"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
‘And don’t talk to any sailors,’ I said, as friend Shelley set off to spend a month sailing with perfect strangers. Funnily enough one of them was perfect. Now she’s back with a new haircut, a new man and a new job, looking ten years younger and preparing to move to Bristol in two weeks. You turn your back for five minutes….
Looking happy but dazed, Shelley joined us for Cathy Grindrod’s More Glass Than Wall at Hardwick Hall – a marvellous oratorio telling the story of Elizabethan schemer and much-married politician, Bess of Hardwick. For a while we thought the massed choirs of Derbyshire were singing ‘three hundred juicy badgers’ so we asked the librettist herself. ‘Yes, they are’, she said. Art, eh?
The next outdoor event (above) required some preparation – nay, even heroism. I boated single-handed for ten hours through the shark-infested waters of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals. Actually, it isn’t deep enough for sharks. Even tadpoles struggle for depth, and sometimes it was more like ploughing in heavy rain than boating; but Tinker was duly moored in Bugsworth’s picturesque canal basin. As Kevin Costner showed us, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ so I solemnly laid out my tub of coleslaw and two packs of sausages….and waited. Two by two, four by four, my friends came to join me, bearing masses of food. We sat in breezy sunshine eating nice things, marvelling at the bubble machine, learning about juggling from Dave Jellybean, occasionally saving children from drowning. It was absolutely bloody marvellous – the right mix of people, enough sunshine to make us happy, more food than we could carry and oodles of alcohol. Call me old-fashioned but that does it for me.
Later I set off into the sunset, picking up towpath stragglers including my mum (who looks like me, but younger) for the return journey. That nice Mr Andrew Marvell wrote in the seventeenth century ‘what wondrous life is this I lead’. He also wrote about ‘stumbling on melons’ but we’ll gloss over that, for he clearly knew what a joyous life this can be. And he didn’t even own a narrowboat.