Wednesday April 19th was a lovely sunny day. After a week of recovering from the trip back to the UK from America (more of which I will write about in another post), I locked the keys in the boat and had to rely on my neighbor Owen, who resides in a re-fitted oil rig lifeboat with his cat Sam, to cut the lock off the stern hatch. I decided then and there to stick close to home. I scrubbed the boat from stem to stern, ceiling to floor, inside and out, removing the Chimney and cleaning the stove pipe and stove; It was wonderful to know that what Les taught me in theory held true in practice. I spent fifteen minutes looking for the large number 13 ratchet he used to loosen the nut from the bolt holding the chimney chain in place only to discover that when I wasn't looking Les switched it out for a small, compact ratchet that fits my small hand perfectly. This is love. I completed my list of chores, stocking up on groceries, catching up the laundry, filling the water tank and emptying the loo. Last but not least I said goodbye to some of the dear friends Les and I are so fortunate to have made in the time spent at Cowroast.
We arrived at the top of Cowroast lock on August 2nd, 2016 and with the exception of one lovely cruise to Bulbourne with family, there had been no cruising. I hadn't worked a lock or steered the boat in over nine months. While I was gone to the States, the final repairs were made to our boat and now it was time to get underway. Tom and Jan Jones on NB Waiouru happened to be at Marsworth and they telephoned me to ask if I would like to cruise with them since they were headed north too. As I cruised past Mike Griffin on NB Albion I said, "Call me if you need cake. If you aren't cruising up my way you can always drive up for a visit and bring one home."
Tom caught up with me at Bulbourne and was kind enough to lock me through the Marsworth Flight. I was fine until I caught site of Startops End Reservoir. Les and I both love mooring there and I was flooded with memories, tears pouring from my eyes.
It was while moored up here that Les fell on the boat and hurt his back in 2009. While recovering from that fall Les spent thirty one days moored at the Reservoir where he wrote the blog post asking readers from around the world to contact him so he could get an idea of how widely read his blog was across the globe. It was that post to which I responded, setting everything else in motion.
When we returned to Britain in 2011 we moored up at Startops End for eleven days to await arrival of my dowery: 640 pounds of worldly goods which traveled from Pullman, Washington to the docks in Seattle, onto a cargo ship which spent two months traveling down the pacific coast of the Americas, through the Panama Canal, across the Atlantic ocean over to Europe and finally to England. Les found an online tracking web site and he followed the cargo ship with avid delight.
We spent the time waiting for my boxes by walking all the paths around the four reservoirs, waking early before the sun rose and watching the mist rise from the water, enjoying the dozens of ducks and geese who also called the local environment home. We watched with fascination while a pair of swans worked over a plastic bag with raw chicken inside which someone had tossed in the cut. The Cob had found it on the bottom and brought it up; both he and the Pen spent hours working at the bag with their tremendous beaks until it finally split open, disgorging its meaty delights which they both devoured quickly. From this we learned that swans are omnivorous. Les and I delighted in waking each morning to bird calls right outside our boat, and listening to the last quacks and squawks each night as the local aviary population settled down to sleep. Back in 2011 there were not so many boaters on the cut and we often had the large pound adjacent to the reservoir all to ourselves. It was and still is one of the loveliest bit of wild places left so close to London.
The last time we cruised past the reservoirs we could not stop--we had to make time to get to Cowroast and connect with Hospice. As we sat together on the stern of our boat last July 30th, I watched Les drink in the view like a thirsty man looking for water in the desert. He knew he would never moor here again or watch the waterfowl take flight against the summer sky. And I knew with my leaden heart that the next time I came through Marsworth Les would be dead.
I moored up behind Waiouru and spent a couple of hours chatting with Tom and Jan. At 6 p.m. I gathered a trowel, a daffodil bulb wrapped in newspaper, and a small jar with some of Les' ashes in it and walked up above the bottom lock, past Bluebell's Tea Room. I chose a place just beyond where the path separates into a Y, where a simple wooden bench was built as a memorial to someone else's loved one. Les and I used to sit on this bench in the sunshine after walking around the reservoirs. A tree had been recently planted just nearby. On my knees I dug a hole right next to the sapling, sprinkled some of Les' ashes in the bottom, placed the Daffodil bulb in place and patted the soil around it. The late evening sun was just slipping beyond the shoulder of the grassy hill, the sky still lit with its golden light.
|The Daffodil planted with Les' ashes under the last rays of the evening sun, Startops End Reservoir, Marsworth.|