Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 9 October 2007

Dear Colin, me YAK?! I've never yakked in my life - talked the hind legs off a donkey, now that's different.

And dear Janey B, if it ain't the foxes running amok it's the geese that are giving you goose flesh. What swine they are, okay, what web-footed migratory birds they are. Have you thought of abandoning the rural idyll and setting up home in the grimy smoke stacks of Attercliff? No? I thought not.

I'm sleepy and it's only 15.00 hours. The rain is teeming down, the heating is on, my Thai lunch is lying heavily on my conscience, not to mention my waistband, and Jim has just left for the country.

His term of duty at the Globe is at an end, I complete Food Poker tomorrow, and with the trust that all free-lance performers have in the God of Luvviedom, I await whatever the Universe sends to me.

I'm sleepy because the clouds have dampened all sound, I can't hear the sirens, seagulls or scooters so after the curtain man has been, which he's threatened to do since January, I am going to put my feet up, finish my book, and maybe catch a few zzzz's.

Back in September,after his wife heard me waxing lyrical about Old Father Thames, PC112 from The Marine Support Unit, or riverboat police to you and me, offered me a trip up the river. Unbeknownst to PC112 Jim had recently seen a police boat speedily skimming the surface of the water sending spray flying and expressed a life long desire to have a go on one.

Well this morning the genie of the Metropolitan Police, motto, 'Primus Omnium', ( I can't find a literal translation so if anybody knows what it means can you let me know?) fulfilled his promise to grant my husband's wish.

We left the flat, big heavy raindrops falling on our anorak hoods, and took the 20 minute walk to Cadogan Pier. By then the rain was teeming down but it seriously didn't matter. PC112, PC11 and WPC29 were waiting for us by the waters edge. PC112 came up to meet us. We carefully picked our way over ropes, down a slippery wooden ramp and stepped onto their little launch. A cameraman from the BBC also joined us. The River Police are being filmed, night and day, till January for a new reality series, we weren't asked to be in the shot.

Having been escorted into the wheel house-cum-sitting room 6 of us stayed inside the steamy little ship out of the lashing rain.

WPC 29 drove the boat - and yes it is called driving - away from its mooring and we pootled down river towards Tower Bridge. gently bumping over the water. PC112 & PC11 told us about the tide, the moon, the 'stiffs', the suicides, the arrests and their 12 hour shifts, 7am-7pm being one of them. The tide takes about 6hrs 20minutes to come in and the same to go out. The water level rises and falls and, as we all know, when the moon is full, apart from the many lunatic happenings in my house, the spring tides occur. A critical time when they have to watch out for tumbling folk from bridges, especially Waterloo which is nicknamed 'The Suicide' Bridge. I did know, however, Waterloo was also called the 'Ladies Bridge' because 'twas the women who completed the building back in the Second World War, whilst all the young men, apart from my father who got himself a leave of absence by feigning insanity, were fighting for King and Country. The women were left behind to 'Dig for Victory', keep the home fires burning, join the Land Army, become Lumberjills or build bridges. Nothing new there then.

The Thames is long with a lot of traffic on it. We only went from Chelsea down to the Millenium Dome and back again. We passed barges and taxis, clippers and Helen Mirren's riverside residence, The Globe and Christopher Wren's house not to mention the liveliest stretch of River outside the MI5 and the Houses of Parliament. Our coppers are the eyes and ears, ever more vigilent since 9/11.

And then Jim was given the Cap'ns seat, for his birthday present. My old man drove that boat like a demon. It was lovely to watch him turn into Popeye.

I had a little go myself but lost control, I fully expected us to topple over in the briny, only to find that the Sarge himself had climbed up on deck, taken dual control of the steering and it was him, not me, that had us zig-zagging over the rolling swell. I just managed to keep my breakfast down, but don't tell them that.

The three coppers knew everything and everbody on that river. John Prescott has fed them sandwiches from the House of Commons balcony, they'd taken tea with the policeman standing guard with his fire arm slung over his chest, they had busted a boat full of smuggled fags - that's cigarettes - they had a story about every vessel we passed and knew who did what, where, when and how.

Whilst bobbing up and down that river they listened to 'Magic' Radio, music to slit your wrists by, (their comment not mine) played travel scrabble and travel monopoly, cooked nosh in their microwave and, when push came to shove, had used the bunk beds downstairs for their rescuees or 40 winks.

I told them how, as a young woman, my relationship to The Fuzz was less than supportive, but PC112 revealed that he too had been a big sinner in his youth, which was he suggested, probably what made him a good Policeman now.

