Emma (for Jane)

She traces her finger over
dark polished narrowboats:
maroon, forest green, mustard yellow, deep red.
“My life,” she explains,
(bright red lips, bright red nails)
“is lived out on my boat,
making art; making food.”
Then she leads us through
to her Garden of Dreams –
chairs are comically small;
empty frames; engraved wood
and positioned around a
rickety table
on the riverbank, set back,
framed with foliage and flowers and
surrounded by low-hanging
branches and lanterns,
and laid with glass goblets and
feathers in a vase.

Wine flows like honey,
talk’s peppered with laughter,
as the summer sun dips,
and we move into her home.
Emma’s treasures are trinkets:
Russian dolls, faded cards,
also poems of love, rusty boxes, bright quilts.
Under candlelight we huddle
round the lulling boat’s table
(red and white striped cloth –
c’est Français – ooh la la!)
We’re served mackerel, roast chicken
sweet potato and leaves,
beetroot, brown quinoa, smoked salt, sour cream.
Then meringues, Chantilly cream,
strawberries, lemon tart,
chocolate cake with a candle
(to blow out)
“Make a wish”

On this night, stars shine bright,
moonlight dances on the ripples
of the tranquil canal
upon which we float, in this boat.
Emma Freemantle, hostess,
‘maker of cloaks’
lives her life, shares her love
in this wondrous realm
of magic and beauty and art and
delight:
a real-life Wonderland
on Regent’s Canal.

by Annie Ridout

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