Across Continents

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Simple truthfulness


The discovery – Chums Manfred and Ute – Early retirement – Settling on what to take – Maladies and disagreeable sea trips – Picturesque locks and provisions – A record of events

I thought there to be a good deal of similarity between Jerome K Jerome’s amusing Victorian classic novel ’Three Men in a Boat’ and my own earnest venture. I’d chanced upon a copy in a small barber’s shop in an Istanbul back street. Complete and unabridged, which for such a terribly short tale I heartily approved of.

Riding with my chums Manfred and Ute back along banks of the Danube, we had talked at some length of the story it recounted. I had become a little vexed at being unable to recall the author’s name, and I fancied Manfred felt the same. Sharing the same noble resolve, we eventually stumbled upon the answer.

Persuading the barber to allow me to borrow his copy for a few days, I retired early to my lodgings. I felt this to be a very reasonable request, fair compensation for him unexpectedly removing protruding nasal hairs with a lit cotton bud. I read vociferously, declining supper so I might marvel at the albeit fictional tales of Jerome’s creations.

Partaking of a plain breakfast the next day, I continued briskly with my reading, anxious to finish promptly and enjoy an early lunch. The characters had faced quandaries similar to my own, realising, as I had done, that when packing you should think not of what you could do with, but only of those things that you can’t do without.

And, like the narrator, I’d consulted a medical tome, being similarly impelled to the conclusion that I was suffering from every particular disease within, dealt with in its most virulent form. I too had also chosen my present venture because I had found sea trips disagreeable in the past.

There were obvious differences of course. The locks they encountered on the Thames I thought more picturesque, less tiresome affairs, than those on the Danube. And their provisions sounded far more appealing. Cold veal pie. Bread and Jam. Lemonade.

But what really struck me was the appropriateness to my own literary endeavours of the author’s remarks in the Preface to the First Edition ’The chief beauty…. lies not so much in its literary style, or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as in its simple truthfulness’.

Istanbul, January 2010

[Postscript: If you’ve been charmed by the accounts so far of my modern day Victorian adventure, without, of course, the riding breeches or Plus Fours, please consider a suitable donation to The Outward Bound Trust. My mileage – 3,000 so far – has bounded a good deal ahead of the funds raised so far. Emma and I, and The Trust, would be hugely appreciative of your contributions to such a noble cause as working with young people, especially as we head east in search of more tales of dare-doing, hardship, gritty endeavour and terrible toilets]

With thanks to Jerome K Jerome


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