Sunset somewhere in NorWarOxfordshire.
Last October, we moved our 12th share of a boat (along with the other eleven 12ths) from the medium North (Nantwich) to the medium South (Napton on the Hill in Warwickshire – or Northamptonshire, I’m really not sure). This is a two hour drive from home as opposed to a four to six hour drive up the M6. Yay! Also, it’s on the Oxford canal which meanders through bits of Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, ending up at Oxford. You’d think this would be a good area for lovely pubs, excellent meals and perfectly reasonable shopping? Yay? Also, as it’s a very, very popular boating area, you’d expect plenty of marinas, boatyards and canalside shops, all selling all the stuff that boaters need, like food, drink, gas, coal and kindling. Well but on the other hand, it’s the depths of winter and lots of people aren’t mad like us so there isn’t much boating traffic around. And the canal meanders a lot in this area – sometimes two or three miles to a meander and back – often, it seems as if it was built to stay as far away as possible from any kind of human habitation.
We were in fact the only boat setting off on a cold, windy afternoon last week, heading vaguely towards Oxford and calling at The Bridge Inn, where we had a slightly below average dinner and then, next morning, at the shop at the Folly Inn, Napton where we hoped to replenish our coal. “Open”, it said on the shop door in big letters and then below that it said “winter hours, 12.00 pm till late”.
It was 11.00 so we decided to have a nice cup of tea and wait.
At around 1.00, a man arrived and unlike all the previous arrivals, didn’t go straight into The Folly but seemed to be heading for the shop. We got coal. He was a nice man (“retired off the canal”) and I told him we’d see him on the way back. Local gossip (on their way to the Folly) had told us he wasn’t in good health and usually, but not always, might turn up at 12.00 or any time after that so we were lucky to get the extra coal.
It was a bit cold – here we have swimming drake and standing duck, on ice.♦
We moored somewhere high up and far away and cooked chops and enjoyed the shower and felt quite cosy.
Next morning, we woke up to a freezing boat and snow outside.
The heating had died in the night – fortunately, the coal burner was still alive and of course, we had all that coal from the Folly shop. Phew. It seemed that we’d overdone the electrics the night before, what with showering and hairdrying and keeping the heating on quite high all night because it was quite cold. So we faffed around with the engine and eventually the boiler fired up again but after a while it went out. Ah! The gas had run out (we probably overdid that too, the night before), so we changed the gas cylinder and made a note to get more gas as soon as possible – perhaps at Fenny Marina? Or Cropredy?
The Fenny Compton Tunnel.♦♦
Next, we moored at The Wharf Inn, where we had a perfectly average dinner but the shop, cunningly concealed behind the bar, sold only bare essentials like milk and sweets. No yoghurt though. Oh well. We can make curry without yoghurt. They did also have a stock of interesting spices left over from some long ago enterprise. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a use for any of them as the only ones left were those for which no one had ever been able to think of a use.
We passed the Fenny Marina where there was a sign saying “closed”. But a quick google check suggested that this could be because it was open Tuesday to Friday? However, we were bound to be able to get more gas at Cropredy. There’s a ‘useful’ shop there, the book said.
Bridge 115 and the lock above it, in the Napton flight.
Lightly iced keyhole. Somewhere between Napton and Fenny Compton.
We got to Cropredy (where the shop didn’t sell gas in spite of its big sign on the towpath which said “Calor Gas” or yohurt or anything much useful like meat or cheese or newspapers though it did sell vast amounts of feminine hygiene products and nappies), and turned round and moored and after showering and making ourselves nice and clean and tidy, we set off to the Red Lion which didn’t serve food on whatever night that was. We asked about The Brasenose at the other end of the village and were told that the barman had no idea about them (it’s quite a small village so I felt that this was unhelpful rather than truthful). We trudged a bit to The Brasenose where they did indeed have food and it was very nice.
Arctic geese near Cropredy
Anyway, After Cropredy, things got more exciting. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. Or soon anyway.
♦Some sort of martial arts cocktail?
♦♦Yes, I know the roof is missing – it kept falling in after they built it so they took the top off.
