Thursday, 4 September 2008


The happy family Grit and Dig spend the morning mooching gently about the summer broads, accompanied by the beating of dragonfly wings, the rippling ping-ping-ping of jumping crickets, and the grating of Tiger's feet, rasping against the gravel like a cheese grater on parmesan.

Tiger is fed up with walking. And she is complaining. She says it is not fair because I forced her to the top of a drainage windpump. Pah! Forced her!

OK. I admit it, I did. I forced her. Not exactly tied her arms together, strapped gaffer tape over her mouth and stood behind her with a pointed stick, but I appealed to reason and, when that failed, added gentle persuasion. Like if you stay down here on the ground, alone, that Chihuahua with a nasty glint in its eye will savage you to death.

And I know, Tiger, that a drainage windpump in the middle of a flat field of nothingness does not sound very exciting unless you are male, aged 55, living at home with your mother and, in the shed, part-way through a 25-year project to build a scale-model drainage windpump out of matchsticks and belly button fluff, but there is one thing you must understand. We home educators are legally bound to educate you. Now do you want to find out about the digging of the broads and the pumping of the fens from a black and white photograph of a windpump in a 1978 geography book, which incidentally you must share with 25 other people, and which has the words Curtis is a c*** crayoned on page 2? Or would you like to climb to the top of that windpump, feel your heart beat as you wait for those sails to turn in the storm, and listen to daddy Dig tell you stories of peat, wind, water and engines? See that Chihuahua?

Anyway, I tell her, this afternoon you can sit down all you want, because there is a happy band of home educators booked on a boat trip along the broads where you are going to look at birds and do nature studies, science, wildlife and educational activities, like tick a sheet then whoop with delight that you saw a swan.

Well, this is where I also discover there must be some secret balance to the universe, because for my hubris and misdeed this morning in forcing Tiger up the windpump, I am now roundly and justly punished. With nearly three hours on board a boat where I am locked in and cannot get off.

I could feel the rising panic set in as I crossed from one world to the next; from land to water via the gangplank, to that special part of floating hell called a Norfolk Broads boat trip.

The full horror of what was about to happen really struck me when the access to land was lifted away and we set off, listening to the monotone of Roger, who was steering. After five minutes of staring at a grebe's rear end I suddenly realise what I want to do with the rest of my life. It is never step on another boat as long as I live. After fifteen minutes of being hypnotised by water I realise there are no more grebes, no more lovely ducks or swans, just hours and hours of grey water and reeds at less than three miles an hour. And I cannot get off until it is over.

And I do not know what it is about boat trips, but within moments they close down the essential valves of my soul, sending it into complete torpor, boredom and stupidity. I am rendered helpless, powerless, miserable at the whim of Roger at the helm, and all I can do is stare at the water, dribble, and wish it were all over.

Tiger, on the other hand, is enjoying every minute of this aquatic experience, and is happily counting up grebes far and near.

Shark too is delighted and thinks being this close to a grebe's backside is the best thing ever.

And here is Squirrel's face when she is told there are another two and a quarter hours to go.

Tiger knew with her drainage windpump that pumping engines are probably not for her. But it has taken me years, and several boat trips, to discover I am one of those people who loathe boat trips.

One small child, aged all of four, already has wisdoms and knowledges far beyond mine. With an hour to go, he descends into his mother's arms, writhing and kicking; throwing his head left to right to left to right and yelling with all his might GET ME OUT OF HERE! And really, I cannot resent him for it. Because he is expressing what is screaming from my soul.

And next time, with an eye to the balancing scales of justice, and all the punishments available to the universe, I might just meet Tiger eye to eye and say 'Windpump? You don't fancy the windpump? Well that's OK. So long as I don't have to do the boat trip.'


Emma said...

And as I said at the time, that poor little lad was the only one brave enough to say what we were all thinking!!

Jonny's Mommy said...

Oh the joys of homeschooling I see. I'd like to do it myself, but I really want to participate in such things as boat rides that would probably make me throw up?

Probably not.

You are an amazing writer. You must do it for a living, right? Or be working on a book?

Grit said...

hi emma! i recall that episode quite fondly now, which shows what a good home educator am i!

hello jm! it's true, home education requires stamina and guts, sometimes the type you can see. i wish i did write for a living and that people paid to read this stuff.

sharon said...

I hate boats too. For my 40th birthday DH and I (with NO sons in tow) went via the car ferry from
Portsmouth to Caen to spend a week in Normandy and Brittany. Overnight crossing, Deluxe cabin both ways, calm seas, complimentary hamper of goodies, and where did I pass the time? Up on deck in the open air because I couldn't stand being shut in below-decks! And, no I am not normally claustrophobic. Never doing that again even if we ever came back to the UK. Think this also means no luxury cruising round the Med either.

Still, at least the girls enjoyed it Grit!

Grit said...

that is a pretty impressive 40th birthday sharon, even with a boat thrown in. to celebrate my 40th i cut the privet hedge. i suppose it made it a birthday to remember.