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Henley

22 August 2005

I just spent the weekend in Henley-on-Thames, being the brideís best man at what was undoubtedly the Wedding of the Year, my old friend Helen getting hitched to the man she found on an eclipse-chase in Madagascar. Just the best fun all round.

Two days before, I thought I wasnít going; Misha was being sick again (in a very literal, all-night-long sort of way), and the vet was talking about hospitalisation and drips again, and I couldnít go swanning off under those conditions. But bless her, she rallied at just the right time (a cat with generosity? Itís unnatural...), stopped vomiting and started eating, and so was fit to be left for a couple of days.

Hence train down on Friday, book in to Polish-Catholic religious retreat centre - shortly to be filled with extraordinary catalogue of Helenís friends-and-relations - and begin party. Party continues through Sunday lunchtime, and almost certainly beyond, if it is possible to party when I am not actually there (think trees, quads and God - solipsism has always come very easily to me, and when it comes in limerick form, all the better).

I had no duties, except to give a reading at the ceremony (in the garden of a hospice, this great gorgeous mansion which used to be Ian Flemingís family home); so I read Eclipse by John Mark Linden, on account of its being rather wonderfully relevant. Oh, and I had also to propose a toast to Helen & Mark, as they cut the cheese cake. Which was, as I have spelled it, a cake made entirely of cheeses - three of them, a Caerphilly and a Vignotte and I canít remember the third. And then I got drunk enough to dance and not remember, which is the best way to do these things, in order to avoid later embarrassment.

And was driven home Sunday afternoon by mífriend Joan, in her convertible yellow Mini with the top down all the way. Every now and then, the boy-racer that is buried somewhere within me stirs into a half-life once more; but is swiftly drowned again, usually by the thought of water. Going down to Henley does this to me, every time: I do so want a house on a river. Many of my friends have the same water-fixation thing, but their soul is given to the sea; I do understand that entirely, but with me itís rivers every time. I guess this is something to do with growing up in Oxford, which is about as far from the sea as you can get in England, but which has two rivers of its own (including the Thames, which is so much Oxfordís own river that it has another name, the Isis, within the city bounds) and a canal besides. Thereís even this stretch, this footpath known locally as Mesopotamia, on account of having different waters on both sides. Thatís my childhood, and it does still sing to me. And I would love, I would dearly love a boat. Splish-splosh.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.