What a Clever Coot!

Since I last wrote about the coot who nested on my boat the three remaining babies have all survived – thanks to the ingenuity of their parents. It seems the first two in the clutch of five either drowned or were eaten by pikes because they weren’t able to climb the nine inches or so from the water up to the bathing platform after they fell off the nest into the river.
So how did the coots solve the problem and save the lives of the remaining three? By making a new nest - and in less than one day - this time by floating it on the water. They then coaxed the baby coots to jump down from the old nest into the river where they safely swam to the new one. Clever.

What a busy week it’s been. I only managed about 30 hours painting my riverside scene, but a lot of the time has been taken up socialising during the Henley Royal Regatta, which started on Wednesday.

On Monday I picked up Marsh Midget from Trevor Green, who had temporarily mended the leak. As I got into the boat at the boatyard to row it back home Trevor handed me the oars and the rowlocks. The metal rowlocks are made in two pieces. Unfortunately one of them came apart just as he was handing them to me and plopped straight into the river! Luckily I remembered that Ivan – another local boatman – was nearby and possessed a big magnet, and luckily also the rowlock was not made of brass. It took about half-an-hour but I finally retrieved it from the murky depths of the reed-covered river.

Wednesday evening heralded Rolf Harris’s 65th years in art. Jilly Adam and I had been invited to the private view of the show at the brand new, and beautifully appointed, Clarendon Fine Art Gallery in London. As I’d seen most of the paintings in their early stages as Rolf painted them, it was good to see them all framed and looking their best under the exquisite lighting.

I seemed to know a lot of the people there- among them were Zelia and Fergus, who’d driven up from Devon,

During the evening Fergus told me that he’d read my last blog about my hatred of wire coat hangers, and wanted to give me a present. Wrapped carefully with strands of trailing ivy adorning it, this is the coat hanger lovingly made by this very talented couple. I’ve found a home for it on the back of my bedroom door, and as it is so special, now I have to decide what to hang there.

And so to the Regatta. On Thursday eight of us enjoyed a sumptuous meal in the dining room of Phyllis Court. Lots of fun was had by all. And the girls looked glamorous in their flowing finery and big hats.

I’d reserved eight deckchairs asnear to the finish line as possible, so we had a great view of the racing and the ever changing scene in front of us as a myriad of river craft slowly paraded past us. From large paddle steamers, ‘gin palaces’, and cabin cruisers to punts, dinghies and slipper launches, there even was one boat full of about six Elvis Presley’s. (I wondered where he’d got to.)

There’s a tradition in Henley that the Saturday night of the regatta ends with a firework display. We decided to watch them this year from the river. So, after a lovely meal at the Curry Leaf Restaurant in Wargrave, Paul, Debbie, my sister-in-law Val. and a young friend settled down in my big boat to cruise into the sunset. Earlier in the day we’d bedecked the cruiser with flags of the nations and looked pretty colourful as we slowly made our way downstream. The Berkshire bank was full of revellers – nearly a mile long – all the way to Temple island at the starting gates of the racing. We eventually moored up next to a boat on the booms in the middle of the river and happily enjoyed Pimms, fruit and coffee. Here’s Paul being ‘King of the World’ on the prow of the boat

Then as darkness approached the fireworks started. They were the best ever, and lasted for nearly half-an-hour. (I’ll put a little video of a few minutes of the display at the end of this blog.) Going back home in the dark is a bit frightening – only because so many boats of every size and description are weaving about on the river, many of them without lights. I enjoy nighttimes on my boat and, apart from a couple of close encounters, managed to avoid crashing into anything. Back at the mooring, my little solar light guided us in safely – in fact it was about the most successful mooring I’ve ever made.

Still more regatta yesterday. I’d been invited to lunch with Herchel and Terry Jordan at their home in Wooburn Green. Eleven of us sat down to a great lunch made by Herchel. Terry, one of the best joke-tellers I know, kept us all laughing, then at about two in the afternoon we made our way to Phyllis Court once again. Here’s a couple of pictures - one showing Herchel, her grand-daughter Annabel, and daughter Charlie. The other is of my god-daughter Emma and her mother Felicty.

Now it’s back to work to make up for a lazy, hazy week full of sunshine, good company, nice meals, and meeting up with countless old friends.