Wednesday 3 November 2010

The End of the Rainbow

10th August

Since having children I have developed an irrational travel phobia. I’ll just nip out to the supermarket in Harlow to get toddler pull-ups I thought – but I don’t have a car or a driving licence, so it was two hours from our boat to the supermarket. Although Harlow is just one train stop away there was a severe train delay and two flat tyres on a three wheeled pushchair. It took one hour and ten minutes to get home from the supermarket by train and walking to and from the stations. It only takes one hour ten minutes to walk there down the towpath, without any trains involved at all.

The laundry run is now a joy not a chore. It is a country walk and a chance to practice my improvised botany. On the way to the lock cottage I see so many nameless wild flowers. I’m no horticulturalist so I have to create my own names for them: purple tufties, cabbage-white butter-flowers, purple pansy clusters, golden grasses sun-bleached and crispy, spiky purple flower’d thistle balls, and lavender look-a-likes shaking with laughter on the towpath. And O’ sweet bushels of pinkle-bells that tinkle with the sounds of summer.

At the lock The Hay Man is leaning over the footbridge railings and chatting to The Husband of the Lady of The Lock. The Hay Man came here as a baby evacuee during the war, and he never left. He lives in one of the chalets on the chalet estate. We see him now and then on his way back from Hunsdon Mead where he collects hay for his horse and then pulls it back home on a trolley.

It rained for most of the day. At home I noticed water leaks in places that I didn’t know we had places. I put a bucket in the corridor and felt miserable about the boat. A narrowboat broker would now call it a ‘project boat’. It has had the hull re-plated but it is old and not big enough or good enough for my two girls. We need more storage space for clothes and toys. If only The Doctor and I could have our own bedroom we would have a writing desk in there... But I wonder what I really want. ..a bigger boat with a washing machine, a caravan by the sea, or a two bedroom semi-detached in suburbia? Should we rent a flat? Could we rent a bigger boat? The Doctor says a caravan will be on some depressing caravan site, all boxed in among too many other caravans and he’d rather live in a house in suburbia. This can’t happen because of my suburb phobia.

I am anxious about our future finances, income and work. Even the willows weep for me, at the bottom of the mead garden. As they drizzle tears into the lesser Stort on the far side of the field, I consider DIY anxiety remedies:

Anxiety Busters

What advice would you give to a friend?
Break down tasks – problem solving
Give yourself more relax time
Listen to a hypnosis mp3 download

The children are in bed and I think it has stopped raining. So I go out on the back deck and see my first ever rainbow sunset! First, I saw the rainbow, arching from the field on the east of the river and stretching to the bow of our boat. It’s huge but seems so near, right here, just across the river, bending and curving over our boat. With meadows ahead of me and meadows behind, I look all around and think I must be the only human to see this enormous rainbow. So, I allow myself to imagine that it was put there just for me. I was unable to capture it in a photograph, it just appeared washed out in the preview frame. I turned behind me to check our heavenly meadow and there is the most amazing sunset I have seen since we’ve been moored here. The clouds are pink, orange and yellow, intensely striking and streaking across the sky. The clouds are rolling and sweeping over the embers of the sun’s golden glow, seeping through cracks in the sky and leaking out, the paper sky absorbing the wet paint colours sponge-like, blurring and fading into one another, lighting up the sky with a passionate intensity. Clouds are sucked into a vanishing point, perspective is speeding away from me across the green field to where the lumpy bumpy shadowy skyline of dark trees meets these heavenly grumblings of clouds that are now already turning ominously red and purple. Fluffy fragile grasses stand silently beside me and share in my awe as we witness the sky.
Yet, in a few minutes it was all over. The sun crept off over the horizon, the sky became a washed out faded denim blue, and when I looked behind me, my rainbow was gone. I’m not religious or even superstitious but if I was looking for a heavenly sign to comfort me in these times when I am prone to worry, then that was it. More than just a ray of hope, a rainbow sunset painting the evening sky was a fierce lightshow competing with the misty transient vulnerability of a vast rainbow, existing for a moment in time.

Later, I remembered that I had said that Hunsdon Mead and Roydon would be the end of the rainbow for us.

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