Monday, September 12, 2016

Almost back!

It was warm, cloudy and humid when we started out today. The moisture in the air held the smells of the countryside, and it was lovely - grass and leaves, hedgerow flowers, some wood-smoke from somewhere. Autumn's colours were beginning to take hold of the trees. It was a sensual morning.

We carried on down the Oxford Canal. The approach to Stretton Stop was lined on both sides by boats, the cutting beyond it bordered with ancient trees that formed a canopy over the water.
Beyond that, open fields, sheep and cows by the hundred, geese by the gang, a huge field of Christmas trees numbered in thousands.

We noted yet again today the huge increase in the number of women at the helm of their boats. Yet still we hear the old, sexist comments like the one to me; a man on a bridge, watching Grace drive Kantara into a lock below him who called out to me, "Bloody hell! Do you trust her to drive that?" To which I answered, "Why would I not?" His reply doesn't merit the space here.

Or the man at a lock telling me, "You shouldn't be doing that! You're the skipper."

"No," I said, "I should be doing this, and my wife's the skipper - as she should be!" He said nothing, but gave me a pitying look. The progeny of misogyny. 

Newbold next. The Quarry Pits, sadly hidden from view from the canal, then the 250-yard Tunnel, still without the coloured lights it had four years ago.
And on to Rugby, a 20-minute drive from the marina, but two days by boat on the winding canal.

After lunch at the bottom of Hillmorton Locks, I was greeted by vollie Maurice Farndon, "The Man with the Golden Windlass".

"Ahh," he cried, offering me his hand, "the man with his feet under water! Nice to see you again!"

I can imagine Marice is like that with all of his regulars. He sets the standard for volunteer lock-keeper service. That he liked my book makes him even more special!

Up we went, then, through the three locks - the busiest locks on the canal system, Marice tells me -  and on to Braunston, 7 miles further on.

Arriving there, we were surprised and dismayed to find the visitor moorings full, breasted two or three deep in places. There must have been a weekend event here. Roy and Lee were working on a boat moored next to Roy's' NB Wells Fargo, and Roy invited us to moor abreast it. We'd overshot by then, could have reversed, but carried on and nearly regretted having done so. All of the mooring spaces were occupied from the junction bridge to Butcher's Bridge, almost a mile. We passed Simon, fixing something on the Gongoozlers' Rest. Then we came to the very last boat length before Butcher's - and it was empty, and we took it gladly.

If we get up early tomorrow, we should be back at the marina by the end of the day.

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