We'd been awoken in the bright, small hours of the morning by ducks enthusiastically pecking at the algae just below the waterline of the hull. Let them fill themselves! we said. There's so much of the stuff there, growing like an old Green Man's beard. Let them invite their mates, and party!
We started the day's journey earlier than yesterday. There was a lot of traffic on the move.
One of the boats that came out, however, had had a problem in the tunnel. And it was a problem that isn't uncommon, unfortunately. An ABC Boat Hire boat travelling towards him had a tunnel lamp which more closely resembled a floodlamp. Brilliant halogen bulbs in a large array which did a great job of giving the skipper of that boat a magnificent view of the tunnel ahead, but which also totally dazzled oncomers. Not only that, but the lamp was attached to the starboard - right - side of the front of the boat, instead of in the centre, which is the norm. The effect of this is to give half-blinded approaching helmsmen the impression that the boat is further towards that side of the tunnel than it really is; that there is more room for the oncoming craft to move past than there is. The poor man who had just suffered from this bedazzlement had only seen at the last second that this was an optical illusion, had pulled his boat hard over to the right, and struck his chimney on the sloping roof, damaging it beyond repair. As he related this to us, another boat emerged from the mouth of the tunnel behind him. Another boat from the same company. Its tunnel light was so dazzling, even in daylight, that it was impossible to look at it head-on.
While we were waiting for the two boats to emerge, NB Constance May came up behind us, obviously very keen to go ahead, and not wait. We waved them past. Once in the tunnel, we closed the space between us fairly quickly. They were a bit dawdly, and we caught them up at Braunston Top Lock, sharing all six locks with them. Mrs Constance was a retired ICT teacher, like myself – she'd looked like a teacher to me, even before she told me. Her husband was a retired deputy headteacher. That's a job I envy no-one! Much of their planned journey coincides with a big chunk of ours, so I expect we'll see them again soon. As it was, they passed us as we were mooring up for lunch on the North Oxford Canal, and we've not seen them since. Not yet.
On our way down Braunston Locks, we met Chris and Alison on NB Doo Lally Ally, who'd been on a short, rain-drenched trip for a few days. They're retired, more recently than us, and thoroughly enjoying the ability to get in the boat and go whenever the fancy takes them, whilst still being based in their house. Chris, forever the extrovert, was sporting a bowler hat.
Into Braunston, wave to Roy of Days Afloat (Roy who rebuilt our shower-room and galley), bear right, and head out on the Oxford Canal, Northbound. I love this stretch of canal (though I love many, many stretches!) It starts off wide and spacious, with broad vistas across farming land, and back to Braunston. The air was replete with the scent of Meadowsweet and wild roses. Fields were spread with cows and sheep. Suddenly it seems, there are new species of duck, and altogether more water birds generally. And the weather was warm, and we had permanent smiles on our faces.
Three years ago, I threw a number of seed bombs onto those scrubby bits of land to be seen next to the berm-bank side of the bridges along this canal. I looked hopefully at each bridge as we passed, but saw none of the wild flowers promised on the packet. Most disappointing. But we saw alpacas! Barby Marina has an island populated by alpacas! Why??
I was told two brilliant gongoozler tales today, by Mrs Constance.
Two American tourists at Foxton Locks, obviously in dispute with each other, went to one of the vollies and asked him to settle the matter.
“Boats going up the locks use their engines, yes?” asked one. “But coming down, they have their engines off, right?”
On the cut one day, Mrs C met a British woman who had never seen a canal before that day. She thought that one was wonderful, but it looked rather dirty?
“How often do they clean them?” she asked.
We moored just past Moors Bridge, less than 100 yards from Hillmorton Locks. Opposite us, a pair of swans snuggled up with their offspring in their nest. Gulls swooped and wheeled, screeching as if they were at Blackpool. The nearby railway was muted by the cutting it ran through. It was a beautiful night.