River people

Apparently there are River People and non-River People.  The former being those who love the river and the latter who don’t give it a second thought… I cannot fathom how you couldn’t help but be inspired and drawn to the greatest river in the world – The Thames.

I live within spitting distance of the river although I can’t quite see it from where I am sitting writing this – but that is mere coincidence.  Even when I lived many hundreds of miles away I loved the river and when I was growing up in Scotland I loved another great river almost as much. 

I spend hours every week (it would be every day, but the park gets a lot of my attention too) walking along the Thames Path in one direction or another marvelling at the ever changing tide, scenery and landscapes.  I’ve seen all manner of things washed up on the silty beaches at low tide and a good number of funny craft and feathered birds plowing along creating their v-shaped wakes. 

I’ve seen two dead bodies, although one was a prop for a TV show but the other was definitely for real… I missed the whale at Putney as this was news when I was in Hermanus, South Africa failing to spot whales there.

So why am I so captivated that I regularly sit on the balcony at the White Hart for an entire summer afternoon just watching the coming and goings on the river and on the path – especially when the tide breaks the banks and the “flood” arrives like clockwork every 12 hrs.

I still cannot quite grasp the difference in water level between high and low tide. 

When at flood, the river is majestic and graceful but at ebb it is like a plug has been pulled and the river drained of it’s life. It is then however when the foreshores come alive with treasure hunters; be it sea birds and crows looking for a tasty snack or beachcombers with their metal detectors searching for lost treasure.

The rowers fascinate me too – I understand that it is great exercise and when in twos, fours or eights there is a synchronised team element to the whole endeavour, but during the winter months when the wisps of fog rise from the surface of the ice cold water and the wind howls;  to watch a single scull pull hard against the tide is an exercise in observing freezing loneliness.  However this is not an infrequent sight – no, I guarantee that if I were to go down to the river now I could easily count 10 racing shells of varying configuration training hard within 500 yards in either direction from where I stood on the bank – from sunrise to sunset and occasional into the night, the passion of the rowers for their sport knows no bounds!

I was given a book recently, Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald about a group of people who lived on river boats further down the river on Battersea Reach (as it was rather than as it is now). 

A rather curious little story, but it does capture the allure of the river and the fascination that it holds for so many people… including me!

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One Response to River people

  1. Pingback: A few of my favourite things | Dead clever

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