"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate

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I never seriously thought we should have a houseboat on the Broads although I told Adelaide about it when she met me as I passed through London on my way home in May. However the following Spring my friend Rose, while on a visit to Westcliffe by chance sat next to Adelaide on a bus who was also on a visit there, and she said to Rose, "Tell Maud to book that houseboat, I shall be able to go with her." The long summer of work eventually passed by and we found ourselves, one hot September afternoon taking possession of a lovely new houseboat called "Angela", moored on a backwater Broad off the main river at Wroxham. It was a very tranquil, pretty spot and we thought we were in for an idealic holiday. That night there was a thunderstorm and looking out of my bunk window by the light of a fitful moon and flashes of lightning I saw a flight of swans flying low over the water and thrashing it with their feet. It was a ghostly sight, like the Flight of the Furies. Next day was very hot and sunny and we had some lovely trips on the Broads, then the storm broke in earnest; high winds and torrential rain soon flooded everything. The water rose over the banks of the river, the Broads were a heaving mass of water like boiling oil. Boats could no longer pass under Wroxham bridge and to get to and from "Angela" we had to climb on to a fence and walk along a wire to keep our feet out of the water, and what was more we were alone at night when the boat yard closed down. They said we should be alright if the flood gates at Yarmouth held, but the point was, would they? After two restless nights, we baled out and took ourselves off to a hotel to sleep. The Broads Hotel was an old fashioned, comfortable place on the point of being closed down. In fact it closed the week after we left and has been rebuilt as a modern monstrosity. Anyway we were glad of it as a safe refuge while the storm roared outside its stout walls. I loved my little white bedroom whose only adornment was a lovely watercolour painting which was for sale. Mine was of a white Norfolk windmill and a white gate. I should loved to have been able to buy it as it represented my name "Milgate". Adelaide’s picture in her room was an equally beautiful one of "St. Benets Abbey". The Broads Hotel and the large Tourist boats on the Broads belonged to a Mr. Hannaford who was an artist in his spare time and who exhibited his pictures in the bedrooms of his hotel and in the dining rooms for his tourist trips. Three nights we spent here, eyeing each new day apprehensively. The only diversion was Edith, the maid, who had rolling eyes and who questioned us each morning at breakfast in a belligerent voice "Flakes or Jooce?" We went on trips on the swollen waterways when they ventured to go out, ate anything Paula was able to cook for us in her little cafe and paid periodic visits to "Angela" through mud and ponds of water. Then on a beautiful morning of sunshine with the lake all shimmering in gold we said "good bye" to our houseboat. It could have been a heavenly holiday, but the wind and the rain ruined it all. That was our one and only attempt to have a boat.


Owner of original Maud Milgate via Gerry Langford
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