Loneliness - Moving On
by Andrew Foote
We arrived back to find my Mum sitting on Casio with my Dad, gin and tonics in hand.
"You're back early?"
"Yeah well we got kicked out of our own damn factory didn't we! Gill told us we were getting in the way and banished us from the premises!"
"I always did like that girl!"
Dad gestured towards Casio's cabin.
"Grab a couple of glasses and a bottle of red and come and join us."
We sat outside in the sun and all of us getting slightly squiffy but then I remembered about the crèche so we outlined our idea and the reasons behind it.
"It's a unusual idea mate, one I've never come across before but actually, given the ratio of male versus female staff it makes sense and given that the work you provide isn't heavy therefore ideally suited to the fairer sex and especially if you continue to expand then why not?"
"Please no more talk of expansion Dad? Not just yet anyway? I've not yet come to terms with the fact we now have fifty-five employees without you adding to them already!"
"Yeah okay. Where were you thinking of siting this crèche then?"
"Once we've moved Old Contemptible we had talked of partitioning that area off to provide for a decent-looking reception leaving what's left as a future production hall but what if we were to put in a mezzanine floor above it all? The height of that part of the building is such that there's probably enough for three floors so I thought the crèche could go up there. What do you think?"
"Yes that's doable and not that expensive either. Nice idea mate."
Mum looked up from her newspaper.
"Something else you might like to consider? Given you manufacture pet products not babies, the pregnancy rate amongst your staff is going to be hit and miss so you could sell off spare capacity when baby making isn't on your staff's agenda. This would go towards your costs and also provide a very useful resource for local working families. Just a thought."
Jus loved this idea to bits!
"Hey! What if we had like a small shop where we sold not only our products but stocked some extra lines like pet food, bedding and so on? I don't mean we take on pet shops at their own game but to have the ability for people to buy those little items they've forgotten to get in town, maybe tempt them into buying some of our stuff while they're at it, well? Could that work?"
Dad looked thoughtful.
"Actually Jus? With a bit of tweaking, it just might!
Do you remember a conversation of some months ago when it was muted that you had like a café so folk could sit out in the gardens? We have room enough to the left hand side of the main entrance to further build on so that could be the café and if we put a doorway through into a small shop……..I can see it now! Yeah I'm in favour!"
"Oh shit. We're talking expansion again already. I thought that was off the agenda for now?"
"Well……..it isn't like we're talking about increased production Alexis? It's just further utilising what you already have? What the fuck is your crèche idea if not expansion of the operation?"
"Okay. Yes you're right. Can we afford it though?"
"Easily son. Actually it's like penny-money."
I looked at Jus who nodded enthusiastically at me.
"Okay. Do it Dad. When can we start?"
"I'll set the wheels in motion right now. We already have planning permission for the site so I'll give Tom Grove a call and see how he's fixed. If we can move quickly maybe we can open midsummer."
The next day we set about the business of restocking the boat ready for our holiday. We were both really excited about going out but the pull of going up to the Mill was all but irresistible but I knew I'd get a sound ticking from Jus if I even dared mention it.
Later we fired up the engine, turned and went down to Fry's Island for diesel then came back and tied off once again facing up river towards Oxford.
Over the years I'd come to know this run quite well as we always used to winter over on the South Oxford Canal but this would be the first time I'd ever seen it during the summer months.
We had decided to do the entire South Oxford which would get us to Braunston where we'd head south on the Grand Union Canal through Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire then into London where the canal terminated at Bretford. From here there was only one way to go and that was west back up the River Thames through Kingston upon Thames, Windsor, Henley, Shiplake and home. I did the sums and depending on if we dawdled it might take us longer than the allowed month but then, if we didn't hang about we'd be back a day or two earlier and whichever way it panned out, it really didn't matter.
Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm so I left Jus in bed and went for my first swim of the year. The weather might've been warm but the water was rather chilly so I only did a few widths of the river before getting out to dry off. We'd be in Oxford in a couple of days and that would probably be my last opportunity to get in the water until we were back up as far as Henley as the canals are filthy as are the Thames lower reaches.
Mean time Jus was up and cooking breakfast.
"Yeah but a bit fresh! That smells good!"
"Don't speak too soon. Anything can happen when I get started so I suggest you reserve your judgement!
What time to you want to get away?"
"Well I thought we should say goodbye to your Grandparents and my Mum and Dad, load up the dogs and pull out as promptly as possible after that. Okay by you?"
"Yeah fine. Tim wants to see us before we go anyway and before you go asking? He said to tell you there was nothing wrong up at the Mill!"
