RogerBW's Blog

Julie Enfield Investigates: The Net and the Canal 06 June 2021

1996 police procedural in four parts, by Nick Fisher. A body is found by a tour boat going along the Regent's Canal; DSI Julie Enfield (Imelda Staunton) investigates.

So that's the canal covered; meanwhile the net is the scary Internet (how could anybody send email from someone else's address?), and as things go on there's a lot of talk about computers for the ignorant which perhaps was more needed 25 years ago than it is now. ("Lawrence, what's 'I.R.C.'?") Alas, Fisher rather relies on this to provide interest, which leaves the actual criminal plot to take second place – a pity, because I thought it had potential.

When our heroes talked about finding people who might know the canal well, I jumped immediately to cyclists using the towpaths – though that was never mentioned, and I have no idea whether they were open for that purpose in the 1990s. (They certainly were in 2007.)

This is the last of the five Julie Enfields that I've heard; it's not the last chronologically, but there's basically no continuity between them anyway. They never manage to be brilliant, but they have a basic competence which I've rather enjoyed.

  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 12:58pm on 06 June 2021

    I can attest that I rode on my bike on canal towpaths in 1996. Though I believe at one time you needed a license. I never had one, and never got stopped and asked for one.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:20pm on 06 June 2021


    I now vaguely remember officially having to get some sort of permit in 2007, but by then it was basically just "print off this PDF and fill in your name", no actual registration involved.

    I assume Fisher wasn't aware of this possibility, and to be fair I don't suppose most of the target audience would have been either. But of all the Julie Enfields this is the one that's aged least well, and since I wasn't being bedazzled by the wonders of the Internet I found myself getting more picky about other things.

  3. Posted by Chris Bell at 06:35pm on 06 June 2021

    As far as I remember the Regent's Canal towpath was a free-for-all in the 1970s. If I was meant to have a licence nobody ever told me so. It was a pleasanter ride than the Outer Circle for my purposes, which were Park Road to Chalk Farm or thereabouts.

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:29am on 08 June 2021

    I cycled to work daily on the cam towpath from 1987 to 1990 and I was never aware of needing a licence, but then I've never heard of this at all before this blog post. Admittedly the cam is a river not a canal.

  5. Posted by RogerBW at 09:17am on 08 June 2021

    Just in case anyone lands here having searched for this: since towpaths are not a public right of way, British Waterways technically required a permit for cycling, but enforcement was basically nonexistent and people who didn't bother to check may never have known about it. The successor body the Canal & River Trust (from 2012) explicitly does not require a permit.

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