Aunty’s hat

I have been continuing to write as part of the National Novel Writing Month, but so slowly… apparently I should finish by the middle of March 2017… which isn’t the aim at all – 30th November 2016 is the date to aim for! I am writing a lot of other things too, so maybe that is the problem… well, I know it’s the problem!

My NaNoWriMo work this year is sort of autobiographical, sort of family history, plus other things. It’s entitled ‘And the river…’ because rivers have always seemed to feature in my life, the Cam, the Axe, the Mersey, the Medlock and Irwell,and water has always been important as a swimmer, canoeist and someone who loves the sea.

I was writing yesterday about an adventure my sister had when she was sixteen; she and her friend and aunty’s hat went swimming! I refer to her as ‘the younger child’ but she wasn’t really a child at the time of the story!

The younger child acquired a hat from someone’s aunt, and it was always known as ‘aunty’s hat’ among her and her friends. The family had moved away from the river, to the west, to a seaside town, a seaside which was along the coast from mighty rivers, carrying sediment and mud, deposited on the beach, as well as the clay already there. Once when the level of the sea was different, it had been marshes between what was now the beach and far away to the distant cliffs; people had wandered across and about, hunting, gathering, leaving footprints forever on the muddy shore.

The younger child and her friend, went back to her home town, and to the river. After a jolly evening out with friends,  she and her friend, wearing Aunty’s hat of course, they went to the river; they didn’t go to the river near the lock where her father in distant times caught the mighty pike on the morning of his leaving for war, nor the place where the Swim Through finished, no, this was upstream, beyond Darwin College Bridge, beyond the mill, and to Coe Fen, opposite Sheep’s Green. There, late at night, after the pubs and clubs had shut, they decided to swim, the two girls, not the boy friends who were with them.

The boys, being gentlemen, turned away as the girls undressed; the girls took off their clothes, not at the time realising that as the cars drove along the road, Fen Causeway, their headlights illuminated them. They laughed a lot at this later.

Stripped, they ran barefoot across the grass and dived into the river… and it was only later they realised that after their swim they no longer had aunty’s hat. They had dived in, one of them wearing it, and the hat had floated away, and no doubt quietly drowned.

In many years gone by, before the children’s father and his friends swam and boated here, this area south of the city had been important and rich, with three watermills and cattle and sheep grazing. Animals still graze here, so close to the busy city, the suburbs and development growing around this little island of tranquillity; the word bucolic has been used to describe it, and indeed it is, and no doubt visitors and tourists are enchanted by this little rural retreat.  A college is nearby of course, in this university city, Peterhouse, the smallest and oldest established in 1284, and maybe the richest.

The millpond has another secret; somewhere in the mud of its depths is a gold watch; the children’s parents and mother’s sister and husband were in a punt, no doubt enjoying a pleasant and sunny afternoon. The uncle was punting, when, disaster! He fell in! Much laughter and merriment, and he climbed out, only to discover he had lost his grandfather’s gold watch. It’s now not known whether it was a pocket watch or a wrist watch, in the telling it was remembered as a pocket watch.

The uncle’s grandfather was born in 1844, so the watch may well have been eighty or so years old when it was lost, in the late 1940’s. The two men stripped to their underwear and dived, and dived, searching through the mud at the bottom, soft, silty mud, but the watch was never found.

This is only a very rough first draft, it will be much altered and edited at some point! I’ve written it in a very different style from my normal writing, but I see that as part of NaNo, to write differently! if you haven’t yet read any of my e-books, here is a link to them on Amazon:

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