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9780553816693

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

Darlington, Terry

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9780553816693: Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

The hilarious and true story of two senior-citizens and their whippet dog who hatch, plan and carry out a “lunatic scheme” to sail from Stone in Staffordshire to Carcassonne in the South of France.


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About the Author:

Terry Darlington was brought up in Pembroke Dock, Wales, during the war, between a flying-boat base and an oil terminal. He survived and moved to Staffordshire, where he founded Research Associates, an international market research firm, and Stone Master Marathoners, a running club. Like many Welshmen, he is talkative and confiding, ill at ease with practical matters, and liable to linger in pubs. He likes boating but knows nothing about it.

Following the publication of Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, Terry, his wife Monica, and their whippet Jim planned to sail the Phyllis May down the Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida—an adventure which, should they survive it, will be the subject of their next book, Narrow Dog to Indian River, coming from Delta in 2009.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One


Moon River Stone to Westminster

On the floor of the Star Inn Jim was fighting to push his entire body inside a bag of pork scratchings. I could have had a dog that ate its dinner, a dog that barked and wagged its tail, a normal dog, a dog with fur. But the book said a whippet was the easiest dog and I had trouble enough already.

Whippets are hounds-miners' dogs, racers, rabbiters. They are very thin. On top they are velvet and underneath they are bald. They are warm and smell of buttered toast. They love every living creature to a rapture unless you are small and furry and trying to get the hell out of here. They like running the towpaths and thieving off fishermen; but fire up the engine, cast off the ropes, and it's the eyes, the betrayed eyes. So the narrowboat Phyllis May has a dog that hates boating.

We'll call him Gonzales, I had said, because he's fast, or Leroy because he's golden brown, or we'll have a dog called Bony Moronie. Good thinking, said Monica, and named him Jim. He's your dog, she said-you look after him. I read Your Dog Is Watching You, and Your Dog Will Get You in the End, and How to Stop Your Dog Behaving Like a Bloody Animal. Jim and I went to school on many dark evenings, but neither of us learned very much.

The door from the canal opened and it was Clive. Like most inland boaters, Clive looks like a pregnant bear. Got you, he shouted-greedy greedy, early drinkies, surprise surprise, make mine a pint. He sat down and slapped his pipe and his Breton sailor's hat on the table. Jim was ecstatic. Jim sees Clive and Beryl as part of our pack, who sometimes make their escape owing to my lack of leadership and poor attention to detail. But through his tracking skills we get them back, and How about some scratchings?

Are you nervous? asked Clive, pulling Jim out of his trouser pocket. Yes, I said. I'm worried about getting away from Stone. I might crash or fall in. People will be watching.

Clive has a Dudley accent, and a deep voice, as if he is saying something important. Beryl and I should never have encouraged you, he said. You are old, you've only got one eye, you are a coward and you can't jump. You're no good at anything useful. Monica ran your business while you wandered around being nasty to your customers.

By the end of the summer I'll be fine, I said. I can handle the fear-running a market research agency scared me stiff too. We had another pint, to handle the fear.

TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO A bunch of engineers met in a public house by a canal. They decided the size of the locks on the English canal system and then they had another round and started talking about girls. In the morning the secretary could not remember what had been decided, or indeed where he was, so to be on the safe side he chose the narrowest gauge mentioned in his notes, which was seven feet. That is how the English narrow lock was born, and the English narrowboat-the cigarette, the pencil, the eel, the strangest craft ever to slither down a waterway.

The five windows of the Phyllis May lit the towpath for the length of a cricket pitch. With her flat roof, fairground lettering, brasses and flowers, a traditional narrowboat has a louche charm, though sixty feet by seven is a preposterous shape. Clive and I stepped into the front deck and down to the narrow saloon. Panelling, armchairs, lamps and pictures-second class on the Orient Express. You live in comfort, and you live sideways.

Monica was curled on the sofa. Beryl folded her hands in her lap, in a cornflower stare. Clive stood in the middle of the saloon. We have news, he said-we are forsaking earthly things. We are selling our house and our possessions, giving what is left to the poor, and having a narrowboat built, on which we will live out our days. Ah the poor earthbound rabble, tramping their warren streets-for me the silver highway, the gypsy life: my companion the heron, lone sentinel of the waterways, my constituency the ducks, my gardens the broad valleys, my drawing room the public bar of the inn called Navigation. I've been trying to persuade the bugger for years, said Beryl.

But first we are going up the Bristol Channel with you on the Phyllis May, said Clive. But I am not going up the Bristol Channel on the Phyllis May, I protested. The Phyllis May is a canal boat. There are fifty-foot tides and the Severn Bore. We will finish up dashed through the window of Woolworths in Bewdley. I don't think there is a Woolworths in Bewdley, said Clive, but if there is I can pick up a CD of Felix Mendelssohn and his Hawaiian Serenaders. And next year when you go to France we will all put out to sea together, and sail across the Channel side by side.

I could feel my palpitations coming on. Clive, I said, narrowboats don't sail across the Channel. I was brought up by the sea. I remember the empty seats in school when boys drowned themselves. I might sail the Phyllis May to France if there were thirty Tommies to take back and it would tip the balance in the struggle for Europe. Otherwise it's the lorry, and a crane into Calais.

Let's have a drop more of that Banks's, said Clive-you know I have blue water experience. You mean we went out once from Padstow, said Beryl, in a cruiser, and nearly drowned. That was a trick of the tide, said Clive. But they warned you, said Beryl, they begged you, they called it the Maelstrom and you went straight into it. But we got back in, said Clive. Yes, said Beryl, we got back in.

