Freelance journalist Iris Bryce, and her late husband, jazz-trumpeter Owen, lived aboard the narrow boat Bix – named after Owen's musical hero Bix Beiderbecke – and explored the inland waterways of England. In the 1980s, travelling from town to town, taking casual work when they could, lingering where it suited them, meeting old friends and making new ones, they enjoyed a lifestyle most would envy, yet few achieved then.
Canals are my World spans two years (1981-1983) of the Bryce's nomadic voyaging on the waterways of the Midlands and North Country. Bix visits the ancient centres of Warwick, Lincoln and York; market towns like Boston and Retford; the riverside communities of Newark, Gainsborough and Selby; famous canal junctions such as Braunston, Hawkesbury and Fradley, and the workaday cities of Birmingham, Wakefield and Leeds. Iris has the happy knack of making friends wherever she goes. We are introduced to lock-keepers and landlords, barge skippers and jazz bands. The scene ranges from canals in the backstreets of industrial towns to the remotest countryreaches of navigable rivers.
On one level, Canals are my World is an entertaining travel book, portraying a slice of England rarely encountered by other writers, but this book also shows that, given commitment and courage, it is not outside the capacity at all of us to spend at least part of our lives beyond the straight-jacket world of the office desk and factory floor.