We got breakfast out of the way then went to find Sir George.
"Are you really sure you don't mind us taking the dogs with us Granddad?"
"Mind my boy? Why on earth should I mind?
I'm getting too old to run Springer's and besides, those dogs really belong to you two now considering everything that's happened. I'll be honest with you Justin, it isn't so long ago that those boy's wouldn't come within a yard of you let alone love and protect you so why do you think that happened?"
"In part, more than likely but it's the change they see in you that's the prime mover. Just stay the way you are my boy, now go and have fun!"
We found my Dad working in the boathouse.
"Ready to go are you?"
"Just about Dad. We've just got to fire up the engine, get the dogs settled and say goodbye to Mum and Lady Eleanor."
"They're both up at the house but before you go rushing off I want you to come down to Casio with me."
Once we were on board, Dad handed us each an envelope.
"Money. There's £500 each and before you go saying anything, you haven't taken so much as a brass farthing out of the business since you started but you'll be out for a month and you'll have to buy diesel and provisions and plus, if you have any problems you'll have to have the means to pay for any repairs so take a well-earned bonus safe in the knowledge that the company can well afford it.
This last twelve months you boys have worked so very hard, not only to get the business off to a flying start but also with your studies so now's the time to reap some of the rewards."
"But Dad, that's way too much! Five hundred…… each? That's a fortune!"
"Please don't be arguing with your Financial Director! It's a well-deserved bonus so clear off and have a nice relaxing break.
By the way, just one other thing? Phone the house regularly so we know you're alright. I know your route and roughly how long it takes so if we don't hear from you after a couple of days, I'll come looking for you. Understood?"
"We promise Dad."
We said our farewells to Mum and Lady Eleanor and cast off and as we headed upstream, Jus followed my gaze. I could just see the back of the mill and I felt a bit guilty.
"Say goodbye Alex, well for a month at least. Your Dad was right, we deserve this. The mill isn't about to go anywhere so do what the man said, relax and chill."
I smiled sheepishly at him like a naughty boy who had been discovered raiding the biscuit tin.
"Sorry. I think of all the guys working away up there and I feel as if I should be with them."
"Well you're not. You're on the back of your damn boat."
"Our damn boat."
"Okay, our damn boat! Talking of which, can I drive for a bit?"
"Help yourself. I'll go below and get us a can of pop each but just remember, if you see any oncoming craft, shout me and get below!"
"Funny fucker! Now piss off and get those drinks!"
By the time we got as far as Goring Lock all thoughts of the Mill had vanished. Jus had mastered the art of helming, not only that, he really enjoyed it although he refused to enter the lock preferring me to do it. I would educate him once we were on the canal system as there they were narrow locks which presented no risk of hitting other boats as he entered.
During the summer months, locks were busy places on rivers and not just with other boats. Kids hung around fishing or just watching the action and we got our fair share of attention.
Other boaters were naturally cautious of us, two kids on their own piloting sixteen tonne of boat isn't a sight you see too often but that said, everyone was very friendly.
Just short of the next lock we found a free mooring and tied up for lunch and a rest.
The rest turned into a sound afternoon's sleep and by the time we woke it was getting late so we decided that to move on was a bad idea. Jus left me to prepare supper while he walked up to the village to call home. He got back just as I was uncorking some wine.
"I reckon it's a good thing we're not back at Mapledurham, Granddad sounded a bit drunk with your Dad close on his heels! Something about putting manners on a bottle of gin!"
"Good for them. I wonder how your Grandmother and my Mum are handling that!"
"Grandmother likes her wine as does Kaz so my guess is that they're celebrating our absence!"
Did you tell them where we were?"
"Yep. Tim thought we'd done the right thing as moorings are few and far between from here on in."
"I'd have to check the navigation map cos I honestly can't remember but there's always that cut where we moored with the PT boat and Casio that time?"
"I'd prefer it if we didn't Alex? Too many bad memories plus it's a bit remote don't you think?"
"Yeah I suppose you're right. There are a couple of pubs that have moorings? That do you?"
"Lots but what if they're all occupied?"
"Hopefully we'll find another narrow boat. They normally don't mind if we breast up alongside, especially if we tell them we'll be gone at first light."
I just noticed something. You never asked about the Mill?"
"Just doing as I'm told. You told me to say goodbye to it so I have."
"Good but just so as you know, everything is fine.
Let's take our drinks outside."
It was a perfect early summer evening. Being close to the village, there were people walking their dogs, families out taking a stroll along the embankment and with still a few boats on the move it was a hive of activity.
