View Full Version : Another Honeymoon story- then DIVORCE
Dale R. Hamilton
01-10-2003, 04:31 PM
"Let me see if I've got this straight" she says.
"You want us to go to England, rent a 120 year old boat and then row the two of us 90 miles down the Thames river- and this is our honeymoon?" My wife Catherine looked at me like she thought I was crazy- it was a look I was to see on her face many times during our brief marriage. I had been secretly inspired by the great Peter Spectre to do this, and I thought it would be, well... romantic. Nevertheless, whether it was her sense of adventure, or her hope that we would be boarded by Barbary pirates and I would be hauled away- she agrees to go.
We first met Megan in front of the Waterman's Arms at Osney Lock in Oxford. The young man from Constables Boathouse in London had just unloaded her in the chilly drizzle of a grey dawn. He provided a very brief orientation to the boat, her gear, and the system of locks we would encounter along the way. Catherine stood well back on the back as though the craft had some communicable disease. Megan was 22 feet long, constructed of dark red mahogany- genteel without being pretentious. She was built in the late 1860's, and was fitted with tholepin rowlocks, and a steering yoked rudder for the passenger. She carried 2 pair of very elegant oars, the camping gear, a canvas cover, and a series of steel hoops that would support the canvas during a rainstorm.
I loaded our considerable stores and provisions which included a CD player with remote speakers, a selection of classical music, a large bottle of Campari, (and if that were not enough- a quart of single malt Scotch). Catherine was a bit harder to get in the boat.
The plan was to cover the 90 miles in 6 days, staying at whatever B&B was opportune at the end of each day, and eventually return Megan safe and sound to her home at Constables in Hampton. But first I would have to master the stroke with long fethering oars between the tholepins. My first stroke unseated the port side oar and I was mortified to see it shoot torpedo-like into the river. I had to fish for it while we drifted sideways. Catherine to her credit said nothing. But I recovered, and after much splashing and banging we were away down the river. The 90 miles stretched out before us like the distance to the moon. Had I bit off more than I could chew? Could Uncle Pete have faked it after all?
01-10-2003, 04:42 PM
"I would like some more, please, Sir."
01-10-2003, 10:10 PM
WHAT!? No viruses? No gaseous pakistanis in taxis? No evil airline flight attendants? No lying al Queida sponsored hotels? You call this a HONEYMOON?! :D
01-10-2003, 10:43 PM
Didn't want to hijak mrleft8's thread, so I'll tackle this one ;) 'Round these parts, there is a certain woman who was busted recently for domestic assult. The terms of bail included a provision that said woman was not to have contact with her alleged victim. However, the two lovebirds (god, ya gotta love Maine romance) decided to get married, which of course landed our fair lady back in jail. Where she is now spending her "honeymoon." The DA says that they probably won't be able to see each other for several years without one or the other getting thrown in the slammer for violating parole. Just goes to show you that when you think you've hit rock bottom, thing could ALWAYS be worse....
01-10-2003, 11:00 PM
:D :D That's probably one of my old girlfriends....
Dale R. Hamilton
01-13-2003, 10:00 AM
Approaching Sandford Lock, I had my stroke in reasonable order although not quite Bristol fashion. The look of terror had faded somewhat from my wife's face although I could tell she was waiting to see how this all would play out. During the day the locks are manned by lock keepers that, on this part of the Thames, take a great deal of pride in their jobs and their locks. They wear black and white uniforms with captains hats adorned with gold braid, and rows of chevrons denoting their years of service. Some wore beards- and I mistook at least one of them for the Captain of the Ile de France. In front of such men of the sea- I had to look good. We entered the lock smartly, and I caught a black bollard easily and secured the boats painter with my best imitation of a sailor's knot. We watched the waters recede- and the bollard with my expertly tied knot rise higher and higher over our heads. When I finally realized what had happened, the bollard was some 20 feet up and we had no way of untying it- unless one of us could fly. A kindly lock keeper- who had undoubtedly seen all of this before, came to our rescue. We glided into Abbington through fleets of swans, under Folly Bridge and finally to a riverside pub where we lunched.
By the way- Nothing remains of the old Morris Brother's Garage in Abbington- which was the world headquarter and manufacturing plant for MG sports cars. Seems such a pity.
