Saturday, 25 June 2016

King Richard III and Many Thoughts of the Past and Present.

Saturday 25th June, 2016 in Leicester.
Last night, we had moored up just above Bush Lock, which was in our favour with the top gates open; so, when a boat came by going our way, we joined it in the lock. It turned out to be nb "Vagabond"; it had been at Market Harborough at the same time as us. The owners were also heading for Leicester, so we spent the whole day going through the locks together (it is more practical to share wide locks with another boat).
For some unaccountable reason, the water below Bush Lock was (milk) chocolate brown.
Yet, one lock later, the water was crystal clear and we could see the reeds almost to the bottom. Strange!
The canal gives way to the River Soar at King's Lock and from here on we will be on a mixture of canal and river. Going through the locks with another boat speeds up the whole process and we made very good progress.
If we had been on our own, we might have stopped for second breakfast at this lovely café - but our companions, Dudley and Rosemary on "Vagabond", wanted to get on, so we resisted the temptation.
On the outskirts of Leicester, the river gets very wide as it passes the (now) famous stadium of Leicester Football Club.
The approach to the city centre is down the "Long Mile", a mile long straight stretch passing under handsome bridges and populated by many rowers and scullers as well as a huge flock of immature swans.
Our main reason for wanting to visit Leicester is to see the new tomb of King Richard III. We set off on foot and, by chance, passed the entrance to the car park where his remains were found. The actual original gravesite can be viewed from the new Richard III Museum opposite the Cathedral.
He is now re-interred in the Cathedral. His tomb looks plain and simple, but close up the beauty of the stonework and craftmanship is very apparent. The work is utterly marvellous at close quarters.
The main stone is a Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in North Yorkshire.  It was chosen not only because it will polish to a fine finish, but also because the fossils within it can be clearly seen.
The darker Kilkenny marble plinth frames the tomb and provides a beautiful surface for letter cutting – the cut surfaces appear white – which ensures that the details of Richard’s name, dates and motto can be clearly read.
King Richard’s coat of arms is inlaid stone (pietra dura) which is made in a variety of marble and semi-precious stones. Again, astonishing craftsmanship.
On display was also the pall that covered the coffin while it laid in state before the re-interment. It is made of black velvet exquisitely embroidered with the figures of those involved in the search for King Richard's remains.
The flowers in the Cathedral were lovely, reflecting the colours of our national flag - and, of course, white roses were everywhere.
Tomorrow, we are going to come back to visit the new Richard III Museum, but for now, we treated ourselves to two of the biggest ice creams you ever saw!
As we walked back to MM, we passed the magnificent old Guidhall, a building that Richard would have known as it was built in 1390.
Back at MM, we were passed by a small boy and his father. The young boy looked in the window and waved as he passed - and then came running back to give us each a chocolate biscuit. He was clearly intrigued by MM  and so we invited him and his Dad on board to look around. It turned out that they were from Syria and had been here for about 6 months. It brought us up short to think that the young boy drowned in the Mediterranean, whose picture was in every paper, was just the same age as this very sweet young boy.
Here we are in Leicester, where, on 22nd August 1485, the world changed with the death of King Richard and the ascendency of the Tudors. Maybe, in the future, historians will see 23rd June 2016 as a similar watershed moment in our history. 
Today was a day that made us reflect on the past and the present on so many levels.
Today: 6 miles, 9 locks and 3.7 hours.
Trip: 132 miles, 83 locks and 102.1 hours.

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