Is this Old Speckled Hen a strong one? asked Clive-it tastes so smooth. The thing is you rope them up together side by side, so if one breaks a belt on the engine the other tows it out of the way of the tankers and car ferries. Piece of piss really. Clive, I said, you come from Dudley, you have been to sea once and you nearly didn't come back, and now you want to put at hazard the December years I could spend in the Star or watching Kylie Minogue on the box.

But narrowboats are like those toys, said Clive. The bottom is full of bricks so they roll back. What about that chap, I said, who built a narrowboat in Liverpool and set out across the Irish Sea? How did he do? asked Clive. No one ever found out, I said. Must have run into a maelstrom, said Clive. Is that single malt as good as you say it is? He sat back and smiled. Jim looked at him with eyes full of love. He had found a leader at last.

When I woke up the next morning, and I wished I had not woken up the next morning, I realized that I had agreed to sail an inland boat across the English Channel, roped up to a madman.

A CANAL LOCK IS A SIMPLE IDEA. YOU CLOSE the gate behind you and empty the water out at the other end and you sink down, and then you open the gates in front of you and sail away. Going up you fill the lock instead of emptying it. In real life locks are dark and slimy and foaming. They flood you and hang you by the stern. Often they don't work. But today I wound up the paddles in the lock gate with my new aluminium key without spraining my wrist, and when the lock was empty heaved on the beams and opened the gates without shouting for help. The Phyllis May mumbled out of the Star lock into the sunshine, Jim riding shotgun on the roof.

Friends and family waved. Pints were brandished in the sunshine and granddaughters wept. The swans that nest below the Star dipped their beaks and raised them in perfect time. Past the tower of St. Michael's, to drinking, and dancing, and waving, and tears, and coarse encouraging shouts. A Cunarder leaving New York, country style.

Under Aston lock the Trent valley falls away in spires and farms. It's like Ulysses, I said, whom I so closely resemble.

Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world . . .


It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.


Your dog has jumped ship, said Monica, and is probably in Rugeley. And there is a corpse under the prop, so you'll have to go down the weed-hatch again.

WHEN MONICA AND I BOUGHT THE PHYLLIS May she was worn out, and we had her refurbished. We had not had a boat before and sometimes we would go down to the cut and lick her all over. We loved the gangling shape and the long windows, we loved the curve of the bow and the front deck where you could sit, and the teak and oak saloon running on and on into the galley. We loved the iron stove, the shower that worked, the little bedroom cabin, the warm engine-room. We held the grab-rail along the roof and walked the gunwale, trying not to fall in. I would stand on the back counter, leaning on the tiller, musing upon our boatyard manager's sins and on the follies of the yard before him.

But one day we found a boatyard we could trust and soon we sailed away, in shining grey and white and crimson, with primroses on the roof and a brass tunnel light at the bow, and our names on the engine-room in fairground lettering a foot high, and ran into the first bridge.

The Phyllis May is not right yet-no narrowboat is right yet. Lumps of metal drop into her bilges, or she leaks from the rear. Then I strip naked, grease myself all over, and hang upside down among the ironmongery, grunting and cursing. It is dark, it is wet, I freeze and I burn and I get stuck and we call out the boatyard anyway. I have gone all sweaty in my hair so let's talk about something else.

Jim lets me use his kennel as my office. I put my laptop on it and sit on the coal-box with my feet on Jim. The coal-box has Phyllis May painted on the front side and Kiss Me Again on the backside. Jim lies quietly under my feet, which is more than my secretary ever did, and sometimes he licks me behind the knees, and in forty years in business there was no chance of that. In pubs he is the cause of much wise country talk about lamping for rabbits, and is seen as the next best thing to a lurcher. The trouble is he camps everything up.

In Stone I fastened him outside the supermarket. When I returned he was in the arms of an...

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Darlington, Terry Author
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Book Description Transworld Publishers Ltd, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 198 x 126 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure. When they retired, Terry and Monica Darlington decided to sail their canal narrow boat across the Channel and down to the Mediterranean, together with their whippet Jim. They took advice from experts, who said they would die, together with their whippet Jim. On the Phyllis May, you dive through six-foot waves in the Channel, are swept down the terrible Rhone, and fight for your life in a storm among the flamingos of the Camargue. You meet the French nobody meets - poets, captains, historians, drunks, bargees, men with guns, scholars, madmen - they all want to know the people on the painted boat and their narrow dog. You visit the France nobody knows - the backwaters of Flanders, the canals beneath Paris, the heavenly Yonne, the lost Burgundy Canal, the islands of the Saone, and the forbidden ways to the Mediterranean. Aliens, dicks, trolls, vandals, gongoozlers, killer fish and the walking dead all stand between our three innocents and their goal - many-towered Carcassonne. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780553816693

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Book Description Transworld Publishers Ltd, United Kingdom, 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 198 x 126 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure. When they retired, Terry and Monica Darlington decided to sail their canal narrow boat across the Channel and down to the Mediterranean, together with their whippet Jim. They took advice from experts, who said they would die, together with their whippet Jim. On the Phyllis May, you dive through six-foot waves in the Channel, are swept down the terrible Rhone, and fight for your life in a storm among the flamingos of the Camargue. You meet the French nobody meets - poets, captains, historians, drunks, bargees, men with guns, scholars, madmen - they all want to know the people on the painted boat and their narrow dog. You visit the France nobody knows - the backwaters of Flanders, the canals beneath Paris, the heavenly Yonne, the lost Burgundy Canal, the islands of the Saone, and the forbidden ways to the Mediterranean. Aliens, dicks, trolls, vandals, gongoozlers, killer fish and the walking dead all stand between our three innocents and their goal - many-towered Carcassonne. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780553816693

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Book Description 2006. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 127mm x 198mm x 27mm. Paperback. 'We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure.' When they retired, Terry and Monica Darlington decided to sail their canal narrow boat across.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 432 pages. 0.305. Bookseller Inventory # 9780553816693

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