Wednesday 1 September 2010


Sunday 11th July

The great thing about mooring at Broxbourne is there is a huge leisure centre right by the river navigation. The swimming pool is designed for ‘family fun’ with wave machine, slides, a fountain and a very shallow slope for toddlers to paddle on. The Doctor and the girls walked up the towpath to get a leaflet about opening times and family swim sessions. When they came back Big Sister was first back on board. She stood in the doorway and announced,
“Mummy, we went to the swimming pool and it is GONE! There is just a field there.” This sounded like in toddler confusion she’d got the story wrong, but The Doctor confirmed that it is true! Apparently there is a pool in Cheshunt – where we have just come from.

Instead, Big Sister played with plastic toy fishes and a bucket of water on the back deck under a red sun umbrella. She was just wearing her pants and directing a red water pistol at the yellow balloon hanging from the umbrella. A green narrowboat with a large crew of shirtless lads cruised past and smiled at us. They’re playing rock music really loud and I just made out the lyrics ‘I’m gonna make your ears bleed!’ I should have got Big Sister to do her devils horns hand signal which she accompanies with an enthusiastic, “Yeah, let’s ROCK!” Other ‘baby signing’ that her Dad has taught her include two thumbs up, “Brilliant!” and victory fingers for “Cool!”

We are moored beside a field, long grasses sweep across an expanse of wild and unruly nature towards the elderly thoughtful trees watching over it all in gentle breeze bending silence.

Across the river from our windows we spy on large, detached and modern desirable residences. Their gabled angles and net curtains survey gorgeous gardens and lovely lawns that reach to the river bank and the occasional white GRP cruiser (called things like ‘River Lady’) moored at the end of the garden. I have heard some narrow-boaters refer to these private leisure vessels as Tupperware boats, bathtubs or portapotties. Dr Swan says that he heard they call us narrow-boaters ‘sewer rats’.
These gardens display rose trellis’s, big flowery potted plant tubs, hanging baskets and ten different varieties of ornamental trees.

The river is busy with yellow pedalo’s, rowing boats and mini motorboats pootling about on a halcyon holiday afternoon. They contain families of four, the tattooed, football fan dad at the helm, and these part time day trip captains occasionally bump our hull with a resounding thud. All the dads around here have shaved heads and tattoos. I assume the widespread hair shortage must indicate a testosterone surplus, or a scarcity of zinc.

On the weekdays the water is peopled with a more surreal sight of traditional Hasidic Jewish families, black hats and corkscrew ringlet sideburns that seem so serious whilst “messing about on the river”.

The hunter-gatherer endured a long hot cycle ride to the next town (Hoddesdon) to secure supplies for the family and returned with a treasure trove of the supermarket’s finest produce; chocolate treats and components of a feast fit for the captain’s table, a plentiful pirate’s bounty.

As Broxbourne is a better neighbourhood, our pushchair is free to graze un-tethered, on the towpath grass. We only need to bring it on board when the wine is all drunk, the evening’s deck chairs are folded and the geese have gone to bed.

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