the voyage of friendship
part 13 - I make it back home
Hello from my voyage, family and friends, for the last time.
I arrived this afternoon, back in Newbury where Therapy lives, and I'm now safely back at Iveagh Cottage. Our first lambs have already been born and I've been over in the lambing shed already to feed the first orphans. I expect to be very busy there over the next few weeks which is great as I think I could otherwise be quite unsettled after such an unusual experience, being away from home, yet always with friends.
I've loved being aboard Therapy and have certainly seen her as home for the last 3months. I've come back to the mad, fast moving world and I'm already thinking about how life can be simplified and improved by focusing more on the things that Therapy offers such as a slow pace of life, fewer possessions, items and general "stuff” and spending more time with people I love.
When you left me last time, I'd found a pretty mooring in a quite field and enjoyed a long lie in bed next morning. My next stop was Henley where I moored at a nice spot in a park, which suited Bunty very well. She's growing into a very sociable wee dog, which I put down to having lots of opportunity to meet many other dogs on tow paths and in parks, and also meeting so many different people who join us on the trip.
In Henley I jumped on the bike to explore and visited several of the charity shops in town to find some new clothes. I also re-stocked my fridge and made supper for two former work mates who live near Henley, Alison and Burt, also Burt's wife, Martelli. The boat is equipped with a gas cooker and although I generally make very quick and easy meals, its perfectly possible to make proper meals and as I had a bit of time today I made shepherds pie.
The next day I travelled on towards Reading, picking up another work friend, Davy, from Wargrave as I passed through. As we cruised along the Thames, we passed a school giving rowing lessons to what seemed like hundreds of little boys, in dozens of boats that zipped along beside Therapy, crossing her path, overtaking and undertaking. As Davey and I were chattering we suddenly heard a loud "THIS IS SERIOUS" from one of the teachers who was trying to get a boat full of boys to stop as it was on a collision path with us! His voice woke us up too and I swerved to avoid it.
It’s been lovely to see many of my former work colleagues and I've been delighted to have them join me on the boat. Through email and text messages leading up to today in Reading, my next two visitors expressed their huge excitement regularly.
The Kennet and Avon canal leaves the Thames at Reading and tracks right through a busy shopping centre, The Oracle. So on Thursday morning I met with Michele and her new baby Joseph (the youngest guest to join me) and Bridget for a fun ride through town.
It was sunny and warm and we all relaxed and enjoyed the cruise, Bridget learning to wind the locks and Michele holding the ropes while simultaneously feeding Joseph. The day passed quickly and we were soon at Theale where Michele had left her car and we said goodbye.
Unfortunately the loo had been left open during the day draining all the water from the storage tank, leaving us with no water. I was a bit cross but we decided to grin and bear it as I wanted to get a bit further on towards home tonight. Bridget went on to open the next bridge and the traffic lights stopped all the traffic for us. However, nothing else happened and the bridge didn't open. We waited and fiddled with the key but couldn't make the bridge work. Meantime, it was rush-hour in Theale and the traffic was backing up as far as we could see in both directions; Bridget and I sneaked back to the boat and put the kettle on! We called the Canal and Rivers Trust, but it was two hours before they came and helped us through the bridge. The traffic lights were still both red, but the cars had all gone through. It was dark by now and I was worried that I had too far to travel tomorrow and wouldn't get home. Another kind friend, Ann met us and took us to a nearby pub for supper and I made plans. Bridget and I would start at daybreak next day in the hope of making up the lost time.
The early morning sunshine was beautiful but the peaceful scene was smashed when my worst fear happened and Bunty fell off the side of the boat into the water. I stopped the boat, fearing she might get caught in the propeller but she quickly drifted away from us. Thankfully, she managed to swim towards a passing cyclist who pulled her out as I rammed the boat into the reeds by the towpath. I was so grateful to get her back. Wrapped up in my jacket, she quickly warmed up. After 3 months away, it was the last day when this happened!
At Aldermaston, I said goodbye to Bridget who lives nearby and Sue joined me to help with the last leg. Sue lives on a boat and two summers ago she invited Ewan and me to join her for the weekend as she was moving her boat to a new mooring. We loved it and immediately decided that we wanted a boat too. So, it's quite appropriate that Sue should bring me home as she was the person who got me into this boating stuff in the first place.
Sue and I completed the rest of journey uneventfully and drew into Newbury where Ewan was waiting at 5pm this evening.
Many thanks to everyone who came on board Therapy with me, for a day or for a week, during the icy cold or the more recent sunshine. 82 different friends have joined me at different places; I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.
It's been quite an amazing trip for Bunty and me, but now we're happy to be back home with Ewan; we both missed him. Thanks Ewan, I couldn't have done it without you.
Best wishes to all,