Pause for Thought with JD Dewit: The Quays of contentment

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Saturday, cha cha cha, I’m walk-dancing till the first Emmaus sign appears at the forboding wide low arch entrance to Victoria Quays. Oh bleak and shadowy beckonance! What lies beyond? Perhaps a pair of ragged claws scuttling in the silence there.

A cafe that looks like it is open sometimes, but not today. The pub at the end of the quay is shut down. Ten years ago the Quays were a lively place to be on a weekend.

Another floating home appears, with macabre dockside garden displaying life-size replicas of human skeletons sitting at tables taking tea

Over the lock at the canal basin and along the towpath to the east and, Embrace, the name of one narrow boat catches my eye. Cadman Street bridge. Here the signs points up to Emmaus, that hidden-away charity superstore. I’ll go, but not today.

Another floating home appears, with macabre dockside garden displaying life-size replicas of human skeletons sitting at tables taking tea. A fish scurdles the surface of the green waters. A running woman, a man with two dogs, a woman with one dog, angling men and boys, poles out, lines glinting. Some of the anglers smile while others seem to ignore all passers-by. “Have you caught anything yet?” I don’t ask.

Bridges and more bridges. The canal passes under them and then becomes an aqueduct, a bridge for boats crossing over a roadway.

Still waters, not running deep, in fact not running at all – ideal to take on reflections of architecture and autumn bounty. The ceaseless motion, the noisy come and go of the city seems far away.

Inner reflect, walk, breathe.

Now at the Tinsley Flight, the locks adjacent to Meadowhall; a boater community in the canal basin – quiet life less than half a mile from the M1 flyover.

I walk on a few hundred yards until the towpath ends, step up an old stone stair and I am back into a kind of hell; Planet Motor Vehicle. Oh the happy anticipators in their cars speeding to spend at the ‘cathedral of consumption’.

And behold! A drive-thru Costa! I feel a nerd-for-coffee moment coming on. The doors open without a touch as I float toward the baristas like a drifting barge of insidious intent.