London Calling

The morning was wet. We were expecting Anne and Richard for a visit and she had let me know she was on her way and it was lashing rain in London so at least it wasn’t worse here but I felt they weren’t going to get the best boat experience. We have been promising to get to London, but with our frequent Edinburgh returns, we knew we would need to leave the boat for a bit and are not sure that it is easy to find a mooring for any length of time there. Many cities have only 2 day stays or only one week mooring allowed. I was looking forward to London coming to us in stead, even if only for a short stay. Today we had a short journey to get into Banbury to meet them.

After breakfast a man peered in our window, talking but not obviously addressing us. I tried to open the window to hear him, but he walked off in the rain and stopped under a nearby bridge. A few moments later he reappeared at our window and Shane popped his head out the back. The man asked if we had water for tea. We hadn’t expected such an early visitor. Shane offered a cup of tea. He agreed to tea and chatted on, half direct to us and half to himself. He mentioned he has been living in the open for two years. He politely accepted biscuits and went under the bridge to drink his tea and eat the biscuits, where it was dry. He returned just as we were thinking we needed to get going, with the wrappers and mug.

We set off in the wet and waved as we passed him. The rain was pretty steady but at least it looked brighter ahead than behind so we were hopeful it would brighten up. Not many boats were out, and not even any dog walkers. The corcodile shouldn’t mind the rain, though he looked a bit deflated.

Reptile in the rain

As we came into Banbury I saw I had just enough time to whizz round the supermarket if I sprinted. Shane would stay with the boat and take it through the lock to the water point and wait for us. I was as fast as I could but I saw a huge trolley ahead at a checkout. I moved on and settled behind someone who seemed to be only buying lettuce – 3 boxes of lettuces about a dozen in each. I had 3 minutes to get to the station and their train was on time. It was a run in the park to get to the station from the canal and we met up successfully. First thing was to get into the dry and get the kettle on while we took in water at the water point.

Shane and I had some ideas of places to stop and I wondered if we might stop at the Pig Place for a drink or lunch but the weather made that less appealing. As we reached the first lock, Richard and I got off to help and there was Canal and River Trust boat going in. I offered to open a paddle and they said they were going to be working in the lock doing a repair and would be there for half an hour. That was the lunch decision made for us, made excellent use of the enforced stop. The Pig Place looked shut when we passed it anyway.

The weather steadily improved and we were able to sit out the back and front, and enjoy the autumn colours, with cushions to stop our jeans getting too damp. My mistake to leave the cushions there when we got to a lock later on as the water drenched the bow. Anne and Richard were keen to wield a windlass and apart from the cushions, the locks all went well. They both had a go at driving. Anne was deservedly chuffed at driving through several bridges by the end of the day, a natural helmswoman.

We moored up just minutes from sunset and proposed a pub in Banbury we had researched, that dId a special tapas night on a Thursday. It turned out it was such a special night they had no free tables but Anne wisely asked for a suggestion, since we don’t know the town and got directed to the Reine Deere where we managed to get well fed and watered (thanks Rich!) in time for a short walk to the station, for their return train. Banbury was unexpectedly mobbed with the fair in town. It was much busier than London but we made it through the crowds, loud music, pink vapour and flashing lights. Anne didn’t have time to show us her prowess at dodgem driving, which had been discussed earlier. As Shane often says our days are slow tranquility interspersed with brief moments of panic.

Back aboard we had really enjoyed their company and look forward to the next time we will see them. Shane had a video chat with his brother in the evening – another relative who has waited a long time for us to get to London…may be next year. Anne has shared some of her photos, just as well as I was too busy chatting, driving or locking to take many myself.

All smiles leaving the lock after a lovely day out in great company