• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 11

River Trip

'Look up and out at the world, don't look down,' is what Dad would have said, but I can't. If I look out, I'll see the boat. It’s full of people.They sound as though they've enjoyed the trip up the river. I think someone’s got a banjo. They wouldn’t have needed entertaining if Dad had been taking them, though. Dad was so good with people, and loved living by the river. He used to look forward to the summer season, taking people on trips, picking out the landmarks, showing them the wildlife. Jack and I would go with him sometimes, too, if the weather wasn’t too hot and there was room on the boat.

      Dad was my world. I love Mum, but I worshipped Dad. He was always so calm and reassuring. No matter how bleak things were, he could always find a positive element, a way of comforting or at least making me laugh. I remember coming home from school one day in tears: Sister Agnes had brought a ruler down on the back of my hand because I got the fingering wrong on the B flat scale.
      'Never mind,’ he said, 'The B flat scale and I will give you a round of applause when you've got it right. Because you will get it right, you know.’ It didn't seem so bad after that, and I did love my music, then. Like I used to love the river.


River Trip


It was such a beautiful stretch of the Thames. Our house had a riverside garden. At the bottom end there were two willow trees with the branches trailing in the water. I used to love sitting right inside them on hot days, and listening to the different sounds you could hear floating up from the river. Dad taught us the names of the all riverside creatures, too — he’d pick out the coots and swans, and showed us how to spot things like the water voles’ burrows.
      ‘Look out for vegetation cut up in piles along the water’s edge,’ he’d tell us, ‘ that’s always a sign that Ratty has been there.’ The kingfisher, though — that was my favourite. Whenever we saw a blue-green flash of iridescence, Dad would always quote a line of poetry. W.H.Davies.
      ’It was the rainbow gave thee birth.’
      I can hear him saying it now. It’s ten years ago today, but it might be a century — a different world.
      Dunkirk was to blame. Dunkirk stole my childhood.