Monday 27 June 2005

Honey - Somerton to Oxford

Monday 27th June 2005
Somerton to Oxford
Oxford Canal

14 Miles
10 Locks
8 Hours

If anything the sun got hotter and hotter. The Captains skin progressed from pale blush to a more ominous shade of crimson but there was no escaping the sun's baleful glare. This stretch heads due south and however you position yourself, ultimately you have to look it the direction you are going!

Tee shirts and shorts were discarded in favour of the more expansive Fatface "Chairman of the Board" long sleeved alternative coupled with Craghopper longs, all topped off with a baseball cap. Over hot yes, but not unduly burned.

Matilda and Tilley seemed to get on fine sharing the front cabin, Tilley at her most orderly packing and repacking her suitcase with Autistic precision. She and my mother got on well together and enjoyed each others company. Jeff was left a bit out of this girls club and whilst he joined me from time to time, he found the dynamic harder to settle into. Matilda took charge of the galley and supervised the preparation of all meals.

All were agreed that the toilet had scope for improvement. It was a very basic porta potty on a ledge which needed emptying daily, and on this occasion I didn't attend to my duty in a sufficiently timely manner. I was informed by a gleeful Jeff that Nanny couldn't make the toilet work cos it was full. I was told I had to sort it out because she was desperate. I would have preferred to find a sanny point but faced with a mutinous crew unable to move their bowels I elected to make a swift stop in some dense woodland and discharge the contents into a hole I dug under a big log. I am sure it was environmentally unfriendly, but needs must in a crisis.

During the late morning we stopped off at Oxfordshire Narrowboats (Lower Hayford) to refill with diesel, purchase a barge pole (the old one fell apart in my hands - it was so rotten) and most importantly to buy an anchor and chain for use on the Thames. The guys in the chandlery were really friendly and spliced the hawser onto the chain as if they were doing a conjuring trick. I think that there was some magic involved because I have since tried to repeat the exercise on WB's anchor. Whilst the end result is entirely functional, it isn't the object of symmetry and beauty I saw created for Honey.

We decided to have a pub meal in Oxford missing out The Duke's Cut, instead we planned to proceeding right through the town and onto the river via Sheepwash Channel. On the run into Oxford we passed any number of liveaboard boats, a regular community of "alternative" types. With so many boats and so few free moorings we moored up within walking distance of The Plough, who served good food out in the fresh air. The proximity of a railway line made the spot less than ideal but you can't always have everything.

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