Australia Tour 2013/14
Messing about on the Riverboat
The day after our Boxing Day session, we all set out to Mannum for our houseboat adventure, Mr Blade and myself nursing king-size hangovers. When we boarded the boat, fifteen minutes tuition was given to us, and the houseboat company employee took great pains to explain that the driving rules on the river are much the same as on the road - especially, drive drunk and you will lose your driving licence.
Fortunately, Mr Blade and myself were not subjected to breathalyser checks before we sailed off into the outback.
Our boat was called 'Magic' and very well fitted out with three bedrooms, bathroom and toilet, and a large living room with TV and radio, which of course we quickly tuned to the the cricket at the MCG.
The first task was to find somewhere to moor for the night, and we soon discovered that houseboats seemed as popular as a white-van full of illegal immigrant squatters. Everywhere, we were confronted by signs saying 'Private' and 'Houseboat mooring prohibited'. Eventually, as dusk was approaching, we found a suitable spot between two overhanging trees , and Walt volunteered to jump out on the gangplank and tie us up, dodging the poisonous snakes and other nasties in the undergrowth.
Just as well he did volunteer, as it turned out Walt was the only person who had brought a pair of shoes.
A peaceful night in a beautiful spot was enjoyed by all. In the morning, to our horror, we found that the river water level had fallen - and our boat was stuck fast.
Thankfully, using the gangplank as a lever, we managed to eventually push off and up the river we went.
Christine discovered the hazards of hanging her towel out over the back rail of the boat, as when she went to retrieve this, she was bitten by a March fly, which inflicted grievous wounds on her finger. Cue screaming abdabs, quickly soothed by Anthisan cream.
An idyllic three hour sail up the river was followed first by a nightmare attempt at mooring by the 'Bowhill General Stores' jetty to get provisions. The wind had picked up to gale force, and it took four or five tries to tie up in the correct position. Without Walt's experience from his teenage holidays on the Norfolk Broads, we would have been in strife. As it was eventually we managed to secure the boat, although the jetty will have two or three bruises from Cap'n Blades steering. Who would have suspected that an 8 ton houseboat could be so heavy?
I have always remembered Bedloe's Store from the film ' How the West was Won' - over forties will remember this western, filmed using three directors, a stellar cast, and a three-way split screen in 'CinemaScope'. In this film, James Stewart was invited into the store from his canoe to 'see the varmint' and was then the subject of an attempted murder. The Bowhill Store staff were much friendlier, but the layout of the store left a lot to be desired, situated as it was in two shipping containers in a dusty car park. Bedloe's probably won out on location, being situated in a cave.
When we came to seek a mooring spot for the night, the wind had increased still further in ferocity, and some campers on the opposite bank probably had the best laugh of their Christmas holidays watching us all frantically tugging on ropes to try and secure the boat as the wind rocked us about, like a drunken tug of war team. After about half an hour we cracked it. And I suspect we also cracked the boat, judging by the large dint now apparent in the front rail.
On the bank next to where we were parked up sat a mysterious tent, without occupants, and there was much conjecture during the day about the whereabouts and fate of the camper(s). Maybe John Jarrett was in the vicinity?
The afternoon and evening was spent relaxing with beer and wine and I made the cardinal error of sitting outside without a hat on - due to the wind. Later that night my persona had been transformed into The Red Skull, and it took several applications of Christine's aloe vera lotion to negate the savage burning sensation.
Mrs Blade and Christine cooked an eclectic meal for us that evening - the first time I have ever sampled fish fingers, sausage roll, sweetcorn, potato gems, raw carrot and salad - but sadly, such was the shopping variety offered by the Bowhill General Store.
Thomas tried all afternoon to catch us some fish to eat, without success.
Sharing a room with Thomas Blade invariably means an early wake-up call and as I rose on Sunday at 7am the wind seemed to have fallen. The usual flock of pelicans were cruising around the river and the occupant of the mysterious tent had still not returned.
We decided to have breakfast on the move today and Walt and myself were in charge of the barbecue, which was situated at the front of the boat on the outside. I wonder if any readers have tried to light a barbecue whilst sailing downriver with a following wind - not the simplest of operations. Another stop for provisions at Younghusband involving another fraught docking and tie up, this time up against a reed bed, with a group of incredulous local teenagers watching our antics with mirth.
Onward once more and now requiring a mooring for the night, we eventually managed to dock next to another, strangely deserted houseboat. Our landing this time required Walt and myself to stride down the full length of the steel boarding plank across that water to tie the ropes to three trees and clearly, given my own fearful attempts at this and lack of balance, I am not yet ready for a Niagara Falls crossing by tightrope.
Mr Blade and Thomas decided to utilise the fibreglass rowing boat for a brief round-trip of the immediate stretch of the river - 'round-trip' being the appropriate word, as neither is Mr Blade ready for his Cambridge Blue at rowing, at least until the race is run over a circular course. Steering must be easier with a wheel and engine.
We dropped the houseboat off on our final day 30 minutes early and had a drive to Murray Bridge, which as the name suggests is a small town in the outback where the first bridge over the mighty river was built in the 1890's. Since then, most of the male residents seem to have thought it fashionable to look like a member of Z Z Top.
One of the best things about our river trip has been the lack of TV reception and very limited radio reception, meaning that by and large we have not had to watch or listen to the commentary from the MCG. More utter garbage from England, how is it possible to justify the selection of Panesar when Root is preferred as the first spinner.
Unfortunately, on our last day we sailed into Facebook receptive waters, and sure enough, there was Herbie, twittering away like Hannibal Lecter with more useful commentary :
"English cricket is sponsored by Lassie, purveyors of fine English dogsh*t to the Queen."
Herbie also advises me not to waste my money travelling to Sydney.
Unfortunately, my money is already spent mate. For once I wish I could follow your advice.
Since our return to civilisation, Lofty has also been in touch to confirm that Melbourne was the absolute pits, and by far the worst display of a tour that has been rotten to the core.
Nobody minds losing per se, but the manner of the defeats has been a shambolic disgrace, and my main complaint is that we have other talented young English players dying for a chance but the current set up seems to be ignoring them.
I feel genuinely sorry for Lofty, Margaret, Higgy, Nigel, Helen, Spud, The Baron, and any other Addis members I may have missed in having to watch yet another instalment of this f*cking dross at the MCG.
I will be in Sydney for more suffering, but hopefully after an excellent New Year celebration to say farewell to Adelaide, The Blades, Walt and Christine in style.
Happy New Year to all readers.
Except any that might be involved with the running of the England cricket team.