Loo views

Loo views

Friday, 23 June 2017

Beauty in the Cherwell Valley

This was my view from the loo yesterday. So peaceful after all the racket of my shady mooring near Aynho Wharf (where Don't Panic was born!) There we had 2 railway lines, the M40 and a very noisy neighbour. But the motorway has roared off to our right and the railway has sunk into a cutting.

This morning I tackled Somerton Deep Lock which has almost immovable paddles and a ridiculously heavy single bottom gate. It is also, as its name suggests, deep! I managed the difficult bits and when she had reached the bottom, I decided rather than climb down the greasy ladder, I would bowhaul Don't Panic out of the lock. She almost made it when a fender got jammed by the gate and she stopped just short of me being able to get back on. I didn't panic. I stood back and considered my options. There seemed to be two: keep hauling on the rope hoping I could drag her free or let water in from the top gate, hoping that would whoosh her out.

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something because when I took up the rope again, she had wiggled herself about and in doing so had freed the fender on her own! Simple then to pull her the rest of the way out. By then another boat had arrived behind me and closed the very heavy gate for me. This lock might be a bit of a challenge but it's very pretty...

As is the lock cottage!

I only travelled 15 minutes or so more before I reached Somerton water meadows. The cruising gods were still with me as there are very few mooring spots in this gloriously pretty spot and I got one which is just 50' long with large bushes either side, which means some rare privacy. 

Bonny loves it as there are no fences or hedges and so she has a view of the whole field and any rabbits that might be about!

Lastly a picture of yesterday's Oxfordshire sunset:

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Summer Solstice

This is not the most picturesque view from the loo but the most important thing about it today is the shade! Having endured temperatures up to 29° since last Friday, it is forecast to be over 30° today.

I am not one of those people who revel in the heat and strip off at the drop of a hat. I much prefer the gentler caress of a spring or autumn sun. In fact if my only choice in life was to live in Africa or Alaska, it would be Alaska all the way! Bonny too struggles in the heat. She still expects her walks and still wants to ride on the roof when we are moving but I have had to restrict her to the back counter for her own safety. I also bought a table fan in Banbury, primarily for her, but every time I point it at her she moves! I have also put a wet towel on the floor but she won't lie on it. Instead she just looks at me pleadingly and pants herself into exhaustion.

Yesterday was particularly trying as I had only intended to water up and do a couple of miles and locks before finding more shade. I had forgotten that for fairly long stretches of the South Oxford the towpath resembles a rainforest and you can't get close to the bank for vegetation. I ended up doing one swing bridge, five locks and seven miles which took four and a half hours, all in searing heat.

I nearly cried at the last lock of the day which is a river lock (where the Cherwell joins with the canal briefly). The gate was so heavy and the lock so leaky that even sweating and straining with all my strength, I couldn't budge the top gate. Fortunately another boater came to my rescue and together we cranked it open. He then worked the lock for me so I could stay on board. I occasionally write about the awkward people I come across on the cut but they are still vastly outnumbered by helpful, friendly ones.

I was faced with yet more impenetrable growth along the towpath and was just about to really panic as the heat was overcoming me when through a mercifully open lift bridge I could see somewhere to moor. Not only clear of vegetation along the edge but also with an overhanging oak tree which provided shade for most of the afternoon. I nearly cried again, this time with relief.

It is still very hot but, unlike Banbury, there is a breeze here and we can find shade for most of the day. Today is the Summer Solstice which happily coincides with the last day of this heat wave, they say the hottest in 20 years. I would obviously be dancing naked around the nearest standing stone to celebrate. But it is just too hot. Roll on winter!!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Banbury Bliss

You may think that this view from the loo has nothing to do with Banbury but you would be wrong. I am moored only a 3 minute walk away to the centre of town and yet this is what I see from my window.

I am moored beside Spiceball Park and it is the best managed wildlife and park space within a town that I have ever encountered. It has open grassy areas for picnics and ball games and these are kept mowed short and amply supplied with bins (not that everybody chooses to use them!) Then there is an area of grass left long and unmowed so that wild flowers have a chance. All around there are wooded spaces crawling with squirrels, rabbits and birds. Bonny thinks she has died and gone to Heaven. In fact in the early morning it sounds like we are moored in a rain forest, such is the clamour of bird song. One bird has obviously lived in a town too long as it's call precisely mimics the alarm sound of a reversing lorry!

Banbury is bliss too for the shade the mooring offers. This weekend is the hottest of the year so far and despite having bought a table fan, the evenings and overnight are uncomfortably hot. We could not have coped without the shade.

Lastly Banbury is bliss because of the facilities here. My good friend Chris who lives here has already run me to the supermarket. I have walked to the launderette (friendliest one I have ever visited) and have finally managed to replace my dreadful Trespass walking boots with hopefully brilliant High Tech ones. I have even managed to find my receipt for the Trespass boots so I shall be demanding a refund as, in only three months, they have lost 3 eyelets, both boots leak and one has split.

We move on soon, heading towards Lower Heyford where we pick up passengers in the form of my best friends Roger and Shirleyann Andrews. Then we head to Oxford and The Thames!

Monday, 5 June 2017

How do we know when to quit

I have stopped half way up the Napton lock  flight and this is my lovely, if somewhat damp view from the loo. I stopped because I judged that it had become too windy for me to safely continue.

But that is not the reason for the title of this post. On the way up the flight I met an elderly man coming down. He was obviously struggling. He took ages to open the top gate and by the time I got tied up and went up to him he had only just got his boat into the lock and was fiddling about with the longest rope I have ever seen on a boat! As I approached he tripped over the rope and only just remained upright. I told him that, if he wanted to, he could get back on board and I'd work the lock for him. I opened one paddle but he was so busy explaining how difficult he was finding everything and how he had recently cilled his boat! that when he went to get on board he had to use the ladder. That was terrifying to watch and I was busy making a plan in my head should he fall!

