Wednesday 15th August 2012
CREW, it says, in bold, black, shiny letters on the bright yellow T-shirt I’ve chosen to wear for this day of days… only to smear the front of it with doughnut jam, not long after we’ve cast off under a heavy shower.
Ben’s brother may be the oldest hand aboard, but he skips nimbly from bow to bank to bollard, every inch the merry mariner.
“And remember, Marcus, not to call them ropes,” he advises me. “Ask the skipper if you don’t know the correct term for anything.”
I’ve been learning the lines, teasing Ben with frequent gybes.
Our happy-go-lucky humour defies the rain, which abates, allowing us to moor below Boveney Lock, fill up with water, and lunch on salad and sandwiches, overlooking the racecourse.
A cruiser of day-trippers (fifty-odd; average age sixty-odd) enters the lock, having motored upstream past Eton Dorney, home to the recent Olympic rowing events. I can’t resist:
“You’ll be disembarking shortly, ladies and gentlemen. Do two laps of the racecourse, then into your wet-suits.”
I’m reluctant to leave the lads, but do so in Windsor; renew the senior railcard; pass through Feltham: tempted to text Ben about young fenders; walk slowly through muggy streets to London Bridge station, where…
…my younger daughter spots me in the crowd. We catch up over drinks at the Southwark Playhouse, before joining the sell-out audience at a student production of Much Ado About Nothing, featuring her choreography.
And they’re good, these young thespians: self-assured, with a fine grasp of Shakespearian wit, even if it’s obvious to an oldie like me which of those who are smoking don’t normally smoke.
My oldest granddaughter is still up when we arrive in Beckenham. There are cards and a cake with candles. A beaming son-in-law comes home and we all laugh at his tale of the boys from One Direction who asked to play with his jazz trio at a recent gig in a shopping centre.
“Cup of tea, dad?”
I hug my daughters and sprawl on the sofa-bed; one year older now, apparently.