Loneliness - Moving On
by Andrew Foote
The following lunchtime Jus and I waved my Mum and Dad off as the Bentley turned off the driveway. It was an odd sensation knowing we were on our own but nice that they trusted us enough to leave us.
"So what's next on the agenda Alex?"
"Dog walk I guess but we must get into the habit of locking the boat now there's nobody else around the place."
"That reminds me. I don't have a key, never really needed one until now."
"Okay. Let's saddle up the dogs. We can get one cut in Caversham."
We walked down to the village where Jus took the dogs while I had a couple of keys cut. One for Jus and another as a spare which I would hide somewhere off the boat. As I came out of the shop, I noticed that Jus was talking to someone, a man in his mid-fifties and as I walked towards them, the man shook his head, turned and walked away leaving Jus with a grin on his face.
"Who was that Jus?"
"That, was my old Headmaster from Down House! He's visiting his daughter over Christmas. Oh I did enjoy our little conversation!"
"He asked where I was going to school. Note he never asked me how I was, just about my education!
I told him I wasn't in school so he said how did I expect to take my 'O's in eighteen month's if I wasn't in school so I said I wasn't intending to do anything in eighteen months as I'd already sat them and planned on doing my 'A's come the summer. So funny! He said it wasn't possible so I told him I'd write and let him know my grades!"
"What an arsehole! You better hope they're good."
"They will be. I need him to eat his words. I mean in eighteen month's I could be doing a University course let alone fucking 'O' levels!"
"Hey that would be something wouldn't it! That would really be shoving a finger up at him!"
"Yeah. Like I was determined before, I'm doubly so now! You with me on this Alex?"
"Every inch of the way. He doesn't know me but we'll show him just what's possible and what isn't! Let's make tracks. I've a Christmas lunch to prepare."
Back on 'Spook' Jus helped me by preparing the vegetables ready for the following day while I cooked off the offal to make the gravy and by the time darkness fell we were done. We ate a light supper and uncorked a bottle of wine and relaxed, Jus adopting his usual position of laying his head in my lap, me with my head resting on some cushions, the radio playing softly in the background.
This was exactly how I envisaged a happy marriage to be. Two people just comfortable with their own company, even conversation seemed unnecessary somehow but then Jus yawned.
"I'm going to hit the hay Alex. I'm absolutely shattered. Why should that be? I mean we've done sod-all today?"
"We've done plenty over the last couple of months though. Maybe it's your body telling you it's time to chill. Go on and I'll join you in a couple of minutes."
We swapped places in the shower room and having brushed my teeth made my way to bed. We cuddled up but sleep over took both of us before anything kicked off.
Normally my sleep pattern didn't alter much. I would wake at first light no matter what time of the year it was but tonight was different, I was wide awake at 3am and it took me a while to understand why. I gave Jus a shake, he wasn't best impressed!
"What the hell Alex? I was having such a nice dream and now you've gone and wrecked it!"
"It won't be just your dream that gets wrecked if you don't get your arse into gear, we're moving, I think we're adrift!"
Both of us were out of bed and dressed in a heartbeat and on opening the side hatch, we were indeed coasting broadside down the river.
We passed under Caversham Bridge, narrowly missing the parapets but now we were in real trouble. The weir was only two miles distant and with the flow of water, that distance would be covered in maybe twenty minutes.
I went into the engine room and checked the state of the start batteries. They were about half-charged so with hope in my heart and not a little panic, hit the starter button.
The old Lister farted and coughed but remained otherwise dormant and now I was very frightened.
"Please God? Not that I know you but please allow this heap of shit to start?"
Despite it being freezing cold down there I was sweating like a pig as I once again hit 'start'.
The engine turned over and just as I thought it was a lost cause, she caught and banged into life.
"RESULT!! I LOVE YOU FOR ALL YOUR IDOSYNCACIES!"
Had I had the time I would've kissed it but as things stood I bolted up aft to a very scared Jus.
"Go forward and see what happened to the mooring line. This sternline's been cut deliberately. I'll try and get us turned around but hang on, it's going to be bumpy."
My Dad, despite not being the finest helmsman in the world had warned me about turning against the current so remembering his advice, instead of making a sharp about I watched the bank for a suitable obstacle to use as a fulcrum. I found one in the shape of an overhanging Willow tree.
I made for it and despite the flow of the river we made reasonable progress, Jus reappeared.
"That rope's been cut as well. Why are you heading for the bank? I thought you said you were going to turn?"
"I am but if I do it mid-stream the boat might flip over on her side so I'm hoping to use that tree. Wedge the bow into the bank to the left of the trunk where I hope the current will spin the arse end around so we're facing back upstream. If we're lucky we might even run aground."
"You call that lucky?"
"Yep. I buys us some time to fit new ropes. If we turn okay then we'll make it back to Mapledurham but then what do we tie up with?"
"You're the boss. Anything you want me to do?"
"Hang on tight! We'll hit with one hell of a thump!"
The bank seemed to be a mile away but we were approaching it pretty quickly, too fast probably but if I slowed down we might miss the tree and continue to drift.
"Alex, I'm scared!"
"Wanna know something? So am I!
Hold on, we're going to hit!"
Oh brother did we ever hit! A sickening crunch and the bow lifted some six inches out of the water, the sound of smashing crockery from below decks but then 'Spook' settled back down in the water and very slowly the stern began to swing around.
I flung the tiller arm over and slipped the engine back into drive in an attempt to hasten the turn. Progress was very slow but finally I heard the sound of hull on shingle.
We were aground.
I scooted along the gunnels and tied the centre line around a tree branch. Safe for now.
I went down into the engine room and retrieved two spare ropes and handed one to Jus.
"Can you go up front and get shot of the old rope, chuck it on the bank or something then fit this one? Actually don't throw the old one away, stick it in the gas locker. I'll sort the stern line then we can wait it out until we refloat so we can head back home."
"Okay. Why do you want to keep the old ones?"
"For the police. Evidence that it was no accident. Oh God. My Mum and Dad will have forty fits what with us calling in the law and everything!"
"I'll go and do the bow line and make us a hot drink. How long 'til we are afloat do you think?"
"Not long. The river's on the up. Ten maybe fifteen minutes? That hot drink sounds good!"
Cold as it was, we elected to wait around outside so we could act quickly just as soon as the river level allowed us to cast off.
"Much damage below?"
"Not really. Teapot's busted, a couple of plates and the dry store locker emptied itself all over the floor but I've sorted that out while I was waiting for the kettle to boil."
"We should put a latch on that maybe."
"Why? Do you intend to make a habit of going out when the river's in flood?"
I laughed at this remark!
"No!! Okay so it was a bad idea! We won't bother then! What's the time Jus?"
"Six-fifteen. Almost breakfast time."
"Definitely will be by the time we get back. By the way. Happy Christmas! I love you!"
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