Tag Archives: river

Messing about on the river

This is Jerry's joke not mine..it's 'oar' over now!

This is Jerry’s joke not mine..it’s ‘oar’ over now!

There is nothing more thought provoking than doing things for the last time.  As our move to the countryside becomes ever closer and more of a reality, Jerry and I find ourselves with a long list of Big Smoke must-dos and last time evers.  None more poignant for us than watching the annual Oxbridge Boat Race which passes by our very doorstep each year, dear Reader.  Jerry and I have ventured out every year, rain or shine, to stand by the water’s edge, cheering on the light and dark blues as they whizz past towards the finishing post at breakneck speed.  Messing about on the river is one of Jerry’s true passions and his glory days as captain of his university boat club are forever etched into the fabric of our everyday life with the presence of a sawn-off oar outside the attic bedroom.  In fact, it was rowing which made us visit our little corner of suburbia many many years ago before we even moved to London.  One cold and wet afternoon, a youthful Margot stood on Barnes Bridge cheering on a rather dashing Jerry as his boat and crew flew past under the bridge in the Head of the River race.  There is nothing like young love to make one stand in the pouring rain waiting endlessly for 8 lycra-clad chaps in a boat that resembles an insect from the air!  I thought the same then as I do now: rowing is a hopeless spectator sport.  Hours of terminal boredom as one marks time before a brief glimpse of a tiny human water boatman.  Blink and one has completely missed the crew which one has been waiting hours to see go past.  I did, however, change my mind, once, briefly, when I bumped into James Cracknell in his rowing lycra by Hammersmith Bridge.  I can only say that I was rendered speechless by how…..TALL…he was.  Never mind anything else, dear Reader!  Moving on from lycra…..the view from Barnes Bridge downstream towards Hammersmith Bridge and then upstream towards Chiswick is one of immeasurable beauty and is ordinarily tranquil.  I thought on that very day as Jerry sailed past all those years ago that I simply had to live on this stretch of the Thames at some point in my life and after 5 years of living a stone’s throw from Waterloo, we finally made the move to that wonderful piece of riverside.  I have loved living by the river ever since and have walked the tow path in many guises: holding hands with Jerry as his new wife, with a bouncing Primrose in her Baby Bjorn, avoiding splashes from Primrose’s first attempt at riding a tricycle, walking Barbara and Tom’s wonderful boy Tigga, waddling along heavily pregnant with Poppy hand in hand with my preschooler and finally holding Poppy’s podgy sweet hand as she tested out her first pair of wellies.  Memories shaped by such a small patch of riverbank….

….and that brings me to the 159th Oxford and Cambridge Boat race and our last, living in the dear old cottage.  Our ritual of waiting until the coverage shows the Chiswick Eyot and then making a dash to the slip duly completed, we stood to see the boats hurtling under Barnes Bridge in the distance and past our patch before the finishing line at Mortlake.

The fastest water boatman I have seen for a while!

The two blues – gone in a flash or splash I should say..

It never ceases to amaze me how many boats seem to follow the two crews.  The wake was considerable this year and all was suddenly awash with stormy water.  Poppy was delighted to be able to get her wellies well and truly wet!


Boat race over, we trudged home, the four of us, to sit by the fire, drink tea, eat hot cross buns and to ponder new beginnings.  For it would seem, that with last time evers, there must be doing things for the first time.  Moving to the countryside MUST be top of the list for first times and dear Reader, I may just have some news for you on that score!

And there you have, Margot is MOVING!

And there you have it, Margot is MOVING!

Walk on the wild side


Could this be Cock Robin?