This was the first time I'd been up this far in the summer so it was all very new to me. People even stopped and chatted and one young family, mum, dad and two kids who were around six or seven years old even asked if they could have a look inside. We had no objections though thank God we'd done the washing up!
After they left, Jus was smiling.
"Now I can see what you meant when you said how nice people can be once they understand something about your lifestyle. I love it already!"
"Yes it happens all the time but just one thing? This is your lifestyle too now, that is unless you've plans on leaving me?"
Jus burst out laughing.
"Bloody hell Alex? Do you know, I never thought about that! I've no such plans so you'll just have to keep reminding me that I'm now a water hippy!"
That sent both of us off in gales of laughter which brought smiles from some passers-by.
"You'll have to grow your hair out, wear a kaftan and shove flowers in your hair, you do realise that?"
"Stop it before you give me another hernia you sod!"
He moved over so he was sitting beside me and checking that the coast was clear, nibbled my ear.
"We needed this didn't we?"
"Yes. The oldies were right. This is bliss and if you carry on munching my ear, I'll be demanding a very early night for both of us!"
The following morning I was woken by Jus, a mug of tea in hand.
"I was awake at like five o'clock so I took the dogs up into the village a bought a newspaper."
"Nice idea. What's the time now?"
"Half six and looks as if it's going to be glorious."
"We may as well hit the water then. Who's driving and who's doing brekki?"
"Best you drive as we've got that lock to do, I'll make a start on breakfast if you trust me enough."
"Sounds like a plan.
Were the dogs alright with you?"
"Fine. Dizzy kept on looking around for you when we first got off the boat but once he realised you weren't about to follow, even he was great."
"Nice! I better get myself dressed."
"Shame but I suppose you better!
I'll go and start the engine shall I?"
A peered out of the window. Jus wasn't wrong. It was going to be a hot one so I dressed in a pair of loose fitting shorts and a tee shirt, went aft and having untied the ropes, set out towards Oxford.
About fifteen minutes later Jus appeared and took my place at the helm telling me he'd eaten and my eggs were frying with everything else keeping warm in the oven.
He'd done a great job and once I'd finished, I did the washing up and went up to join him.
The first view of him to greet me were his little feet then his smooth legs and his shorts so I played a game. Kneeling down I kissed his toes, ran my hands up his legs and into his shorts. Instant hard-on for both of us!
"What on earth……..oh shit Alex? Out here?"
"Yes out here! You've no choice in the matter!"
"Oh Christ, please stop it?"
"No chance! I've got you right where I want you! Don't worry, no one can see me down here? Now where was I? Oh right. I want another sausage!"
"Can't see you?? What about me??"
"Just keep looking ahead like nothing's happening and try to keep a straight face!"
I lowered the front of his shorts being careful to keep his bum covered and gently cupped his balls. Poor Jus, I sort of felt sorry for him because there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop me. He was very sexed up as precum was literally dripping from the tip of his cock so rather that waste it, I took him into my mouth and using my lips, eased his foreskin over his glans and tongued the sensitive underside of his knob. Jus squeaked in hopeless protest and his legs started to shake which was normally a sign of his impending orgasm but so early on in the proceedings?
I glanced up at him as I continued to massage his length with my mouth. He had his right hand gripping the tiller arm as if his life depended on it, his left was holding the hatch rail, his knuckles white from the force of his grip and the look on his beautiful face was as if he'd been turned to stone but then I realise why as a powerful cruiser passed us going in the direction of Reading. Jus didn't acknowledge them but just kept staring directly in front of him.
Just as soon as the cruiser was a little distance behind us, he let out a scream and let his climax take over.
Oh boy did he cum! It was massive and it was all I could do to swallow fast enough to keep up with the amount he gushed out but finally it slowed to a dribble and I hoisted his short up and climbed up beside him.
"Morning Skipper. I'm happy to report that everything down below is in fine working order!"
Jus slowly shook his head sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
"You utter bastard! You sexy, sexy idiot! I was so revved up just because you were doing that out in the open and I was only moments from blowing my cork when that bloody cruiser appeared. I knew if I'd have let go, I would be in the middle of filling your mouth just as they passed so I had to hold back. Do you have any idea how hard that is? I mean it actually hurt but fuck, what an orgasm!"
"Still love me then?"
"More than ever! I don't think I've ever been so turned on in my life."
"Well you did a pretty good job in trying to drown me in cum and that's a fact! How you managed to produce so much, especially as you came twice last night is beyond me."
"Maybe it's cos I've got the sexiest boyfriend God ever created.
