winding engine, feelings still run very high over the pit closures of the 1970’s and 1980’s when Mrs Thatcher and Arthur Scargill went head-to-head and whole mining communities were decimated in the fall-out. Yes, to me it’s a terrible shame that a way of life for many has gone forever, but then again, if increasing costs made coal mining non-viable, was there any option but to close?
Unfortunately back at our hotel on Saturday night there were several drunken men in the room next to ours. We gave up on sleep and checked out at 2am on Sunday morning, driving down a near-empty M6 and getting home in only 3 hours. Sam now loves the M6 as long as he can drive at night, and we both agreed to be nocturnal travellers in the future if it entails driving on either the M25 or the M6 on a Friday evening!