Saturday, 8 May 2010

Iceberg, Dead Ahead!

When you go out for dinner you don't anticipate your restaurant colliding with a bridge.

It isn't one of the things you mentally prepare yourself for.

Even if you're on a dinner cruise on the river you assume, insofar as you think about it at all, that the person doing the steering has the full use of their eyes and has done this sort of thing a couple of times before don'tcha know.

And yet, tonight... well you can guess.

For an early Mother's Day treat I decided to take Mum on a ladies' dinner cruise down the river.

Just a nice relaxing bobble along the waterway, being fed and having a few glasses of wine before bobbling back.

It started off nicely enough, we were welcomed onto the boat, all the ladies introduced themselves, immediately forgot each others' names and turned to the important business of having a glass of bubbles.

We'd managed to dodge the talking-about-our-children clique, the talking-passionately-about-reality-TV-shows clique and attached ourselves to the talking-about-travel-and-books clique before the entrees came out.

By the time the main course arrived we'd heard about vans tootling their way naively across Eastern Europe in the 1970s, cultural misunderstandings in Japan and accidental border crossings and the fall-outs from all activities mentioned and I'd jotted the names of about a dozen books on the inside of my wrist with a handy pen.

We passed under a bridge, commented on how narrow the clearance was and then went back to chatting about the floodlights on the mirror-like surface of the water, the ghostly shadows along the bank and how they reminded various of us of falling off bridges, getting lost hiking or not noticing warning signs about local wildlife until after a midnight bathing escapade.

Somewhere around this point the boat gently described a circle in the water and began heading back for home.

Conversation had trickled to a halt for dessert which is why, as we passed under the bridge a second time, the lone voice saying "We seem to be a bit close..." drew our attention to the windows.

And then there was a tremendous crash as we bounced off a pillar.

There was a collection of shrieks and with an admirable sense of purpose hands reached to steady wine bottles and catch dessert dishes.

Then there was another smaller crash as we rebounded off the opposite pillar and then wallowed slowly out from underneath the structure.

The crew members rushed around looking purposeful and grim, staring out windows at the hull and very kindly not telling us anything.

After about five minutes we figured out we weren't actually capsizing and could stop thinking about scrambling to the deck and flinging ourselves into the cold water or how annoying it was that we couldn't cry 'women and children first' given we were all women.

THEN the crew saw fit to refer to the incident in a glancing, faux-merry way and point out where the life-vests were, which they had forgotten to do when we boarded.

The only casualty of the night was the coffee pot but all things considered the story we get to tell now is a lot better than the coffee would have been.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to have a stiff drink.

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