Can you take over for a while, I need to sit down!"
Jus reappeared half an hour later looking refreshed.
"Here you go. I've made us some iced coffee. Oh man did I need that shower!"
"You look better for it, you know, not looking as if you're going to pass out on me!"
"You know what they say? Good sex is equivalent of doing a seven mile cross-country run except I reckon you took me on at least a fourteen!"
"I never really noticed. I must be fitter than you!
Can you do me a favour? Can you go and find the navigation map? We ought to think about watering up before too long."
"I'd already thought about that. There's a water point at that pub you mentioned and if we can get an overnight mooring there, we'll be in Oxford by lunchtime tomorrow."
"Oh goodie. Back on the canals again.
Do you want to know a secret? I've never driven on the canals before, Dad always did it."
"Does that bother you?"
"No not really. Dad thinks they're easier than river working, the only differences are they're narrow and there's little or no current but there is an upside, we can moor anywhere we like within reason."
"What, like out in the middle of nowhere?"
"Yep plus there are loads of pubs, villages and towns along the way."
"Really? You can moor out in the sticks like where there's no one around?"
"Er…… I thought I'd already answered that one?"
"Yes well…… you did but…… never mind! Do you want me to take over for a while?"
By half three we made it to the Pike and Eel pub and managed to get a mooring and fill our water tank, surprised that we weren't as desperate as I'd thought.
Our spot was directly in front of the pub garden which meant one of us walking the dogs away to somewhere they could do their business.
Jus elected to do this while I went to see the landlord and get permission to stay. I watched them go and apart from Dizzy hanging back for a moment, I could've got quite emotional seeing how well they'd taken to my boyfriend and how well he'd bonded with them.
Flashbacks to the Family tree the night I found him and all that had gone on since brought a lump to my throat, a nice lump as I watched Jus Strong Arming a ball through the air and the dogs taking off over the fields after it, all of them having fun.
I went to find the landlord and I was met at the bar by one of the waitresses.
"Any possibility I could see the boss please?"
"I'll go and see if he's free. Can I have your name and some idea as to your business with him?"
"Alexis Greening and it's regarding permission to moor overnight."
She disappeared and I waited around for about five minutes before I heard a voice behind me.
"Well I'll be damned! Hello Alexis? What brings you all the way up here?"
The man who Dad and I had that spat with in Caversham Lock and subsequently helped off the sand bank greeted me so I jumped off the stool and proffered my hand which he accepted.
"We're taking a holiday, well that is my friend Justin and I are what with exams over for now. My Mum and Dad are back in Mapledurham so we're heading up onto the canals."
"I hope you have a better time than I did! I tried negotiating the Oxford once and became stranded in Banbury. Too shallow and I had to get a tow. All very embarrassing!
Have you moored already?"
"Yes and we took the centre slot so if you would rather we moved then fine."
"That's okay, you stay right where you are. There might be a few grumbles but just tell them that Jack Marston, that's me by the way, told you to stay put."
"Do you own this pub as well as the one at Henley?"
"Actually I own four, the one furthest east is near Hampton Court, and then there's one at Sonning, the one at Henley and this one. I'm sorry Alexis but I have to dash. If you have any problems, here's my business card. Just ask for the duty manager, show it to them and they'll help you in any way they can. Enjoy your cruise and please feel free to stay just as long as you like."
Just before he left, Jus appeared so I was able to make an introduction. I felt a bit guilty for holding Mr Marston up but he looked at his watch and shrugged his shoulders.
"Sod them! They can wait fifteen minutes so let's have a drink. Shiraz if memory serves?"
Back on Spook I started the process of putting something together for supper and once everything had been prepared I joined Jus out on the well deck.
"What have you been up to?"
"Nothing much, people-watching mostly. It's fascinating watching families relaxing together, the kids messing around while the adults enjoy the early summer weather over a couple of drinks. It's something I never experienced what with my folks being abroad all the time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not envious or anything. My folks do what they have to do so for me it's like I'm making up for lost time."
"I can understand that although we didn't spend much time moored up outside pubs. My Dad said that we weren't made to feel welcome what with us being hippies but that's starting to change now. I think the music has made us more acceptable even though we're still looked upon as low-life!"
"But that man Mr Marston doesn't? He seemed very friendly."
"He is now but you weren't there when we first met him! Talk about antagonistic! It was only after we pulled him clear of the sand bank that his attitude changed. It's a pity though, people only see what's right under their nose. Okay you look good but you can bet your life that they see me as something they'd rather not have their kids mixing with which is crazy when you come to think it over. We're not dirty or unkempt, we're very well educated and know how to conduct ourselves in company, Spook is immaculate but of course no one sees that, just some hippy kid to be kept at arms- length."
