Category Archives: Oxford Canal

Strong Stream Warnings. 26th November

The Jolly Boatman to Kirtlington Quarry

Traffic started speeding past us quite early, certainly not the quietest of moorings, but it served it’s purpose. Sainsburys arrived just after 10:30, when asked the driver said he’d read our instructions before even thinking of heading to Canal Road. Thank goodness there hadn’t been any confusion.

A fraction of the delivery

Once the six crates of shopping had been loaded on board and the freezer filled up some more I set about finding places for everything to go. It all tucked away neatly however worryingly the fridge didn’t look as full as it normally does after a big shop. This was because most fresh food went straight into the freezer.

Whilst I printed out postage for a 21st birthday card to be sent to Australia, Mick walked back along the canal. Paul from Waterway Routes had asked us to check on some facilities back by the water point we’d passed yesterday, not far to walk and worth it to keep his maps as up to date as possible. Mick came back with news of an elsan and bins with their location ready to pass back to Paul. We were now ready to push off.

Quite happy in the rain

I walked ahead with the key of power so that I could use the post box hidden away on a garden wall by The Boat. On a little footbridge to the side of the canal I spotted some yarn bombing. Last year Thrupp had a yarn bombed wheelbarrow that had faded in the summer sun, this year a caterpillar (or centipede, minus a few legs) was crossing the handrail bringing a smile to my face.

Aubrey’s Lift Bridge

Aubrey’s Lift Bridge I waited for Mick to catch up before pressing the button. Of course as soon as I’d put my thumb on the OPEN button a car appeared wanting to cross, they’d have to wait. Recently there have been problems with the bridge and cars, the cars not stopping to wait for the bridge to be level. There are no flashing lights here, no barriers, little impulse to use the bridge as a ramp to fly through the air, but still it has happened. Luckily today the car waited for the bridge to close and for me to wave them through.

All sorts of recycling

At the water point there was another boat already doing their chores, but there was space for us too and another tap. With the water filling we made use of the bins and recycling before pushing off again.

The Cherwell filling the fields

At Shipton on Cherwell we got views of the river, too fat to remain in it’s channel, over spilling into the fields, the flow visible through the hedges. Would we be able to pass Shipton Weir Lock and get onto the river and up to Gibraltar?

The wonky bridge

First we had a lift bridge to contend with. Last year this bridge looked very sorry for itself, all buckled and a lack of handrails. Even with new rails it didn’t look much better. As we were about to pull in for me to hop off a walker said he’d do the bridge for us. He crossed and pulled down on the chain at the end of the beam (the bridges coming out from Oxford don’t have these). He could only get the bridge so far before it dropped back closing the canal, extra pulling power and weight were needed.

Thank you chaps

By the time I’d been dropped off another walker had arrived and the two of them just managed to lift the bridge. With the amount of rain we’ve had of late the bridge was far heavier than normal, it having absorbed a lot of water. We thanked our helpers and carried on.

Whilst in Oxford we’d been keeping an eye on the river levels, especially the Thames and the Cherwell. Gaugemap is a useful site where you can see what effect recent rainfall is having along a river, but you don’t know if a section is passable. Then there is the C&RT Strong Stream Warnings page. This is quite handy as it usually tells you if a stretch of river is navigable or not. I say usually as it is ‘presently experiencing technical difficulties with the water level monitoring system, which are being looked into. Until this has been resolved please check our stoppage notices for further information, or contact us if you need advice before proceeding.’ Just when the rivers are in flood is when you need a page like this the most.

* 27th November the Strong Stream warning system came back on line. Shame it doesn’t cover Aynho and Nells Locks.

Mick has emailed and tweeted C&RT about this. This morning he had a live chat with someone about it. They do say sorry, but can’t offer any idea of when it will be fixed. It must be quite a problem as the system has been nonoperational for over a week now.

Strong Stream Warning, but amber lights

So the only information we had was that NB Dusty the coal boat had come down stream last week to Shipton Weir Lock. We compared the levels from last week to today at Thrupp. The level was starting to rise again, but was lower than last week. Conclusion, we should be fine.

Up we go, Shipton Weir Lock

Approaching the lock we could see signs stuck on the beams ‘Strong Stream Warning’. The levels board was also visible, no red lights, Amber, levels falling proceed with caution. The flow past the lock didn’t look too bad so we were good to go.

Normal

Oleanna’s rev counter got up to 1500, nothing compared to 2000 she’d done on the Thames recently. Her temperature gauge stayed where it should be too. As we pushed the water away the satellite dishes of Gibraltar showed themselves above the trees and soon Baker’s Lock was reached where we rose up onto the canal away from the river.

Pushing our way upstream
About to come off the river

By now it was raining and time was slipping away. Our original aim for today was to reach the Muddy Slipper mooring below Dashwood Lock, we changed our minds when we saw space at the Quarry on the offside. Our arrival was a touch late for a cat chomping at the view.

