A Narrow Escape

Yesterday we woke to cocks crowing loud and long, and early. It was fun as a one off, but might get wearing if you had successive nights of short sleep. Perhaps you would just have to change your sleep pattern. At any rate the plan was to be back in the water, so we should be able to escape sleepless mornings, for that reason anyway.

I rather enjoyed watching the hens and cocks making their way down a steep slope, crossing the parking area and road and choose a strangely preferable spot of gravel beside the gas cannisters. Being still perched on a trailer, with a ladder down , I had a bird’s eye view of the domestic birds beside us. They had comical heavily feathered legs and feet and were very large. A cat approached but was more nervous of them than they were of this sometimes bird predator since they were twice its size.

Richard came along and told us what time we would be popped back in the water and we have also been told that the long and low radiator Shane has ordered (more on that story another time) to be delivered to this marina, had arrived so there was no other reason to have to stay, although they were perfectly happy for us to do so.

Before getting off, I checked no plates or mugs were on an open space and put things that might break on slide in a cupboard or on the floor. I removed the ladder and got ready to watch the proceedings. I was very impressed by Richard’s ability to reverse a tractor and very very long trailer around a corner and down a very narrow ramp only just wider than his trailer. The width of the canal was not wide enough for a straight reverse across and the boat then had to be controlled by ropes round 2 moored boats on each side of the slipway. It was a pretty tight space to guide the vehicles at each end of the proceedings. A dunt on the other side of canal, fortunately just a soft bit of earth and grass, and a crash of crockery later, (we had way more soup plates than necessary anyway), we were quite soon moored up against the next boat. The assistant had to stand on that boat, when trying to steer Bartimaeus round with a rope but it wat not tightly moored, so wasn’t the most stable place to be guiding from. I did a small amount of pushing to assist the turn, but mainly tried to keep back out of the way.

Once secured we all got on. We were giving thanks but I thought the young chap looked a bit unhappy as he walked back to the office. I guessed he had noticed the smashed crockery and worried about complaints. We were assuring Richard that we had plenty of plates and they had come from a second hand shop for less than £10 for the whole set. Then he said that somehow the tiller pin had escaped into the water and so his assistant was off to get a replacement. That was probably what he was embarrassed about. The new tiller pin looks almost identical to the old one so no loss there.

We remembered the radiator, and Richard went to get it. We thought he might use a trolley to bring it down or that we should help, but he had hoisted the long narrow box, about the size and shape of a railway sleeper, onto his shoulder -hopefully it’s a different weight. He carried it with ease over the terrain with various obstacles and across the boats and delivered it safely, I wasn’t sure if it needed the fragile sticker attached to the packaging.

After lunch we made our way in the direction the boat ended up, luckily that was fine. We were heading for the river lock and on to the Cherwell. Last time we looked the signage had been red, but Shane knew of people who had successfully gone down and it hadn’t looked too bad last time we had seen it despite the warning. At any rate people were at the lock when we got there and we’re coming off the river, so they had survived. It became clear they were new to boating, so we could be confident it would be fine. We remembered this river as having odd signage anyway.

The gates were a bit unbalanced and passing men helped me with them. They were to see us several times over the afternoon, catching up with us at locks and chatting to us each time we passed. Shane found it very easy going on the river. We saw a sign under a railway bridge that indicated a “closure mark. I can’t imagine anything but a kayaker getting under the bridge if the water was that high, and possibly only limbo dancing, so Shane thought it might be about closing the railway bridge if the river was that high.

Bottom of white square on the pillar wall is the closure mark on the railway bridge

The day had been sunny and warm though cold when the sun hid and I had seen frost in the marina in the morning. The river went well. I took over driving just as we were approaching Thrupp. We stopped for water and as it filled slowly went to look at the book selection. Shane had remembered that there was a free book exchange and returned the book he had got last time along with two others and picked up a couple of mysteries from a new author. Our friendly companions from the towpath came there too. They are stuck in Thrupp, awaiting access to the Thames and have been for several weeks so the free book swap has been handy.

I went to to work the lift bridge while Shane got the boat round the corner. The bridge requires a continuous press to keep it rising. I was delighted to see some ducklings but couldn stop raising the bridge and Shane was taking care with his steering (with all that smart new blacking!) He could not see the ducklings at all. I could only get a picture once the bridge was raised and they were well away then but much closer to Shane, who still couldn’t see them.

Mother duck and eight ducklings swimming near Bartimaeus

I chatted to another boater who was waiting for the Thames to open too. He was also very excited about the ducklings. The other two men we had spoken to all afternoon, had invited Shane to moor up in front of him.

We decided to stay here which is handy for several amenities and has a cafe. We have had a couple of walks in different directions to shops and through fields. We saw some deer there and they allowed me to approach and only after I left when they made their escape through the hedge. There were lots of cowslips, but no cows. We came into the town of Kidlington by the church and had a look in there. On the way back, Shane found a little unmarked path so we could come back a different way. As the routes converged we saw the narrow deer paths out of the fields.

Shane has been checking the notices for the Thames. He is seeing them gradually opening and has applied for a Thames licence, but found that in stead of it being instantaneous, it is valid in a few days time. Several of the red boards on the Thames are coming down so people may be able to escape their long held moorings tomorrow but we will let the rush subside as we are now held by the lack of licence rather than the excess of water. With any luck we will escape queues.