Replay: The Beginning

Another one from the archives. This was my second post on MyT in September 2008.

The Beginning

My boat owning status is the silver lining of a difficult cloud. My mother is in her late eighties, and prone to various physical and mental frailties that so often accompany longevity. A year ago, she left her riverside bungalow for a small flat in very sheltered accommodation.

We put her house up for sale at almost the exact moment the market crashed. It still hasn’t sold. But at least it’s given me somewhere to stay when I visit her. Not in luxury, but I have a bed and some pans and a plate or two. So I was there, late last summer, sitting on the floor, drinking a glass of wine and watching the ducks and swans go by. I thought how much I should miss the view once the place was sold and started to wonder about the future. Staying with Mum in her flat was a non-starter. The bathroom leads off her bedroom and the light goes on automatically when anyone approaches. In case she wanders, her door is alarmed at night. The chances of me not disturbing her are non-existent.

Maybe the drop in house prices would let me buy a bedsit somewhere nearby. It wouldn’t have to be much. I wasn’t looking for a view, just a spot the cat and I could call our own on our visits east. It seemed a good idea. House prices were less than half those in London where I live, and, even if I had to take out a small mortgage, surely it would be worth it. I’d be able to see Mum, and have a place to stay when I wanted to get out of town.

Back in London I began to surf the property websites. Disappointment; there were no bedsits for sale in the area I was looking. Stubbornly I continued to search, reluctant to give up my new idea. Then, just as I was preparing to concede defeat, up on the screen popped a picture of a boat. It was like a lightbulb going on in my head.

Over the next few days I called everyone I knew who had any boating connections and experience. Generously, they gave me their advice and I wrote it all down, almost filling a notebook.

‘Boats eat money,’ warned my cousin, but I was already hooked. My ignorance and lack of experience of all things nautical cancelled out by the words I had known since childhood: ‘There is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’

21 thoughts on “Replay: The Beginning

  1. And what a good idea that turned out to be, Isobel.

    A floating oasis of sanity and an opening into a totally different world.

    Strange how these things work out.

    How is your mother, by the way?

  2. Yo Ara. Yes wasn’t it!
    I’m seeing her next weekend. So i’ll have more news then. Reports are positive. I’m wondering what poems to try with her next. Maybe some Wordsworth or Keats. Or I may reprise de la Mare. I’m going to scan a picture of her from years ago and post it. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Just got to find the pic I’m thinking of and learn hoe=w to use the scanner.
    So cold here tonight. Cat has gone out for his Mooch. How’s Henley? Have you ventured West recently?

  3. I would stick with what has produced a positive response before, poetically speaking, but I’m no expert, but familiarity is probably more important than expanding horizons in attempts to communicate.

    Does she respond to music?

    Yes, we have been visiting, but they are due here soon.

    It’s very winterish here too, and I’m back to warm sweaters.

    Scanners are easy, shouldn’t be a problem. 🙂

  4. Absolutely. It’s a matter of hitting the ones she liked the best. So a bit of an exploratory time.
    I remember being v into Tennyson when i was fourteen or fifteen and she wasn’t interested at all, but i think she liked Wordsworth. Maybe Macniece.
    She isn’t very musical, but responds to traditional irish stuff. We listen to Van Morrison and the Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat, a lot and james Galway. She also liked Val Doonican and someone else i can’t recall at the minute. Also the dreaded Daniel O’Donnell. i can’t think where she found out about him! I put his CD on when i’m leaving!
    Re scanners: we shall see!

  5. It’s tricky, Isobel.

    You probably weren’t too interested in your mother’s tastes when you were younger. I know I would have a job recalling my mother’s interests.

    Obviously you remember some things but I’m sure not all.

    Enjoy your visit next weekend and give her my best wishes. I know she doesn’t know me at all but I feel I know her from your posts and comments.

    Night night and keep warm.


    • Yep, that’s about it. So the anthology she gave me is probably the best bet, but then again, she loves some of the stories i read her, so maybe I could try some others too. i’ll let you know.
      I’ll certainly give her your best wishes. She’ll probably think you’re one of the family.
      How is your mother?

  6. She is fine, thank you.

    Just a little reclusive at the moment, but we are working on it. She’s delighted with the recent addition, but more in an email perhaps.

  7. That’d be lovely. Must go and persuade Cat in and get to bed. I had visitors earlier after I got home from work and I haven’t so much as opened the newspaper yet!
    Sweet dreams.

  8. How about Wind in the Willows? There was something about your story that reminded me of Ratty and Mole floating down the river in their boat, and the loveliness of Mole’s adventures out of his safe little home and into the wide world, and most of all, the enchantment of the Piper at dawn.

    • Could that be the last line Jaime? It’s what Ratty says in the Wind in the Willows.
      I have a copy that I keep on the boat, so I could try some key passages.
      Keep ’em coming!

  9. Do you ever listen to ‘Poetry Please’, Isobel, on a Sunday afternoon? Probably you can hear it on Listen again. Often they read a collection of favourites and you could listen together and see what strikes a chord.

    Good post, which I missed first time.

    • That could be a nice idea. I could perhaps download it to my i-pod. Mother lives in a signal free zone re internet and mobile phones. I do listen to it sometimes. Mother used to be almost permanently attached to radio 4. Radios all around the house so she could keep listening.

  10. Jaime, you’ve reminded me of how wonderful Wind in the willows is, thanks.
    Isobel, another gem from you, lovely read. My mother wasn’t a great poem reader, but I was, even more since becoming older. It’s strange really because my Mother was a school teacher and often read poems to her classes, sadly never at home though.

    • I’m finding it quite satisfying rereading these myself, oddly.
      It’s not that they are from long ago, but things have changed so much in that space of time. My mother’s door is no longer alarmed as they realised she doesn’t wander. The house is let. I stay on the boat with Cat, who has also acquired a capital letter since these early posts.
      But boats do still eat money!

  11. You’re right, Isobel. It does sound like the ending of Wind in the Willows! Totally subconscious. A memory floating to the surface.

  12. Curiosity drove me to look up the ending of Wind in the Willows: “But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn’t hush them and not fret them, the terrible grey Badger would up and get them. This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he cared little about Society, was rather fond of children; but it never failed to have its full effect.”
    But then it occurred to me that what I said was closer to the ending of Alice, which is: Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make THEIR eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

    Both wonderful books that your mom may enjoy.

    • Thanks Jaime.
      It’ll have to be extracts. She couldn’t listen to the whole thing. Alice is one of my favourites. Carroll lived in my home town of Guildford and is buried there. There’s a recent sculpture of Alice and her sister near the town bridge. I’ll see if I can find a picture.
      At the moment I am more worried about Cat. It’s turned warm, 28° today, and travelling with him will be a problem. I’ll probably have to wrap him in a cold wet towel, and damp him down every now and then. The next car I get will have air-con. Anyone with other ideas, please let me know!!

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