In a tent by candleight, side of the Danube in the city of Linz. Saucepan of free food filling the tent with smells of fried chicken and bread. My shoulders ache and my legs are damp; it's amazing how long you can be wet for once you stop noticing it. Serbs outside, chatting. I have retired, tired. A 20km stretch this morning to chatch the first lock, weather with low hanging cloud, floating through the tops of the pine trees in the high, steep banks of the river. The water was still and slow and gave no resistance to the paddle. As I dipped through it and glided, I could have been flying, the gurgles of water the swish of my wing beats.
I am in the water but not of it. I am of the water but not in it.
Sitting comfortably on the surface, but unconnected until I trail my hands in the water and feel a spark of life flowing from the river to me. This water will run 2000 km, down to the sea, winding through countries connected by culture.
As I lie here now I feel the rocking within me still; when all is quiet I hear gurgles and splashes. Land sick, they call it.
Already the dark has stolen the details and I have only hazy images to recall. Soft wet rain falling on me, Y and M as we drink Romanian brandy under a tree. M's fat little body bobbling around under the umbrella he stuck down the back of his neck, yellow fishermans trousers covering his stomach. Paddling away so fast as Y chased him to rearrange his flag, shouting No! No! No! and I laughed, the rain streaking my face and only Y's warm wet lips to tell me I am cold.
When rain hits the water and all is still, there is no sound, only gliding water all around. The ever widening circles of droplets coming home.
Songs, sausages and beer at the side of the river, a sweet Austrian singing river songs and playing guitar.