Tuesday 15 February 2011


20th January

We were listening to ‘Gotta Get Away’ by The Rolling Stones. The baby held her arms up to be lifted and danced around the boat. Whenever Mick sang ‘Baby’, she laughed with recognition and delight and pointed at her chest. She said,
“Baby... I don’t want to live here no more.”
Mick was sitting on the back steps in the kitchen.
What a drag it is getting old,” he said sarcastically as I swallowed a pill with my coffee.
“Doctor please, some more of these.”
“It’s Citalopram Mick,” I reproached him. “Not Valium or barbiturates. It’s all different today.”
“We used to call them ‘Yellow Submarines’,” said Mick. “But the doctors call them Nembutals.”
“Well I don’t think serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the same thing.”
“I’m just saying, who’s driving your brain?” asked Mick, cheekily. “Are you in control or is it driving you insane?”
You don’t know what it’s like in my head, I thought to myself. A sofa here, a bean bag there, an Indian throw, maybe a floor cushion... These little white wonders make my brain a more comfortable place to live.
My imaginary friend had over stepped the mark a little. That day he had brought along his own imaginary friend.
“This is Ronnie,” said Mick. Ronnie was leaning against the kitchen sink.
“Pleased to meet you Ronnie,” I said grumpily. (Hope you guess my name.)
“Ronnie and his brothers were the first generation of his family to be born on land,” said Mick. “Water gypsies.”
“Really?” I feigned disinterest, but I was intrigued.
“Yeah,” said Ronnie, swigging from a bottle of Chivas Regal. “My mum and dad were born on barges in Paddington Basin. My dad’s family’s barge was called the Antelope, and my mum’s family was on the Orient tug, docked opposite St Mary’s Hospital.” He passed the bottle to Mick.
“But you were born on land?” I asked him. He nodded.
“I grew up in a little council house in Yiewsley, just down the canal from Uxbridge.”
“Ooh, I know some right characters on the Cut around Uxbridge and Cowley!” I smiled, to think of them. Ronnie nodded slowly.
“My granddad Sylvester Wood worked around that stretch of canal and down to London. He dressed like a Chigago gangster dandy: trilby, waistcoat, watch on a chain and a carnation in his lapel,” he grinned. “He had a tug, pulling barges of sand, and he had several wives. Apparently he kept a second family further up the Cut in Stratford-upon-Avon, and maybe a third one in Manchester. ...”
“She’s thinking of giving up boating,” said Mick, accusingly, nodding in my direction. I jumped to defend myself.
“Well, it’s so much harder when you’ve got kids, you know?”
Ronnie nodded again.
“I can imagine. My dad was one of eleven children and Mum was one of eight,” said Ronnie.
“My mum wore hand-me-downs, and had disfigured feet from her bad shoes. She would walk miles to school and back with my Nan, and they pushed the smaller kids in a wheelbarrow. It was a hard life back then.”
“Wow. At least I’ve got my double push-chair! I don’t think I could push my kids in a heavy wheelbarrow.”
“My mum was small, like you; about five foot tall. Someone said to her once, ‘Stand up, Mrs Wood,’ and she said, ‘I am.’”*
“So you’re looking for a house then?” said Mick.
“Yes Mick. This little Rolling Stone wants to gather moss. Can I have a bit of your Scotch Ronnie?” I asked. But they faded away. The baby looked at me, puzzled. I have got to stop talking to my imaginary friends. We were listening to ‘Not Fade Away’ by The Rolling Stones. The baby held her arms up to be lifted and danced around the boat.

“Well love is love and not fade away
Love, love is love and not fade away .”

(‘Not Fade Away’ - Petty/Hardin)

The ‘Not Fade Away’ lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels. If you like this song, please buy a CD or MP3 to support The Rolling Stones.

*This article refers to the autobiography ‘Ronnie’ by Ronnie Wood.

“Matey and conversational, it reads as if Ronnie is sharing a bottle of Chivas Regal with you” The Times


wilsonzenith said...

Love this post.

I think there's plenty more (nautical) mileage in your imaginary friends, if you don't mind me saying so.


Narrowboat Wife said...

Thanks Andy. Your comments are the best, and are building my confidence :-) Glad you like the imaginary friends as they seem to be popping up all over the place. Met Charles Lamb in a pub recently (deceased essayist) post coming soon!

Pat said...

This is fab, I'm very glad I popped over for a read. :)