Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The perfect end to a punishing day

I have often thought that it would be great to be a waterborne commuter. To travel to and from work by boat on the Thames and tonight I did just that and so I have achieved a long held ambition. Since I don't work in the same location day after day this is going to be no more than an occasional jaunt but it really cheered me up and helped get the day into perspective.

I must admit that the experience wasn't up there with the opening sequence to A Man for all Seasons which begins with Sir Thomas More (who I'm afraid came to a sticky end) being rowed up the river Thames from Hampton Court to, I think, his house in Chelsea. It's very early in the morning, there are no sounds to be heard except the oars slopping in and out of the water and you just don't know if you can bear the tension for another 120 minutes.

However, I had been toiling away for a few days in Westminster which is also very close to the river and it is but a short walk from Cowley Street to the Embankment pier. Here I found to my delight that a Thames Clipper was due in a few minutes. This river service is part of the London Transport network and you wait on a jetty that looks similar to an underground platform. I was queuing with some other work worn commuters and when our catamaran, the Hurricane, arrived we stepped onto a very modern vessel with airline style seating with little drop down tables in front and plenty of leg room. Up front there was a large television playing some adverts and at the back there was a bar.

I was going to stay on board until Canary Wharf and the voyage was due to take roughly 35 minutes. We passed landmarks that have been familiar to me ever since I moved to London and it was comforting to see them again from the vantage point of the river but all the time I could see 1 Canada Square (London's tallest building) up ahead which is where I would disembark.

As we navigated the stop at London Bridge there was a tall sailing ship called Gladys on our port side gliding gracefully by in the opposite direction. On our starboard side was the equally graceful Lady Daphne moored at a dock. Shortly afterwards we reached HMS Belfast, a small warship permanently berthed opposite the Tower of London. I recalled the last visit I'd made to the ship a few years ago with my husband and late father.

After we left the Tower behind us we picked up speed and raced past old warehouses that appeared to have been recently refurbished as expensive apartments and before I knew it we had arrived at Canary Wharf Pier where I took my leave of the river and walked towards the bus stop and headed home.