I have to say, and not because they are reading this blog, with Police People like that looking after us we really can sleep better in our beds. I felt so priveliged being out their with them and Jim. Whatever questions we asked we were given honest answers and they only threatened to throw me overboard once. Joke! They were 'old school' Bobbies who cared about us. It was like talking to Dixon of Wet-Dock Green.

We've been invited back in the summer to have a night trip, outside on deck, and to take a bottle of pop - yeah and the rest. But I can't wait, it was the most wonderful morning.

PC29 said I should appeal for a ride in a helicoptor, but I've only just regained my balance and I was only out there for two hours. I'm not sure I would know how to handle a chopper.

That's it ye landlubbers, I'm still waiting for the curtain man to splice the main brace and hang up the sail curtains, if he isn't here in 30 minutes I shall call for the Marine Support Unit and get them to make him walk the gang-plank. Aye Aye, that's yer lot. Aarrrgh! cul8tr.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At October 9, 2007 7:21 PM Rob Elford wrote:

That did make me laugh - especially the Magic comment.

What an exciting morning. You must do the helicopter thing; you'll love it!

2. At October 9, 2007 8:20 PM Kirsten wrote:

Hooray!! You did the river trip with the wonderful PC's! I haven't had much time to read your blogs, but each time I've hoped for a river report & here it is!Thank you Jeni, for a wonderful post, you did yourself proud & I'm glad you Jim had such a great time.

3. At October 9, 2007 8:38 PM Libby wrote:

Sounds like you had a fab day. I'm off to Africa soon and have arranged to do the hot air balloon thingy over the Serengetti Can't wait.
You should definately try the helicopter it's brilliant.
Lots of love Marmite Girl xx

4. At October 9, 2007 11:51 PM Janeyb wrote:

Aaaargh Jim lad, now am I talking 'country bumpkin' or 'nautical', not quite sure.....! Talking of grimy smoke stacks, I had to pay my annual visit to Nottingham the other day (I lie I've been twice this year) anyway do you know what, people keep getting in your way, reminds me of a line in a James Herriot Book (I know I Know) when some old codger from the sticks had to go to town and he said the people kept bobbin and weavin or was it duckin and divin! You know what I mean.
I think where we live you could class as a 'Twillage' or is it a publet (how many pubs do a publet make)? I think we may have too many! London scares the proverbial out of me but at the same time fascinates me. So I do like to read your stories about it.
When is this Food Poker on then or have I missed it. Did you watch Jamie tonight with all his 'game birds'? I'm going to change tack now as you'll think I'm obsessed with birds of a feather! I remember going to a wedding years and years ago somewhere in the bowels of Kent and Ian Dury was there, he wasn't singing but I think he came from around there. Useless information yet again. Who started this blog thing anyway? You have a lot to answer for Miss B

5. At October 10, 2007 7:20 AM DaveW wrote:

Hi Jeni,

What a great day, must make a nice change. You must have a go on a chopper! sounds like fun.

Am off to Egypt tomorrow for some well earned sun and my partner has just suggested parasailing!!! Doesnt sound good..would end up feeding the red sea fishes with my breakfast me thinks!

bbfn x

6. At October 10, 2007 11:09 AM Martin and David in Brighton wrote:

How wonderful to hear of your speeding across the Thames! Very different to Wordsworth's vision - do you remember?

Glide gently, thus forever glide,
Oh Thames! that other bards may see
As lovely visions by thy side
As now, fair river; come to me!
Oh glide, fair stream, forever so;
Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
Till all our minds forever flow,
As thy deep waters now are flowing.

Primus omnium could best be translated "best of the lot" - while latin, it was used in schools in Germany to refer to the best performing student. Of course not to be confused with "primus inter pares", meaning "first among equals".

Much love to you, and hope you have a good break now Food Poker is finishing.

Martin and David

7. At October 10, 2007 1:00 PM chrissie carcassonne wrote:

Hi Jeni,
What a smashing blog!
I love the Thames and I am now getting quite home-sick to see our little part of it. Have booked the ferry home from France for mid-November.
Nice to know that there are still some nice bobbies about. I haven't met very many that are even civil so its good to know that perhaps I have just been unlucky.
Chrissie x

8. At October 10, 2007 9:44 PM judi4 wrote:

Where are you today Jen? Don't stop blogging please, you can't miss a day now! I've got a new mobile today, what an experience, its like another world, I wish I was 30 yrs younger, youneed to be to understand these bluetooth,music player, MP3s etc, oh dear I must try. Cul8r xx

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.