Saturday, August 30, 2008

Messing about in boats . . .

I agree with you completely. To me it is a never-ending source of astonishment why people should claim to derive so much pleasure from stripping off, flailing around in cold water, struggling to dry with a damp towel, and then, worst of all - if you're on a beach - trying to wrestle your damp and sandy body back into your seemingly shrunken clothes. It's good exercise, they say! I can exercise my arms and legs just as well on a good walk - and I haven't sand in my undergarments at the end of it!

And what if the tide is going out? There you are, cold and shivering, running for seemingly endless miles in search of the water, tripping over the shingle and stubbing your toes. For what? For finally getting your feet in the water . . . then your ankles . . . then, yards further on, your knees . . . and, ultimately, it might be deep enough for you to lower yourself into two feet of water and to flap around in the shallows!

But I don't agree with you about boats! Yes, it's possible that I'd be unhappy in a small boat in the open sea - particularly one with a failed engine. But what of a rowing-boat on a tranquil river? I’ve loved rowing-boats ever since I was a child. They are slow, and safe, and if you're on a river you're in the agreeable, undemanding company of ducks, and kingfishers, and over-hanging willows.

Have you time for a short story? When I was in my early teens I went with my parents on holiday to Christchurch. On the first day of our holiday I discovered the rowing-boats for hire on the river-bank - a lovely, gentle river with next to no traffic.

Accordingly, every afternoon I made my way to the river - with a book in my pocket - hired a rowing-boat, rowed just out of sight of the boatman, tied up my boat to an over-hanging willow and spent a delightful hour flat on my back in the boat reading my book. It was an idyllic way to spend a summer afternoon. At the end of the hour I would reluctantly unhitch the boat, row it back to the boatman and return to the hotel. At the end of the holiday I went, very sadly, for my final trip on the river. When I returned and told the boatman that this would be 'Goodbye' he looked at me with great respect.
"If more young people took exercise like you t'would be a better world!" he said emphatically.
It didn't seem kind to disillusion him with the truth, so I smiled sweetly and left him with his dreams!