Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole Again

"Again", because I spent 45 minutes at an internet cafe in Oxford yesterday. I typed up a splendid entry for this blog, then got cut off quite suddenly and lost the whole thing. I complained to the proprietor that there had been no warning, and he told me there had. Odd, since I was watching for it. Anyway, I made an indelicate remark and left, figuring he wasn't going to get another pound from me. That was actually my only unpleasant encounter in Oxford. In general, I found the city quite enchanting. Robin didn't agree.

I should back up, though, to fill in the few days preceding our visit to Oxford.

We had rented the narrowboat for the 19th (was that Friday?) in Reading, and we had to return our rental car to Bournemouth that same day - so we drove from "our" holiday caravan to Bournemouth - a three-hour drive - just in time for the noon drop-off. Brother David was waiting there for us, ready to drive back home, pick up Sheila, and all go to Reading. We had decided, though, that four people and all the baggage for four people would make for a very cramped ride. David drove to the railway station in Bournemouth and dropped me off. I had just time to eat lunch and buy a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns before my train came. Then I had a quiet, happy journey to Reading, all on my own, watching for familiar stations along the way, diving happily into the book I'd been wanting to read.

I arrived in Reading at about 3 o'clock, went on board the Lord of Caversham, got my bearings, and waited for the arrival of my traveling companions. When we were all finally aboard, we set off in the direction of Oxford. We spent one night along the way, and had dinner at the local pub. Talking to people coming downstream, we discovered that the Thames had in fact just been opened to traffic after being shut down for a couple of weeks on account of flooding.

On arrival in Oxford on Sunday, David and I went hunting for the supermarket. We found Sainsbury's in the Westgate Shopping Centre, and along the way I stopped to ask about Evensong at Christ Church College. It was to be at 6 o'clock, and it would be choral. Perfect. Sheila's ankle was bothering her, so she stayed aboard to cook dinner. The men went to the pub just across the river (called The Head of the River), and I kept going to the chapel. After my Liturgical Music Fix, I joined the men for what has become my signature drink here - a half-pint of lemonade with just a splash of bitter to cut the sweetness. Then we went back to the boat, where Sheila had prepared us a lovely meal.

In the morning, we walked to the railway station and sent David and Sheila on their way home. We saw a tour bus parked in the car park outside the station, and we hopped aboard. We bought 24-hour tickets. We did the one-hour tour, then had the driver drop us off near The Head of the River. Later, while Robin rested and nursed his cold, I went back out, hopped another tour bus, and took part of the tour again (stopping midway to do my abortive blogging effort). I visited St. Mary the Virgin church, where the Oxford Movement was born, and where both the Wesley brothers preached. When I got back on (another) bus, I found that the young man doing the commentary was fascinating to listen to, and I nearly forgot to get off the bus - well, I did stay on longer than I had intended, just so I could hear the end of whatever story he was telling, so I had a bit of a walk to get back to the boat. Never mind. I stopped at Sainsbury's again and got our supper, and by the time I got aboard, Robin was just beginning to wonder what had happened to me.

This morning, we sailed to Abingdon, where we had a mechanical breakdown just above the Abingdon Lock. The throttle cable broke, so we could not manouever. That was interesting. The lock keeper helped us get through the lock and tie up, and we waited for the mechanic to arrive from the Reading boatyard. He fixed us up, sent us on our way, and we pulled in at the public mooring in Abingdon, where I tried to sink us (not really, but I nearly did it anyway). We are now settled in for the night. Our plan is to get back to Reading, then go up the Kennet & Avon Canal for a couple of days - because we both like the canal Much Better.


Snowbrush said...

Narrow boat? Scull, canoe, rowboat, kayak?

Sandra Leigh said...

I'm so sorry. I've been hanging about at Amazing Voyages of the Turtle, and I had no idea I had comments waiting over here.

In answer to your query - none of the above. A narrowboat is designed specifically for use on the canals. In England, the locks are 15 feet wide, so narrowboats are all seven feet wide, allowing for two boats to be side by side in a lock. The length of the boat varies greatly, but I believe the maximum length is something like 72 feet, again to enable the boat to fit into the locks.

Thanks for visiting, and I promise I'll come over more often to check for comments.

Snowbrush said...

Oh yes, I saw some of those locks on Keeping Up Appearances.