Thursday, 26 April 2007

And on from Banbury

Thursday 12 Apr

I left Banbury about lunch time for the short journey to Cropredy. I filled up at Sovereign Narrowboats and bought some stern grease (cheapest on the system according to Brian). After leaving Sovereign I received a text from Nick and Diane which asked me to say hello to Elaine…… too late, sorry.

Tom Rolt says it is 5½ miles to Cropredy, the post at Cropredy say 4½. Maybe the canal has shrunk. I was expecting the first lock to be Salmons Lock but instead it was Hawkesbridge. Was Tom was wrong or maybe the name has been changed? Anybody know?

There are only four locks to Cropredy so my journey was short. For those of you that haven't read 'Narrowboat' Tom Rolt set off from Banburyin July 1939 and moored overnight at Cropredy

Quote:Later that evening we walked to the sign of 'The Red Lion' halfway up the street, and found a village inn of the best type which has escaped both stuffy Victorianism and the old-worlde reconstruction of our own age. The bar parlour was as simple and unpretentious as it had always been: a stone flagged floor, benches and tables of wood whitened by constant scouring, and a great open fireplace with its crane and ratchet hooks, sunken ash pit and snug seats beneath the yawning chimney breast, Our beer was drawn straight from the wood in the cellar, so cool that mist formed on the glass. We sat drinking contentedly in this quiet place, listening to the leisurly quarter chime of the church clock…………

Tom and Ann returned to the boat to eat,

Quote:We returned to a hot dinner on board which would have been an excellent meal in any place, but was a veritable banquet in such circumstances and surroundings.

Friday 13 Apr

Late yesterday evening I walked up the towpath and crossed the bridge into Red Lion Street. Halfway up the street I came to 'The Red Lion' of Tom's earlier visit. What I expected and what I saw was not the same vision. The bar is basically the same. The yawning chimney breast is still there as are the snug seats in the fireplace. Some of the mechanism of the open fire is there, but I suspect greatly reduced to look right but with out the huge flue that once would have carried away the smoke. The old grate and 'sunken ash pit' have been replaced by a modern fire, which was totally out of place in its setting. I think I saw the old grate in the dinning room surmounted by a modern MDF fire surround. I did not see one single indication that Rolt had ever been there, should there have been? I don't know.

Cropredy is now famous for its music festival which takes place in August. There is a plaque dedicated to 'Rodders' of Fairport Convention above a snug seat in the fireplace. The walls of the bar and dining room adorned with watercolours all sporting heavy price tags. Not one, that I saw, had a canal theme. I left the pub a bit disappointed.

However not to be put off I walked around the village and tried to imagine what Rolt would have seen or more to the point would not have seen during his short stay. Cropredy is a lovely village of stone houses some dating back to before the civil war. Indeed the Battle of Cropredy took place in the meadows east of the area between the bridges in 1664.

I took it easy this morning getting under way. A number of boats came down the lock and a few came up. There are nine locks to the summit level. Then eleven miles of lock free meandering cruising to the next lock on the down flight. I stopped at the Wharf Inn mid-afternoon where I met Doo-Dah Now if you understand that it is just possible that you have met Stuart York. Stuart's conversation is liberally punctuated with the phrase 'Doo-Dah'. He has many self-inflicted problems which I will not go into here, but suffice to say he is well known to the federalis and is barred from most of the pubs from here to Warwick. He is a pleasant enough man with whom I have a lot in common. We are both relatively new to boating we both play the guitar and write songs. Both like the music of John Denver. We both enjoy nature.

I watched this man, who has a particularly violent back ground, enjoy the antics nine of the smallest ducklings on the canal I swear there were tears in his eyes. Of course this will do nothing for his street cred so please do not tell anyone else.

Stuart and his wife Lisa have 4 dogs. Two Staffys a Jack Russell and a scruffy fluffy thing called Tramp Dog, that’s eats people. One of the Staffys suffers from something like Down's syndrome, but nonetheless is a lovely, lively dog who thought I was the bee's knees and didn't leave my side for the 6 hours I shared with Stuart.

