Mighty Horses. 29th August

Swinford Meadow to the very end of the Oxford Canal

Except for a leaking engine!

The cows came to check on us last night and again this morning. We were fine having a cuppa in bed as we couldn’t go anywhere. Around 9am we had a call from RCR saying that an engineer would be with us after he’d finished on another job, he’d give us a call when on his way. So we were patient.

Mick had another look in the engine bay and I got on with some work, Tilly resigned herself to having a long morning snooze, hoping that she might get to have some shore leave later in the day. No chance, not today.

Yesterday Mick had tried tightening various nuts on the pipe from the calorifier to the engine but still the pipe wobbled and leaked. His thought was that it wouldn’t be a simple thing and a part would have to be found. We suspected we’d be sat with the cows for some time yet.

Time passed I got new supports and some fresh welsh mud carved and covered in tissue paper and then started to cut out sections to make a section of the transporter bridge. Having a stationary day was going to be good for my model. Lunchtime came and we wondered if the engineer would ever turn up. Then we got the call, he was five minutes away, didn’t know the area so it might take him sometime to find somewhere to park.

RCR man with tool bag and dog

At just gone 1pm he appeared through the meadow with his dog Caspar. A nice jolly chap who climbed down into our engine bay. Mick explained things, he took them to bits then tightened everything up with that bit more force than Mick had used, everything back together. The amount of coolant in the bilge required the skin tank to be topped up, ten pints of water and half a bottle of pink stuff later the tank could be bled of air. The engine was started up, no leaks, Hooray!! Bubbles of air worked their way through the pipes into the header tank, more water added. He was satisfied he’d solved our problem, only time would tell if we got hot water or not. He finished his cuppa and headed back off across the meadow with Caspar in tow.

2pm. How long would it take to get to Oxford? We consulted our maps, about three hours. Fingers crossed that we’d find a mooring. We rolled up the covers and pushed off. Our original plan for today was to get a fix of narrow locks, having not done one since Hillmorton almost three months ago. But time was a touch short so we opted to miss out on turning down Dukes Cut and head down the faster route on the Thames.

Thank you!

At Eynsham Lock the engineer was sat in his van having his lunch, we waved goodbye and thank you and pushed on.

Kings Lock the quicker route

Right at the junction and at King’s Lock the Lockie walked over the top gate and pushed one side open for us then walked away to start mowing the grass. Mick dropped me off to open the other side.

King’s Lock

This was our last match stick lock so I had the opportunity to use the big long pole to open and close the bottom gates for the first time. Then we were on our way again to Godstow Lock where the Lockie and her volunteer were mob handed to push buttons.

Where’s the cow?

Past the meadows we played spot the cow. The empty landscape had one black cow sat in the middle all by itself, the others miles away towards Jericho. We were making good time, hopefully we’d find a space for ourselves at Osney Bridge. We passed Sheepwash Junction, under the bridge.


A space! Brilliant!! Well except there was a man stood there reserving it. Mick questioned this as we were there before his boat. No he was reserving it and there was his boat a few hundred feet away. We carried on. There were a couple of spaces which would have fitted a shorter boat, like the one heading for the space, but not us. A couple of git gaps, but either nobody was home or those on board were avoiding eye contact. No luck. We managed to wind before the weir and retraced our steps hoping there would be space up on the canal.

Back into the narrow world

Isis Lock was occupied, a boat facing downhill, the lock gates closed, but nobody about. Having spent time here last winter I recognised the boat and knew they’d be filling with water from one of the taps along the permanent moorings. The tank was full and over flowing, it didn’t take long for the chap to come out, disconnect his hose pipe and reverse out of the lock. He said there was plenty of space up ahead, Phew!

Now how do these work?

As I set the lock for us Mick walked down to the very end of the canal. The two day visitor mooring was free, so once out of the lock we reversed down the arm past all the residential moorings and pulled up the closest boat to the city centre, it was a little after 5 pm.

The closest you can get to Oxford centre

Quick showers and we were out the doors leaving Tilly in charge for the evening.

