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An eventful day

There are many times when I write this blog that no matter how long we’ve travelled during the day, nothing of note actually happens. It was very different in the early days because we were seeing and experiencing many things for the first time. Once you understand how ducks mate and then bring up their young and you know how a heron behaves when a boat enters its territory it’s not worth writing about. Of course you still see nature at work and it is still a wonderful spectacle but it becomes a bit repetitive when it comes to keeping a journal. It’s easy to resort to reporting the mundane things like filling the water, emptying the toilet and running a washload. That’s the funny part really, the boating lifestyle appeals because it is easy going, stress free and slow moving. For the journalist, desperation sets in, the desire to write about events on days when nothing much happens leads to a boring account that could have been copied and pasted from any other day.

Then you get days like today when there are a number of little events happen, none of them earth shattering in themselves but enough to give the amateur blogger something to write about. The day started off fairly unremarkably with a late and lazy lie in for both of us, it was raining and that seemed like a good enough excuse. When we did eventually get up we walked into town and had breakfast before doing some last minute shopping in Boots and M&S. It didn’t take us long to get organised once we had returned to the boat and we were soon on our way to Sovereign wharf where we took on some diesel. Leaving Banbury behind we were soon out in the countryside and at the first lock of the day. We had passed under the motorway and were in our usual quiet rural environment when we heard some sort of strange mechanical noise, it was the wrong side of the cut to be a train and it was getting too loud too quickly to be farm related when suddenly it appeared, a prop driven military aircraft flying at about 200 feet above our heads.

Later as we approached Cropredy we met a Calcutt hire boat at a bridge, he was travelling too fast of course but worse than that he was being followed by another member of the Calcutt fleet who was so close that it looked as if he was being towed by the lead boat. We pulled up and let them pass on the wrong side, shaking our heads as we went. The run in to Cropredy from the south is long and arduous as one passes moored boats for almost a mile. We saw a black cat walking along the towpath with a young rabbit in its mouth, no doubt taking taking its catch back to its home on one of the boats. Unfortunately this meant crossing another cat’s territory with the result that it had to drop the rabbit which until now had been limp and lifeless. As soon as it was free, the small rabbit sprang back into life and ran off leaving the two cats to argue it out between themselves.

As we had been preparing to leave Banbury we had been passed by the four old people on the college cruiser hire boat that we had met on our way out of Oxford on Saturday morning. We had briefly caught up with them at one of the locks but by the time we were on the final approach to Cropredy we spotted them attempting to turn at the wharf. According to one boater that we passed, they had been at it for half an hour, a bit of an exaggeration but they had made it difficult for themselves by shoving their stern rather than their bow into the winding hole.

We pulled up on the landing below Cropredy lock and I went to have a look to see what was happening. nb Mey from Clifton wharf in Rugby was rising in the lock and a Napton Elite hire boat was approaching from the other side. The Napton boat had a large crew who proceeded to tie their vessel very securely to the wooden posts above the lock or as the skipper of Mey said, “Looks like they’re tying up the Ark Royal!”.  As the Napton boat approached the lock, one of the crew explained that this was their first narrowboat holiday and that they had chosen the boat because it had three bathrooms with the result that they had ended up with a seventy footer. In fairness the steerer did an excellent job of getting the boat into the lock although the crew had little urgency in working the paddles. The group of fifty-somethings were looking forward to replenishing their water supply before finding a mooring and then going to the pub, the steerer said that he was in need of a drink and I think that he probably deserved one!

We worked our way up through the lock and found ourselves a mooring in a prime position, the first one after the lock landing area. We secured Phoenix III on the rings there and then took a walk to the Red Lion for a cold beer and an equally cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Once our break was over we walked to the shop and bought some more beer and wine to keep us going over the summit in the coming days.

On our way back up the towpath we passed nb Moonshadow tied on the lock landing, Sue noticed a colourful teapot on board and remarked on how pretty it was. When we reached the lock we met the lone skipper whose name we discovered was John and Sue complimented him on his pretty teapot. “You should have taken it.”, said John, laughing. We dropped our shopping off back at the boat, grabbed our windlasses and returned to the lock to assist John through it. He surprised us by presenting Sue with the teapot explaining that he had bought another one to replace it just the previous week. A moment later and Sue had almost kicked the teapot into the lock by accident but luckily enough she didn’t so now Moonshadow John’s teapot has been cleaned up and has taken up pride of place on top of our Boatman stove.

All that was left for us to do was to get the chairs out, pour a drink and watch boats work their way through the lock. There was nothing dramatic or exciting to report about the comings or goings, we chatted to one or two of the crew members and also to some walkers on the towpath most of whom were boaters themselves. We had our evening meal on the back deck before the air started to get a little chilly at which point we retreated to the lounge of Phoenix III for the evening.  On a day when we had made one of our shortest cruises we seemed to have had one of our busiest days.