Saturday 14 Apr. 07

I had planned to leave here after lunch, but time passed while I was waiting for a small delivery and I got away at 3:30. This was a push to get down the flight to Napton where I arrived at 9 pm in the dark, but still I continued on to the Bridge Inn for a mooring.

Sunday 15 Apr

Coming towards Braunston I encountered nb Kyamanzi. I stopped for a chat with Mrs Kymanzi who was walking the dogs. About half a mile further on a couple sitting out on deck chairs recognised the boat. "Hey look its Maffi, he said and started to follow me up the Canal talking to me at the same time. I put the boat in reverse and moored up behind Cassie's Dream I hope they read this then they can remind me of their names. We had a chat and I showed them around the boat. While we were chatting Brian Jarret who you may remember I met last January coming down from Warwick passed on nb Kyle.

After getting on my way I went up the Oxford for a few miles, worst part of my trip so far. I followed some bozo on his own boat going at a snails pace. I was just on tick-over. He was all over the place and just would not let me pass. We passed a moored boat just about to cast off. As I drew level with him he said, "Nobody slows down anymore". Now he wasn't talking about me I know that, he said so, but who the bloody hell was he talking to certainly not the twat in front who was probably doing less than 2 mph. Maybe it is just some people have to be obnoxious.

Further along I sounded on horn because I couldn't see the other side of the bridge yet some trad Bozo came speeding through a bridge I slammed it in reverse and had to use the bow thruster to avoid hitting him. This drew his attention to the front of my boat and he shook his head. F***ing Ludite. I don't think the canal system will survive if it has to depend on these ******* ******.

When I moored this evening I washed down the side of the boat nearest the towpath as I am wont to do on these light nights. I noticed when I was washing the Houdini Hatch that someone had tried to jemy it open. Fortunately no real damage was done and the hatch was not penetrated. When this happened I don't know, but 10 points for Houdini.

Monday 16 Apr

I set off from Braunston about 10 am. I got about a half mile, if that, when I saw a woman frantically waving through the cratch. I waved back thinking probably another fan of Maffi. Then a guy popped his head out of the rear hatch. "Hello you old duffer," he said in a Kiwi accent. Then it dawned on me the boat was the Gyps Rover. It was Dot & Derek who I met at Apsley. I moored up again and we chatted for a couple of hours. I then cadged a double up the flight with nb Rusty Nail.

Going through the Brunston Tunnel I bumped a private boat, a mere nudge. "Thanks for that", he said. Well it really wasn't my fault his tunnel light was pointed straight ahead giving me no forward vision. I would have thought someone with a josher bow trad would have known better, obviously symmetry is more important than doing it right!

Coming out of the tunnel I was aiming for Weedon. I set off down the Buckby flight with a German couple, funnily enough I did that the last time I came this way. They moored up in the first pound. So I took the next lock alone. Then I was joined by two boats, no don't be silly, they followed, but they had a surplus of crew who were detailed to help me down. How cool is that.

Tuesday 17 Apr

I thought to visit Nigel Carton at Bridge 47 just before Gayton Junction. Unfortunately he was working on an important mission preparing for St Georges Day, which if my memory serves me right from last year probably involved the procurement of a barrel of ale. I stayed overnight.

Wednesday 18 Apr

I headed for the tunnel and called my brother Robert to see if he wanted to come through with me. It turns out he had done it before and was in no hurry to repeat the process so I came through on my own. Why do people and hire boat companies insist on pointing their tunnel light straight ahead? It is so annoying! I did manage to catch the wall a couple of times and took a bit of paint of the top edge of the cabin. Doh! Coming out of the tunnel, still with my focus on the smoke stack, I bounced off the narrow bit and had to take quick action to avoid hitting a moored boat. Note to self: be sure to adjust focus for long distance when exiting a tunnel.

I like Stoke Bruerne it's a nice place to spend a day, and a night. Alan Jones nb Keeping Up passed and I didn't recognise him nor he me until he put his phone down. He moored up and came back for a chat. He was on his way to tow another boat to Hillmorton, I think!

