Punting in Cambridge

We went to visit Emm’s new house in Cambridge, and spent the afternoon on the River Cam in a punt. I like Cambridge, it’s one of the few cities I think I could live in—perhaps because it has cows. I’m not sure why it has cows, I assume it’s a hangover from old laws about grazing rights on common land, but they are there, in the centre of the city, wandering over footpaths and pooping on the grass as they mingle with students and tourists.

cows in Cambridge
Cows in Cambridge

Emm suggested punting before we arrived, so I put a spare pair of trousers and knickers in my bag. I remember punting. When I was a teenager, we lived in Letchworth, and regularly went to Cambridge with our church youth group. We would hire a few punts (it was a big youth group) and set off. The person punting always fell in (sometimes they were pushed). We always had water fights with the other punts, so our boats were returned full of water and the owner refused to return the deposit.

There was one time when one of the car drivers was pushed into the river, and lost his glasses. I remember people diving under the murky water, searching the mud for the lost glasses, but they were never found. The driver was unable to drive home, so someone with a provisional licence had to drive his car for him. That must have been terrifying! Having taught my children to drive, I now realise how scary it would be to have someone else’s teenager drive my car for me.

Once, I remember there were foreign girls with us (my sister says they were from Norwich, which they may have been—I wasn’t very good at accents in those days) and they got completely soaked and were rather upset, so we took them to a launderette and told them to strip, then we tumble-dried their clothes while they sat huddled under someone’s coat. I have no idea what the other people in the launderette thought. In fact, as I reflect on these memories as an adult, I have no idea why the youth group leaders were so willing to take us punting every year—it must have been a nightmare for them!

Anyway, last weekend we arrived at the punt hire place, and I was fully prepared with dry clothes, just in case. They were well prepared, with people wiping the boats and poles with disinfectant between each hire, spaced queueing, no cash payments. Such a lot of fuss Covid has created, but business has adapted.

Emm decided that Jay would punt, even though he was the only person who had never previously been on a punt before. He listened attentively to the very brief instructions, and we set off with him muttering that the physics didn’t work, and the extremely narrow pole was not going to be sufficient. But it was, and he actually did very well.

Punting is a skill (which I don’t have). In case you have never visited Cambridge (put it on your list for when Covid ends) I will explain. A ‘punt’ is a very shallow boat, which seats about 8 people in a sort of lounging position—good for beautiful blonde girls who want to trail their fingers in the water while sipping champagne. The person punting stands on the back, on a slippery-looking platform, and pushes a long thin pole into the mud below, then pushes forwards, hence propelling the boat. If the pole is placed on the left, the punt turns left; when placed on the right, the punt turns right. It turns quite sharply, and we passed several boats that were basically just turning in circles on the river. Sometimes the pole gets stuck in the mud, and tugging it out unbalances the punter. It’s easy to fall in, and you really do not want to fall in to the Cam—it’s not the cleanest river in the world.

The exercise is made more exciting by the bridges across the river. Some of these are quite low, and require the punter (not sure if that’s the correct term) to push hard before crouching in the boat to avoid being decapitated by the bridge. When you are a mother and your son is punting, this makes the activity less relaxing than when you are a carefree teenager.

Emm and Aitch also took turns punting, and no one fell in, and no one was decapitated, which was a good result. We had bought some of those little cans of cocktails from Tesco, so we stopped next to a quiet bank, and drank cocktails, and watched the branches trailing in the river and the ducks swimming past, and it was all rather lovely. Then we made out way back, under the low bridges, past the Chinese tourists who were still turning in circles, and returned our punt to the people waiting to disinfect it ready for the next party.

I hope you have a fun day today.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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The Sarcastic Mother's Holiday Diary
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An Escape Room in Cambridge

For Husband’s birthday, I gave him a voucher for an ‘Escape Room’—you know, those places where you go to be locked into a room, and then you solve various puzzles until you manage to escape (or you fail miserably and they throw you out because your allocated time has finished). I thought it would be fun if we did one as a family.

Of course, the most difficult part was finding a date when all the family could actually meet, but once that was achieved we were fine. Last Saturday we set off for Cambridge. The second most difficult part was trying to find a parking space in Cambridge, but we even managed that eventually.

We started with lunch in an Italian. I know my family have a tendency to ‘debate’ so I envisioned an afternoon listening to them ‘discuss’ the solution to the puzzle. I therefore decided to drink wine for lunch (I did have some lasagne too, but the wine was the bit that mattered.) After lunch there was a further challenge as we attempted to keep Husband with us while we tried to find where to go (he has a tendency to stride ahead, unaware that the rest of the group is unable to cross the road).

I began to relax once we actually arrived at the Escape Room, feeling that the most difficult challenges were over.

The room was not at all what I was expecting. For some reason, I expected a room, set up like a lounge, with sofas (where I could snooze off the wine) and a table of puzzles for my family to argue over. However, we were met at the entrance by an actor who explained the world was about to be hit by a comet, and then shown into a small room which resembled a cupboard, with a locker (locked) and a desk with a computer, and several posters on the walls. We then attempted to save the world.

In case you’ve never done one of these rooms, you’re not actually locked inside (so you can leave to use the loo or if your family becomes too argumentative). There were also several different aspects to the challenge, so people could try to solve one part, without having to collaborate too much with the rest of the group, and there was no necessity to persuade the rest of the group that you knew the solution, you could simply get on with your own bit—which worked rather well for my family. The puzzles were pretty perfect for us—there were some tricky ones, which it took several people to solve, but it was lots of fun. There was, surprisingly, no heated debate at all, and the whole thing was really good fun.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we did manage to save the world…

We visited the LockHouse Games escape room: link here

Thanks for reading, I hope your week has some fun times too. Next week I’ll tell you about my evening listening to random choirs in the shadow of zombies.
Take care,
Love, Anne x

While we were there, I was able to give the family copies of my latest book: Ploughing Through Rainbows. I wanted to write a happy book, so decided to write about a family on a farm, and as I wanted it to be a funny book, I gave the farmer four sons. However, there are also some gritty issues in the book, as it also shows how the mother, Susan, copes when one of her sons tells her that he is gay. Susan is a Christian, and the book shows her journey as she explores what parenting involves when faced with this news.

Please buy a copy, and tell someone else about it. It’s available from an Amazon near you, as both a Kindle book and a paperback. Links below. Thank you x.

paperback link

kindle link

India link

US link