Thursday 27th March Alan was going to meet some former colleagues in the Red Lion in Marsworth last night, and as I don't work on Fridays I suggested that instead of driving there, we took the boat, and spent the night on it. This involved Alan going down to the boat during the day and getting it ready, starting the gas fridge and so on, and then, as soon as I arrived back from work we would gather together whatever we needed and go. The trip to Marsworth is about 2 hours 15 minutes in good conditions, and can be a lot longer with the locks against you - and sunset was at about 6:25. Really we needed to be leaving the marina at about 4 pm to be sure of managing it.
All day long the weather had been blustery and rainy, I kept looking out of the window at school, deciding whether or not I really wanted to be trying to work down the Marsworth flight in a hurry in the gathering darkness in a rain storm. However, it brightened up as the day wore on, and I began to be hopeful.
I got home at about 3:50 and rushed around the house, changing out of my work clothes and throwing spare jeans and tee-shirts into a bag, as well as trying to pack some food. We left the house at a run, and drove the short distance to the marina. Alan got the boat ready while I stowed things in cupboards, and we set off as soon as we could. We were lucky on the trip over, with few moored boats across the summit, and the first lock was ready and waiting for us, requiring only the gate to be pushed open. Most of the locks were with us, or needed little filling, and fortunately the sky was mostly clear, giving us as much light as possible as the sun moved towards the horizon. As we came down through lock 42 the sun was low in the sky over the reed-fringed reservoirs and the clouds were a bruised purple with salmon-pink halos. The sun crept out of sight and we knew we had only a short while before dark.
Arriving at Bluebells by the final lock I found a runner, cornered by a large goose, which was refusing to let him past. I used a trick that my sister-in-law taught me - I made my arm and hand into a 'goose neck' shape, and waved aggressively at the goose - which backed off, and allowed the startled runner to carry on - Alan clearly thought I had finally flipped. We worked through the lock in gathering gloom, and set off to try to find a mooring near to the pub. We hammered the stakes into the towpath as the church clock struck 7. then, as I began to cook, the bell-ringers began their practice.
After dinner Alan went off to the pub, and I began baking cakes to take to his mother for her 91st birthday. After which I did some crochet, and then tried to read for a while, although I kept losing my place, and began to nod off. I had just decided to lie down for a few minutes when my mobile rang, "Finished baking yet? Fancy a drink?".
Back at the boat the church clock rang out 12 - don't they turn these things off at a civilised hour? I slept well, but Alan complained that the church chimes kept him awake.
Friday 28th The sun was shining when we got up. Alan made coffee and I realised that I hadn't packed any kind of food for breakfast - I would normally have some kind of breakfast cereal on the boat during the summer season, but over the winter I had cleared a lot of the cupboards, and I hadn't grabbed any breakfast as we rushed out of the house in a hurry yesterday. At the very back of the cupboard there was some oatmeal, so I made porridge and I found some golden syrup to add to it. We walked a bit around the extraordinarily attractive village, and looked around the churchyard, although the church itself was locked - probably against vandals trying to put the church clock out of action.
The Red Lion is a very attractive pub, but why is there a barber's pole outside?
After our walk we set off heading North, went down through one lock, and turned in the pound between the 'Marsworth Two'.
As we started up the 'Marsworth Seven' I put some medium sized, foil wrapped potatoes into the ash pan of the multi-fuel stove, since several people on the Canal World Discussion Forum had suggested that this is a good, economical way of cooking them. The locks were all against us, and it took longer than usual to work back up to the summit. By now it was blustery, with scudding clouds, with the wind blowing the boat towards the side as you waited for the lock to empty. At the top of the flight in a brief moment of sunshine a robin scribbled his song into the air. I was hungry by now, so opened up the ash pan, to find three medium-sized, hot - but completely raw - potatoes. So I moved some of the brighter coals to one side, and put the potatoes into the fire, while I broke into the batch of cakes I had cooked last night. The potatoes were finally ready as we arrived back at the marina - they were delicious and crispy, I'd certainly look at doing them on a glowing fire again.
We went and bought a big bunch of flowers, and took them, along with the cakes, and a card to Alan's mother. Not a long trip out - but so good to be out on the boat again after winter.
Archaeology of a road
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