Thursday 19 Apr

I came down the Stoke flight with a couple of older ladies on a hire boat. There was a lot of excess water when we got down to lock three so we waited for the guy before to exit the next lock. Had we opened the paddles before he had passed through the lock water we let down would have filled the lock over the top of the gate faster than it left his bottom gates. So the ladies made tea for us all. Thank you ladies.

I was shouted at today for going too fast coming over the top of Milton Keynes. I will admit I was guilty, but if people insist on mooring 200-300 yards apart for miles then it is no wonder that I was getting a bit ticked off. And of course if a guy is doing a fit out on a 14 day mooring then who is he to tell me I am in the wrong.

I sent my bro a text a short time before I moored up asking, "What was for dinner?

Friday 20 Apr

Slow day today. I painted the stern deck stool tops again, the finish looked good one more coat tomorrow and they should be top dollar. Robert came over and found the wet paint. Gilly sent him out to go fishing while she finished getting ready for a family visit. He spent a couple of hours fishing off the well deck of Milly. Lots of bites but only two fish, one small Dace and a 1 lb Perch, still it passed the time. Robert dropped me off at Sainsbury's. I bought far too much and had to call him to take me back to the boat. Ho hum!

Since I last moored here there has been a water point installed between the 48 hr and permanent moorings. The overstay charge has increased to £50 a day. Ouch! The owner of w/beam Moose Drool is the new mooring warden and dead keen according to locals so it looks like I will have to cross the canal tomorrow to the 14 day moorings.

Saturday 21 Apr

I went to the shopping centre to get some cash and while there I bought some sunglasses which I had been promising to get since January when my Georgio Armani's were knocked of roof. Reluctant to knock another £100 pair of 'sunnies' in the canal I paid just £3:99 for the new ones. Money well spent too.

I went to Robert's after shopping where I met my nephew Dierk whom I haven't seen in 15 years, he works and lives abroad, in Monaco to be exact and most points east. There was some talk yesterday about a daughter of Gilly's having a border collie with which she could no longer cope, would I like it? Well I have been thinking about a companion so I said I would have a look at him. Robert took me back to the boat arranging to meet John and the collie, Oscar, to show him around and see if we would get on. I showed him around the boat on the way out he pissed up the front of my bathroom cabinet. NOT IMPRESSED!!!! I said I would think about it. By the time everyone had gone my 48 hours was up so I had to shift Milly across the canal to the 14 day moorings..

Colin and Joy came to pick me up and we went off to have a few pints then away to dinner in the theatre district of MK.

Sunday 22 Apr

I had Sunday dinner at Roberts. I spent a lazy afternoon in the garden chatting with Dierk and trying to teach Pollyanna, the spaniel, to fetch and drop a tennis ball. Getting the ball was no problem, bringing it back, far too difficult. She is one dumb dog.

Monday 23 Apr

Well today I was supposed to be taking Robert & Gilly for a trip up the canal, but it's pouring with rain. The sun eventually came out, but not for long. The day was mostly overcast and as it turned out R&G had another unforeseen commitment so I returned to Stoke Bruerne on my way to Hawksbury Junction.

Tuesday 24 Apr

Having spent the night at the bottom of the Stoke flight I filled up with water and set off to the top. The water points at the bottom are just taps, no locks, which is good because I left my key at the top last week. I wont see that again. A young couple ask if they could come up the flight with me, like I was going to refuse! At the top I noticed a BW key in the water point lock which I retrieved. A case of swings and roundabouts. However I saw the hire boat that left it and as I passed I just had to give them back the key. It's just the kind of dumb twat that I am.

The couple I came up with set off for the tunnel. As they passed I suggested that they wouldn't need to cover up until they could see the far end. Some people are so trusting! Me, I donned the long wax coat, that Candy bought me, before I entered the tunnel and stayed dry. I didn't realise that it is possible to the far end of the tunnel, the tunnel being as straight as a die.

I moored up at bridge 47 just past Nige Carton's mooring and popped back to say hello. Nigel was waiting for a prospective buyer for his latest acquisition, Pipistrelle.

Wednesday 25 Apr

When I awoke this morning I was reminded that the view through the window was to be new and exciting every morning. I wasn't disappointed. A Kingfisher perched on a twig over the water and was catching fish, so cool.

