Sunday, 23 July 2017

Cambridge punting

Nathan has been at a wedding all day today where he's been playing, of all things, a Jewish rabbi. We went into Golders Green yesterday to buy him a kippa. I'm sure he looks the part with his enormous beard!

I've been in a very rainy Cambridge all day with Helen and Michael today. We arranged the trip about a month ago when a glorious hot day seemed likely. To make matters worse, the weather forecast was entirely off. The suggestion was that there would be a lengthy period of dry weather in the middle of the afternoon, so we duly hired a punt and got ourselves a lovely picnic from Sainsbury's. We managed about half an hour's drifting down the river in relatively pleasant weather, before the skies opened and we were royally shafted by rain.

Actually, punting in the rain isn't the most miserable experience in the world. I had a raincoat, although it was more a rain conduit. Every time I lifted the pole into the air, river water went down the cuff and soaked into my shirt, and before long I realised that the coat itself was heavy with rain water, all of which had been sucked into my shirt.

The tourists on the river were in free fall. I've seldom seen a more inadequate set of punters. There were boats at all angles on the river. Some were creating almost impenetrable barricades. The difficulty with an amateur punter is that you can't predict what he or she might do. As you steer your punt away from the mayhem, he or she is as likely to start heading at high speed in the same direction, whilst some other lunatic ploughs into you from the left field!

At one stage I was attempting to get out of the way of a veritable caravan of mayhem, and found myself on the left hand side of the river. The normal rules of the water really don't apply when it comes to punting on the Cam. It's every man for himself as you negotiate the countless obstacles created by ineptitude. Anyway, I was forced to steer around one punt which was basically scraping against a wall on the bank of the river. The middle aged man punting was obviously out of control but plainly didn't want to lose face with his cargo of women. He shouted over to me, pointing angrily at the other bank, as I sailed by, "the right hand side of the river is over there..." I refrained from shouting back, "learn how to punt, and then we can discuss river etiquette!"

The rain got heavier and heavier. Because we were punting on a Trinity college punt, but had decided to go out into the countryside up stream to Grantchester, we were forced to haul our punt up a set of rollers to avoid a weir. It's actually a really difficult task when there's only three of you, and on the way back, in the sheeting rain, we were forced to wait whilst two other punts filled with witless people attempted to negotiate the rollers. It took some time. The task involves dragging the boat over the busy footpath which run alongside the river, which means passers are blocked from passing for a minute or two. Usually they join in and help to move the boat. When it came to our turn, a posh older woman on a bike was having none of it and actually prevented us from getting our punt on the rollers by sticking her bike wheel in the way. "Could you move your bike back a little?" I asked, politely. She huffed: "Well could you get on with it? It's raining, I'm getting wet, and you're holding me up." I called her a ghastly woman. To her face!

We got off the punts, soaking wet, and headed to a pub where I changed into a T-shirt I'd mercifully brought with me in case I fell in. Heaven knows why the pub people put up with us because we ordered one round of drinks and then proceeded to get our picnic out on the table and chow down on it in a somewhat brazen manner!

We went back to Helen's where I made a ghastly "posh cheese on toast" concoction based on a roux, which I managed to split horrifically, so the whole thing tasted like sand paper. We took a late train back, but when I got home, poor Nathan was still at his wedding. Still dressed as a rabbi!

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