We stayed in one spot yesterday to avoid working locks in the heat. Sure enough it was sufficiently warm overnight that I was up seeing the sunrise. I did get back to bed though. Midsummer sunrise is too early for me. We slept with the front doors open (and the blind down). I enjoyed the gentler pursuits of repotting the tomato plant and winding a skein of wool.
We have an appointment in Reading tomorrow so we did have to get moving. Shane had shared with me our good fortune (and others bad fortune) that the last swing bridge I had operated had broken down shortly after, so we were not trapped on the wrong side of it. They have not yet repaired it but are managing to operate it manually (normally it is electrically operated with push button controls) but only when the engineers are there, limiting it’s hours of operation for the weekend travellers. We did head off in that direction though, in reverse, as Shane had found that some of the pump out facilities ahead were non functioning so we should take advantage of the ones nearby, a few yards back. It was a tricky manoeuvre in the river with a side flow adding extra currents. But after all our careful positioning, this pump out didn’t work either. Meanwhile it was getting busy with people wanting water. Someone thought the the pump out machine was the water point ….it is a very different hose. So I showed them the tap (it looks like a tap) and we moved back a bit to let their boat moor up. Another boat pulled in against us. Others were emptying rubbish or queueing for the lift bridge.
I tried ringing the number on the display panel and listened to a short burst of Greensleeves before speaking to someone who couldn’t make me out very well. I managed to report which facility I was at and that it didn’t work. She had my number on her display so said she would get a local office to call me. I retrieved my card from the machine with tweezers. We decided that we were unlikely to get a call back soon (the local CRT electricians were probably too busy trying to fix the swing bridge) and Shane had worked out some other places that might have a working facility so we headed off, forwards.
On the approach to some geese, we remembered the bagels that had started to go off ahead off their date, in the heat so I went to give them to the geese. I am not sure if this is any problem to the geese but they seemed happy enough to eat them. My first fling landed in the middle of the roof – whether I threw backwards or Shane steered into the arc I don’t know. I went to fetch them and get them geesewards and stop it blocking the solar panels as Shane has been watching the Ortomarine energy production league tables, and doesn’t want to be knocked off the top spot.
We met the crew whom I had shown the tap at the next lock. They were on their first trip (now I know why they didn’t recognise the water point) and understandably confused by a message from the boat in front about parts of the lock not working and that they could only use one side of the lock. I assured them we could use the whole lock. It was indeed one with a broken paddle, a gate that didn’t open fully and a gate at the other end that was hard to open but we could still get two boats in, down and out the other end. As all the faulty parts were on the same side, it is possible they had been told that side of the lock wasn’t working. One woman asked if the locks were often like this. It is uncommon for all three faults to be in the same lock.
In the afternoon things worked a bit quicker and we had the locks to ourselves. As I walked along the edge of one I saw a cigarette end and an empty bottle of sauvignon blanc on the grass below a bench. I wasn’t sure if whoever had left them there had had a really good day or a really bad one. I was reminded that a couple of days earlier I had found, by a bench at another lock, a bubble pack of diazepam with only one tablet used. Someone will be anxiously looking for those, I thought.
Further along there was definite evidence that the canal isn’t always “making life better by water” – as the Canal and River Trust signs all say. Somebody had not had a good day.
While I was driving, late afternoon, Shane spotted an excellent mooring spot. We pulled in, moored up easily and Shane thennoticed that while the bank was fairly clear the bunch of nettles were lined up with our open side hatch. He proceeded to trim them with kitchen scissors and caution.
While we were indulging in an end of day Pimm’s, Shane checked up our distances and concluded we should actually go further now or have an early start the next day. He returned to the tiller and continued on and we worked through another couple of locks, one very slow to fill so getting it out of the way today was a wise choice. We have made it to Reading. You can always tell you are approaching an urban area when the swans on the water are outnumbered by the trolleys.
The last lock was an awkward one that you have to stand on the actual gates to do the winding – no good if you have vertigo – and 4 paddles at each end. I had Richard’s help for it last time. Happy birthday to Richard – I hope he had a happy Monday!