I reversed all the way back to Gayton Junction and set forth to see the view from the top of the flight leading down the arm to Northampton. Though not planned by 5:30 I was at the bottom of the flight. Given that the locks are all narrow locks I managed to perfect my technique for closing the bottom gates without leaving the boat. Neat trick!

Thursday, 12 April 2007


Sorry about the delay.

There are two new posts.

This should bring me up to date

Sunday 01 Apr

I left Goring for Wallingford this morning to see if I could get a WIFI connection. 'twas a pleasant trip in good sun. On the way I saw 5 Red Kites soaring high on the wind. Mooring up at Wallingford nice though it was, no WIFI. Doh! Dr Bones came to visit.

Monday 02 Apr

There is a £5 mooring fee here at Wallingford, no one came to collect it. I was on the move by 06:30. I went up to Day's Lock to see what the situation was up there. Lots of workmen grafting to get the lock ready for the season, but no passage. Never mind I made a cuppa and a bacon butty and returned to Wallingford. I had seen another Red Kite soaring over the trees on the way up but on the way back it was hunting low over an adjacent field. My camera was where is usually was at the front of the boat. Stupid boy!

Going into Benson Lock I got grounded. It took a bit of phinagaling to sort that. Brian and Julie were going through the lock on their way up. There are no moorings up at Day's so they turned around. At W'll'ng'ford I decided to take a chance and once more sit on the £5 moorings. Brian joined me while we sat out the stoppage.

Tuesday 03 Apr

If I have to watch another cookery programme I will scream! Fortunately B&J went out for a pint late in the afternoon and whistled me to go with them, just for a couple you understand. Brian's idea of a couple and my idea of a couple are two different things. We got back about 10:30 pm fish supper in hand and a bit the worse for our time spent in the Dolphin. I was in bed before 12 and awoke with a banging headache just after three.

Wednesday 04 Apr

I tried to go back to sleep but at 4:30 I got up and made a cuppa. I dozed off in the chair until about 7 which in not a good idea, nice to sit in, but not so nice to sleep in. I tried phoning Day's Lock several times after 9 but got no answer. I went to chat to Brian he had got an answer. The lock will open at 10 tomorrow. Dr Bones came again this afternoon. It's always nice to see her, our conversations are a bit off the wall but enjoyable nonetheless. I also found out that my centre rope is in the centre and not forward as it should be. Hummmpppfff.

Thursday 05 Apr

Up with the sparras this morning and away by 8:30. short run to Benson Lock and a long drive to Day's Lock. The guys were still working on the lock but passage through was allowed. There were four BW engineers suspended in a cage above the lock, don't ask I don't know. The weather was good and the trip was excellent. Having just about one cup of coffee in my water tank I went atop Abingdon Lock to fill up enabling me to have a much needed shower.

For some strange reason my stove was still in this morning and continued to heat the boat unnecessarily all day. I soon put a stop to that. Riddle the ash and pileup the embers and it is certain to go out, which it did. After my shower I put the ash pan outside on the towpath to cool so I could bag it later, well at least that was the plan. I popped off to the shops for some much needed supplies of weed, on my return the ash pan had disappeared obviously some obnoxious git had tipped it in the river. A few minutes with the Sea searcher and it was retrieved. It amazes me that some one would pick up a hot ash pan and put it in the river although after picking it up the putting in the river might have been somewhat involuntary. Ouch! I hope that is what happened anyway, serves him bloody right.

Abingdon is such a nice place. Five days of mooring 'free', pretty cool if you ask me. Oh and no one came to collect mooring fees at Wallingford, ergo saved 20 quid. Maybe they were coming this morning which proves the old adage "the early bird catches the worm unawares and doesn't pay mooring fees." Boom! boom!

Knot in a piece of wood

Friday 06 Apr

Up early this morning got my washing on the go. One load done, in with the next……. nothing. No water supply. Further investigation tells me the water pump pressure switch had gone on strike. Good job I had a shower early this morning. Being Good Friday there is not much chance of being able to get a replacement. I phoned around a few boatyards no one could help. Well that looks like me being a bit skankey till after Easter.

