Lynne Mortimer: Tales of the riverbank and the curious case of rising damp

Lynne Mortimer

Lynne Mortimer - Credit: Archant

In my new state of supreme fitness, having taken part in the Long March... okay, it was an eight-mile walk... okay it was eightish miles, a small hop across a rivulet should have been a doddle.

Spending a last day with my daughter Ruth and her intended, Kev, we all went for a walk along the River Orwell foreshore. I strode out confidently, eyes as ever, fixed on the ground in case of fossils. Son Mark found a prehistoric shark’s tooth in 1990 and I’ve been hoping to discover something equally exciting ever since. Yes, it’s been 25 years and now, it seemed, I was the only fossil on the beach.

It was one of those glorious East Anglian days. Barely a cloud in a vast blue sky, a slight breeze off the river and the glint of sun on the water; yachts bobbing at anchor. Perky after our week in lovely Yorkshire, my husband and I were now enjoying the beauty of our home county.

We walked past the river bend and decided to return along the footpath beside the woodland bank. In order to do that, there was the small matter of jumping across a stream in its shallow vale of mud, which trickled down the shore to the river.

I wasn’t worried because Kev, I knew, was strong enough to hoick me across if I jumped short. I held his hand, I jumped. But I didn’t jump in the direction he was expecting and so my left foot, sock and trainer were sucked into the wet clay. This unbalanced me and I sat down hard, fortunately not in boggy mud. My left foot had gone under completely.


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With the help of all those present (those, that is, who weren’t incapacitated due to helpless laughter), my engulfed foot was extricated and the mud closed behind it with a “schloop”.

With naught but a couple of tissues to hand, I wiped off the bulk of the mud and Kev stood me up. It was then I realised that, as well as my left foot being heavy with wet river sludge, my backside was also extremely wet.

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“Does it look too bad?” I asked. It was a mile back to the car.

“Er...”

“Um...”

“No, mum,” piped up Ruth after the men signally failed to say the right thing.

“So I don’t look as if I’ve wet myself?”

“Er...”

“Um...”

“Just a bit,” said Ruth, with a stab at being kindly economical with the truth.

My husband, Ruth and Kev, walked back along the top path. I trudged along with them; legs apart to prevent my thighs chafing in my jeans, left foot dragging behind me due to the weight of drying mud on my shoe.

“I expect the mud will brush off when it’s dry” said my husband reassuringly. It hasn’t.

Back at Kev’s car, he found a picnic blanket with a plastic lining for me to sit on. Stripping from the waist down and putting my clothes in a plastic bag wasn’t an option, apparently, especially as a majority vote decided we should go to Waitrose and buy lunch on the way home.

This was agony. I was going to a supermarket but wouldn’t be able to shop. You can’t walk around the posh aisles of Waitrose looking as if you’ve wet yourself. At least, that’s how I saw it. So I got a taste of what it’s like to sit in the car while someone else does the shopping.

I have often observed men (it’s usually men) sitting in vehicles in supermarket car parks while their partners are in the stores. The convention seems to be that when they see their other half approaching with a laden trolley, they promptly hop out of the driver’s seat and complete the manly task of loading the contents of the trolley into the boot.

Him Tarzan, her Jane. Him lifted items once; her put them all into the trolley, on to the conveyor belt, packed them in bags, lifted them into the trolley. Mind you, I have spoken to women who say the last thing they want is their husband in the shop with them. There seem to be unspoken rules about this sort of thing but because they’re unspoken I’m not sure what they are.

Anyway, my shopping hormones ran amok. There I was, unable to do any shopping while every nerve in my body was screaming: “Let me out, I need to see the fresh produce section.”

But what can you do when you’ve got a wet bum?

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