Tuesday 7 September 2010

And Your Specialist Subject Is....

Today we are leaving the beautifully isolated Dobb’s Weir. There is a bus service here. It goes on Wednesdays to the supermarket in Hoddesdon: once a week.

At Fieldes Weir lock my daughter disobeyed Lock Rule Number One three times while laughing manically, and I found myself singing ‘Wind the Paddle Up’, to the tune of ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ while opening the paddles. Changing a nappy full of diarrhoea (third one today) can be joyful if the river Lea is chugging peacefully past the window in all its glory; reeds standing to attention, and three ducks milling about, probably gossiping about the swans. The scenery rolls by like one of those Mothercare wind-up toy televisions.

So the plan was to stop briefly before the lock where the Lee and Stort split, moor up and fill the water tank, and empty the rubbish. Then we would turn right, off the Lea and up the beautiful, stunningly scenic River Stort, select some idealistic offside mooring in the middle of nowhere and set up camp; paddling pool, sun umbrella, table and deckchairs. It would be like having a garden for a while. We could even have an outdoor office table at which to write our books. But more stuff has changed since our previous voyage to these waters, two years ago. We moored up but there’s no tap, and no longer any rubbish point. Yet Boat-Dad-from-two-years-ago, on the permanent mooring opposite, remembers us as if we’d never been away, and stops to chat at our window. He tells us our best bet for the nearest rubbish disposal point is the skip boat further up the Lea, and the next tap is Stanstead Abbotts. So the idyllic peace of The Stort must wait a while longer. Perhaps we should get an updated canal guide; ours is about fifteen years old.

We cruise up the Lee and moor up in Stanstead Abbotts for the night. We briefly explored the village and sat in a beer garden that has playground equipment. It starts raining and we move to a table under an apple tree. The sign reads: ‘Beware of Falling Apples. I. Newton.’

Near our mooring the paving stones beside the towpath have William Blake’s poetry carved into them. I found his grave recently when we went for a picnic with the childminder in Bunhill Fields, and Big Sister sometimes asks me to read ‘Little Boy Lost’ instead of a bedtime story. I’m beginning to think William Blake might be haunting me.


He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

William Blake

We had dinner on the back deck after a rain shower.
“I was thinking of getting the...”
“Yes, I agree,” interrupted The Doctor.
“How do you know what...?”
“Sorry, I’m thirty seconds ahead of myself,” he retorted.
“I was going to say, I would put the yellow folding chairs on the back deck for dinner because the deckchairs are wet.”
“I agree,” he said.
“You’re like that Ronnie Corbett sketch...”
“When he’s on Mastermind...”
“And your specialist subject is..”
"Answering the question before last".

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