I have to be off the river on Sunday so I set out to Oxford about 10 ish and oh what a surprise. Today is the first day of the boating season I saw more boats today than I have all winter. There were boat of all shapes and sizes all over the river. My idyllic cruise is over for the next six months and I will have to share the canals with other boaters boo hoo! Still I suppose I can't complain they do keep the licence fees down.

Arriving at Oxford I headed for the canal. Now wasn't that a surprise? Isis Lock has nowhere to moor while prepping the lock. So I stuck my bow in by the gate and hoofed it across the roof and jumped down where a strange young girl took my windlass and operated the locks. Thanks very much. Cruising past Castlemill Boatyard, as it was, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about the fence. Now it has been cut down it looks awful. Who complained? Probably the boaters. Why? Looking around I think the fence was the best part of that stretch of the canal. Yes, I was sad to see that the yard had gone but what has improved? Not a lot! It is by far the worst part of the canal system I have yet seen. If you have a house you are not allowed to store your stuff outside on the pavement so why do boat dwellers assume they can store all sorts of crap on the towpath. And don’t get me started on endless linear moorings of which there are so many at this end of the canal. I made my way up to Duke's Cut and the returned to Folly Bridge via the Thames. I had just got through the first lock south on the Thames when I observed a holiday boat mooring up at the lock jetty getting ready to come through the lock. Well mooring up is probably not quite the word, crash describes it better.

"First day", I said.

"First hour", came the reply.

OK, so I helped them down the lock and through the next one and pointed them at the pub they were looking for, the Perch.

I forged my way back down to Folly Bridge and moored just down stream.

Saturday 07 Apr

This is a very pleasant place to moor up for a day or two, including the hoards of very sweaty young ladies hauling on oars all day.

A couple came to look at the boat this morning which they had seen from the bridge. I spent a while chatting to them. The lady thought that a narrow boat might be a bit claustrophobic so I invited them in. She was quite surprised at just how spacious it was. This is a good reason to keep the boat tidy. Kim and Jim paid a surprise visit this afternoon. They could have stayed I suppose but not having any water it would have been very awkward. Anyway I now have plants on the roof, and Kim has dirty hands.

Sunday 08 Apr

Despite my misgivings Candy came today. She had been looking forward to coming down but with the water situation as it was I was reluctant. She got to the station and found Osney Lock called me and I motored up river to pick her up. We went up the Thames to Duke's Cut and onto the Oxford. Rounding a bend in the river I cut too close to the bank and had the boat at a very scary angle in the water. I was thinking it was sure to go over. A bit of extra power and right rudder and she slowly slid off the sandbank and regained level in the water. I wonder how far a narrowboat can tilt over before it is irreversible. I hope I never have to find out!

Once on the Oxford canal I volunteered to tow a chap to the top of Kiddlington. A friend of his had gone away overseas and said, "Please use the boat". What he didn't say was that the engine hadn't been run for sometime and it consequently broke down leaving the hapless couple with not only a dead boat but nowhere to sleep, the bedding being damp. I dropped them next to the Wise Alderman where friends were meeting them to take them home for a break. I carried on and moored up in Thrupp for the night. By this time food was off in the pub so after a chat with Terry nb Arun (met at Brentford and again at Wallingford) we (no not me and Terry) retired to bed. The much needed shower that I thought might be forthcoming at the Thrupp sanitary station didn't materialise, everything but including a supply of books.

Monday 09 Apr

I was wakened by the sound of splashing water at about 7 am. Peering out of the window the ripples on the water were soon pierced by the muscular body of a Carp leaping up into the air. What strange fish they have here. Obviously he had never been on the end of a fish hook before or he would have kept his head down.
Well we upped pins and moved off to the water point to top up the two one gallon bottles we had emptied during the previous day. That done we were on our way to……. well we'll see how far we get. Not far as it happens. Down the weed hatch I go stripping plastic and rope from the prop. I didn't manage to get it all off, but enough to allow me to continue on my way. We stopped in Aynho where I duly set about finding somewhere to shower. No luck!

