(with apologies to John Masefield)
Stately Still Rockin' from far off Hambleden
Gliding up the river with a soft sweet purr
With sofas and sideboards and parquet flooring
And bottles of wine for the connoisseur
Grubby little Herbie off the Oxford canal
Chugging down the Thames with a rattle and a clang
With camping chairs, cork tile floor and a plywood dining table
And beat up old guitars and beer in a can
We always love meeting up with Carol and George on Still Rockin'. Quite apart from the luxury of sitting in their lovely boat (which for those unfamiliar, is about the size of a small, well appointed aircraft carrier), we always seem to have such an entertaining time, so much so this time that I have to admit to feeling rather delicate next morning. Thanks again C&G. That was on Tuesday at Pangbourne when we also had an earlier visit from our daughter Claire and young Grace and not so young any more Jacob.
Jacob stayed on with us for Wednesday and Thursday, eating us out of
boat and home. I don't know where he puts it all. He's supposedly on a "reading week" at uni, but I didn't see much reading going on.
Pangbourne was our turning point, so we headed back up current to Wallingford, then to Abingdon. It's hard not to draw comparisons between the two towns. Wallingford, somewhat Dickensian in appearance, is clearly the less prosperous of the two, and sadly, as far as boaters go, the least welcoming. I remarked in an earlier post that their £10 a night mooring fee finished at the end of September, but we learned that it is not as generous as it seems. When we arrived and pulled in to moor, this is what we saw.
I'll gloss over their appalling use of the English language and get on with what happened.
We were one of three narrowboats who all arrived within minutes of each other, mooring nose to tail and taking up what space there was. Kath read the sign and phoned up the number given asking politely if we were able to stay for one night. "No," came the answer, "You may not."
"That's odd," said the chap on the boat in front, " I just phoned up and they told me I could stay if I went to the town hall and payed them a tenner." Accordingly, Kath offered a tenner to the person on the phone, but was again refused. Well, to cut a long story short it was agreed to send a posse down to the Town Hall to see if they would take three tenners for three boats. I suppose I should add at this point that it was getting late in the afternoon and starting to rain, and the next moorings upstream were some hours away. Well to cut a long story short, they buckled under the pressure of the posse and let us all stop for free for one night only. Apparently the spaces were booked by long term winter moorers from next week, when the rules will be enforced without mercy.
Wallingford did have one very good thing though. Following a consultation with Trip Adviser, (not always a reliable source), we risked a meal at the Dolphin pub and were more than satisfied with the beer, the service and the excellent home made pies. Proper shortcrust pastry (all round) pies with plenty of filling with lovely buttery mashed spuds and peas for £8. An automatic shortlist place for the Herbie Awards that is.
Despite changeable wind and the current against us, we got to Abingdon early next afternoon and had a choice of their super free moorings by the park (Wallingford please note).
Later, walking up to Waitrose in the dark I couldn't help noticing again what a gorgeous town it is. So many lovely and beautifully preserved buildings, and looking in the windows of the pubs and restaurants, so many cosy eateries. It being Jacob's last night with us we ate out again at the Nag's Head on the bridge, where the food cost more than twice that of the previous night, but you couldn't complain because it was very good and a lot posher. (No George, I didn't have the fish and chips).
It was a windy night and Herbie's little pipe fenders couldn't stop us banging against the steel piling of our mooring every fifteen seconds, so I was forced to innovate. Behold my new (patent applied for) fat fender. It worked a treat.
My genius knows no bounds. (Oh dear, that's a bit Trumpian isn't it?)
So here we are tonight at East Street in Oxford for our last night on the Thames. Our licence runs out at midnight, but an EA officer we met at Sandford lock said we'd be alright next morning, and if anyone complained, mention his name. I suspect he may be able to pull rank.
We were right up at the front end of Sandford lock (apparently the deepest of 'em all) and Kath remarked to the lockie that it was a bit like white water rafting when he opened the sluices.
He laughed "You should see it if I really opened 'em up. Open the bottom gates and you'd be back in Abingdon in five minutes."
I like Thames lockies even though the way they operate is a mystery. When the sign says they are there, they are often not, and when the sign says Self Service they often appear, and strangest of all, they are nearly always on the phone. Whether they are chatting up their girl /boy friends or putting a bet on the three thirty at Doncaster, or receiving instructions from their bosses I know not.
Back on t'canal tomorrow, where all locks are self service.