Monday, August 01, 2005

Newmarket & Cambridge

Paul took Bondi & I to visit some local stables where a friend of his, Barrett, tutored riders and bred a wide range of parrots, macaws etc. While Paul was mucking out some stalls ahead of riding, I helped Barrett with his feeding rounds. There must have been well over a hundred birds there, including many breeding pairs and downy-winged chicks. Not many of these raucous creatures "spoke" : a couple simply muttered Hello incessantly and one - previously a household pet - sounded like it was repeating a TV or radio program it had heard from the next room.

Out near the stalls, Eric the parrot chirped "Hello Eric" to every passerby: human or horse. Bondi was terribly excited by the range of smells at the stables, both fascinated and intimidated by the horses, and all together unimpressed by the birds' screeching. Barrett had a riding student Anne (with hubbie Mike on video camera) to take through some jumps, so we followed them out to the training fields for a while.

After that we decamped to a nearby pub for lunch. Anne quizzed me endlessly about my travels, and came to the conclusion that I knew too much about England for a mere colonial, and must be a spy.

Later in the afternoon, Paul suggested we return to Cambridge for a punt on the river. Luckily the tourist crowds had dissipated by 7pm so there wasn't a free-for-all of inebriated boaters to contend with. Paul took us upstream past the "college backs" , that is the spectacular river-frontages of the university colleges. Bondi took it all in his stride, and genuinely seemed to enjoy skimming along, although he may be the only punt-passenger ever who has had a tongue long enough to drink from the river on the journey.

At the edge of town, Paul passed the pole to me for the return journey. I had a brief moment of uncertain balance when I stood at the rear of the boat but quickly got the hang of it and managed to get us back fairly quickly. I subsequently noted that I did have my technique a bit wrong, as I had adopted the stance of a left-hander.

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