Chocolate Charlie

From the same trip as the previous post, this is ‘Chocolate Charlie’ on his narrowboat, Mendip, moored near Preston Brook in the Spring of 1977.  Charlie Atkins aquired his nickname from the cargo he carried for much of his working life – chocolate crumb from Ellesmere Port to the Cadbury’s factory at Bourneville, Birmingham.

This is another strong face which has endured a lifetime on the cut – it is deeply lined and reminds me of the poet, W H Auden:

Comrades, who when the sirens roar
From office, shop and factory pour,
‘Neath evening sky;
By cops directed to the fug
Of talkie-houses for a drug,
Or down canals to find a hug
Until you die.

W H Auden – A communist to others – 1932.
(I feel sure Charlie would have come up with something more cheerful).

Chocolate Charlie

In his final years Charlie also became a minor celebrity – the revival of the English canals sparked an interest in the dying breed of men who worked the system. He is also remembered in song:


  1. easyweimaraner · September 24, 2014

    It’s great that people like Charlie became immortal that way. I would work for Cadbury’s too… specially since our supermarket closed where they sold Cadbury’s :o)

  2. socialbridge · September 24, 2014

    Such a great face! Actually, I love the lines from Auden.

    • northumbrianlight · September 24, 2014

      Wonderful isn’t it, a face that sailed rather than launched a thousand ships.
      I was ok with the Auden verse until the finality of the last line.

  3. suej · September 24, 2014

    Great portrait, all life lived in those lines….

  4. LaVagabonde · September 24, 2014

    What a face. There’s a story in each and every one of those wrinkles.

    • northumbrianlight · September 24, 2014

      Isn’t there just and probably every one with a wink and a smile.

  5. MyDailyMinefield · September 24, 2014

    Older faces have so much character, they are interesting! So many times, these days, we turn away because they aren’t dewy, young and perfect. How much we miss, by not stopping to look. I love this post!

    • northumbrianlight · September 24, 2014

      Many thanks – there is much to be said for growing old gracefully and not raging against the inevitable.

  6. Cate Franklyn · September 24, 2014

    Oh, a wonderful and sweet job Chocolate Charlie had!

    • northumbrianlight · September 25, 2014

      Sounds perfect doesn’t it but I do wonder what ‘chocolate crumb’ actually tasted like – I could probably develop a habit 🙂

  7. greenmackenzie · September 24, 2014

    Wonderful photo and a beautiful window into a life which has passed through, working hard.

    • northumbrianlight · September 25, 2014

      Many thanks Seonaid – he was a very friendly and willing subject.

  8. Tish Farrell · September 26, 2014

    Brilliant shot and story. I wonder if chocolate crumb is the stuff that wholefood shops sell as cocoa nibs these days. I eat them in an attempt to assuage chocolate lust, which they do actually – though totally unsweet. Good on porridge!

    • northumbrianlight · September 26, 2014

      Many thanks Tish – that sounds likely and interesting – I will be trying some 🙂

      • Tish Farrell · September 26, 2014

        They can be a bit crunchy, so watch out for any dodgy molars.

  9. elisa ruland · September 27, 2014

    A man of character. The contribution he’s made by working hard every day of his life is priceless. Beautiful Photograph.

  10. restlessjo · September 28, 2014

    I remember the poem, Robin. That’s a great character study.
    I was at the canal basin in Loughborough yesterday, just briefly. Left to my own devices I would have wandered a little further. 🙂

    • northumbrianlight · September 28, 2014

      Thanks Jo – I have not done that stretch of the Grand Union, one day hopefully.

  11. Malin H · October 3, 2014

    I’m deeply moved by this post and the song…

  12. Thom Hickey · October 12, 2014

    Lovely. Informative and affectionate. Reminds me of why I so enjoy my visits to your blog. Regards Thom.

    • northumbrianlight · October 15, 2014

      Many thanks Thom, much appreciated – sorry for the slow reply – we are out on the canals again where Internet connectivity is patchy at best.

  13. Pingback: One woman = strength of ten men | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity

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