Much refreshed after shepherd's pie and the local brew, we guided Megan through a stupendous straightaway flanked by Christchurch Meadow, at the end of which is a row of university boathouses. Almost immediately we were embroiled in a welter of racing shells coming the other way. The young scullers who sprint past us seem too young to wear such haughty expressions and they are clearly annoyed that we sould be in the same river. But I noticed, they were sweating. I on the other hand, had a Campari, and music- at the moment Mozart, and a girl- and I was enjoying all three. The afternoon passed so agreeably I hardly noticed my aching back, and soon enough we were moored at the Shillingford Bridge Inn near Wallingford for the night- an old market town with lots of Georgian buildings and a Norman Castle.
Taking stock of the days activity over an after dinner brandy in the Hotel's elegant dining room- I had perhaps not done so badly. In fact, as the evening wore on, and the brandy flowed- I began to feel- well, triumphant. We had rowed 18 miles- Still, the longest stretch was tomorrow- and no place to spend the night until Sonning.
01-13-2003, 10:25 AM
So was she rowing?
01-13-2003, 10:35 AM
So far so good. I hope your bride reacts properly to good brandy ;) .
Dale R. Hamilton
01-13-2003, 10:39 AM
Nope- just me rowing- she was steering.
Do we feel something brewing? Might this get a bit dicey up ahead? :eek:
On our honeymoon, as my wife stepped of the plane (six seater W/ oil streaking down the engine cowl & a ng. fuel gauge)our host drove up in a 1972 Kaizer postal jeep with no doors, lights, or tags & said "why you're the first woman we've had here in more than two weeks". I think the only reason we are still married - 17yrs- is that it was HER father that suggested the place! :D
01-13-2003, 12:03 PM
That's the trouble with women these days, they can't row worth a damn.
I don't have a big long story, but my honeymoon had a rather tragic ending. 1st week my wife and I spent in Antgua. It was fantastic. We were sailing, windsurfing, diving, small romantic cottage in a private resort and a top-notch restaurant. Our plan for the second week was to relax at home for 2 days then sail to Oxford MD on our sloop for 3 days then sail to a friends house for a 2 day beach party. First day home from the Islands I was moving a case of soda and herniated a disk in my back. I stayed prone for 3 days. I couldn't even roll over. After about 4 days I could walk again (and went to the party). I stayed in constant pain for 1.5 years until I decided on surgery. Thankfully I have full strength now. I am even back to running competitively.
Dale R. Hamilton
01-14-2003, 09:45 AM
Next morning we faced out longest day- 22 miles and 6 sets of locks to Sonning. A splendid English breakfast prepared us or this effort. The river in these parts is an scenic as it gets- mostly open countryside with here and there neatly groomed lawns that sweep grandly down from century-old manor houses. Weeping willows lining the banks, stone-arched bridges to pass under, and the inevitable fisherman.
Peter's article in Woodenboat several years ago, described the period from the 1880's to 1914 when London's trendy elite took to the Thames for recreational rowing. These same people today find it fashionable to go mountain biking in the Brecon Forrest or jogging in the Serpentine. But unlike today, river boating had an elegance- a panache that put its practice at the level of an art form. It was cultivated leisure- people dressed up to practice it- they didn't do it to exert themselves and certainly not to sweat like a laborer. And the local economy rose to the challange to provide a variety of small craft for hire- wherries, gigs, and the quintessential Thames river craft, the camping skiff- Megan and her sisters. It must have been regatta of merrymaking that turned out in colorful scarves, straw boaters, club jackets- perhaps a picnic hamper stuffed with delicacies. World War I and the gasoline engine effectively brought down the curtain on this idle pastime, and the young swains and their sweethearts who pursued so many carefree weekends now faced the horrors of trench warfare in Europe.
We pass hundreds of proper English gardens each aflame in Spring colors and around every bend the stone spire of a country church stretched upwards. For the most part our only companions are the sheep and cattle mowing the river banks, and the swans patrolling the waters. My rowing technique has improved steadily after 3 or 4 thousand strokes and Catherine observed that we no longer looked like Lucy and Ethel when we go through the locks. Catherine has settled in on the passenger thwart and is doing an excellent job of steering a proper line down the river. We stop for lunch in Reading at a pub called Moderation- just so we could say that we ate and drank in moderation on the trip.
Sonning lock comes into sight bathed in the red of the setting sun, and the lock keeper locks us through as his last official duty of the day. We moor where the river meets the lawn of the elegant French Horn hotel, in a small lagoon just past Sonning Bridge. A wrap-around Victorian porch filled with vintage wicker awaits us. There are perhaps a half dozen loungers occupying these chairs and their attention was undoubtetly piqued at our unconventional arrival. I wish I could report that I sprung from the boat with painter in hand, and hauled boat and contents well up on the bank. Sadly I cannot. The long afternoon of rowing and my aging back have conspired to prevent me from straightening above full crouch. I looked like Quaisimoto hauling myself over the gunwale onto my knees- then pulling myself up hand over hand to a semi-erect position. They must have thought "poor man".
