Monday, June 19, 2017
I was invited, kindly, to stay on a boat. This boat was situated amongst other such boats and in a community of boatmen and women who Rock. I say this because they were something almost unknown to me until now, because they have been, until now, out of my sight. But having met them, I will never look at canal boating in quite the same way.
My young hostess and I decided it might be best if I left my suitcase in the Left Luggage compartment at the train station. This turns out to have been hugely wise of us, for dragging it around London, on the Underground and in the current heavy heat wave of London, would not have been very nice. She met me at a Tube station, and walked me away from the busy streets through to lovely parks and bike paths and, at last, to the canal. And there was her boat. There were swans in front of it! "Swans!" I exclaimed. I had heard somewhere that all swans in England belong to the Queen. So I was looking at the Queen's own swans. This was heady stuff.
We only had one day, and decided to make the best of it.
"Let's take the boat out for a run!" she said. And I, of course, agreed.
I had not thought of being taken out into the canal. It would be perfect! Her friend came along as second shipmate, and we were off. The goal was a Pub down river, where we would sit outside and enjoy the cooling of the evening. As we traveled, a cool breeze comforted our faces and friendly "Hello"'s drifted toward us all along the way.
Quite a stir was created as my two young, blonde, and beautiful companions at the helm were noticed. I do not say that I was noticed, except perhaps as a chaperone, but I did not mind. I didn't want to be noticed. But in a while, we were all three happy to be noticed because - what was this? our boat engine was behaving strangely. It was slowing. It was - stopped! I was not unduly concerned, you know, due to the fact that there were so many young men manning so many canal boats. Sooner or later, one would notice. Soon, one did, and spoke.
"Having any trouble?" he said from his bow.
The two young ladies indicated that, yes, there was some small trouble.
"Maybe I can help," he said, and got out a bag of tools. These tools looked gorgeous to us because they meant that we might get back to our mooring by sundown. He worked away at the engine quite professionally, and soon we heard it springing to life.
"Hurray!" someone shouted. Maybe it was me.
"Thank you!" said the girls, and the young boatman said that they were quite welcome as we eased back out into the canal. A huge sign saying "Corbyn For Freedom" was strung across the water, proclaiming the feelings of more than one in that boating community. We laughed, and talked about elections and Referendums and things over on my side of the Pond. No conversation in England can be had without at least a glancing mention of those three things.
The dinner, the ride back, the mooring, and the night spent out along the canal were all a perfect ending to my lovely weeks in the United Kingdom. It was one more 'layer' to add to my already multiple layers of getting to know this place.
But now my face is looking steadily West, as I climb aboard another gigantic metal tube that will take me home; toward a celebration of 40 years, and someone wonderful's birthday, and lots of people to hug. And more!
Yes. It is high time.
See you along the way!