May

The day our Thames licence became active was by chance the first day that all the Thames boards were yellow in stead of red. We can now move. Thrupp has been a good place for people to be stuck and some of the people stuck for a month were still planning to wait until tomorrow. People do want to prepare, the water point was busy. I thought getting the rubbish disposed of would be worth it, while we had all the facilities to hand. It is a very nicely kept area, despite the presence of bins and pump out! The caretakers here certainly take care. Someone has done topiary in the shape of a canal boat, which I only noticed for the first time today.

Topiaries hedge in shape of a narrow boat, windlass, as a tiller, and chimney added.

The prettiest waste disposal area ever

We had a wasp in the cabin yesterday and Shane deftly persuaded it to leave through the kitchen window. This morning Shane saw a wasp go into our stern locker. Concerned there may be a wasps nest, I set about emptying it. I managed to drop the lid on my toes but no serious damage was done, less painful than a wasp sting anyway. We saw a wasp fly out but it was huge. We wondered if it was in the barbecue set left by the previous occupant. I opened boxes on the grass tentatively but only found a huge spider, which was an improvement of several huge wasps. I tipped it out of the box, relieved it was not an Australian spider (since the previous owner was from there) and then set off again for the recycling bin with the card board. We had an amusing exchange with the neighbours (from the town where Shane grew up) behind us all the time. We are informed that conkers deter spiders. I can’t imagine how that works but it can’t harm to try, but this was not the season.

We then were set to get along towards Oxford. We will happily spend time in Thrupp again. It was a quiet single track road and friendly community of boaters. Opposite us was been a dry stone wall and blossoming apple trees. This gate is inappropriately labelled as in constant use. It is clear this busy hamlet gets more traffic than it can cope with and there are several signs telling people where they are not allowed to park.

The grass growing in front of the gate in constant use.

Thrupp and nearby Kidlington have a a handy and good range of shops but Shane was concerned about stocks running low. Foremost in Shane’s mind was getting decaffeinated fair trade coffee and this is not easy to find. He was confident a certain shop in Oxford would have some of the desired decaff so that was our first port of call. 

There are quite a few long term moored boats near Thrupp and one man called out to us that if we saw a piece of wood (he held up and example) floating to let him know. Shane thought he saw it but it was the wrong shape. Then I saw something I had wanted to photograph the night before but it was too dark. Shane let me off and as I was taking photographs the man came running up, obviously hopeful I had found his beloved piece of wood and I had to confess I was just taking a picture of a wooden flower. It had been for his solar panels. He had made them himself and had a spare but it was not on the boat but back at home. The day was warm and he would certainly want his solar panels appropriately fixed to take advantage.

Wooden flower, creatively designed

There were a few lift bridges and locks along the way but no major flights. The warmth had brought out butterflies . It being a nice day, and mooring being problematic Shane suggested not driving to Oxford but cycling. It was an exceedingly good day to do so. We stopped near where we would be turning off the canal, but the mooring was not particularly straightforward. Shane got out the gangplank for wheeling off the tandem. I drove in spikes but the earth was not firm at the bank. The path looked like tarmac but when I threw the spikes and mallet ashore it was clear it was a bit rubbery.

Laying a gangplank

It was a very pleasant ride into Oxford. We had a brief stop when we came across a group of costumed dancers. I wondered if they would be Morris dancers celebrating the first of May but in fact they were in a variety of historical outfits, and a kilt with some interesting instruments. They then asked some of their audience to complete a set for the next dance and walked them through the steps of Mrs Bennett’s jig, which predated Jane Austen. They managed to follow their steps well, with one of the audience participating in a wheelchair.

Dancers being given their jigging instructions by the lady in pale blue
The dance in progress
An assortment of attire and Instruments

In Thrupp I picked up a book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, called The Meaning of Everything and is of course published by Oxford university press. I have only read part of the preface. We shall see how it goes. A fictional story set around this very topic and including a mix of real and fictional characters was given to me earlier this year by my friend who had already read it. I really enjoyed The Dictionary of Lost Words. It made frequent mention of trips to the libraries so I stopped to see some of the Bodleian library, though I have seen the buildings before. They must be impressive inside too. There were many signs up reminding visitors that this was a working library and to be quiet, but it wasn’t a hushed gathering. The man in red saw us later on our tandem and wished us an enjoyable day. I don’t know if he recognised me as some he had seen taking a photo earlier or if he was just being friendly to passing cyclists.

Locking up the bike outside the shop a woman came over to ask what make it was. She and her husband had a Pashley, and we had a very nice chat about cycling adventures we had had and the experiences in Switzerland in particular. She concluded they argued too much and are now happier on separate bikes. It is not that Shane and I don’t ever argue or disagree, but because I don’t ride a bike solo, there is no argument on the tandem on whether we are in the right gear or not or which way to go. I have just to go at his pace. There are plenty other things to disagree about! The woman was amused when he described himself as my crumple zone, his way of encouraging me to trust his speed and steering.

Mission accomplished we returned to Bartimaeus to find stakes pulled out and we were partially adrift. Shane jumped on and passed me the stake and rope and I hammered it in again so that the tandem could be brought aboard. The shopping and tandem were brought on. Shane was busy stowing the tandem in its cupboard, when I saw a boat moving fast. I went on deck and grabbed the gangplank as it would have been separated by the boat movement as the stake was pulled out again by the passing boat. It was a pretty new and unstable bank, but he was also going too fast. He wasn’t obeying the sign we saw in the window of a boat in Thrupp, that said there are no speedometers on the boat.

Reminder of the maximum speed to pass moored boats

I was glad to set off and went on to work the Duke’s cut lock, and from then on had a lovely sunny ride along the river. Shane smiles at adversity as he revved up to manage the corner and avoid being pulled towards the weir. The river is still at Caution levels but there was no signage at the lock warning as we went on.

We found a place to moor next to a field. The cows were far away and there was another boat not far along. The ground felt good and the access easy. Shane was hungry from all that driving and so I rustled up tea quickly but then the cows seemed to take an interest and one or two were licking the ropes and boat. The calves were articulately interested. To think we were worried about a wasp nest in the morning, now I was even more concerned a herd of cows, calves and a bull might want to stay with us.

Two more boats passed us. One was full of men, some of whom were dressed as pirates. I suspect they may have had more than a glass of Pimm’s. It was already sunset so hope they get successfully moored.

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