Oh! Apparently I have been blogging on WordPress for eight years (they don’t seem to have noticed that I’ve been missing for a while). If you add my previous blogger blog, that adds up to about fifteen years. (Though I’m guessing as Blogger only seems to have kept posts as far back as 2005 and those were definitely not the first posts I wrote – some kind of update? Oh well. Not immortal words then.)
Well it’s not like it was when I started – I said in my second post it was like talking out loud in a dark room and not knowing if anyone else was there to hear. The image of the dark, echoing room has been replaced by memories of sunlit rooms and gardens and cafes and much loved faces, smiling and laughing and a kaleidescope of blogs from many lovely people.
So, a new year and an oldish couple : ) We haven’t had much work recently and have attempted to work out a budget to compare with what we might have to live on if Barney has to retire early. Some people, I know, have this sort of information at their fingertips but for us, it has involved a lot of head scratching and list making. Also, muttering and peering at the bank statements and thinking, what on earth was that paid for? (I know, I know – for what on earth was that paid – it really doesn’t work any more, that correct grammar. Reminds me of a lengthy argument/conversation I had with my son over Christmas about some inept phrase and whether the ineptness was as important as the sentiment it conveyed – or didn’t convey if I remember rightly).
Anyway, I’ve decided that whether he is able to use it or not, Barney must have a computer of his own for his birthday (don’t tell him I said so – he won’t like it). If he retires, he will certainly start using the computer more often – even, he may get better at typing. Already, he is assuming that at any moment he can pop down and send an email while I am busy with something else. Since I have my computer set up so that our email and files are completely separate, this means moving over every time and also, raising and lowering my (MY) computer chair. And anyway, I am getting tired of pointing out that this is MY computer, bought with MY money. The business owns the printer. Just the printer. (Possibly the router as well? Probably not.) So Barney’s new computer will solve one potential problem when we are together full time.
Another will be transport. I suspect that we won’t be able to run three vehicles (the car, the toy car and the pickup – which is rattling along on its last wheels anyway). One of the reasons we are so happy together is that we have widely different interests. Widely covering the whole country – as in blog parties in Norfolk and hills and valleys in Wiltshire and Yorkshire for me and stamp fairs all over the place for him. I like to set off on a sunny morning to some corner of England and spend two or three hours driving, parking, hopping out and waving a camera, hopping back in and driving a hundred yards further and so on. Actually, it would be really useful to have a chauffeur for these excursions as then I wouldn’t be constrained by parking spots which won’t offend the local farmers and walkers and householders. However an unpaid chauffeur (Barney? Hmm.) has to be considered more thoughtfully than a paid one (I suppose – I’ve never had a paid one – should I look into the possibilities?) and might quite reasonably say “I’m pissed off now, let’s go home”, while I’m still thinking”in half an hour, the sun will be shining right across that hillside and the shadows will be all long and curvy – unless the sun goes in and how long will it be before those clouds arrive in which case I’ll still take the pics but they won’t be as good. Maybe I should drive a quarter of a mile to the next spot where the sun is just right, take some pics and then hurry back here”.
No. We’ll have to have a car each. Or we’ll have to negotiate and I’ll have to learn to plan more precisely, only with the British weather and the increasing warming and unreliability of the globe, that’s going to be really hard. At least stamp fairs are usually in the same place at the same time. Oh or maybe I can drive him to stations and send him off to stamp fairs while I trundle around the countryside?
Then there’s cooking. We both like doing it. Until recently, I’ve done most of it and Barney occasionally embarks on a culinary odyssey. I can see that, with more time on his hands, Barney may feel like spending more time cooking. Which will be nice, of course.
Neither of us likes clearing up but only one of us does much of it. Also, only one of us knows where everything is but if the other one does much more in the kitchen, neither of us will ever know where anything is. Or how much of anything is left.
As I’m going to say in a future post, there are challenges ahead. Meanwhile, I shall have another glass of wine and here are some pics.
A stormy and sunny afternoon at Coombe Gibbet. There’s no way I could have planned, in advance, to be here at this exact moment.
Nor this one! Somewhere near West Ilsley, below the Ridgeway.
This on the other hand was planned to the last minute – somewhere between 8 and 10 am.
Anyway, I wish you all a very happy New Year (the 358 odd days of it that are left – it”s not a leap year is it? Oh oops! It is. Well that would account for the odd day)