The old orchard Part 3

The river, which is an offshoot of the Waveney, was very shallow in places, though I think it has been dredged a few times and is more navigable now. But it was a pleasant outing in the summer, putting the boat in the water and rowing for an hour, stopping for a picnic and rowing back again. Weeza and her friend Mel decided to go and do that one summer afternoon. Without mentioning it to her mum, Mel borrowed the wicker sewing basket and they packed up their picnic and set off. They were fifteen or sixteen at the time, quite old enough to go without supervision and the water wasn’t so deep that I needed to worry about them, worrier though I am.

An hour or two later, I went outside and there was a distinct whiff of river mud. I’ve got a quite acute sense of smell and am good at identifying what I smell as well. But it was a couple of minutes later when two bedraggled girls trudged up to the house. Weeza had got in the boat and held it steady for Mel, who is somewhat clumsy. Somehow, the boat tipped over. They retrieved the basket but not Mel’s shoes, which sank without trace. Cushions and oars had to be chased down the river. Mud is stinky stuff.

I’m sorry to say that the Sage and I laughed – not at the woeful girls so much as the situation … well, perhaps at the sight as well, I’m not sure. I have no idea what Mel’s mum said about her sewing basket.

Despite all that, I loved the trips out in the boat. It’s what I grew up with, paddling out in our rowing boat on a quiet evening when the river was still and no one was about – this was at Oulton Broad, which is the same river Waveney but much closer to the sea. Or rowing down to one of the backwaters and mooring, to sit quietly until the moorhens and water voles forgot I was there. There’s actually very little I like more than simply messing about in boats.

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