"Does that make you feel bitter?"
"No! I could go down the road of getting my hair cut short, wear smarter clothes and so on but why should I? I'm happy being what I am and anyway, why should I conform? Just to satisfy those who I don't know and that I'm never likely to talk to? Bollocks to that!"
"Do you think I should grow my hair out?"
"If you feel like you want to then yes but not if it's just to prove a point. You're doing a pretty good job of non-conformity as it is.
When was the last time you wore a collar and tie?"
"Oh shit! When I did a runner from Down House I think!"
"Well there you go then! You live and die in casual clothes, jeans and jumpers during the winter, shorts and tee shirts in the summer. Sure grow your hair if you like but I love you just the way you are right now."
"Sweet but I think I'll try growing it out if only for say six months then if I don't like it I can always get a trim."
I looked at him and tried to imagine how he's look with long hair and decided that he'd look good.
"Your hair is wonderfully dark, almost jet black. I reckon you'd look really good wearing it longer. Think of the money you'd save not having to visit the hair dresser every three weeks!"
"Bonus number two! I wouldn't be able to get it cut while we're out anyway so yes, I'll give it some time and see how it goes."
We pulled out at eight the following morning, Jus driving as I got breakfast on the go.
I had worked out that we should reach Isis Lock and the Oxford Canal by shortly after lunch and hoped that the water point would be serviceable.
My Dad had warned me that the passage between Oxford and Braunston might not be very easy as it was almost never used to transport freight making parts of it very shallow. Also he'd told us to take extra care when going through towns such as Kidlington and Banbury as some people would take it upon themselves to use the canal as a dumping ground for rubbish.
We got up to Isis Lock where we were met by a British Waterways official who kindly locked us through and directed us to the water point so we could fill our tanks. He didn't have much idea about what we might come across further up but admitted that dredging had all but been given up so leaving us in the lap of the Gods.
"You'll be okay once you get to Braunston. The Grand Union is still a trade route so we have to manage it but the Oxford? It's in a bit of a sorry state which is a real shame as parts of it are truly beautiful but resources or rather the lack of them means we have to concentrate our efforts on busier waterways.
Here's a telephone number to use if you get stuck. Call it and we'll try and help you. Good luck and have fun!"
Jus wasn't so keen to drive on the canal as it was very silted up in places and where it wasn't silt causing us problems then weeds became an issue meaning many stops to clear the weed hatch but we made it upon to a stretch of water where the canal and the River Cherwell merged meaning deeper water.
We moored outside a canalside pub and went inside to get the landlords permission to stay overnight.
"You're very welcome lads. We don't see many boats these days so stay as long as you like. Can I get you a drink?"
Jus did the speaking.
"I don't suppose we're allowed a glass of wine are we?"
"I don't see why not. We never get visits from the law and anyway, so what if we did? Our local bobby is one of my customers and regularly comes in with his son and he's only thirteen but can down a pint just as well as his father!"
We stayed for a couple of drinks each, rather longer than we'd intended but the landlord was fascinating conversation but as the place started to fill with customers, we thanked him and went back to the boat.
Being away from Caversham and with all thoughts of the mill and business a distant memory, we were starting to relax and sex became a regular and very welcome pastime for us. We had learned how to pleasure each other to the point where nothing was ever discussed, it was just so very natural and loving, cuddling up and basking in the afterglow was one of my favourite occupations and the way Jus smiled at me, I knew that he felt the same way.
That night was one such occasion. We had got back from the pub and eaten supper when Jus lead me through to our sleeping area. He'd already folded down the bed and poured us both a nightcap then began to undress me. Sometimes sex was manic, perhaps slightly rough but tonight was dreamy, gentle and overwhelming so it was about two hours later before we lay in each other's arms and sipped at our drinks.
"Where should we get to tomorrow Alex?"
"So long as we get a clear run, Banbury I reckon, the next day Marston Doles or Napton then Braunston the day after that."
"Didn't your Dad say something about not mooring in Banbury?"
"Yes. He doesn't think it's a good idea as it gets a bit lively in the evenings so depending on how much time we have, we'll either tie up somewhere this side of town or carry on that bit further. We also need diesel so we'll see if Tooley's boat yard still exits and fill up there."
"What if it doesn't?"
"Take the jerry cans and find a garage. We've probably enough to get us to Braunston but I'd rather not risk it."
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