This is an excerpt from an e-mail message sent by Stephen Toogood in answer
to a question about the paddle in the picture.
Ah, the paddle. (yes you can quote as much or as little as you wish, attributing
it to me if you think fit)
Two preliminary things you need to know. First, we live in that flat part of
eastern England with sedimentary geology, slow rivers and dykes, and just to the
north, miles of reclaimed fen, dating from the 17thC. It's a bit like the
Netherlands really, and many Dutch feel quite at home here. A traditional means of
transport on these waterways is the punt, which in case you haven't seen one is a
shallow, flat-bottomed boat propelled by pushing with a long pole against the
bottom of the river. I'm quite used to driving one of these.
Second, this photograph was taken in France, in the Maree Poitevin, which is
criss-crossed by similar rivers and dykes, and where similar craft are used.
However, when I hired this bachot, they would not accept that I could possibly
have had previous experience, and would not permit me to use a pole. The tourists
are given these wooden paddles. They may look like spades, but actually in this
district the spades are invariably the long-handled sort, with no cross-piece on
So there we are, on holiday, suitably full from an extensive lunch, enjoying
the dappled sunlight through the trees.