A BIT OF BOATING – Part 2
As we neared the boat our hysterical laughter died away and I realised that Fleur would not be amused and had every reason to be absolutely livid with us. After a whispered good night to Harry and Jean we clambered aboard – William and Wally dripping the evil mud in their wake. Thinking on my feet I urged Wally to go below uhere, presumably, Fleur would be nestled in her pink fluffy blankets,clutching her hottie and, please God, asleep. We would allow him privacy to scramble into the wretched pipe cot, whilst we disrobed outside. Then we would sneak, silently, into our shared bunk, thus avoiding any unpleasantness.
There was gentle snoring from Fleur as we crept below; in fact she was the only one who had a good night’s sleep proving that there is some justice in the world. There was a bit of a popple on the water and a swell, so although there was to be no conjugal nonsense over the week-end I spent the night clinging for dear life to William to avoid falling out of the narrow bunk. Poor Wally had the wandering anchor chain for a bed fellow and didn’t sleep a wink. He was up at crack of dawn with a conciliatory mug of tea for Fleur and one each for us but we had to get up in order to drink it,
We all apologised to Fleur with lots of excuses about time and tide but she knew full well that for the rest of the week-end she would rule and we would behave impeccably. As the wind and tide were right the men decided we would set sail immediately and I would cook breakfast en route. The stove was on gimbals and I was a dab hand at cooking under way. Everybody enjoyed eating in the fresh air – whilst scudding through the waves, but Fleur objected to my doing bacon and egg AND tomatoes.
‘So extravagant Pat and not at all necessary!’
Fleur hello! The war is over! I think she was quite cross that I could actually do something useful. She was such a competent and thrifty person she had stuck me into the ‘useless blonde’ compartment. She had no interest whatsoever in sailing and it didn’t occur to Wally that I might like to man the tiller occasionally. So different to William who was the most generous of sailors and was always delighted to let me have a go. I found it quite illuminating. The adage ‘climb a mountain with some one if you really want to get to know them’ is equally true of sharing a small boat.
Judy wasn’t a boat with mod cons. There was an enamel bowl for washes and a tin bucket of the ‘bucket and chuck it’ variety. The etiquette was that the men went fo’ard to pee and we girls were given a private bucket. Anything more complicated had to be dealt with ashore in the pub and it all worked perfectly well until we had that dodgy ice cream at Felixstowe
Oddly, for a naval officer, Wally was often sea-sick – and I was told it was not such a rarity in the navy. It was a glorious sail up the coast and we were in high spirits as we went ashore for lunch. The fish and chips were delectable and then came the fatal ice-cream. I don’t want to labour the point and list the gory details but the four of us- that week-end - reached a level of intimacy that can take years of married life to achieve.
We didn’t linger in Felixstowe as we had a hard beat against the wind to return Fleur and Wally to where they had left their car. It would have been difficult enough tacking (zigzagging trying to find the wind) but with the onset of D and V it was sheer hell. To find which way the wind is blowing you have to stick a wet finger in the air and see which side dries first but when one is being violently sick there is no time for such niceties.
The sea became very rough and we were tossed about mercilessly with the violence of the waves. At one period I thought how bizarre it was that we were on the brink of disaster and yet across the turbulent sea were the holiday makers at Clacton sunning themselves in deck chairs – completely unaware of the life and death struggle unfolding before their eyes. Life jackets? What life jackets?
We didn’t drown, we didn’t die and we finally reached port exhausted and chastened. As Wally and Fleur tottered towards their car, trailing the now sodden blankets I wondered if Fleur would ever take to the water again. By the way, I almost forgot:what with the sickness and all, the lemon meringue pie wasn't mentioned. The rest of the holiday was an enjoyable convalescence, exploring medieval Maldon and pottering round the salt marshes, relishing the birds and glimpses of Thames barges with their terra cotta sails. By the end of the fortnight I was eager to get back to the phone and see what Paula had in store for me.
Popple: rolling rippling water.
Hottie: hot water bottle
Gimbals: rings and pivots for keeping articles horizontal
D and V: diarrhoea and vomiting