As I watched it begin to sink I thought it was lost forever, but the air trapped inside the hat brought it back to the surface, by which time Owen was leaning over the railings as far as he could using his umbrella as a paddle to pull the hat towards him, but it was still out of reach, so he told me to hold onto his legs as he leaned even further and managed to bring my hat closer. After what seemed an eternity he got the open umbrella under my hat and, after several attempts, fished it out high enough for me to grab, but as I did so Owen slid from my grip and was within inches of going headfirst into the lake. By this time Lewis of shouting and Libby was screaming. Whether because they thought it great fun or were scared of what seemed about to happen we will never know, for I somehow levered Owen back in and over the railings still holding my lovely, lovely hat and we were all laughing together and the kids were jumping up and down.
Throughout all this the only thought in my head, apart from trying to save my hat, was that I wished I was getting pictures of this. Then as we turned around and faced the café in the Lakeside Arts Centre, we saw all the customers sitting at the tables applauding and the staff had come from behind the counter to watch the drama which had unfolded before their very eyes. A lady came to the door laughing and shouted 'Well done, that's the best piece of entertainment I've had all weekend'. I put my wet hat back on my head and got Owen to tie its string under my chin so I didn't lose it again and as he did he said 'Dad, now you know why Aussies have corks on their hats — it's to keep them afloat!'.
As we walked around the park in the wind and the rain we saw no one else, until we saw this young couple walking towards us. They looked as happy as us. They let me take their picture. What this picture says to me is that parks are great places whatever the weather. Who needs sunshine when you have a friend to be with?
Owen took this picture of me with Libby and Lewis on the lakeside terrace in front of Nottingham University's Trent Building on the north side of the lake, but before we got here we had another mini-adventure as Lewis climbed up a rock face covered in tree roots only to discover, when he got to the top, that he couldn't get down on his own, so Owen had to go and rescue him and lead him safely down. Unfortunately, all my pictures of this 'escapade' have turned out blurred, probably because I was laughing so much as I took the pictures (sorry Lewis).
We finally made it back to the Lakeside Arts Centre and reached the car soaking wet, but happy. On the way we encountered these young goslings with their adult 'minders', oblivious to us as they munched at the grass. In fact the weather was that bad that not a duck or any other water bird was on the water. All were sheltering under trees and bushes.
As we walked around the park Owen and I told the kids about our own memories of the park and the adventures we have had over the years. Lewis said at one point that he wanted to go in a rowing boat and asked me if I would take him, to which Owen retorted 'All he will do is give you the money and tell you to go on your own, that's how I learnt to row'. I'm afraid he was telling the truth. I did the same thing with my older grand-daughters and the same fate awaits Lewis if he wants to go rowing on Highfields lake!
It was a memorable afternoon and, with luck, even Libby will be recalling the day her dad nearly went headfirst into a lake as one of her earliest memories. I suspect that Owen will recount his version of this story at my funeral (which I hope is a long ways off yet). I also hope it will make him and the kids laugh as much then as it did yesterday!
PS. We did manage to grab a few minutes having a quick look at the history of Raleigh Cycles exhibition in the D H Lawrence Pavilion (part of the Lakeside Arts Centre), which I will visit again quite soon. If you haven't been, then it's well worth the trip.
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