May the 4th be with you ;^)
After another peaceful night we have had another lovely day – better than the meteorologists predicted. The countryside has been beautiful and we have decided that there is not a lot to beat a huge, mature horse chestnut tree in spring green and abundant with flowers.
We found ourselves in the midst of 4 large hire cruisers from Reading at Culham lock. They got split up and as we waited we got chatting to them. They were a school trip from Belgium who come to the river Thames every year, since 1980, visiting Windsor, Oxford, Henley and so in in varied programs. Brilliant! ; cheap hotel and no coach transfers to worry about. Two of their four boats were behind us and they were getting stressed as the lock appeared to be doing now’t. It was self service due to lockies lunchtime. A small boat full of champagne hamper hoorays, who were old enough to know better, turned the lock on the first Belgian boat as they had instant access to the controls whilst those boats tied up below had to walk up from the pontoons and cross a busy road to get to the lockside. Whilst on self service the lock fills very slowly. The “picnic-ers” were aware of the two boats tied up below and were out of order. The schools trip had to be in Oxford by Sunday evening so they were not best pleased at the hold-up.
The teens on the boat behind us were much taken by the three adolescent ducks who obviously hadn’t had a scrap of food since candlemas and were letting everybody know. I couldn’t bear it so I gave the kids some bread to feed the ducks with. Phew, everyone happy now. What lovely polite teenagers, the ducks just gobbled and quacked all the louder during the feeding melee that followed.
The lockie returned from lunch just as lock rage was becoming a piossibility. He was a bit of a jobs worth and could see I was talking to Graham on the radio as the lock is out of sight of the landing. He tried to insist that I go back to my skipper and tell him he had to move along the lock landing as the boats in front entered the lock. I assured him that it would be done, he wasn’t convinced and insisted that I go anyway to tell the boats behind us. I didn’t and everyone moved up anyway.
Once we were in the lock he wouldn’t allow Graham to use the centre rope to bring the boat into the side before deploying the front and back ropes (our usual practice that works very well) We had to do it his way and Graham had to stand on the front of the boat, not on the lockside like he usually does. Roped up and engine off he came and asked me “ are you alright with this dear?” Did the other lockies phone ahead and tell him that the old bat on Jannock couldn’t manage? As the wide beam school trip baot came in behind us I checked the bike (and rear bracket) were OK. Lockie looked at me and the other boat and announced that he hadn’t taken the bicycle into his calculations! Erm, it made no difference to what else he could get into the lock. Ho hum.
As we became quite pally with the Belgian school trippers, as they overtook us once outside the lock cutting we gave them a quick blast on the klaxon to say farewell. The best laugh we’ve had for days! The kids on the rear deck of the boat had just settled down to a sun kissed snooze. Some visibly jumped and most screamed, boys and girls alike. He he he.
As we moored for the night in Abingdon we became aware that the live aboard boater immediately behind us was burning dead badgers and oily rags in his stove and the wind was blowing the smoke into our back doors. We had moored in a long space so we pulled Jannock as far forward as we could to try and get away from the stench. Once we had re-tied he decided to loosen his ropes and come forward to join us. Bah!
We enjoyed watching the vintage aeroplanes and road vehicles going home from Abingdon (Dalton Barracks) airfield. The Matt and Alice came for supper – a lovely evening.
Monday 5th May
Another un-eventful day, and very pleasant for all that. Matt and Alice joined us again for the trip up to Oxford, which they could have done on the bus in a great deal shorter time. We hope they enjoyed seeing an alternative Oxford. As we passed into Christchurch meadow there was a small tour boat going downstream. The on board tour guide was looking at a guide book very studiously and giving the commentary “On the right there is a tree, next to it is another tree, whilst on the opposite bank over there you can see a tree” The guide book was consulted and he began again “If you look carefully to your right hand side you’ll see a tree, and another tree”. His passengers looked either amused or bemused. We wondered how the rest of the tour went on.
We passed up through Port Meadow without any concern for sand spits as the water is quite deep at the moment and for a change, the wind was quite light as well. It still has a large patch of flooded area in the middle. We were told at Kings Lock that boaters were finding it quite a challenge yesterday with several going badly aground by trying to cut the corners of bends. Smug! Alice and I decided we needed to know what breed the geese were at Kings Lock as we were rather taken with them and they were plentiful. Out came "’Twitchers Monthly’ and it was a toss-up between Greylag and White Fronted. Having decided that they were the same species we also decided they were interbreeding and that is why we couldn’t tell one from t’other. Both mate for life.
We passed into Dukes Cut and wound our way between overhanging trees onto the Oxford canal where we’ll moor up until the next planned trip. This blog post is late as we are having to use my phone to take photos and we could not extract them whilst on the boat so had to wait until we got home.