It seems that Australia is undergoing something of a deluge at the moment. Judging by the video clips that Mirinda received from Fi and Bob, both Queensland and New South Wales are in Noah territory with psychquatic rainstorms filling drains, old creek beds, third floor flats and washing the dunnies down river. It’s all a bit extreme.
I feel that no matter how much rain falls into the River Dee in Wales, it will never flood the aqueduct. The amazingly amazing aqueduct that Thomas Telford and William Jessop designed and had built from 1795 to 1805. I know this because we visited it today on the way home from Wrexham.
Pronounced ‘Pont–ker –sulth–tay’, the aqueduct has 18 stone pillars holding a cast iron trough filled with water for canal traffic to float lazily across. There is a quite narrow towpath which used to be used by the horses that pulled the barges full of coal. These days it’s used by adventurous tourists and dog walkers.
We met a woman who had kayak’ed across the aqueduct. She described it as terrifying. Both Nicktor and Biggsy cried off walking across because, they claimed, I was incapable. I wanted to say that, had I not been hampered with a stick, I’d have walked across but decided not to bother. Clearly I’m the designated disability for anything that my companions are not inclined to attempt.
When out of earshot of third parties, Nicktor admitted that his legs turned to jelly and his blood froze just getting close to the towpath. When I suggested that if he did fall off the path it would only be into the water, he said that when he tried to get out, in his panic, he’d probably choose the wrong side.
While it was designed by both Telford and Jessop, the new innovations were all down to Thomas. He was the sort of engineer who, seeing a problem with no contemporary solution, solved it by inventing a new one. He was an extraordinary man.
Mind you, the two guys who worked on the masonry (John Simpson) and ironworks (William Hazledine) were also amazing. It’s one thing to invent a new technique but then it takes a master craftsman to implement it. In fact, Telford called Hazledine ‘Merlin’ because what he did was like magic.
The aqueduct was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, which was a lovely surprise for me and is now added to the lengthening list of ones we’ve visited.
Nicktor always chooses something culturally significant to visit on our away trips and this was just the ticket. We spent a goodly time admiring, gasping and generally loving the aqueduct before heading back to the car for the trip home.
Like our trip up to Wrexham, the trip back south was littered with odd conversations. There was the competition for the wife who knew the least about rubbish designation and distribution, the choice of cars favoured by Biggsy via his wife and, a long, frank and silly conversation about petrol prices.
Apparently, Nicktor and Biggsy always know how much the petrol costs. Biggsy is a bit anal about it and manages to drive around in order to save himself the same amount of money he spent driving around, and Nicktor just tuts when it costs too much. I assured them both that I had no idea how much petrol costs. Nicktor claimed that this was just more proof of my champagne socialist status.
All conversations made the journey much shorter than it otherwise would have been. Mind you, for quite a lot of the journey, we had a fourth passenger. Trevor, Biggsy’s phone named after the village where the aqueduct is, was kept very busy, responding to Biggsy’s busy fingers whenever we asked a question that no-one knew the answer to.
As usual, this made Nicktor and me say it ruined a good conversation when you knew the facts but that made no difference. Trevor was consulted on everything except where the cheapest petrol was, something which would have been interesting. In fact, I suggested that an app which reliably quoted the price at service stations could be a boon for the likes of my travelling companions.
There was an incident at one stage which brought the motorway to a halt while everyone had a good look at what had happened but, otherwise, the drive was pretty smooth and traffic free.
Having dropped Biggsy off in Marlow (and getting a lovely history lesson while we drove through the high street) Nicktor dropped me off at about 3:30 and headed home. I walked into the house to find a sleeping wife and an absolutely spotless house.
I searched high and low but there was nothing out of place. My kitchen was as spotless as I’d left it, the dishwasher only had clean things in it, everything was remarkably neat. I was wondering what Mirinda had eaten when I happen to discover a note sitting on the dining table.
After Mirinda had finished her afternoon nap, I asked her how the Thai food had been. Her face was a picture. She had tried so hard to hide the fact that she’d had a takeaway from the Thai Lotusland and demanded to know how I’d found out.
Here is what was on the dining table.
School girl error, I told her.