Sunday, 2 October 2011

Single traders

Even on a Sunday evening, Penkridge does not seem a particularly peaceful place, bisected as it is by the A449, and with the M6 just off to one side. But it is called a village, and most of the shops are single traders – of national chains we noticed just a Co-op and three banks. Only the pubs were open as we strolled around, but we saw lots of fascinating emporia should we have time tomorrow – craft and knitting shops, a pottery outlet, a hardware shop advertising "Jampot covers are now in stock", and Jaspers the bakers which we know will have a queue of customers out of the door around lunch time. My best beloved comes on both sides from shop-keeping blood, in places where certain types of shop-keeper are "highly respected pillars of the community" (certainly true of her mum and dad).

On our way to Penkridge we encountered in quick succession five traditional narrowboat barges – long beasts with a small cabin for accommodation at the stern, and the rest given over to space for whatever is being carried. We had opportunity for only the briefest of conversations, but it seemed the first was still trading on the canals, operated by a single-hander, while the others certainly could have been. We don't really know whether these last were liveaboards, or simply people who love their boats but melt into the rest of society Monday to Friday. We got to thinking later that both the single trader in Penkridge and the person who makes his living on the cut share a particular sort of individuality – going their own way, distinct from how most people do things. So it was also nice, as we wandered back to the boat, to bump into a Christian group for young people in the church hall. Here were some others differently marked, finding something special to live out, to take joy in and to share.

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