Wildlife is not usually something that I boast about in our suburban garden but this week we seem to have taken a leaf out of Lou Reed’s songbook.  Foxes scampering along the back wall, sightings of squirrels and then something which has had the girls and I glued to the window for days now.  On a grey and dismal January day, Primrose, Poppy and I whooped with delight at the darting flashes of crimson which we spied as we consumed our porridgey breakfast at the kitchen table.  A sweet little pair of robins seem to be building a nest in Jerry’s shed.  When I say ‘shed’, it could more accurately be described as a garden cupboard – far too close to the house, has to be opened by jimmying a booted foot towards the sky and has a dodgy door with panels which fall forward suddenly and forcefully, giving a mild concussion if one is not wise to their evil plan.  One might say that it was a perfect nesting place for our red breasted lovebirds, not least because Jerry uses it but once a year when he makes us all clear the garden ready for firing up his barbecue.  Something which he hasn’t done in at least 2 years I might add.  However, dear Reader, I am sure you can imagine that Jerry was none to pleased to hear about our feathered friends’ choice of shelter.  The phrase “It’s my shed.  They should find their own”, was used and comparisons were drawn with recent evictions at Dale Farm.  To be honest (and I must confess to never having shown much interest in birds other than as food) the whole thing has been rather fascinating.  Primrose has taken to sketching them and Poppy, SW London’s mini Dr Doolittle, stands by the window, talking away and the dear little birds seem to obligingly tweet back.  I wonder if she has let them know that her father would rather that they moved on?..  We now have a makeshift hide (Primrose has erected a mini tent by the door) for ‘RobinWatch’ and we observe as both Mr and Mrs R take turns sitting on the back door handle, chirping away and showing us their nesting materials!  After rather a hot debate with both Jerry and my dear Mamma, I delved into some research on how to identify male from female.  I was ‘surprised’ (and smug as I was almost entirely sure I was right in the first place!) to find out that both Mr and Mrs have a vibrant red breast and according to the RSPB, are almost identical.  There was some talk of V shaped breasts for females and U shapes for males but I gave up in the end as the website kept churning out irritating birdcalls.  Ooh with all the birdwatching shenanigans, dear Reader, I felt like Michaela Strachan poised to turn to camera and utter commentary in a hushed whisper as Primrose, Poppy and I waited for the daily to-ing and fro-ing from the shed to begin every morning.  I half imagined our little cottage garden appearing on ‘SpringWatch’ with Chris Packham’s lispy banter in the background and me in the foreground, sporting my best kaftan……..”and now we turn to a little corner of SW London where Margot, our rather glamourous naturalist, awaits ready to talk us through the daily habits of a pair of robins nesting in her outdoor cupboard, sometimes known as a shed”….  (Dear Reader, as I wrote naturalist, I had to just double check that I wasn’t accidentally misrepresenting myself as one of those nudist fellows.  Apparently, they go by the name of ‘naturists’.  Very confusing.  One can see how an unsuspecting birdwatcher might become entangled in a rather embarrassing scandal if they got that one wrong on the way to a nature reserve).

Primrose's observational drawing - rather good I think!

Primrose’s observational drawing – rather good I think!

Bitten by the birdwatching bug, I took Primrose and Poppy on a little jaunt to the London Wetlands Centre.  A Twitchers’ haven – I am reliably informed.  This was quickly evidenced by sightings of several anorak types with binoculars, consulting notebooks and wearing those stomping Gore-tex boots.  Far too much breathable fabric for my liking.  The river and reedbeds did not disappoint, however.  I cannot think of the last time I experienced such tranquility outside of the countryside.  Not one single distinguishable sound could be detected that would give away the hubbub of daily grind in the Big Smoke from the other side of the river bank.  Primrose, Poppy and I sat in a hide, mesmerised and rendered silent.  A rarity for all three of us I can assure you, dear Reader.  Kenneth Grahame’s  The Wind in the Willows came to mind and I was overcome with the memory of many meandering river walks that were the reason Jerry and I moved to this little corner of suburbia in the first place some 6 years ago.

“By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.” (The Wind in the Willows, Chp 1 by Kenneth Grahame)

Those birds must be in heaven!

A tiny slice of quiet in a corner of SW London – who would have thought it?

Primrose ended the silence first with “You promised me a hot chocolate, Mummy”, which of course I had (Primrose is never wrong.  Wonder where she gets that from?), so off we trotted.  Mole and Ratty were not to be found bobbing along the bank but we did manage to catch a glimpse of a family of otters who have a permanent ‘holt’ at the Wetlands Centre.

Messing about on the river...

Messing about on the river…

On the way home, Primrose and I speculated about creatures we might encounter in our new country garden.  Primrose is desperate to meet her first ‘hedgepig’ and I have never seen a badger.  Poppy delights in all manner of wildlife from a ‘squiggle’ to a ‘tweet’ and will, no doubt, find some way of communing with anything that lives at the bottom of the garden!  For now though, we must all be content with watching the robins and their resplendent vermillion.  Hating to disappoint my darling girls, I simply couldn’t resist creating a spiky friend for Primrose and Poppy at suppertime.  Do not worry dear Reader, I do know how to identify a real hedgehog but everyone knows that the only hedgehogs around these parts look like this!


Mango anyone?