Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Old Stomping Ground

Back in the seventies I occupied the body of a now world-famous author who lived in the picturesque Thames valley. I moved from a detached house on the hill to a flat in an apartment complex right by the river, so that I had a handy base when on the planet.
That's when I got the 9-foot bright yellow fibreglass dinghy "Y-not-X" and rowed up and down the Thames between Bray and Cookham looking at all the millionaire's houses and retrieving fishing tackle from the riverside trees and selling it back to the fishermen. It is where I was first attacked by cows, swans and council house kids, and first found paid work as a gardener to the stars. (Well OK, a buncha grannies, mostly).
I have decided to revisit this area (much nicer than Pompey, but entirely without sea) and see the locks I used to operate, the castle of my close relative the Queen, and Legoland, which is somewhere I hope to buy one day. Perhaps next Tuesday.
We left the M25 parking lot early and were straight into countryside in Wraysbury, population 73. All aged 73. To the tune of 1 aircraft every minute, we picked our way along the London Heathrow flightpath down country lanes to little-known village WINDSOR.
We parked by the cricket club in the expensive carpark with the ticket machines that didn't work and hit the swingpark in the shadow of a smallish castle we found above the water meadows. Apparently, it's the largest inhabited castle in the world, I'm sure I could do better.
We found the rather green Thames and walked along the towpath to Romney Lock and watched the boats going in and out. Everything is done very slowly. We explored the eyot (Romney Island) with the lock-keepers cottage. We all want to live here, looks like we'll have to win a lot of lotteries: we all wanted a boat but in the shop window even the little ones were £35K.
The weir has got 2 hydro-electric Archimedes screws and it roared a lot but we couldn't cross it so we had to walk all the way round again. I got stinging nettles and the grass was taller than me - this may be the point at which I get hay fever. We got very hot tired feet which made for tetchiness and sulkiness.
The riverside restaurants were as expensive as the local properties so we found the Pizza Hut of Familiarity right under one of the castle towers.
Once we'd eaten we wandered up the hill to the castle gates where a heavily armed policeman shouted at the hordes of school groups and we found it would cost £45 to tour some of the castle and we just didn't have the time, or indeed a Jof, who was recuperating on a bench.
At the bottom of the hill, the river was still there. French Brothers operate river cruises of all varieties for passengers of all nations from multiple locations up and down the Thames. Several people in swimming trunks lined up on the bridge in this picture and jumped into the river to ragged cheers from the waiting crowd. We opted for the simple 40 minute one from Windsor Promenade up to Boveney lock and back, past many kids swimming in the river, eye-catching properties at eye-watering prices, unknown side channels and wonderful weeping willows. For decades I've gone on about willow trees and how they dangle their fronds in the water in most picturesque fashion.
After the cruise we realised we deserved ice cream. We all had double-scoop high-quality ones, Jof and I had chocolate in chocolatey cones. £10 later, he finished his watermelon and orange sorbet one, but the remnants of ours actually had to go in the bin by the Jubilee fountain. Now this was by far the best fountain I've ever been in. For a small hot boy, this aqueous attraction was the main event for about 100 kids. I got onto the top shelf and the whole world got up there with me. Once I'd cooled down, we drove on to MAIDENHEAD without pants. Yes.
The Holiday Inn had the wrong room for us but we didn't care. Over the road was Ross Road mini-swingpark (no swings) and I did the assault course 3 times. It wasn't a very good park. Even the locals had to hide in a corner in shame when making their special cigarettes.
The hotel has a pool so we swam and splashed and 2 of us got our first hot tub experience with 2 young ladies of foreign extraction. It was scary when I got in, then it was fizzy and hot and bubbly and funny. All I need is a chest wig and a VW logo necklace and I am Mr 1973.
We showed off our swimming and floating skills and we found the gym on the way out where I pumped 3 kg weights (16s for him) and punched medicine balls.
At supper we all had buffets because that is what you do, discussed Plums of the Future and played bingo in the bar area (look out, #8 is missing), read a book about Romans and got free bedtime milk by asking nicely.
Awesome day. I hope to have many more.

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