16 July 2019
England, longboats, reunions, cocktails, love and laughter
I returned home yesterday afternoon from a week long visit to England staying with my sister and her husband on their longboat on the river Thames. Firstly I have never been on a longboat before. Secondly, it’s been over 20+ years since I have stayed with my sister. In addition it’s also been quite some time since I had a holiday of a full week. None of the above was a concern, on the contrary. It was a visit that I was looking forward to with relish.
The visit had been arranged with my sister and flights book in January regardless whether I would be working through the summer or not. So far this summer I haven’t worked and unlikely now we’re into July. Although apprehensive of not working I can now say that I have really enjoyed my free time. I have been to local music events and concerts, met new people and have a better sense of belonging here. There aren’t a great many people who live along my section of the road, but I have added and spoken with five new neighbours. I have also become a ‘Benevole’ at the Theatre and will assist if they require volunteers to help at future events.
Take off was just after midday arriving at London Stansted at a little after 12.30 local time after a good flight. I was priviledged to be met by my sister and her husband. After hugs and kisses we drove across London to Caversham, Reading where their boat was moored on the Thames. This was going to be new experience. Naturally I have seen riverboats which looked charming, but actually living on is ground breaking. It was very cosy and quite adequate accommodation. We sat around the table that evening with a glass of wine and a platter of fine foods as we chatted away rebuilding our connection, reminiscing, giggling and laughing our way through that evening as the sun set upon the river. A delightful way to begin my visit.
Refreshed by a good night’s sleep, a black coffee and a shower we walked into the town for a few items returning with crossaints, pain raisins and other yummy things for breakfast. Once we had eaten and cleared the decks my brother in law fired up the engine and we set off towards Henley. Note I am beginning to use nautical terms now – haha!
This was where my longboat adventure really began. We were moored near to some tourist passenger boats across the river and a few smaller private boats nearby. The speed at which we travelled was calm but subtley forcefull. Bearing in mind that the boat is somewhere around 15-20 tons. Please don’t quote me on that I may have got that figure wrong. It was extremely heavy!
As we gently cruised along the river to the rumble of the diesel engine I noticed a great variety of boats. Small, huge, short and long, old and new. Some that where clearly homes and some for leisure use. We moved further out of the town where moorings were like parking spaces but mostly private and often with a property close to the river. I soon realised the calming effect of river travel and the serenity of the adjacent countryside. The most common birds on the water appeared to be Canadian geese, Egyptian ducks, mallards and plenty of swans too.
I received instruction in the boating basics along the way. I now know what happens at a lock. We passed through several on the way to Henley. Watching how to tie the boat to a mooring. Which side of the river to travel on and to watch out for certain signs. The etiquette at locks and general rules of the river. There was a clear sense of camaraderie as we spoke and waved to other people along our river journey. It became apparant we were getting closer to Henley as houses became visible and more frequent along the river’s edge. Some exteremley grand with history and other examples of modern architechture, construction and wealth. Quite a few houses were pointed out as owned by certain celebraties, actors, musicians or tv personalities .
We arrived at Henley and managed to find a place to moor. Great news as from that day a festival on the river began and would attract thousands of visitors. There were a few islands dotted along the centre of the river where properties had been built for boating lovers and the like. A mixture of chalet styles, traditonal brick cottages and modern architectural constructons all with private morrings. A culture that I never realised exsited upon the river. Further along as we walked into the Henley the archtechture felt a little coastal. Local wealth was evident in the stunning array of boats moored and the splendid homes which became more unusal as we got closer the to main bridge that crossed the river. Henley Regatta has taken place very recently and everything was in place after event. We bought some supplies and returned to the boat for an evening meal and drinks. The following morning we made a tour along where the race took pace before returning to the mooring at Caversham by early afternoon. The days were slipping by quickly.
One of the special days of my visit had arrived Friday. We were meeting two of my cousins for a pub lunch at Woking, not far from where my daughter lives and about halfway between my sister and where they lived. We arrived just after midday at a very pleasant pub. Nice decor and ambiance with the plus of charming staff. Being a little early we ordered coffee and relaxed after the drive. It wasn’t long before my daughter appeared and joined us. Swiftly followed by my two cousins who I haven’t seen for many years. That wasn’t important that day anyway. We have shared memories of our childhood, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmother, family holidays and fun times growing up. Life generally split us up as we had families of our own and moved out of London. Only sometimes meeting at weddings, birthdays and funerals as families often do. However, things have changed. There have been family gatherings in the past few years, but sadly ones I have not been unable to attend. So today was a step in putting that right.
As they walked towards us we stood to hug and welcome each other. I suddenly became overwhelmed by emotions and a few tears rolled down my cheeks as I tried my best to hold things together. This really was all good and full of happiness. Although hugs and kisses didn’t actually help my emotions very much. Anyway, we sat down and ordered drinks and began talking, all with big smiles on our faces. I can’t recall how we began. I just recall that we talked about much of our collective childhood, holidays and what we remembered of our colourful family gatherings over the years. The things that would bind us together for ever. The warmth and security of unspoken love and affection that we had as a family. Only a couple of aunts remain from our parents generation so we are the next to carry on as the elders for our children and grand children. It’s heart warming to pull the family back together as life goes on. Not forgetting out past and the history of our family who brought the name to London between the world wars from Germany. Our family are mainly in the UK with a few around the world such as myself.
The meal was over in a flash and we were saying our goodbyes. Why do precious times like this disappear so fast?
I left with my daughter to stay with her for two nights and then back to the longboat. The time with my daughter is always special for me and I do what I can to make my visit special for us both. We dine out, I cook a meal and we enjoy special moments, either having cocktails, shopping, laughing a lot or simply making the most of the short time we have together. It’s always so wonderful for me to see my daughter. As I’m getting older it’s value increases each time too, pulling at my heart strings.
I was picked up on the Sunday afternoon by my sister and husband for my last night on the boat before flying back to France. We talked and enjoyed a platter of tastey food and a glass of wine while absorbing the time spent together. The happiness and love felt. We had an early start on Monday morning driving to the airport. Not long until I was home and have snuggles with my lovely little Hugo. I knew I would miss and he me. Time for farewell – so long England and my lovely family, I hope to return for another episode and adventure with our family reunions.
Upon my return while thinking over recent events as I always do about everything. I reflected on my family situation and in particular how I’ve been accepted now. I believe that up until now I have not been totally confident in myself albeit that I am so much happy in my daily life. I’m not sure if that makes sense so I will try to explain briefly. While I present myself to world confidently and have been taking on very good feedback as I move forward in my life. I feel that due to my physical state of being not as I hope for, it holds me back a little and makes me unsettled sometimes.
The people that know you the best
Having met my cousins plus further discussions with my sister, who have all been so wonderful to me. I asked if they had any questions. I expected they most surely would wish to know more. But they didn’t and declined my invitation to do so. I am accepted for who and what I am. It’s simply me that needs to stop over-thinking and just get on with living my life. They already know me and are happy just as I am and wish me happiness. It’s so easy to understand when you have a loving family with a bond from childhood that transcends distance and time, able to reunite us after so long. The visit has helped me put certain things in perspective better.
Thank you all for making my visit so very special and possible. Sending you all my love until the next time. xxx