Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Day out with M's Schoolfriend Linda.

Tuesday 9th October, 2012 in Reading.
A much brighter day after yesterday's continuous rain. We were expecting an old school friend of M's - Linda Day. They had seen each other only three times since taking their 'A' Levels together at Reigate County School in 1965. Once was at a school reunion four years ago, the second at the official opening of Reigate Methodist Church's new community centre last year and the third time was last week when Linda came to tea on MM.
Punctually at 10:15am, the doorbell rang. "Doorbell?? We don't have a doorbell," we thought, looking at each other in a puzzled fashion. In fact, it was a huge conker that had fallen from the trees above and landed on one of the air vents on the roof; they have brass covers that look like, and ring like, a bell. Linda arrived soon after - and didn't ring the bell!
We had coffee together and a bit of a catch-up, then set off back down the K&A for a short cruise. We had been hoping to take Linda on to the Thames, but it is still "Red Boarded."
She said that it was a remarkable experience to see the city centre that she knows so well from such a different perspective.  After the traffic lights and sailing through the Oracle shopping centre, the Town Lock, with a drop of only 1ft 2in, was a gentle introduction for her.
We cruised on to Fobney lock (the "Lock from Hell" last Monday) but this time the gates closed properly and we had no problem. We moored up above the lock for lunch and noticed a small tree festooned with what appeared to be school ties.
We wondered if this had been the scene of a school leaving celebration at the end of 'A' Levels. M remembered her 1965 school leaving celebration when she and a group of friends lit a small bonfire on Reigate Hill and ceremoniously threw their school berets on to the fire one by one, where they melted rather than burnt! M said the smell was awful!  Unfortunately this meant that they couldn't attend the school's Speech Day the following September and collect their prizes, since a requirement of being present was full school uniform, including berets!
After lunch, we turned and sailed back into Reading and moored up again beside the Oscar Wilde Walk. We had tea and cakes and exchanged a few more memories of school days before Linda had to leave. She said how much she had enjoyed the day.
As darkness fell, M saw that the huge circles of barbed wire atop the walls of Reading Gaol were shining gold in the glare of the sodium lights. It brought home the reality of life for those incarcerated inside and the stark comparision with our carefree easy life roaming the waterways with MM.
Today: 6 miles, 4 locks and 4.1 hours.
Trip: 299 miles, 307 locks and 268.2 hours (422.0 total).


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