I promised to reveal the name of the object which the Ashmolean museum claimed to be the most significant archaeological object in the UK, (or some such words). Clever old Rainman got it right when he suggested it was an aestel. No, I didn’t know what that was either, I told you he was clever. Anyhow, the precious object is an aestel or more specifically, The Alfred Jewel
More vibrant in real life than it looks here, it is worth seeing. As I said before it’s not much bigger than my thumb, but the detail is amazing and it looks as good as new. It was dug up in 1693, by which time it was already 800 years old. Of course the frame is made of gold, which is why it hasn’t corroded and the enamel picture is sealed under a piece of beautifully clear rock crystal. I wonder if stuff being made today would last as long. The inscription around the edge says Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan which as we all know (not) means Alfred had me made. Presumably he was too busy burning cakes to make it himself. Anyhow, there it is. Never say I don’t bring you the odd bit of culture. Now you can casually drop the word Aestel into conversation and look erudite. Should you find yourself in Oxford, by boat or otherwise, take half an hour to go and have a look. It won’t cost you a penny.
The canal was still pretty high on our return from Banbury. It’s mucky out there and some top gate footplanks are still under water. Sometimes I have the nerve to jump across an open bottom gate on narrow locks, but not this time. Even with my new grippy soled walking shoes it was very slippy everywhere.
I can’t put my finger on it, but coming along the canal you get the feeling that although Spring has not started, it’s getting ready to. Maybe it’s the light, or maybe it’s the increase in bird activity in the hedgerows, but there’s a distinct feeling that life is returning. All the winter leaves and twigs have blown out of the bushes and they stand clean and bare and just waiting to come into bud. Of course, there’s plenty of time for a cold snap yet, so I did still drain down the plumbing on leaving the boat.
I’ve now got into the habit of taking anything I can off the roof when we leave Herbie, which means stowing the poles /shafts and gangplank inside the cabin. I remember Phil Speight advising this long ago and he was right. I wish I had taken heed at the time because the trapped moisture under these things has led to paint damage and rust. This year I will complete the repainting of the roof, but I’m not going to start until average daily temperatures are comfortably above ten degrees. Someone once told me there’s usually only one day a year when the weather is right for painting a boat. I suspect that they were right.