Tuesday 10 Apr

This morning I was straight down the weed hatch to clear the rest of the crap from prop. With only a few miles to go to Banbury we got going as soon as we had a bite to eat and some nice hot coffee. It is surprising how well this boat steers with a clear prop.

At one of the locks, I forget which, a chap on a hire boat said, "You must be Maffi" and introduced himself as a 'lurker' on the forum.

We arrived in Rolt country about one pm. Me being a great Rolt fan was in awe of being there in the very place that Cressy was fitted out before the journey chronicled in 'Narrowboat'. I moored up about 100 yards from the old boat yard. Tooley's Yard is still there to a minor extent. Yes there was a modern cover over the dry dock but, the old workshop complete with forge and tools as used by the man himself still in existence. In the entrance to the shop more tools and a few old signs, such as, THE PENALTY FOR BREAKING IN HERE IS TRANSPORTATION. Pretty serious stuff.

I ordered a new pressure switch for my water pump, which now puts me in the real boater class. I have a part on my boat bought from Tooley's Yard. I also brought a hardback copy of NARROWBOAT, my old paper back copy is now falling apart from repeated reading.

We got a shower at the sports centre, which is not far from Tooley's that made me feel a whole lot better.

We all know the old nursery rhyme Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross but, how many of us know that there actually is a 'Banbury Cross' and surprisingly enough a statue of a 'fine lady on a white horse' and she does have rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. Under the horse by its left forefoot is this small creature. Its purpose…. I don’t know.
At the foot of the white horse

Wednesday 11 Apr

The switch arrived this afternoon. I saw Candy to the bus stop and fitted it on my return. Water system back to normal and all the washing caught up. What a relief!
This chap, probably new to boating, found a big parking space and managed to park right in the middle of it. Do people have no common sense these days? Why do people have to moor in the middle of a space? They will only have to move when the next boat comes along. Why can people not use same bollard as the other guy? Why do they breath? More important who gave them the money to hire a boat? They must be being paid too much.Err how much room does one boat need

Nb Waterways Routes passed by and said he had posted a comment on my blog a while back. It seems a lot of my readers are out and about this week.

Brian and Julie nb Tumbarumba caught up this evening I left them at Abingdon. I was able to return the switch Brian have given me but didn't fit, wrong switch.

To the end of March

Monday 26 Mar

Up with the larks well 9 o'clock I was away by 10. The sun was shining brightly and the river running a lot slower than yesterday. My target was Marlow. I kept going until 6:30. I didn't quite make it to Marlow but about 5 miles short mooring up in Maidenhead. I moored up on the right just before the railway bridge. This is a notable bridge in as much as it has the widest brick built span in the world, 128 feet. Anyway I digress the mooring I stopped at was £8 per 24 hours or part thereof. What! For that price I want ensuite hotdog stand and a beer room. So I moved. I seem to be on the one 24 hour mooring all the rest are reserved for 'passenger boats 24/7'. No! There are no boats there. What's the big deal? A mile of mooring and no boats

The Home Park is the grounds in which Windsor Castle stands. It has a river frontage between Albert and Victoria Bridges that has a first class concrete bank ideal for mooring. Unfortunately this is the welcome for visitors.(sorry pic not avail at the mo) Who actually owns this real estate well our Liz does, but because she rules by our consent it really belongs to us. Why the frosty reception? Given that there is a fence parallel to the river and about 50 feet from it I see no reason why this could not be a 24/48 hour mooring. Agreed Her Maj does not want hundreds of itinerants in floating skips mooring on her property, but why not normal people?

I am assuming that the bank was paid for out of government funds, er….. that’s our money, so what is the problem? I think I will write to Her Maj and ask. After Victoria Bridge the rivers edge is not usable.

I saw Timothy Spall again today. This time he waved and said hello. He seemed so much happier than he did the last time I saw him. Of course that could be because he was getting set up to do a handbrake turn on the wrong side of the river around an island.

Tuesday 27 Mar

I had Boulters Lock opened by 8 am. Of course this has its own problems. That early in the morning with no lockie present there is no electric. So it's the big wheel to start and a hernia to finish.

