It was a wonderful May morning in 2015. Kevin and I, with two friends and their dog (her name is Caddy), had decided upon a day boating on The Broads; a delightful and extensive waterway in the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk, here in England.
We had set off, early. Waking up early is never an enjoyable experience for me. I have a chronic illness that makes movement uncomfortable and difficult, although at this time the illness had not been named in diagnosis. That said, I try not to be too grumpy about it! We clambered aboard our friend’s wonderful yellow camper van, and we set off to the pick up point for our little boat. We had hired a cute little boat at Suffolk’s Oulten Broad.
Having been boating a couple of years before, I knew that it would be a lazy, hazy experience and perfect for doing some writing, sketching, photography and reading. I was in no rush to have a turn at piloting the little vessel and, instead, I was happy to sit back and watch the landscape drift by. That gave me the opportunity to enjoy a cuddle of our friend’s dog, Caddy, and to just unwind from the increasing tiredness that my developing illness was causing me.
It takes me only seconds to relax anytime I am by water. Rivers, lakes and the sea; nothing more relaxing than that. What struck me immediately was the way we four settled into a slow and gentle pace and how quiet the surrounding landscape was. It was pure tranquility and that was something we all valued.
This particular route onto The Broads was not the prettiest. In fact, I believe it offered echoes of perhaps a more industrial past. Every so often we would pass a little ruined outbuilding or chimney stack. The signs of industry were not many, but what there was hinted at a time when these waterways would have been of great use to local business. Today, these sites are populated by a great variety of birds and it was, to me, as if nature was making a point of reclaiming what the industrial revolution had taken from it. That was a justice which made me feel happy.
I am a lover of poetry and so I had wanted to find a new book of poetry to take with me. I tend to enjoy hunting for written treasures in local antique shops and second hand book stores. There’s nothing better than finding a lovely old book, well used and loved by others; making me the next in line to cherish and secure a little bit of our wonderful English literary heritage. I always wonder about the many people who will have, over the years, leafed through the pages of richly crafted words.
To my delight, while out in a nearby antiques centre a few days before, I had found an original 1916 edition of ‘1914 and Other Poems’ by Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915). I had learnt a little about this incredible poet in my teens and so to find a book of his was wonderful. Rupert Brooke is a widely celebrated poet; known particularly for his WWI war sonnets. What a treasure to find.
Rupert Brooke was a young man, known for his good looks and for his work which documents his travels and also his experience during WWI. His short life is quite fascinating and remarkable. As my own little voyage through the English countryside on our cosy boat progressed, I found myself captivated by Rupert Brooke’s tales of war, romance and distant pacific voyages.
To learn more about Rupert Brooke, see:
One of my favourite of Rupert Brookes works is ‘Grantchester’. It was something that I read aloud to my ‘crewmates’ as we looked for a place to moor the boat, while we stopped for a picnic lunch. I have taken a few photos directly from the book, so you may have to zoom in to get a clearer view:
Rupert Brooke is buried on the Greek island of Skyros; he had developed sepsis arising from an infected mosquito bite while sailing with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in 1915. A memorial to him sits within his family burial plot at Clifton Road Cemetery in Rugby, here in England. As we sailed our way past an occasional tiny island in the waterway, I could not help but think of Rupert Brooke laid to rest in such a distant place. Somehow, that seemed very lonely and sad.
Rupert Brooke was a figure, not without controversy. In reading up on his brief life, you will discover his connection to other well known writers, some of which suggestive of intimacy, and questions about his character that may be uncomfortable. Nonetheless, his contribution to our literary history is one that will last.
Our day was a beautiful one. The weather was pretty good, for the time of year. We meandered our way along the beautiful stretch of The Broads we covered, making the most of the opportunity to chat with our dear friends, enjoy the untouched and beautiful landscape, relax and also enjoy a glass of wine or three.
One of the nice activities is that of finding a spot to moor up for lunch. Sometimes, in the past, we have simply dropped anchor and sat and dined in the boat in a beautiful lagoon or at a particularly pretty spot on the river. This time, we were lucky to find a mooring space which enabled us to get out of the boat and stretch our legs a little. The boat wasn’t cramped, but there is simply limited capacity for moving around and so the brief walk-about at lunchtime felt delightful. It also offered us the use of facilities for a comfort break; certainly this is an otherwise cramped experience on a boat! While we walked around, we were greeted by ducks and geese, all most interested in what we had brought with us for lunch.
It had been a beautiful day. We had seen many other types of boat pass us by. We had observed the most stunning birds along the river bank, in the trees and swimming close to us in the river. We had laughed, talked, shared and dined and we had enjoyed some fine wine. I had soaked up the wonderful poetry of Rupert Brooke and was feeling inspired to write, as a result. I can say for certain that we all had de-stressed and the day of boating had served us well as a therapeutic response to daily life. For me most helpful, for relaxing to this extent made a contrast to my usually more tense state of apprehension, where my health has been concerned. By the time we had to disembark and make our way home, we all felt rather attached to our little boat and sad to leave it behind. The pleasure of the day was best represented by the look of joy on Caddy’s face. This had been a very waggy-dog day.
These sort of days are what life is all about. Sharing the beauty of nature, the beauty of the English landscape and spending time with people you hold dear. Making memories, just as Rupert Brooke captured memories in the form of his poetry. We friends now hold the memory of this day as a much loved reference within our personal library of memories together.
(C) Deano Parsons. 2016.