It was a brilliant idea, sitting in the Nelson, a few pints down and two years away from the event. I was going to get a tattoo as well: the Grand Union coat of arms – two seahorses, only their top half real horses, hooves of cabbage leaves, their motto ‘Silent and Sure’.
Not for me a girly pretty monochrome unobtrusive bird or butterfly, shoulder or ankle. No, I’d have gone the whole old salt hog, six inches square at least, full colour, between the shoulder blades. It would have been great, but I was too easily deterred by others' horrified objections. And anyway, it would have hurt like hell.
The tattoo, however, was only peripheral to the Brilliant Idea, which I know I have mentioned to some passing blogging boaters. This was to celebrate my fiftieth birthday with, at last, a complete navigation of the Grand Union Canal and as many of its arms and branches as I could fit in (including for definite all those I've not yet travelled), taking various companions from my past and present along with me, and culminating with a monster party at the London Canal Museum. I had seventy on the guest list, and I booked the museum back in August 2013.
This morning I emailed to cancel. As I came to plan - and more importantly to budget - for both the trip and the party, it became clear that there were overwhelming difficulties of both a logistical and a financial nature. The hire of the museum itself was £800, and the food could easily have been that again. I realised I hadn't done enough saving and couldn't really pull that sort of sum out of the hat with five months to go - let alone justify spending it on a party for myself. Added to that, the requirements of work (the immovable object that is exam boards, among other things) meant that I couldn't make it the trip I really wanted it to be. The logistics of organising food and drink while on the move were depressing. Suddenly it seemed more problems than pleasures (a bit like going to Ellesmere Port in a Blizzard) and it was with a sense of relief as well as regret that I concluded, in the early hours of Monday morning, that cancelling was an option.
So I'm sorry, all those of you to whom I mentioned this and who might have been looking forward to it, anxiously scanning your inboxes even now for the engraved invitation. I'm sure I shall think of some, lower-key, substitute, and I will probably still be out boating on my birthday and hopefully see some of you - leave is booked, but trip plans are now up for grabs.
Maybe I'll just get the tattoo instead.....