October 17, 2009

Rocking the boat

After we returned from our trip we were keen to book a boating holiday and so hit the button for a short week on the Oxford Canal.
This was a lot of fun. Imagine being in a long cupboard that floats and can reach the rocket speed of 4 miles an hour when there is nothing else about. There is a wonderful sense of freedom that goes with mooring up in the evening wherever you like (pretty much) and, if you are near, strolling to a pub for supper.

We spent a lot of time giggling as we made our way through 24 locks and under several lift bridges. The locks are rather jovial affairs with other boaters lending willing hands.

The comedy award goes to the drunk who wanted to help: very scary as he headed towards the water at quite a pace determined to be useful with his head down – clueless. I thanked him and managed to convince him I’d be ok at which point he got back on his bike and set off along the towpath with his dog racing alongside!

The heart stop award goes to the cyclist that slid off his bike as I was raising the bridge. I thought he was further away and going slower than he actually was. He thought I was continuing over the bridge and sped up. The combination of neither of us paying enough attention resulted in a blood-curdling scream and thud just as the bridge began to rise.

Fortunately there wasn’t a splash or blood! There was however one very apologetic man extracting himself from under his bike and both of us trying to be sorrier than the other.

When you reach a lift bridge one stays on the boat while the other leaps; steps, stumbles or with an inelegant combo, gets off, crosses the bridge and hoists it up by pulling on the hanging chain. When it is fully up you have to sit on it to prevent it closing on the boat as it passes under.

Here is one that remains up.

Some of them are fairly small just for cattle or walkers to cross but a couple of them are big and metal for cars to drive over. One of these beasties is at Thrupp Marina. Here there amenities plus a shop and pub and the boats pass under the bridge into its hub. We were there at lunchtime and it was abuzz. I raised the bridge and took my place for Mick to bring the boat under. Along came a motorist. He was a cross bunny having to wait for a few minutes while the bridge was up and started to rev his engine in a huffy growly sort of way.

You’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t hex him or his tyres as the angel of karma was there waiting to do her stuff. Coming the other way on the water was another boat with only one man on it. I beckoned him through and remained sitting on the bridge arm to keep it open so he didn’t need to stop. There were many people about. When he was safely through I lowered the bridge. It was big.

It was heavy. It was very amusing that the idiot in the car set off immediately the bridge begin to close and then the bridge bounced back up. No one really knows how he managed to stop the car and didn’t end up under it in the water. He must have felt the wind from all the head shaking and tutting that reverberated around. He then drove at me looking puffed with anger like Mr Toad with his red-faced wife looking anywhere but at me. He had made a complete fool of himself and caused much merriment. For him, the total idiot award!

All in all a good time was had by all (mostly ☺) …

Our little boat sinking down in the, appropriately named, Somerton Deep Lock. Many people can see a ghost in the top right window!

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