Eventually I got his boat out of the lock, but was so concerned that I asked the boat behind me to see him through the next lock and in return I would set my lock for them once I had got through. As it was, another boat came towards me as I was ready to leave. The lady asked me if I had met the elderly man. I told her of my encounter. She told me that they had followed him down the flight so far and very nearly had to fish him out of the lock as he had slipped on the stone surround and had fallen over!

It made me wonder how can you tell when it is time to hang up your windlass? Do you stop when a) you become a danger to yourself or others? b) when you start to terrify yourself or c) when you are so slow that the whole lock flight grinds to a halt!

I don't think that b) or c) are good enough reasons to quit as I regularly terrify myself but I still love it and speed should not be a factor when boating. But a) is a harder one. If this man had injured himself (or worse) today it would not just have ruined his day, but would have disrupted everyone else on the flight. The emergency services would have had to come and looking at where we were, it almost certainly would have involved the air ambulance.

But then how can you tell when to quit? Not just boating but anything you really love to do? I don't know the answer to that and I may need to know one day. At present I can't imagine not cruising my boat whatever age I get to. And perhaps the chap I met today is the same. Does anyone have the right to stop him?

Answers on a postcard please!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Where is courtesy?

I'm sorry but it is time for me to release my grumpy old woman on the world!

Yesterday a woman closed a swing bridge practically in my face because she didn't want to delay her dog walk by the 20 odd seconds it would have taken me to pass through.

Today I met a working boat and butty. I'm very tempted to name and shame but I won't. They were approaching on quite a narrow part of the canal. Since I know they need every bit of water they can get, I slowed to tick over and practically drove my boat up the side of the bank so they could get by easily. As the male skipper of the motor boat came alongside I said 'Good Morning' and smiled. Now I know what many working boatmen are like so I didn't expect warm gratitude or even a whole sentence. But I also didn't expect to be utterly ignored as if I didn't exist in the same universe as him! I mentioned this blanking to the woman steering the butty but she just said 'Oh he's always like that'. Why??? What does a nod to acknowledge someone's courtesy cost? Is saying good morning somehow lowering him to the grotty standard of your normal boater? I know those with vintage or working boats consider themselves to be the aristocracy of the canals and rather above the rest of us, but courtesy costs nothing and it's really horrible to be treated like you don't exist.

To complete my day, I was returning from the supermarket in Rugby. I was laden with shopping, in my back pack and with a full old ladies trolley. I was on a narrow pavement with a steep curb when I heard the repeated ringing of a cycle bell getting closer and closer behind me. I stopped and looked at the young man who was forced to slow down from racing speed. He waved me out of the way! I asked him where he expected me to go? He said 'into the road, I want to get by'. I said 'What with my full trolley? Why can't you ride into the road. You are a young man on a vehicle. You shouldn't be on the pavement in the first place!' He swerved round me onto the road and uttered an expletive I won't repeat here, before mounting the curb back onto the pavement.

What is happening to us as a society? Rudeness seems to be everywhere. Is it because we are fed incivility and rudeness by our media, our politicians, big business? Are we all just too much in a hurry to be courteous? Are we so driven to be first, fastest or best that we will trample over others to get our way?

Well not me! I shall continue to be courteous to working boatmen whether they choose to respond in kind or not. I will open lock gates or swing bridges for others when I am in the position to do so. I will doff my cap at passers by and say, 'Oh no, after you my dear fellow'.

Who is with me? Shall we start a quiet revolution? Shall we bring courtesy, chivalry and good manners back, even if we are met with ignorance? Let's make our corner of the world just a little more polite and a little bit more pleasant for us all.

Monday, 29 May 2017

And the opposite!

My last post was about a perfect mooring and what makes it ideal. One of the things was the feel of the place. Some moorings feel peaceful and welcoming and it doesn't really matter if there is road or rail nearby, it's not so much an absence of sound but a deeper sense of well-being.

Today we moored at All Oaks Wood on the Oxford Canal. Yes, it was raining and yes I had had to negotiate a fallen tree and an inconsiderate boater (closed a swing bridge even though my boat was close enough to touch it!) But I have moored here before and very quickly slipped into the same mood. It's quiet here and very pretty but almost immediately I started to feel scratchy and irritable. Bonny picked up on it too and was very difficult on her walk and, unusually for her, quite yappy too.

It's as if the place itself holds an atmosphere and those sensitive to these things pick up on it. Did a tragedy occur here that has left an echo? Is there something in the air that irritates? Or is it just me? Who knows but I shall be very glad to move on in the morning.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Perfect summertime mooring

It may not look very special but this is one of my favourite ever moorings. It is on the bottom end of the Ashby Canal and is just perfect, particularly in hot weather.

What makes a perfect mooring for Bonny and I?

It has to be in the countryside and this one is surrounded by fields - not a road in sight. It has to have good walks. This mooring not only had walks in every direction, there was also a stream just a few feet from the boat. That is why it is a perfect mooring for the hot days we have just had as Bonny spent a lot of time lying in the water. Add to that the shady trees and the position of the afternoon sun and it meant we were comfortable all day.

The mooring has Armco to tie to and there is only room for around three boats, although hardly anyone stopped for the four nights we were there. It has really good phone and tablet reception and TV as well. Not only all this, but some places have a real feeling of peace and safety about them and this one tops the list. Bonny was free of lead or tether most of the time and never once abused the privilege.

So from Wednesday to Sunday morning we lazed about, only moving to get water and turn round. We are both as relaxed as it is possible to get. This morning we moved on and are now moored at Hawkesbury Junction, ready to enjoy a new canal in the morning. Oxford, here we come!