A lost boat
Esther and her new friends moored-up.
“Good luck!” bellowed Chris, as Esther picked her way over ropes in her pathway. “You can do it…you know you can…blimey, you’ve worked hard enough, haven’t you!”
Chris stooped low to scoop up the blonde-headed cherub into her ample bosom…oblivious, of course, to the depression from which his loving mum was emerging; that had ripped apart all her sound beliefs and confidence she had once held firm…not able to change a nappy without worrying where the safety-pin was. Terry was whistling as he secured the rope. So glad to be free from his city job as the roads curled, rose and dipped around them.
“Hurry up Lucy Daydream” shouted her friend as she twirled her first-born around and around on the sun-baked earth. “Don’t you dare miss that train missus and….we’ll be here…right here…” she pointed to the third pillar after the bridge. “So you better get going hadn’t you?”
However, Mark, the fourth crew member, did not leave his cabin and was probably reading another train-spotting manual, already having worked through over two dozen in the three days they had been travelling since leaving the long run of locks.
She finished later, in the exam room in Wellingborough, with a question on Macbeth and, with time to spare, she had re-read what she had written before handing it over to the invigilator. At last she was free to return to her friends and complete the rest of her holiday on the Grand Union Canal.
“Oh my God!” screamed Esther as she stood at the very same spot she had been on that morning…but where….where was the boat and her friends? It was getting darker by the moment and also the drizzle was turning to rain…too dark to pick her way over or around the taut ropes. What was she to do? With both embarrassment and also amusement, Esther thought she had no choice but to head for a local police station in Birmingham. With clammy hands and thumping heart she stood at reception and waited for the duty officer to log details of a lost dog then it was her turn.
“I’ve mislaid a boat”.
The officer looked puzzled. Probably thinking she was another drunk – though she hardly ever touched drink – not after seeing what it could do to you. Eventually the officer accepted the truth about what she had told him, and a young policeman was dispatched down to the towpath whilst she was given a cup of tea and left to wait in the reception area. It was over an hour-and-a-half later the same officer returned, grinning widely. Esther followed the young officer who, thirty minutes later, led her back down the towpath. Then she was there and there were her friends who had been hauled from their beds by the tap of the policeman’s torch on the cabin window.
Esther passed her first exam, as she did many others, each time wanting to prove that she could rather than she wanted to. She would always remember the lost boat – other people lost handbags! There had then been great hoots of delight whilst Esther took her turn again at steering the narrow-boat, especially when she nearly banked it at Foxton Locks, quite close to where families were having a quiet picnic and to a courting couple who had stopped abruptly as the boat headed towards them – perhaps the back seat of a car might be better!
In the evenings Chris had encouraged Esther to wear lipstick and mascara before visiting pretty pubs that dotted their journey conveniently on the Grand Union Canal. Esther had tried her very best to apply mascara but just looked like a panda as her over-enthusiastic prods and swirls at the lashes caused blobs and runs on her cheeks.
“You know what they say…don’t you Chris?”
“That you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!”
“Blimey,” protested her jocular friend, flashing her perfect teeth, “you soon forget don’t you!”
Esther was really puzzled,
Christine finished putting the long sharp pins that, now and again, pricked her scalp (most of her hair had now grown back).
“I would say that there are not many people who get the chance to ride on an elephant wearing a red mini skirt, but you did!”
Esther had almost forgotten how she had met the then-elderly Duke of Bedford, although she was too scared to talk to him at the time, but sat at the end of the long table eating a simple meal and that had been after their walk round the town centre promoting Esso petrol with other young girls, a few being models.
As time moved on, Esther began to go to places where people were really polite and listened to what she was trying to say, as she stumbled with her words that spilled out like bullets from a gun, not being comfortable with silences at the time. In class they listened to her thoughts on test-tube babies, fox hunting, abortion, Capitalism and the infrastructure that underpinned everything. She was grateful for the help Dr T. had given her and for the life which seemed now in reach, despite the pain that was back at home.