I love all kinds of boats, always have, and I’m very happy aboard any kind of craft.
When I lived near Mildura as a schoolgirl, I first saw paddleboats in the flesh so to speak, and they took my fancy in a big way; but it wasn’t until years and years later when I was grown up and married and living in Melbourne that I finally got to go on one.
We made friends with some people Mum knew, when we were visiting Tassie, and they had the idea. The ‘we’ I speak of was Bill and me, husband number 2, to whom I was married for 27 years. He was a boatman, an abalone diver with his own boat, and had a skipper’s licence, so he insisted he had to drive the thing, that he was reqired by law to do so. There were seven of us on board, Mum and Bill and me, and two other couples. There were a few ructions about Bill wanting to be skipper all the time; the other blokes didn’t see it his way. Mum soothed him down so he let the others have a bit of a go. But he kept muttering that he’d be to blame if we ran into trouble. We didn’t of course.
It was interesting to me to see Sunraysia as a visitor — that place where I spent two years of misery finishing school and suffering a stepmother from hell. At the time of our paddle boat jaunt my dad was in an old folks’ home, suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We took Mum with us to see him. They had managed to be friends after their divorce, but my stepmother was fiercely jealous of Mum. So the visit was a sneak expedition. It was sad for her to see him like that, but sweet for him to get a visit from his true love. I’m glad we did it. Also we met friends of friends up there, including a woman who reminisced about my stepmother, who had been her hated schoolteacher. That pleased me very much.
I liked the pelicans along the river, and I liked lazing on the top deck and writing poems.