Two years ago, coming down the Grand Union, we paired up with a boat called Shallmar and got on so well with the owners Graham and Sandra Marshall, that we stayed together for a few days. When Jacob fell in the canal at Cassiobury and I dived in to pull him out, they quickly caught up and treated us for shock with hot drinks.
We purposely met up with them again later to accompany them down to Brentford and later again when they gave us a ride from Henley to Pangbourne on the Thames in Strong Stream conditions. Since then we have kept in touch by email, swapping stories of children and grandchildren.
We were hoping to meet up with G&S on the Nene this year but at the last minute they had to divert to Gloucester where their son had been ill. Today we heard the news that Graham, a fit 65 year old with boundless energy, has suddenly died.
Sadly this is the only photo I have of them, taken at some distance as they approached the weir at Henley
In the short time we knew Graham we quickly appreciated what an extraordinary man he was. Sandra's tales of his works left us in awe of his persistence, energy and , well, just extraordinary capability. He was one of those guys who actually made a difference. He got things done on other peoples behalf. At his boat club on the Chesterfield canal he had achieved all sorts of improvements and provision of facilities. At their holiday home somewhere in Eastern England (I think), he had waded through a minefield of legislation to get rights for his co-tenants. A real champion.
We are doubly sad now that we weren't able to meet up this year and as for poor Sandra I don't know what to say. Our hearts go out to her. She is a lovely lady.