As you come out of Boulter's Lock take notice of the grey coloured wooden building on the right. There is a plaque on the wall informing us that the late Richard Dimbleby once lived there.

I cruised up the river, the sun was blazing down and 'Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band' blaring out on the stereo (the first line of Lucy in the sky with diamonds, picture yourself in a boat on a river. What a trip! WHAT - A - TRIP! Does it get better than this? NO! And then the lockie at Marlow said do you know about Mapledurham? closed until Saturday, bugger!

Rejig the plans. K&A here I come! Woo Hoo!

So I stayed at Marlow on a mooring with the couple off nb Tumbarumba. Marlow is a picturesque town with lots of history which I have no intention of going into here. Here is a picture instead.

Marlow morning mist

Wednesday 28 Mar

This morning I was up early again and on my way with Tumbarumba behind. Once again the sun shone bright on yet another glorious day. I feel somewhat privileged to be able to do this. The Thames is a particularly bejewelled part of this country and takes my breath away as I round every corner. I wish I had the power to get everyone to take a boat trip along the Thames. We as a country spend far too much time going abroad when we have so much to rejoice about here. Don't get me wrong I love travelling the world, but now I have come back I do regret not seeing more of the country that I call home. We arrived at Reading just after 3 pm and moored outside Tesco's where I broke out the lagers.

Thursday 29 Mar

Weather today is drab. Not a patch on the last three days, Ho hum!

We set off about 10. The first part of the Kennet is something of a white knuckle ride. Very twisty turny through the city centre and no stopping allowed. Brian phoned up BW and asked about getting to Newbury. The answer came back a resounding NO! So we turned round and went back. If the trip up was scarey then the trip back was close to a nightmare. White water rafting in a narrowboat. The picture in the GEO projects map of Reading town centre looks rather idyllic nothing can prepare you for the reality. I assume that later in the year the river is calmer than today. It is certainly not for the beginner and after running that gauntlet I no longer consider myself a beginner.

After lunch I decided that my need to empty the black water tank was now a priority and set out back to Shiplake Lock. Nice trip out the sun came out, but the hail came with a vengeance on the way back. Hail really hurts! This trip cost me a rope fender. Hummpppffff!

While at Shiplake I resolved my visitor licence problem which will now enable me to make Oxford after the stoppages have finished. The lockie called head office and they granted me a 10 day extension 'free' to get me off the Thames after the closure is finished at Day's Lock.

I have now come upstream through Sonning Bridge twice. That too was fun given that there was a strong current coming in from the right and only a small arch to get through. The first time I had the opportunity to see Brian going through and was able to formulate a plan early and avoid disaster. The trick is to pile on the revs and aim for the right hand support. At the last minute correct the bow to aim right of centre and hard over on the tiller to push the stern against the side stream. As the bow starts to exit the bridge the stern is out of the stream, centre the tiller and retake proper control of the boat. It is important to increase the revs before seeing the bridge because you won't get a second chance without loosing a lot of paint. Of course in another month or so the side flow will be greatly reduced and navigating the bridge will be somewhat easier. Oh I love this boating malarkey.

Friday 30 Mar

Quite a boring day with the exception of the trip boats this afternoon. Three fairly large cruisers which only seemed to have children onboard. None of them were being handled very well. One returned upriver the other two moored one at each end of the line of boats outside Tesco's. For the rest of the day/night there was a continuous stream of very noisy kids running up and down the path.

We can get a passage through Mapledurham tomorrow but the lock is not officially open yet.

Saturday 31 Mar

We set out this morning about 10. The idea was to make Goring and moor up for the rest of the day. Goring is better known as Boring Goring partly because the TV reception is crapier than a crap thing on Crap Day in Crapville. I spent the rest of the afternoon, after housework, on the veranda better known as the well deck. Bloody 'ell it was warm in there.

Late in the evening I visited a local hostelry for a swift one before closing time. The Miller is something of a soulless pub. What you might call a yuppie pubbie. I watched as one of the staff changed her footwear readjusting her socks in the process. I could not believe she did not wash her hands after, but started drying glasses. There are rules and I really think they should be followed. I didn't say anything, but then will I ever go there again? I doubt it so not my problem.