The Grand Canal is a remarkable, 86-mile passageway from the heart of Dublin to the River Shannon. John set out to walk it, despite a dodgy knee, wrong shoes and a lack of fitness. Initially, he encountered pollution and dangers of urban life, but on leaving the city he emerged into a world of hedgerows, wildflowers, birds and gems of architecture engineering, with which he peppers this colourful account of the Grand Canal Way.
A chance meeting with a Romanian youth at Portobello Bridge on his first morning turned this walk into something more - a parallel reflection on his voluntary work in Romania's notorious state of orphanage system. He remembers all the classic horrors: children with 'cot legs', transfusions of infected blood, a child's body handed over in a refuse sack.
This 'warts and all' description of the canal ten years after the commitment of public funds to its preservation correspondingly charts the fate of Romanian orphanage sector following the efforts of thousands of aid workers and millions of dollars.