Nautical Themes and Poor measuring
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, the Book Peddler had decided that the only way to woo sweet Mary was to buy a boat. Now when he told me that I thought he had gone bonkers but he said that he could see himself and Mary out on the water, drinking a very dry Martini and him feeding her olives stuffed with pimentos ( having checked she doesn’t have any allergies first, of course!) Now in my eyes Mary is definitely an olive and Cocktail kinda girl but I cant see her enjoying this sort of thing on a boat five miles out of Brighton Marina with a bit of a swell and a blustery wind. The Book Peddler obviously had a good think about that because later that evening he text to say he wasn’t going to buy a Rib boat, however keen the price, but instead was going to “ push the boat out” if you’ll excuse the Pun and buy the equivalent of an Italian Launch – a rather beautiful Riva Aquarama which, he declared rather loftily, would seem very much at home racing across Lake Como or indeed motoring up the Venetian Canals.
Its always about the entrance… make it bold
He said this was much more fitting for Mary and he was going to find a very long Hermes Scarf and invite her to wrap it seductively around her head and neck “a la Grace Kelly style”
So much on a roll was he with this, that he said he had ordered the boat and it was coming that week. He didn’t have anywhere to store ( shouldn’t that be moor?) it and hence was going to knock down part of his front garden wall and the one hundred year old privet hedge and park it there until he could get a space along the River Arun, preferably within easy reach of the Black Rabbit Pub. He said he would enjoy cutting a swathe with Mary on the river and then parking up ( FFS its Mooring up – how many more times) at the Black Rabbit and having lunch there or even shooting down to Littlehampton and having a picnic at the end of the Jetty. Seducing her on dry white wine and smoked salmon.
I didn’t hear a lot from him that week but finally he sent me some pictures of the allocated space for said Italian “Riva Aquarama“. He had removed the beautiful flint wall and it lay in a huge pile of rubble right in front of his door, which meant that you had to climb the rubble pile; perch precariously at its peak, (which isn’t easy in a pair of Jimmy Choos I can tell you) just to insert the key in the lock. The hedge, once so beautifully manicured that Vita Sackville West would have been impressed ( and we all know how difficult it is to impress her) now lay in three untidy piles strewn across the pavement, waiting to be mulched down and ensuring every passerby had to walk in the road to avoid it.
A damm fine Sommelier is required
I could see this wasn’t going to end very well but he invited me ( and Mary ) over to see the arrival of said Italian Launch later that day. He said he had been down to Mr Kibble ( wine merchant extraordinaire in Fontwell) and asked him to bring up from his cellar (well really it’s the garden shed, but who’s telling) some very fine Cava or Asti or in fact anything Italian to mark the event.
He had decided to hold off on the champagne until the official Boat Naming . There were certainly one or two names which came to mind but my position in his life is certainly too lowly to be involved in the Boat Naming. The arrival of the “ launch” was going to be about 3pm that afternoon so the BP suggested I might like to drop by and give it the once over. Also, he said, if I was so minded I could invite Mary and it would be a lovely surprise for her whilst them getting to know each other in an informal setting ( again, his words not mind) I don’t know where he thinks this informal setting is now because his rather idyllic and private garden is now open to the traffic and sitting there having a quiet cup of tea is now akin to have a Costa coffee at the front of the Cobham Service Station
I’ll take anything nautical, that’s expensive.
Anyway I digress and as he opinioned last week “cant I try to be more positive about stuff?” So I sigh and arrange to pick Mary up. Mary is waiting outside for me when I get there. Mary is another woman who likes to get into character but whereas I only use what’s in the Fun Cupboard and keep it to strictly “after lights out”, Mary goes the whole f****n hog and wears pantomime clothing most of the day depending on said social occasion. As she got into the car she looked at me and said “don’t say a word!” and to be honest, it was words I was struggling to form. She had donned a pair of white bell bottom trousers, alarmingly short to display her quite chunky ankles with a matching white jacket with gold braid on it. Now looking at the label I could see it was a Ralph Lauren/Polo one but still it didn’t do her any favours. At this point you are going to say I bet she was wearing a nautical themed hat but I am going to beg to differ and say that she had obviously been speaking to the BP because she turned up with her hair tied up in a scarf and wrapped around her neck, very Audrey Hepburn but also very Italian Launch. She demanded the roof down on my car which wasn’t great as my hair was still damp and by the time we got to Walburton she still looked chic and dandy and my hair looked as if it had been dried with the help of an electric currant. Now although the Pilot used to say that he loved my hair looking shaggy and bed tousled, I think even He would struggle to make this look, as I drew up, anything enticing or provocative at all. Anyway, as LM often says “its not all about you“ and so I shut up and fade into the background.
We get to the location and await the arrival of said Launch. We have been given a thirty minute arrival slot so not long to wait. To be honest I feel slightly conspicuous. There I am in a floaty summer dress ( very last year and ordinary) ; Mary in the equivalent of her Belarus Naval Attache Outfit and the BK, oh heavens above, the Book Peddler waiting for us looking for all the world like Cary Grant or Humphry Bogarde. There he was with a pair of chinos, some old deck shoes (noted the slight nod to the nautical look) and a kerchief around his neck. To be fair I think it was just an extra large hankie as I noticed it had his initials embroidered on one corner but you have to give the bloke top marks for making an effort. ( Not sure about the clay pipe tucked in the breast pocket so lets leave it there but at least he didn’t have a cigarette holder and a carnation and be a poor man’s Terry Thomas)
Anyway we wait and we wait. Mary getting both impatient and excited begins taping her foot which for some reason makes me also agitated. Then suddenly from around the corner a transit van .
It’s always about the size…
“Cant be that “ said the BP “ you wouldn’t get a launch in that “ and he laughed “ unless it was a model one” and there Folks is the crux of the matter; the sting in the tail; the moral of the story!
On reflection the price of nineteen hundred pounds did, once you consider it, seem a very good bargain for an Italian Launch and at the time I was convinced it either leaked or there wasn’t a floor in it. Now the second possibility opened up to us like a gaping cavern
As the van stopped and the driver got out we were all struck motionless, although TBF I had my eye on the car and a quick getaway. And yes, from out of the back of the van and delivered in his hand by only one driver was the BP’s Italian Launch. Having purchased it in a flurry of hot love and stupidity he didn’t think to ask the dimensions and there it was in all its glory, a four foot, very nice, very stylish, Italian launch fit for the Boating Pond.
As it was placed ceremoniously (Fuck knows what the driver thought seeing those two in nautical attire) by their feet I had to look elsewhere. Elsewhere was the debris caused that week in removing brick walls and ancient hedges just to have placed at their feet a model boat.
To give Mary her due, she said not a lot, but kept looking straight ahead. She whipped off her scarf (well after undoing the knot at the back and wrestling it from around her neck) and walked to the car “Home!” she ordered.
Hmmm, daresay that’s one more off the list for Hydra….