01-14-2003, 10:31 AM
Dale - you do know that this is definetely a "boat-related" post smile.gif
Dale R. Hamilton
01-14-2003, 10:36 AM
yeah- guess I got it wrong.
Dale, This is GREAT STUFF! :D (Can I have a signed copy when you go into publication? ;) )
01-14-2003, 12:29 PM
Sounds much better than my honeymoon... At least you got to see the sun...
01-15-2003, 10:56 AM
I await the next installment, Dale! And I hope this tale does not end in the manner suggested by your topic title!!
Dale R. Hamilton
01-15-2003, 11:02 AM
Sunday morning after a wonderful night's sleep, a huge silver tray loaded with breakfast goodies and the local paper, arrived at our door. Although breakfast is normally served in bed, we opted for service at a tea table overlooking the lawn- it seemed more practical. To those who may follow in our wake- I recommend a few nights at the French Horn here in the heart of the Cotswolds. And by the way- try the Chateau nuf de Pap.
Our objective today was a modest 13 miles to Marlowe. But the day was an exceptionally cordial one with clear skies and unseasonably balmy temperatures. Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet overture filled the boat and I uncorked the Campari early in celebration. We passed dozens of Sunday revelers enjoying the sunny day, and Catherine was kept busy returning the waves and salutes. One family offered us their child as we rowed past- we made that sort of impression. Jerome K. Jerome in his little book "Three Men in a Boat" wrote in 1889 " I do hate steam launches. I suppose every rowing man does. I never see a steam launch but I feel I should lure it to a lone part of the river, and there in the silence and solitude, strangle it". Poor Jerome- if he thought a steam launch too loud with its hissing and occasional wheezes, what greater a calamity would be motorboats and those damn infernal PWC's that infest our inland waterways today. How could mankind trade in their genteel rowing craft for a gas guzzling stinking fiberglass monster. And what became of those elegant gentlefolk who dressed up so they could ply these languid waters on afternoons just like this? They have become crazed, half-naked beer drinkers who roar aimlessly hither and yon littering as they go and destroying the last vestiges of peace and quiet. God bless men like Mark Edwards, propriator of Constables Boathouse, established in 1867 and still maintaining fleets of skiffs like Megan so the truly discerning among us can still enjoy what tranquility remains. Catherine jerks me from this rumination with the news that Marlowe Lock has appeared and our hotel, the Country House. This is quite a large English manor house surrounded by the most beautiful gardens (Catherine) had ever seen- glorious roses, lupines and wisteria (she says). I register and haul our baggage upstairs to a large airy room filled with flowers and overlooking the gardens. It is in a word, sumptious! Breakfast the next morning even included a selection of homemade marmalades.
And? (don't leave us hanging!!) :D
Dale R. Hamilton
01-16-2003, 09:45 AM
Monday's leg was expected to be a gentle 14 miles to Windsor- and it would have been so had we not faced a stiff headwind. All day I rowed fortified by the occasional sip of single malt. The Campari, while it looked elegant, just did not get the job done at this stage. The picturesque open countryside gradually became more suburban with stately riverside homes, elaborate gardens, and fleets of Jaguars crouching under striped pavilions and mullioned garages. We pass through Henley-on Thames best known for its July regatta, with international rowing races and much drinking of champagne. We also notice that the class of river craft we pass seems to be improving. The heavy angular clorox bottle cruisers we saw earlier are giving way to elegant mahogany commuters, slipper-sterned motor cruisers and a day sailer or two. Any other time I would have been fascinated and would have dawdled around their anchorage's until the official force was summonsed- but today there is only the headwind.
I perservere in my labors until Catherine announces that Crown property has appeared on our starboard side- the first evidence of Windsor. Miles of manicured riverbank and hedgerow discretely conceal a 20-foot high razor wire fence, and at intervals a sign appears warning "Do not Land!". As if to reinforce this, heavily armed British Army squads patrol the towpath- and these guys don't wave.
