Peter's Boatyard

I think I just found heaven
down a shady lane
on a scorching summer's day

Deja-vu on the main road
down the sweeping hill
overhung with ancient trees

But here each house
looks like home
twisting and turning
down the narrow street
to Peter Freebody's Boatyard

Big old building
by the riverside

Smell of mahogany dust
and fresh varnish
through the open door

Inside - Aladdin's Cave
a litter of wood and engines
and the sacred craft
each many score years old
built by master craftsmen
from another time
from the rarest woods.

Launches, cruisers
a motor canoe or two
and state boats
cabins coach-built
from oak and elm
mahogany or finest pine
each with its fading paint
or opened decks
touched here and there
with saw or plane
revealing pristine wood again

Or the new detail
of a rose scroll
beside the cabin door
fresh made by hands
as skilled as those
that first built
these miracles
so many years ago

to look as good as new
for another ten or twenty seasons

And here and there
the conker glow
of fresh varnish
over streamlined hulls

My fingers yearn
to touch
each curve
each satin smooth
twist and turn

Each body beautiful
as maidens on a summer beach.

My hands
know the craft too

Through the open doors
one gleaming slipper launch
ready to slide silently
into the still green water
of the Thames

'Up the stairs to the office'
the careful craftsman said
when a large man
with grey mane
and moustache or beard
greeted me gruffly
'I heard you make punts'
'Sometimes' he said

Like Cinderella
I was just looking for a shoe
He thumbed through
an oldish looking catalogue
Davey's of London

still cast boat hooks
But shoes for punts we could not find.

'Perhaps Mark East at Hampton Court?'
'Mark Edwards' he corrected
'Yes you could try'.

His hands
full of the craft of craft
one thumb gone
as happens in the trade
like an old oak
with a branch
torn away in a storm
tells its story of time
and the king of trees
grows on

'Do you ever have any jobs?'
'ah no - I am very careful now
after Maggie Thatcher'

The yard went
from 21 men to 15
he said with pain
'I will not make the same mistake again'

I left him sitting
on a concrete step
in the hot sun
waiting for a lady
who may just
buy a launch

I wished him luck
then corrected myself
- She would be
the lucky one

Boats like these
are rare as old masters
in a Sotherby's auction

So to another part of the dream
- chunky ham sandwich and a poem
in the garden
of … yes, The Rising Sun

Beside the house
with the Secret Garden
'For Sale'
- waiting for me
to come home

Dream on Afon
Its time that I was gone
Briefest pilgrimage
to all my yesterday's
and in my dreams
to my tomorrow


Afon Clearwen
30 July 2001, Hurley, River Thames

(Pictures of Peter's boats and boatyard


Dreams I Index I Home