Blank Space

It was certainly good news that Shane had the energy after a long journey to build the steps. There was a minor hiccough when his drill bit got stuck but, after a few different approaches and a broken rubber band, he managed to get it out and normal service was resumed. It would certainly have been tricky to use only the front exit. We might have managed but it would not have been a good state in which to have guests.

While in Edinburgh we had received speculative suggestions of times to visit from different friends, which overlapped slightly. By the time we were on the train one of them already had another call on her time in the week she thought was free. We were making plans for travel based around where others might meet us and there were many possibilities. We decided, in the morning, to set off towards Oxfordshire but first we had to turn round so we set off to where there was space to turn. While I was shopping for lunch, there being blank space where all the bread, bagels and crumpets usually sit and an almost empty fridge.

Suitably stocked, we headed back the way. We didn’t see a lot of change in the building of a massive warehouse that we passed several times last time we were aboard. This time Shane remarked on the huge bore. That wasn’t there last time. Would be a real pain if that bit gets stuck!

What a bore!

Mostly it didn’t look industrial and we were liking the sunshine, being outside in nature and the familiar surroundings, spotting boats we had seen before. Being near water is meant to be good for mental health. We saw a moorhen on a raft of reeds, another perched on a narrow boat and we passed some other moorhens in their own ‘boat’ floating by.

Moorhens afloat, in a very narrow boat

At the junction there is a big hairpin bend into a stop lock, unless you are going back to Coventry. I cut across the grass while Shane made the turn and worked the stop lock. Shane had also noticed a rubbish point and optimistically took the recycling bin. Glory be! They had a recycling bin. We had done a lot of squishing and found no recycling facilities for a long while, so it was a relief to empty the bin and make space. The lock itself hardly changed level but I was still alarmed to see the boat drift backwards towards the cill marker, with no one at the helm. It probably didn’t matter but I felt happier to hop on and give a burst of forwards to stop it and then open the gate just as Shane got back.

I had my hat on to drive in the sun but not for long as it rained pretty heavily and we managed to pull in at the side. The hat was knocked off by the cratch cover when I was hastily trying to tie up. Fortunately it didn’t end up in the water. I had quickly tried out a ‘new’ pair of shoes on my walk to the shop. I had bought them while I was looking for wool in a charity shop in Nuneaton on our previous time in the area. They didn’t have any wool, but I didn’t leave empty handed. They aren’t really the usual style for locking and mooring in the rain but they had complete grips and were comfortable. The smooth surfaces were very slippery when wet though so I stepped with great care.

Silver shoes shining in the sun.

The rain continued over lunchtime, when we would be stopped anyway and then eased off so we were able to drive again in the afternoon. It isn’t that easy to get close enough to moor and those places where you can were quite well occupied already. When it came to mooring we found it hard to find a space. The spikes went in a little too easily I thought and sure enough in the morning they had shifted a little and by the time a few boats had passed, tugging us a little more each time, the rear spike was at quite a rakish angle and I held the boat on the rope as the next boat passed. We decided to get going straight away.

We had intended hurrying to get to a suitable meeting point with our Aberdeen based friends but a full schedule this week and the complicated journey and possibility of disruption on their planned travel date meant they decided this was not a good time to go all the way down to Oxfordshire. They weren’t to know when they proposed coming  that the planned travel date would coincide with the Queen’s funeral. So in stead of overlapping guests we have a blank space in the diary, except that Google has added “Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral Day” in for me!

We look forward to meeting both sets later in the year either in Scotland or on Bartimaeus. The need to press on for a particular meeting point has eased off but it was a lovely day for cruising and we had cheery exchanges with passing boats. We reached a busy point where I thought I would have to operate a foot bridge. Shane wanted to get water but someone was using it.  They were getting ready to leave just as we approached so we came in. The boat behind us was catching us up anyway so it would be good to let him ahead of us. However the man leaving thought a boat on the far side of the bridge was wanting to get water too.  We attached the hose anyway and let the boats behind us carry on through. I went to ask at the bridge if anyone there wanted water. They were indeed waiting to get water but it was also quite hard to get through to it as there was a queue of boats going the other way. We said we didn’t need too much anyway and if they came through the narrow part, rather than waiting for us to come through the bridge first, we would move out of their way. It was very congested with lots of moored boats and boats going both ways but by now a file of boats had got through and they had a window of opportunity to get through the bridge. She seemed hesitant saying “we aren’t very good,” but Shane assured her he could move sideways and give them space at the water. We quickly unhosed and cast off and Shane was true to his word and while they came towards us we heard someone on their boat say “oh they are waiting for us, completely still!” They moved smoothly in to place themselves. The lady we had spoken to operated the bridge for us and said she’d already done it about ten times. “Expert!”

Another boat ahead was having a lot more difficulty steering and was completely across the canal and were apologising and expecting us to get bumped as their boat swung out out while we drove past, but Shane managed to wiggle round them, “you’ve done this before,”  said one of them. 

Later, when I was driving, we passed a man who told us to keep to the left as there was a large bit of wood under the next bridge. By the time we got there other boats had come through with out incident and I could see nothing there. Once we were through we saw a very large branch. Shane wanted us to moor for lunch so I pulled in past the branch. Shane thought it was a serious obstruction. It turned out when he started trying to move I that there was even longer with a submerged root bole. He had to use a rope to help pull it out and even then the shape made it too difficult to get it out completely. Then he broke off the branches so the towpath was not blocked.. There is more room for boats to pass at the bridge without a hazard and space for someone to approach the bank and moor.

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