CHRISTMAS is a rapidly-fading memory, the New Year hangover has only just lifted, the huge credit card bills which were run up before the holiday are winging their way through the mail towards us and the reality of going back to work during the long cold winter months is starting to hit home – but, fear not, help to lift the gloom is at hand – the annual trip to the Boat Show.
I love January for that simple reason – it’s the time when all dedicated boat fanatics like me head for the Mecca that is the Excel centre in Docklands to wander round the hundreds of stands selling nautical bits and pieces and to lovingly stroke large and hopelessly expensive bits of wood and fibreglass in the shape of the boats of our dreams. Sadly, I’m one of the 99% of folk who attend this annual ritual who have absolutely no intention of actually buying a boat – particularly not in the present economic climate – but it doesn’t stop you looking or longing.
I’ve often wondered why this particular form masochism has become so popular. What is it that persuades normally rational human beings to stand at the Sunseeker sports boat or Westerly yacht stands and imagine themselves bounding across rolling ocean with spray-drenched hair and a soppy grin? The answer can only be rampant optimism. The hope that the lottery machine will finally pick the right numbers and transport you into the world of the jet-set.
For me, though, the joy of the boat show is that it gives you the opportunity to dream about the summer months ahead and the chance to get back out on the water with the sun warming your back instead of having to scrape ice off the car windscreen yet again.
And, of course, it’s the chance to mingle with hundreds of other besotted boaties and, perhaps, to discuss the merits of the latest miracle gizmo being offered by the chandlers to remove tea-leaves from the froo-froo valve or to give you an extra half a knot of speed, over a pint or two.
So I’ll be there, struggling across London on public transport (don’t bother with the car – it takes forever to drive and the parking isn’t cheap) and paying exorbitant prices at the catering kiosks for a cup of coffee and a stale bun but loving every single moment of it.
The London International Boat Show is on at the Excel Centre from Friday, January 9 until Sunday, January 16. Admission prices range from £5 to £20. For more information, visit www.boatshow.com