Sunday, 11 December 2011

Boat with a View

I had a wonderful new experience yesterday. One of those moments where everything feels calm and well placed. It was on the way back from the Skiff Club 'Santa Skiff' - a lovely day out on the Thames in traditional, wooden rowing boats. The boats were decorated with tinsel and the crews dressed to match. Our insides were warmed with mulled wine to get us going on the frosty morning. Our insides continued to be warmed as we stopped at each conveniently placed pub on the Thames, until we reached our destination for lunch. Come to think of it, there was a lot of 'warming' of insides before lunch, luckily there are no yard arms on rowing boats to complicate things.

Lunch was one of those good ones, where it gets dark before you leave. Five of us were in our boat for the return journey, and I rather envied the chap lying in the bow (pointy end) as I did some of the hard work rowing. When someone suggested a changeover, I managed to swap into the coverted horizontal position (not an officially recognised skiffing place) and found that Nirvana was waiting for me. I confess, the drink might have had something to do with it by that point.

So I'm lying on the bottom of the boat, head into the pointy bit but propped comfortably on a ruck sack. The boat is sitting lower in the water than usual due to the number of occupants. The water is rather disconcertingly close to my nose, but gives the vantage of seeing across the Thames at an angle not usually enjoyed by vertical beings. There is a full moon with occasional cloudscapes passing by. There are stars. There are the intermittent silhouettes of moorhens, or the luminous glow of a swan. The blades are dipping in and out - I hadn't noticed before the deep throated swooshing as they shove blocks of water out of the way. The boat thrumped with the movement, and well oiled boards creaked as the rowers slowly cantilevered back and forth. There was the muffled clicking of leather buttons on thole as the blades helped to feather themselves. From the other end of the boat, the soft sound of conversation drifted into the night.

All this was going on as the tops of the trees went past the stars in freeze-frame animation. I was being gently rocked to sleep in my watery bed.

It all looked and felt wonderful.

It doesn't get much better.

It really doesn't.