International Faerie Day? Really? How terribly Victorian.
Back on the river…after a slightly better night’s sleep, we filled up with water and headed downstream from Eynsham Lock towards Oxford.
The day started off bright and sunny and then we heard the news about the referendum. Who knew that a large swathe of the population of Britain is racist. Like the liquid of a blister brooding beneath a thin covering of skin, the pus has been squeezed out, to spit and abuse. But it’s not just the racists, it’s the stupid ones as well. Leave the EU? Ridiculous. It could mean we’ll go home. I just have to work out how to transport our Farnham stained glass window safely to Sydney.
We stopped at the Trout Inn at Godstow (the world famous one) where Inspector Morse used to drink and tell Lewis who did what and to whom.
After a recuperating drink we headed across the river to the nunnery that sits beside the Thames Path. Bob was not impressed. He kept telling us it was nothing but a wall enclosing a paddock. But it was so much more…once.
Godstow Abbey was a Benedictine nunnery built in the 12th century and founded by Ediva the widow of Sir William Launcelene. It was quite a successful place until the Dissolution when it was converted to something more suited to domestic rather than secular use. Again, things went along smoothly and the various buildings were lived in and used until 1645 when, during the Civil War, they were burned down and largely demolished. I have no idea why but I figure because the English love beating on things they refuse to understand.
Mind you, they didn’t manage to destroy everything and the church tower survived until 1764 when a gale blew it down. Now, to be fair to Bob, there is only a very long wall which has been restored quite a few times and the walls of the chapel in the corner. Still…
We then made the long walk to the delightful village of Wytham where they have a little difficulty spelling but, given they serve Wadworth’s 6X, I don’t really care. We ate at the White Hart (I had an amazing shredded guinea fowl) before walking up to the lovely little church…which was bolted firmly shut. This is very rare in the UK but I think it may have been because a new vicar was moving in. After this disappointment, we tackled the long walk back to the boat.
We found the boat surrounded by a bunch of black, defecating cows. Bob went at them with arms flailing, making great scary whooping noises and they, wisely, moved away from him. Likewise keeping our distance from him, we also managed to avoid the big steaming piles and headed back down the river.
On the way we met a very depressed lock keeper. Generally the keepers are quite cheerful and, to be fair, normally he is…or so he said. However, the referendum vote has left him feeling suicidal. It was interesting how many other boat people we met who commented on this chap and his long face.
It was around this time that the heavens opened for our first thorough drenching. It wasn’t like we could stop and wait it out. We were approaching a lock at the time, ropes ready, roof wide open. The sudden downpour left us soaked and the boat almost in danger of needing a good bailing out. My shoes, like two little sunken boats, squelched for the rest of my time aboard Riverdance II.
Locks, it seems, are places of true community upon the river. It’s where you meet and chat and generally get acquainted with people you’re never likely to meet ever again. Surprisingly, we met quite a few Australians. For instance at another lock we met two families from Queensland who were struggling with the intricacies of lock operation. I took them through the whole thing, teaching rather than doing. It was difficult but Mirinda was very proud of me.
The two families had hired a narrow boat for a few days and were enjoying themselves immensely. The wives were remarkably keen to learn how to operate the lock and picked it up quickly (it’s not exactly difficult) though the husbands were not so rapid on the uptake.
We all had a jolly time. They were from Brisbane and, obviously, knew where Caloundra was. I waved them goodbye as they headed downstream, wishing them luck. Hopefully they won’t be too put off by the weather.
Having putted all the way down to Wanker’s Bridge (actually Osney Bridge) so named because it is so low that the wankers in their big boats are forced to remain downstream of it. It is on the outskirts of Oxford. We then turned around and headed back upriver, returning to Eynsham, this time upstream of the lock and right by a public toilet! This might sound unappealing but when you’ve been trying to fit your normal sized bottom on a tiny, dolls house sized toilet, a proper convenience can make your heart leap with joy. And your cheeks quiver in anticipation. The only downside to where we moored was that we weren’t that far from the pump out station where boats rid themselves of…well, you can imagine. This meant it was a bit smelly when the breeze blew in the wrong direction.
We locked up and set off for the Talbot where we were meeting Sophie and Tom. Mind you, we hadn’t gone far before I asked Mirinda what she’d done with her umbrella that she’d been carrying as we left the boat. Anyone who knows my wife well will understand what I mean when I say she leaves things in the oddest places, absentmindedly then can’t remember either doing it or where. And so it had happened with the umbrella.
Earlier in the day there’d been another incident worth reporting. She’d left our river guide book in the toilet of the Trout Inn and had to go all the way back to retrieve it. Normally I’m the one who has to go and find left objects but this was one time she had to go herself.
As far as the umbrella was concerned, for reasons known only to Mirinda, and possibly not even her, she’d gone and looked at the public toilet and left it hooked over a railing which ran around the public shower which was in the same room. Very odd but very Mirinda.
This time I went back and found the item before we reset off for the Talbot and our meeting with Sophie and Tom. Our timing was perfect as we spotted them getting off the bus just as we approached the pub.
Naturally, over dinner, we regaled Sophie with the horrors we’d been through. We exaggerated everything to prepare her. We managed to get them to the point where Sophie thought we would be sleeping in a dinghy and Tom thought we’d be using a jam jar for the loo. By the time we reached the boat, the pair of them thought it was utter luxury.
Of course Bob was sleeping back at the Talbot and, for tonight, Mirinda was at another place called Chequers so it was me, Sophie and Tom who returned to the boat and a big surprise.
When we’d originally moored, we’d been crowded out by a narrow boat and I’d tried to tie up as far from it as I could. It must have not been far enough because when we returned from the pub our little boat had been untied and moved right up against the lock wall. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, if you have to moor close to the lock, this would be the best place.
We put the beds together and we all tried to go to sleep. I say ‘tried’ because of the wedding of Mr and Mrs Gunn which was in full swing on the opposite bank. I remember the strains of Bohemian Rhapsody before drifting off. Sophie claimed this was quite early on and it was very late when the music stopped and she was finally able to sleep, undisturbed.