So here we are, sitting in the warm sunshine at a (slightly sloping) wooden picnic table looking out over the Chichester Canal Basin. Just at this precise moment, I can't think of anywhere I would rather be.
We are awaiting our time to board our canal boat, ready for a two hour trip along the Canal. I will be like Ratty, or Moley, messing about in a boat on the river. Except that it's a canal, not a river but, really, what's the difference?
No, please don't tell me, that's what my Latin teacher, the esteemed Miss Delahay, used to call a rhetorical question.
A goodly number of my fellow Questers are under the misapprehension that our trip starts at 2 p.m. They are already queuing up at the boarding gangway and it's only a quarter to two. This queue formation gets Mr B on edge. He always
likes to be first in any queue and it seems that around twenty-five people have stolen a march on him. I am blissfully unconcerned as I consulted The Oracle (aka the trip organiser) on arrival to confirm our time of departure as 2.30 p.m. This means, I assure
an unconvinced Mr B, that we have plenty of time to enjoy the coffee I have bought us which has come in the most simply enormous bright yellow cups. I do love the sheer Generosity of Spirit this demonstrates. Mr B says that, bearing in mind there was no change
out of the fiver he dug out of his back pocket, coffee for the purchase of, the Spirit wasn't all that Generous.
I point out that, even as we are discussing coffee and generosity so animatedly, The Oracle is heading over to disperse the queue and encourage everyone to take a seat somewhere so that they can wait in comfort. I can hear the muttering
from where I am sitting. Mr B is somewhat mollified.
Our friends Penny and David join us at our table. Penny has picked up a leaflet entitled "Wildlife Discovery Tour" containing information "for all ages" to help us discover the wealth of wildlife to be found along the canal. This
is right up my street, I say and announce my intention to pay a visit to the Visitor Centre (where else?) to grab a leaflet for myself. Mr B tells me not to be too long about it. I can tell he is worrying that I might find myself waylaid by the wonders, as
yet undiscovered, of the Visitor Centre, so that when the boarding queue forms in earnest in, say, 35 minutes time, I will be nowhere to be seen.
I am back in five minutes flat, clutching my leaflet. There are, I find, two different trails set out within - one for adults, one for children. This, presumably, is what is meant by the phrase "for all ages" on the front. Penny
and I study our respective leaflets and, without any discussion, come to the same conclusion. There are no fewer than 67 birds, insects, mammals, plants and trees to look out for, and tick off, on the adults' trail. Bearing in mind that we will need to pay
due attention to the Cream Tea which is to be served during our Trip of Discovery, we are not convinced of our likely success. Now the children's trail is a different matter altogether. All we have to spot are (i) a swan: (ii) a duck; (iii) a yellow flower;
(iv) a pink flower; (v) a butterfly; (vi) a dragonfly; (vii) a bird flying; and (viii) a feather. It looks like we will be going Back to our Childhood. This doesn't mean we might not be able to tick off, on the adult list, the odd purple loosestrife or tufted
vetch, always supposing we can work out what they are. At least we know what colour they will be. We must be Thankful for Small Mercies, we agree, as we board our vessel and settle ourselves at one of the several tables, decorated, patriotically, in red, white
Such a beautiful trip it proves to be! My highlights are the terns sweeping first low, then high, parading their fishy catch for us mere mortals to admire; the yellow water lilies humbly bending their heads as our boat passes by;
and the heron which follows us for a short but memorable distance: "Look at me! Look at me!" I try, and fail, to take photographs on my mobile phone. There is only one thing for it, I shall just have to hold the memory in my head, where it will jostle for
space with all the other Magic Moments therein. Oh, yes, and talking of magic moments, here comes a young guy punting along on a paddle board, with a small dog sitting between his feet. For some reason this sight isn't listed on either the adults or the children's
At Hunston, on the return journey, we stop so that we can enjoy a view of Chichester Cathedral, as immortalised by the famed artist Turner. Except that Turner, according to our guide, cheated a bit because the sun wasn't in the
right position for the masterpiece he wanted to paint. It's called artistic licence, you know. I make use of it, just occasionally, when writing the Daily Blog...
Two hours later and we are making our stately progress back into the Canal Basin. I consult Penny who, like me, has ticked off every item on the kiddies' trail - except the swan. Surely we could not be defeated at this late stage?
But, yet, hallelujah! A solitary swan at the very edge of the Basin. We both heave a sigh of relief as we each place a large, definite tick in the box marked "Swan."
It would have been awful if, like Turner, we had had to cheat...