New Internationalist

Autumnal warming

To judge from the scoffolding poles that were being exchanged outside the pub this afternoon, there is mounting tension as we approach what we know will be mamouth tides around 9 September.

These poles, I should explain, are essential to keep your boat secure and away from hazards on the bank as the tide rises and falls. Outherwise, you might wake (as someone I’ve heard of apparently did) to find yourself in the middle of a field, where the tide dumped you before leaving.

I keep looking at other boats to see if they have their poles in place, and worrying about them if they haven’t.

Anticipating the force of nature no longer comes naturally to me. I can remember being overtaken by the hurricane that struck Britain in 1987 - but that hasn’t happened again.

Oh, and I finally have a dinghy that works, which means I can cross the 100 metres to the pubs over the river, rather than drive four miles by road. Whether this will be a benefit in the long term is another matter.

But the dinghy has given me, as well as my visitors, a new freedom. This morning my daughter and a friend of hers ventured up river beyond the next bend, which is still foreign territory to me. They were followed by a party boat, leaving me to worry that it might run them down.

For all the folklore of the river, and the immense experience to which everyone has to lay claim, I’m still astonished by the amount of blundered navigation (usually assisted by booze) that happens all around me.

For the time being, however, there’s no need for me to go to the pubs for booze. I have immense quantities of it salvaged from my ‘barge warming’ party here yesterday.

I was cheeky enough to invite guests to ‘bring a picnic’. When they arrived - after the strenuous kind of journeys that both road and rail offer the traveller in Britain: waiting for my daughter at the local train station, and talking to her on her mobile / cell phone, she shot straight past and was deposited in the nearby city - they were confronted by torrential rain and gale-force winds, which had lifted my neighbours’ gazebo (their kitchen) into the trees.

I was surprised to find how many people could huddle into the barge, and alarmed by the difficulty they would face in getting out of it in a hurry. Circulation was minimal, but if ever there were an example of solidarity in adversity, this was surely it, thanks mainly to live music from Les Clochards.

Quite why this day should have been chosen as by far the worst, weather-wise, since I arrived, is hard to fathom.

Too bad. With my dinghy tethered to the barge, and the party done, I am well and truly warmed. With autumn and those tides approaching, perhaps that’s just as well.

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