6 hours – 10 miles – 7 locks – 3 lift bridges
Weather: cloudy, showers
This morning, Anna and Mark caught an early train from Heyford so that they could make it back for half a day’s work. This left us with a spare few hours to fill up with water, and so on, before the onslaught of our final guests…
The Day Family: Lottie, Kieran and their three children, Jamie (15), Callum (12) and Ilana (10).
I did warn Robin – he said it would be fine.
As we waited for them to arrive, I reminisced on the days when I used to teach Callum…
I warned Robin again – he still said it would be fine.
Then they arrived.
They all bundled on, sleeping bags and all, and we set off. About two minutes into the journey, the three children had found their sea-legs and were at the back with Robin, inside with Lottie and me, at the front with Kieran, back with Robin, back at the front, inside, outside, walking along the side of the boat, peeking through the side-hatches… In short, it was a little bit like driving through the monkey section in a safari park.
Luckily the first lock came along fairly swiftly, so we put them to work. Then it was lunch time, so everyone was sitting down for more than 5 seconds. Then it started raining, so we banned any walking along the side of the boat for fear they might slip and fall in.
Hmm, falling in. It was only the other day, when we were being towed, that I had a little wobble on the side of the boat and realised that no-one had fallen in yet on our journey.
The rain didn’t dampen spirits and everyone got to grips with the locks quickly. There were a couple of lift bridges to tackle which added to the adventure. Ilana and Callum took Guinness for a walk and he certainly enjoyed the attention – sticks and children to chase, almost as good as tennis balls!
We came across a ‘floating shop’ which everyone got excited about, so Robin did some reverse manoeuvring and we moored up alongside. There was no-one home to serve us cream teas, but the shop was still open – with an Honesty Box for payment. Unfortunately the ice-cream store had just one ice lolly left in it, but there were plenty of homemade jams and cakes, vegetables, wine and beer. Lottie bought an apple pie, lemon cheesecake and a bottle of wine for later, and some bread for toast in the morning.
Back on the move, Jamie had a go at steering. Once she’d got to grips with having to steer in the opposite direction to the one you want to go in, she got on quite well. She seemed to think that Uisce was alive, though, and kept talking to her. Honestly, I don’t know what they teach kids at school these days…
By now the rain had stopped, so we were back in the safari park. Robin had asked Kieran earlier in the day, if anyone was going to fall in, who was it most likely to be? Callum – and he didn’t fail to live up to his reputation. I missed all the action while I was walking with Guinness to the next lock. But Jamie soon filled me in.
No harm done, just a bruised ego. Apparently a swan “distracted” him. Maybe it was Evil Swan making a come-back after the incident in Peterborough. At least Lottie was able to relax now – it was at least 2 hours before he was clambering up and down the sides again…
We stopped for the night just outside Oxford. Dinner was a doddle because Jamie had cooked a yummy spaghetti bolognaise the day before and brought it along. That, along with an enormous bottle of champagne that Kieran had brought with him, plus the puddings from the floating shop, made for a very satisfying evening!
It was soon pyjama time. Then we taught Lottie, Kieran and Jamie how to play Zilch. Jamie really didn’t like this game, all the way through – until the very end, when she came from behind to win! Another novice winner? We’re obviously giving too much away when explaining the rules…