The Swimmer

David Walliams, the actor and comedian, swam the length of the river Thames over the past week, from Lechlade to his final destination yesterday evening by the Houses of Parliament in London. I happened to be on the river last Friday so saw him when he got to Hambleden. His 140-mile swim raised over one million pounds for the Sport Relief charity. You’ve got to admire him after ploughing through effluent, gulping bacteria and battling disgruntled swans. Here he is at Henley (this picture taken by my young friend).

Purely by chance I happened to be on the river that day as Tony Hobbs, owner of the Umpire launch ‘Enchantress’ had invited Val, Mollie (just arrived from New Zealand) and me for a trip up to Marlow. The launch will celebrate its one-hundredth year in 2012 so Tony and his wife Jackie are planning a big celebration – probably on Temple Island in Henley. Here’s Tony at the helm.

After mooring by the towpath in Marlow we enjoyed a nice picnic, and I went to buy cakes in Burgers on the corner of the high street. Burgers is one of the last truly English cake-shops – they make fabulous strawberry tarts and a whole variety of meringues. I spotted this sign on a large Dutch barge moored near the bridge.

On the way back to Henley we kept a lookout for David Walliams and just as we reached Hambleden lock there he was climbing back into the river. I thought I’d got a good picture of him until Val pointed out that David was wearing a white cap. It was his support man in the red cap that I’d photographed.

And here is one of the yellow canoes that accompanied him all the way. The whole day was a real treat - Tony and Jackie being the perfect hosts.

On Saturday we picked up Val and made our way to the Henley Show. This year it was held at Greenlands Farm in Hambleden. I always enjoy this day as there is so much to see and do. Something for everyone. As I am a member of the Henley & District Agricultural Association I’d booked a ringside position for my car so we could watch all the events in ring one from a good vantage point.
 I think this lady is in love with ‘Thing’

This cow seems to be having a good time too,

And here’s a selection showing some of the sights at the show. We missed the sheep racing.

I haven’t skived off work lately but am still halfway through a large pencil drawing which is taking much longer than I expected it to.

Yesterday evening I called over to see Vince Hill. Vince is taking part in the Henley Literary Festival at the end of the month with his new autobiography ‘Another Hill to Climb’. As I will be introducing him at Le Parisienne in Henley on the 29th of this month I’d written a short 3-minute piece, which we went over before dinner.

I occasionally receive a letter, email or text quite out of the blue. Last week I read an old army pal’s account of the time we happened to spend together on the troopship ‘Dunera’ and subsequent trials in a transit camp. But just yesterday I received an email from Australia from someone I last saw when she was about three or four years old. I’ll reproduce it here because it’s so charming:

Hi, I don’t know if you remember me but I never forgot you.
My name is Michelle and many years ago – 40 or more – you went out with my mother Carolyn Chapman.
I hope I was a good child, but I have the feeling I was probably a pain in the ass.
Anyway I’ve been looking at your insanely good paintings, especially your silver goblet paintings young and old.
When I was about 3 or 4, I remember watching you do a portrait of my mother I know I was being an annoying shit.
I kept wanting attention but was also watching you scribble about on the sketchpad and slowly my mother’s face appearing on the piece of paper.
It shut me up and I watched in awe coz I didn’t know pencils could do that.
I still have that drawing and want to thank you for that experience it was a peak experience for me and ever since that day I pushed myself to do really good drawings.I grew up to work in animation for several years, sold some of my pictures. I work with dogs now, my other passion, and I love to draw them. I’m 47 years old, married no kids. Mum lives in far north Queensland with her husband jean Pierre. I live in Sydney.
Anyway I don’t expect a reply from you – just wanted to thank you for the inspiration and to tell you that you are such a great artist.
All my love

Isn’t that a lovely email? (especially the bit about 'didn't know pencils could do that') Of course I replied, and asked if she could send me a copy of my drawing as it would be great to se it after all these years. And yes I do remember Michelle – she was always attached to Carolyn’s hip.