The Oncologist and the Pilot:

This short story is a true story I assure you. I have of course changed some of the names, well what with GDPR and all that I suppose I better.

It all started when my brother and his wife (Aidan & Sue, and yes that is their real names) joined us on the boat for an overnight. It was one of those exceptionally sunny winter days. But no wind at all, so it all looked very summery.

Sun setting as we crossed Lough Garadice.
Sun setting as we crossed Lough Garadice.

Although it was chilly whenever you were in the shade. We headed out from our moorings bound for Haughton’s Shore a quiet little hideaway on Lough Garadice.  All was very idyllic and we crossed the lake as the sun tipped the horizon behind us. Being November there weren’t a whole load of boats about; in fact we didn’t see another boat all day. Still I was hopeful of finding some company in Haughton’s Shore so you can imagine I was a little disappointed when we rounded the headland to see the mooring was empty. We tied up and

had a little pre-dinner drink while Marion (no I didn’t change her name either) busied in the galley. Marion it should be said is what we call a feeder. It is a habit that probably stems from the old Irish tradition of never allowing any guest to leave your house hungry. Whatever it is Marion is happiest cooking of a feast with whatever ingredients she can lay her hands on. With the sun disappearing below the horizon the light was fading and it was at this point that our company for the evening first made their appearance.

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It happened in the form of a hired holiday barge pottering by. And it did go by which bemused us as it was getting late and there were no other moorings around that they could reach before nightfall. Still out onto the lake they headed. Then they stopped. Then they reversed. Then it quickly became obvious that they really didn’t know how to operate the barge at all. This provided us with much entertainment as we spent the next twenty minutes watching their attempts to get the barge into the harbour from the comfort of Driftwood, complete with drink in hand. It was also apparent from the number of empty wine bottles scatter around the bridge of the barge that the cause of this the questionable boat handling might possibly be deduced. Before I got a boat hook and left the warmth to help them into a mooring they had managed to reverse into the river bank more than once and it was apparent that tension aboard was rising. So armed with a boat hook I ventured out and eventually was able to help them moor up. That’s when I first noticed the suit. Yes a tweed three piece suit buttoned up fully against the cold night. Darren (ye I changed that one!) was dressed for a wedding, or for a court appearance, but not for boating. His partner, let’s call her Fiona (although being Polish Fiona is an improbable name but we’ll stick with it anyway) Was more appropriately dressed. No sooner had I taken the ropes when Fiona invited themselves onto our boat to relate their tale of woe. I’m still not sure how that happened but anyway I returned to our boat with my new found friends. Marion had just set the place for dinner and everything was put on hold. After the introductions Fiona excitedly told us of the disaster that was supposed to be a romantic two night break on the boat for them. They ran aground several times and on one occasion Darren stripped of and got into the water only to end up stuck in mud up to his knees i. And when he stripped of he did that to excess too and went into the water bollix naked. When Fiona did get the boat moving again Darrin was left behind. At this point if a boat full of children had happened to pass by you could see how Darren could quickly find himself on some kind of register with Tusla. However no such boat passed by. He estimated that it took twenty minutes for Fiona to get the barge back over to him to rescue him. Although after another glass of wine it went from twenty minutes to forty five minutes and even longer!

There were many unrepeatable comments about having two bellybuttons and a comparison with a sun-dried tomato was mentioned by Fiona but it was all in good fun. It then became apparent that they had no food on board. Not even a pint of milk. This was heavenly news to Marion who was delighted with the chance to feed more people. And even though Fiona was a vegetarian Marion still made sure she didn’t go hungry. The banter went on late into the night. It turned out that Darren was an Oncologist, a highly qualified profession we can all agree. Although he didn’t know how to drive, no I mean he couldn’t drive a car as well as not being able to drive a boat, and later confessed that he couldn’t drive a nail into a wall either! Fiona was a pilot but also owned her own pharmaceutical distribution business. So between them their collective IQ left us in the ha’penny place. There was much hilarity over Darrin’s OTT dress sense and he even brought a second suit in case he needed to change later. He certainly would have won the best dressed man on the river competition. They regaled us with the tales of how awful their boating holiday had been but how they were able to laugh at it once those memories had moved from the present, into the past.

Myself and my brother Aidan
Myself and my brother Aidan

The next morning Marion cooked up a breakfast and invited Darren & Fiona over again. We helped them get the barge out of the harbour and they headed off on their way back to the hire base.

Chance meetings with lovely people that we have nothing in common with (other than that we were all staying on boats) are what make boating such fun. It’s that instinctive comradeship and that we’re all in it together feeling that made this and many other evenings abroad such fun for everyone involved.  I would love to see Darrin & Fiona on the water again, but I doubt that we will!