We moor at the foot of High Street Bridge in the bustling little town of Windsor, and I reconnoiter for the nearest hotel- not the cheapest mind you- but the nearest. The Christopher Hotel on High Street admirably served-so named because Christopher Wren used to stay here. Mooring in the heart of town poses some question of security for the boat. But happily we spot some friends aboard the Oxford Osprey (one of those clorox bottles) who promise to keep an eye on Megan for the night. We checked in, had a spot of refreshment and set out to explore the town. Eton College founded in the 15th century is here. Some of the ancient lichen- covered buildings are open for inspection in the afternoon and we note that the furnishing can't have changed much from its founding. Tweedy pipe-smoking professors in academic robes seem everywhere. Returning to the Christopher, we dress for dinner and end up at the Montmorency restaurant near Windsor bridge. The name comes from the little dog that accompanied Jerome in "Three Men in a Boat". The English roast beef was excellent.
On our way to Windsor castle next morning, I was sidetracked by a little shop selling British army kit. This is a fascinating place selling neckties, pocket crests, cuff links and such emblazoned with the various crests of the British army. I bought what I could afford, but my eye was on a certain mahogany walking stick that I thought was too much money. It carried the heraldry of the Argyle and Sutherland Regiment and the motto "For King and Country".
Windsor- the largest inhabited castle in the world, is the official residence of the Queen. William 1st built the first fortress here on a natural promontory in 1070, and it has been added to or altered by every monarch since. It covers 13 acres and makes a dramatic battlemented skyline. We were to see the castle only weeks after the tragic fire in 1992 that nearly burned the whole place down. The State apartments and Queen Mary's Dolls' House were the hardest hit and the smell of smoke and ruin was still in the air. Priceless rugs, drapery and ancient furnishings were lost forever. We learn that after the alarm was given, hoards of towns people turned out to save what they could- even risking life for the sake of their legacy. Happily the ravens of the castle are still on duty outside, for it is said if the ravens ever leave, the castle will fall.
We finished our tour before noon and it was time to check out, load the boat and strike off for Chertsey 12 miles away. I manhandled our bags between the hotel and our mooring, but it was in descending the stone steps to the quay that I tripped and took a bad fall on one knee. Nothing broken, but I had a devil of a time walking. Catherine got the boat loaded and then disappeared back up the steps to street level. She returned shortly carrying a long slender package that I didn't remember as part of our original equipage. It was the mahogany cane.
Dale R. Hamilton
01-17-2003, 10:05 AM
The river beyond Windsor broadens, becomes more industrial, traffic picks up, and the weather turns lousey. We note that the lock keepers become progressively more seedy and ill-tempered, and there are no more flowers gracing the locks. I stick to my task however, and by early evening we are in Chertsey- a working class community on the furthest fringe of London. We book ourselves into the Bridge Hotel because it was hard by the quay where we landed- even thiugh it was not up to our previous standards. It was a small place built over a pub- the kind of place you pulled a string to turn on a light. But it was clean and our dinner sausages or "snorkers" as they are known around here were wonderful.
Our last day on the river turned out to be cool and overcast, but I knew I could do the remaining 8 miles to Hampton and Constables regardless of the weather. I don't remember that we talked much these last few miles, only that my pauses between oarstrokes grew longer and longer. I notice too that the course we are steering is the longest possible. A light rain goes unnoticed. Both of us are reluctant to end our journey and re-enter society as we used to know it. As we approach Hampton the river banks and bridges are fairly teaming with traffic and the commotion of commerce in the 20th century. For a few days at least- we had escaped the mayhem we live in. We had cultivated leisure- we had been fashionable when it was now unfashionable. Mark Edwards stood waiting for us- to take Megan back with her gleaming mahogany sisters, and to dispatch us on to Heathrow- But what a memmory we had!
Such was the fine start to our marriage- I'm glad you came along. But Catherine and I were "too" different. I thought of this trip as romantic- she as a hardship. I came from a working-class background- she from privilege. Boat building to me was a religion- and to her it was just another way to make a mess. Six months later we were divorced. But it was amicable, and I have her to thank for starting me on a series of "adventure rows" that have taken me down the River Shannon, through Loch Ness, and the Calidonian canal in Scotland, offshore Malta, the green heart of Holland, wales, and a second trip down the Thames.
Dale, A wonderful story, I hope your memories of the trip are as positive as as the story you told. I'm always sorry to hear when things don't work out. I think in a number of ways I can relate to some of your analogies (religion vs. mess re: boatbuilding etc..). Thank you for telling it! smile.gif
John of Phoenix
01-17-2003, 12:52 PM
You spin a fine yarn. Thanks.
Thanks for a great story, and I too can relate, from a very brief marriage myself,......in fact, so brief, I never even saw the video :D
Dale R. Hamilton
01-21-2003, 08:40 AM
Well thanks for the kind words guys. As I said there are other rowing adventures I may share- maybe on the boat-related misc channel.
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