Friday, March 18, 2011
"Three Boys in a Boat?"
On the northern edge of Mill Pond, Water Mill, a grey-green body of water at this time of year, there is a boat. Not proudly floating on the water, tied to a buoy or even dragged to safety up one of the grassy banks that fringe this wetland. No, this boat lies on its starboard side, abandoned, propped up among the dense and still leafless trees. Sad to observe, this small craft (a rowing boat maybe, or skiff) has not floated in many seasons. Years of neglect, weathering and decay has worn away her lines and splintered her edges. At some point she made land for the final time, was hauled out of the water, and left to rot.
A memory was triggered, one that is nearly half a century old. My mind traveled back in time to boyhood summers. One in particular. How old was I? Six, seven, maybe eight. It doesn’t matter. With two village friends I was leaning on the wooden railings of a white-painted bridge over the Bow Brook in Himbleton. A bridge that connected the church water-meadows to the meandering country lane where we had parked our bikes.
Three young boys in a timeless summer who had a dream. You see, there was a boat. A small boat also, holed and decaying, firmly lodged in the thick roots and tall briars about fifty yards downstream. We had tried to get to it from the bank but the growth was too dense and sharp, and the fast currents were too deep. So we had to be content with dreaming, Stephen Reynolds, Peter White and me. If someone could reach the boat and fasten a rope, then we could do the rest. And what would we do? Why, repair it, of course! And paint it blue, or green. No, definitely blue. And give it a mast, or at least make oars. And then sail away downstream, down the brook, down to Diglis and the River Severn, and from there to Bristol and out to sea. We would be pioneers, explorers, adventurers, settlers, even pirates! And home before Sunday. We had to be home before Sunday else we’d miss ice cream for tea.
We never missed the ice scream. Rather we grew up and the dream ended with the summer. I last stood on the bridge a few years ago, with my daughter aged nine, or maybe ten. It doesn’t matter. The bridge was freshly-painted white and the brook flowed deep and fast. But the boat had long since sailed.
Posted by Tim Lewis at 4:33 PM