Colourful Memories by Julie Smith


Digital Story Transcript

My parents used to own a boat. Don’t be too impressed, it wasn’t a yacht or anything. It was a two-berth cabin cruiser with a temperamental outboard motor. Apart from one holiday to the Lake District, we kept it on a local canal. Which meant that every weekend we had a choice: to go left or to go right from the mooring. That’s if we managed to set off at all.

But we didn’t actually need to go anywhere to have adventures. I remember one time when we were attacked by a horse. I say “we”, in truth my brother, sister and I were safely ensconced on the boat. My mother flew into the car and locked all the doors. I’m still not sure why, I mean how she thought the horse would be able to open the doors is a mystery. The only real result was my dad being abandoned to fend off this mad black horse by himself.

Actually, my dad hasn’t had a lot of luck with animals. One night at home he was minding his own business and went out to close the gate, when a ferret ambushed him and bit him on the ankle.

Of course even if we set off, it wouldn’t necessarily mean we would get back easily.  My grandpa, an old collier who also looked after the pit ponies, came with us and ended up having to tow the boat with a rope over his shoulder. I remember him mumbling something about “I thought I left all of this behind when I left the mine. Come for a nice trip on the canal he said, bloody barge horse is what he wanted.”

The boat might have been small and we certainly never slept on it, but we did manage to get ten of us on there on one trip.  I might sound a bit dismissive about our old boat. The truth is, while many of my childhood memories have faded to black and white, everything about that boat is in vivid, glorious colour. From the flash of kingfisher blue to the glimpse of red squirrel, the velvet brown of the still water to the lovingly hand-painted nameplate my dad made. And the blue, blue sky. Because of course it never rained when we were kids.

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