On Saturday morning we were heading north again - by train. Names from our address book sped by: Redhill and
It was about a fifty minute stroll westward along the towpath, past St Pancras Lock and on to the three locks at
Lunch done, we returned to street level, squeezing through the crowds of Saturday shoppers, all either browsing or grazing - or both! Next mission for our boat- enthralled party was an excursion by waterbus. A good-looking boat it was, with conventional forward-facing bus-type seats and broad sliding windows.
"How old is she?" enquired the Captain.
"Built in 1947,"came the reply.
"Same age as me - and wearing better too!" acknowledged the Captain.
From Camden Lock along the Regent's Canal to Little Venice, a fifty minute forward float, past glorious white stuccoed Nash houses, past the Regent's Park mosque, past the Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo, through the Maida Hill Tunnel, to a widening of the canal, boats moored on both sides, to the open expanse of water that surrounds
One further surprise: we emerged from the back of the hospital to see a row of "Boris's bikes", neatly caged to their stands. Too late now to make a second attempt to visit the
* Gasometers store gas. Not so at King's Cross. We came across a large artist's impression showing how the dismantled gasometer will be replaced by a huge and elegant circular apartment block, on completion its girders added as reference to its earlier industrial character.
So often had the train's computerised voice explained which coaches were to be travelled in for which destination I pondered whether many folk indeed choose to go to Bognor Regis.
Bognor: first stop April Cottage, an address of one-time significance to our friends. In steady wind-blown rain Bognor seemed a bleak place, with a concrete reinforced esplanade, a short pier, unbusy hotels and a crashing sea. We drove a little further west and stopped at Pagham, a beach area with children's holiday club, yacht club and beach cafe. Cleddau's frequent First Mate visitor joined me as we slogged into wind up onto the beach. Long stretches of shingle bank lay to east and west, groynes marched out into the foaming sea, sharp rain penetrated the flesh of our cheeks: it was a wild and wet scene and in unheard-of haste we retreated to the cafe, disturbing the gentle chit-chat between Captain and our frequent relief Captain. The café had plain laminate-topped tables, served simple fare but was a riot of signs and memorabilia. As we steamed over hot drinks our eyes darted from Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe to
Home: no boats, just aeroplanes climbing out and turning, first from Gatwick, then from Heathrow, then from
We drove along the now empty, now "old" road back towards our village. Will one day we drive alongside (or future generations float along) the long-planned (in 1811)