Here we go with Part Four of our brand new Tale for Our Time - my summer serialization of Jerome K Jerome's idiosyncratic classic of 1889, Three Men in a Boat. We always get lots of interesting comments on our Tales, but I was touched by this one. Ian McLean, an Ontario member of The Mark Steyn Club, pens a lyrical paean to a "dirty old river":
Mark, thank you so much for reintroducing me to the boys, not in the band, but in the boat.
At my school, every Thursday afternoon was given over to sports and I joined the sailing class age twelve.
I learnt to sail at Ravens Ait at Kingston-on-Thames back when it was still a navel island. Our Aussie teacher would disappear into the Petty Officers mess and emerge blinking into the sunlight, looking very much like Sir Les Patterson when it was time to leave.
We, in the meantime, were free from any kind of adult supervision or interference to sail as fast and far and dangerously upstream as our little dinghies and wind could carry us.
I cannot tell you Mark how great a hold that dirty old river has had on my heart ever since those childhood days.
I have sailed many thousands of blue water miles since then but my soul will always belong to the Thames.
Thank you, Ian. Kingston-on-Thames, of course, is where our three men are supposed to begin their journey. But, in tonight's episode, the sun comes up and our trio sleep on - until two of them belatedly rouse themselves:
There he layâ€”the man who had wanted to know what time he should wake usâ€”on his back, with his mouth wide open, and his knees stuck up.
I don't know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me. It seems to me so shocking to see the precious hours of a man's lifeâ€”the priceless moments that will never come back to him againâ€”being wasted in mere brutish sleep.
There was George, throwing away in hideous sloth the inestimable gift of time; his valuable life, every second of which he would have to account for hereafter, passing away from him, unused. He might have been up stuffing himself with eggs and bacon, irritating the dog, or flirting with the slavey, instead of sprawling there, sunk in soul-clogging oblivion...
We flew across and slung the clothes off him, and Harris landed him one with a slipper, and I shouted in his ear, and he awoke.
"Wasermarrer?" he observed, sitting up.
"Get up, you fat-headed chunk!" roared Harris. "It's quarter to ten."
"What!" he shrieked, jumping out of bed into the bath; "Who the thunder put this thing here?"
Tales for Our Time is now in its third year. So, if you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we have a special Gift Membership that, aside from audio yarns, also includes video poetry, live music and more. And I'll be doing a live-performance Tale for Our Time at sea on this year's Mark Steyn Club Cruise - and next year's.
Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Five of Three Men in a Boat.