His first ever Nandos

A quick meal was needed, so we opted for Nandos, we know how to live! This was Micks first ever experience and it went down well. Then we joined the long queue to collect tickets at the New Theatre. We were glad we’d got there when we did as the queue by the time we got to the front was vast. Two company tickets to collect and pay for was possibly one of the easiest transactions the box office lady had to do.

Chilled Medication was ordered for the interval, we found our seats. We’d made it in plenty of time. At last we were going to get to see War Horse.

I’ve worked at the New Theatre a couple of times. The 30th anniversary production of Bouncers opened here back in 2007 before going on a National Tour. Before that I sat next to Anthea Turner at the opening performance of Great Expectations, the musical back in 1994 (?) when I was Assistant Designer. I sat with my fingers crossed after a brolly was left mid stage by Darren Day, wonderfully positioned to fowl a big house truck that was about to be winched onto stage. I think only a few hundred in the audience noticed the Stage Manager crawling across the stage to try to rectify the problem.

Tonight however the show was slick, loud, impressive, just how many actors and puppeteers can you get on one big stage? More than four that’s for sure! A fantastic show that I’ve always wanted to see, but never been in the right place, or had the money. Our friends Matt and Bill are currently touring in the show, world wide and we have managed to coincide with them here. Company rate tickets made the evening that bit kinder on our pockets.

Bill, me and Matt

We met up with the chaps after the show at The Lighthouse for a few drinks. It’s always lovely to see Matt and have a catch up, I hadn’t seen Bill for quite some years. He’s been in War Horse now for two years and is signed up for another, spending Christmas is Paris before heading to Australia. Bill was full of all the information about the show. 34 in the cast, 16 local crew and around another 20 back stage staff ranging from an armourer, 3 technicians, 3 puppet technicians who can change Joey’s leg should it get broken mid show, a bit like a pit stop in a Grand Prix.

The puppets for the show are made in South Africa, a Joey puppet costing £250,000 and the cost for the full set of puppets is £1 million. This touring production has two of everything, one set is currently in storage in Australia awaiting their arrival early next year. Lots of money, but it brings the crowds in and tonight, as I’m sure just about every night, it got a standing ovation. If you’ve not seen it you should. It’s only taken us 12 years but it was worth the wait especially as we got to see two old Hull Truckers too.

4 locks, 1 narrow fix, 7.27 miles, 0.25 miles in reverse, 1 engineers dog, 1 nut tightened just that bit more, 10 pints water, 2L antifreeze, 4 uprights, 0 shore leave, 3 hours, 1 space reserved, 3 git gaps, 1 surprisingly quiet 2 day mooring, 1st Nandos, 34 actors, 2 northern Devonshire accents, 2 huge horses, 2 chocolate chilled medications, 1 tank, 1 ship, 3 glasses of wine each, 1 Sainsburys delivery booked for Saturday, 2 fingers crossed for a mooring, 2 am to bed! Now who’s the dirty stop outs!

3 thoughts on “Mighty Horses. 29th August

  1. jennie230

    We have not seen the stage show live (we would love to), but did catch a live screening to our local cinema sometime ago. It is an amazing show. I am glad your engine problem is sorted and that you got to Oxford and found a mooring in time. Interesting that you met someone who feels it is okay to reserve a mooring – we have always worked on the principal that the boat should be there, not the crew and even if one of us has found somewhere we would concede if another boat arrived before ours did.


  2. adrian2013

    Glad Oleanna is sorted.
    War Horse is an amazing show probably on of the best we have seen. Now you tell me the cost of the puppets wow! That’s some bums on seats. The cost overall must be huge before they return a profit, Well done to the producer for bringing it to the stage.
    Great inside info. There Pip.


    1. pipandmick Post author

      Ade. It is some bums on seats, but when they play theatres that hold over 1500, some as large as 2800 and sell out they easily cover their costs. There are seven ‘kits’ as it were for the show around the world. When a show moves it takes 11 wagons. It is big, but is also a cash cow for the National Theatre.

      Liked by 1 person


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