Original playout date: 23 February 2008
Here is a mainly gallery piece following my recent walk from home to Kings Langley along the towpath of the historic Grand Union Canal, which has linked London and Birmingham since the days of the Industrial Revolution.
New developments seen on most of this, such as the Apsley marina, are all new and in my youth much of this part of the canal was derelict. Not everything in the UK has gone downhill – most of what I’ve photographed in this film is actually evidence of renewal and improvement, and we see how the prestigious canalside homes in some less known Hertfordshire places like Belswains Lane have lifestyles akin to such places as Grantchester or Henley, with prices to match, no doubt.
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(My entry for the March 2008 My Telegraph Creative Writing Competition)
A certain uncertainty once crept into my head,
Because of what Patrycja said when we were both in bed.
She woke up in the night and placed a hand upon her womb,
Then gently sighed “Oh, Ronnie!” and got up and left the room.
She came back some time later and went back to sleep again,
But, the words she’d spoken, they remained inside my brain.
I could not sleep for worrying what this thing could portend;
“Who is this Ronnie?” was my thought “has Pat found some new friend?”
I never guessed that my dear wife and of our kids the mother
Could want to turn her back on me and go and love another.
I got so worried over it I could not go to sleep.
Well, maybe I got half an hour, but that not very deep.
At breakfast I was calm, as in “the calm before the storm”.
I went to my form-filling job, but I was not on form.
The other workers in the bank, they noticed something wrong,
And one of them, to cheer me up, sang out a merry song.
But this impromptu singing only made me more morose,
For was one of “our songs” that the silly banker chose!
And thus it only caused the queue of customers to lengthen,
While my certain uncertainty it only served to strengthen.
“Who is this Ronnie? Who is he?” to know was now my mission:
I had to know if I was right or wrong in my suspicion.
In all my life I’d never known uncertainty before:
It wasn’t something I’d developed mechanisms for.
And so it was, that sitting there, a-counting clients’ money
That I worked out a cunning plan, a trap to catch my honey:
I’d catch her “in flagrante” with this Ronnie character.
All in love and war and marriage you could say is fair.
So I told Patrycja’s voicemail that I’d spend the night away;
I was going to Milwaukee, is what she heard me say.
I’d never lied to her, for lies and tricks are not my scenes,
And so to keep it true I went and walked to Milton Keynes.
Now, walking up the towpath to Milton Keynes from Tring
By the Grand Union Canal is not a lightsome thing.
So by the time I dragged myself inside of Bletchley Station
My legs were tired, my feet were sore, my back and head were aching.
I went to Tring by train then took a taxi to Ivinghoe
And tiptoed into our dear home via the French window.
But she was sitting there alone, no Ronnie was in sight
“Hello, dear.” were her greeting words, “Vot happen to your flight?”
Now, I had practiced what to say, but all was now forgot
And so I stood there looking dumb and all I said was “What?”
“I fought you vere in States?” she said, in her broad Polish accent.
Well, I was in a state, all right, but not the one that Pat meant.
So I just blurted out “Who’s Ronnie?” and broke down in tears,
Explaining all the reasoning behind my doubts and fears.
But she just laughed her Slavic laugh, she thought it all so funny
“I never said ‘Oh Ronnie’, dear, vot I said vos ‘o rany!’!”
I scanned the bookshelves and took out a volume of my wife’s
And turned to ‘R’ and found the entry there, as large as life:
For “rany!”, terms like “golly!”, “gosh!” and “goodness!” were translations:
All mild expressions of surprise or sudden exclamations.
“But why, then, did you wake at night with your hand on your womb
Then leave our bed and spend some time alone in the bathroom?
What reason for this sudden act, which left me broken-hearted?”
“I voke up in a mess, because my ‘okres’ had just started!”
“I did not fink it vos to happen for anozzer day,
And so I got zis bad surprise, and had to do zat vay.”
“I see it all now, sorry, dear.” I said with great relief
“Zis time I vill forgiff. Next time you doubt, I kick you teef.”
The images of my dear wife with Corbett, Biggs or Barker
Were thus dispersed, and nowadays, they are but cause for laughter
And so it just remains for me to draw the moral warning –
What you can deal with in the night, don’t put it off till morning!
I quite liked this but I don’t think it was one of the times I got into the top six.
It isn’t autobiographical, the narrator and all the characters in it are just fictitious.
- Grandmother killed after being knocked into canal by falling tree (telegraph.co.uk)
- Doggie Pit Stop workshops offer toilet training for pets (money.marksandspencer.com)
- Teenagers’ art for charity was accidentally washed away by council workers…who thought it was just graffiti (dailymail.co.uk)