Jun 29, 2014

Cambridge Punting Trip Brings Temporary End to Sunshine and Dry Weather Shocker

Somebody thought that it would be a really great idea to go for a trip into Cambridge. It might have been Nicole. We fancied a punt:

punt 1  (punt)
An open flatbottom boat with squared ends, used in shallow waters and usually propelled by a long pole.
v. punt·edpunt·ingpunts
1. To propel (a boat) with a pole.
2. To carry in a punt.
To go in a punt.

[Probably Middle English *punt, from Old English punt, from Latin pontpontoon, flatbottom boat, from pns, pont-bridge; seepent- in Indo-European roots.]

punter n.

and Cambridge is just the place to do it, for the benefit of the children of course.

We embarked from the residence of Mr C. Slimm on a fine morning in a convoy of three cars - always a risky manoeuvre - headed for a park and ride. Matthew for some reason have the impression that he knew where we were going and so it was that we ended up in about the furthest park and ride from Cambridge that there is, or at least that was the impression I got later on when everybody was throwing around recriminations.

A man was required in order to work the ticket machine, of which there were two, specifically a man with a piece of plastic with money on it - sound familiar?

With tickets in hand we awaited our bus, a motley crew of Slimms and hangers-on, camp followers you might call us. Our prams were laden with goods of one form or another, from spare clothes to baby maintenance toolkits to snacky foodstuffs. Chris' portable chair doubled as an Esky for beer.

The first bus was one that we had unfortunately failed to buy a ticket for, as it was playing for the opposition bus company, as we could claim as we had inadvertently taken sides when negotiating with the ticketing machine.

The second bus was the one for us and on we climbed. The parents of young children remained downstairs to gossip with the young children whilst everybody else climbed the stairs and who knows what delights they experienced up there. The bus proceeded along a straight straight road for a long long time until eventually we reached some kind of terminus where we were disgorged to stand beside the street to decide the detail of the next stage of our unformed plan.

It was decided by a conclave of those who thought they knew Cambridge that we should embark upon a trek across town in order to find a sandwich shop to refuel at, because the kids were hungry and need something to eat.

It was only a few miles to the sandwich shop of choice and it only took quite a lot of minutes to get there, who knows what tortuous route we followed but I was certainly lost until we happened to pass King's College which I recognised from my previous snowy visit. The sandwich shop was near to that and we with prams stood outside like social pariahs awaiting some beneficent pedestrian to fetch us our food.

Punting time was close at hand, but first we had to transport our sandwiches to a suitable place for eating, so we walked a little further to a field that was chock-full of cowshit because apparently as far as eating locations go that's just the ticket.

Lovely it was too between the pats but I was lacking a certain je ne sais quoi and had to go for coffee, and then for a trip to inspect the local public facilities. By the time I got back I was able to survey my surroundings with a more objective eye.

The field in which we had eaten lay in the corner of an elbow of the river which was puctuated by a small bridge under which the waters rushed through a weir. Punts (see above definition) were very much in evidence, queueueued up on the sides mostly but also being punted (see above definition) up the river and down the river by nameless, faceless by no doubt well-dressed and well-spoken individuals who were probably all world leaders in their intellectual fields, because this was Cambridge, right?

In our intellectual field there were plenty of cowpats, a couple of weeping willows (which we didn't realise would come in mighty useful before very long), some clowns - or is that humourous street performance executives these days - and plenty of what I can only describe as students.

Someone, probably Nicole, suggested that we should take a punt on a punt and go punting. A small yet mysteriously lengthy debate then took place where some little people decided that under no circumstances would they go on one of those things, some adults seemed to be of a similar opinion and in what turned out to be true Slimm style when points were to be made and positions set out for the sake of argument, tears were not far behind as it was obviously unacceptable for person X to be on a boat without person Y but if person Z wasn't going to be going then person W would have to have a cadenza. Get the picture?

Anyway by the time we had come to the decision that most children would be going a Chris would be staying behind to supervise the laggards and consume the contents of his portable chair, we had numbers and I went off to procure the tickets. The sky, now I looked at it, was getting a but murky and dark.

As I closed the deal on the transaction and handed over the credit card details the rain began gently to spatter down upon the roofs. I walked back to the mob of Slimms and with each step the intensity of the rain increased a little.

We decided to risk it (biscuit) and headed towards the punts. With each step from each person the intensity of the rain increased a little, but with that many steps from that many people by the time we reached the punts, asking of they could provide umbrellas, being told "no" and looking each other in the eye with some assisting eyebrow action, the heavens were well and truly open for business and we realised that the best place for us was beneath a tree, cowpats or no cowpats. So what we did was we ran to the nearest tree,got underneath it, waiting for young people to get upset because you know this is England, right, and it rains here all the time, and nobody's used to it at all.

So our dilemma, as the minutes passed beneath our tree and the rain showed no sign of abating and the volume and distress levels increased inexorably, was a Clash-esque should we stay or should we go, though the equivocation between Trouble and Double was highly debatable.

So our options were to contact and wait for taxis to transport us to an undecided location, or to hot-foot it to the bus. Taxis were shot down pretty quickly so hot-footing or actually cold-footing was clearly the way forward and it was with a glad heart (well someone probably had one) and plenty of ill humour that we re-traced our steps through the pouring rain and struck out for the bus stop.

We stopped in a shopping centre for a while to watch a display of man flesh unparalleled in its masculine muscularity in recent times, and then onto the Condensation Omnibus and home sweet home.

I think it's fair to say that a good time was had by all.

No comments:

Post a Comment