Lots of work going on at the pub, skips and boarded up windows

Trees, rocky bits, it looked fantastic! I was given half an hour. Half an hour!!! What a tease. She opened the doors after reciting the rules and out I dashed to make the most of a fantastic playground. This lasted about 0.5 seconds. It was wet, very wet, so torrentially wet that it hurt. Mission abandoned.

I’d timed opening the door to perfection, Tilly ran straight back inside, rejecting an almost guaranteed Mrs Tilly stamp of approval mooring.

Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden, one day we’ll be here when it’s open

3 locks, 4.34 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 held up, 1 nice delivery driver, 6 boxes wine, 2 boxes cat food, 1 large chicken jointed and in the freezer, 1 full water tank, 1 empty pooh bucket, 0 rubbish, 2 nice walkers, 2 amber lights, 1 Gibraltar reached, 1 stretch of river left before Christmas, 2 deer, 1 rejected outside.

Backwards For Sainsburys. 25th November

Kidlington Green Lock to The Jolly Boatman, Thrupp.

With only about an hours cruise ahead of us today we took our time over breakfast, a cooked one. The breakfast chef did manage to put two eggs into one poach pod and then had to fish one out to pop it into a second pod, that is why my egg looks quite yellow compared to normal.

We then decided to take a bit more time as it was peeing it down. No point in getting soaked before you’ve even pushed off. Tilly had quite a spat with a golden retriever through the window, the woofer came back for a second bark at her and as it’s collar was grabbed by it’s owner there was an apology.

Approaching Kidlington Green Lock

By the time we actually got moving it was gone 1pm. We’d both decided to have waterproofs on and this proved a wise decision as the air soon filled with drizzle.

The two triangular slots
The stop plank groove just noticeable at the bottom

Today I spotted a couple of things I’d not seen before. At Kidlington Green Lock there were two triangles built into the lock approach walls. First glance I couldn’t make out what they might be for as they weren’t for the bywash. But closer inspection of my photos and I could see that they were to aid putting stop planks in.

A top hat on a top lock gate

Then the top gate at Roundham Lock has had the top of the gate reinforced with strips of metal. Presumably this was because boatmen would wrap a rope around the upright to help close the gate as their boat entered the lock, the metal would prevent the timber from gradually wearing away.

A leaf carpet

Lots of leaves in the water today and signs that there’s not been much boat movement around these parts for a bit. A yellow blanket covered one end of Kidlington Green Lock, the leaves just lying where they’d landed, quite pretty.

Armco for a temporary fix
Quite a crack in the beam

Roundham Lock is in need of some repair, a temporary one made with two lengths of armco to reinforce the beam. I seem to remember last year the near side gate paddle being decidedly dodgy and today it was sporting a hessian and hazard tape covering.

Once up we continued past the usual moored boats and some winter moorings. A couple of cheery waves from those inside brightened up the damp day.

Approaching Roundham Lock

Now it was time to spot spaces. We’d booked our Sainsburys delivery slot for outside 3 Canal Road (which is still for sale) where the canal runs right alongside the road in Thrupp, fingers crossed. One space before Bridge 223 and The Jolly Boatman, was this where Dusty had said was free, or had they meant further on? Another that might just be big enough shortly after the pub too. Both of these too far away from No 3.

The Jolly Boatman

On we pootled the slight bend in the canal not helping us to see down the length of moored boats for any gaps. A couple of small gaps, but that was all. Mick insisted on carrying on towards the lift bridge just in case there was an Oleanna sized space, but no, all the space was taken up by winter moorings, several of the boats familiar to us from last year along this stretch.

Would there be space near to Shipton Bridge? Would we be able to change our delivery address?

There was certainly space behind us, so nothing for it but to reverse back. Yes we could have winded through Aubrey’s Lift Bridge, but then we’d either have had to reverse back here tomorrow to wind again or carry on back to Dukes Cut to wind. The bow thruster was powered up and just given the odd little tap to help keep our course straight. Those sat in their boats who’d watched us go past, now could see us going backwards all the way to the pub and through the bridge.

Reversing back for Sainsburys

Here there is a gap in the hedge from the pubs car park, not quite as good as at No 3, but almost. Time to change the address. Easier said than done. I could have cancelled our order and redone the whole thing risking not being able to get a delivery at a suitable time. Instead I changed our delivery instructions, here’s hoping they work!

Not somewhere we’d normally choose to moor as Banbury Road is a very busy one and the hedge doesn’t do much to dampen down the noise and shore leave was most definitely out despite Tilly’s insistence. It’s only for one night and then we’ll be on our way again.

2 locks, 2.79 miles, 0.5 miles in reverse, 6 touches of bowthruster, 2 spaces, 1 address altered, 2 boaters with fingers crossed, 3rd sock started, 1 address confirmed, 2nd beefy meal.

3.99 Miles And 2 Locks! 24th November

Jericho to Kidlington Green Lock 43

We’ve moved!!!!!!

Leaving College Cruisers behind

It’s all very well being excited, but my day didn’t start well. I was a bit peckish in the middle of the night, so went to my bowls. Three weeks ago Tom had forgotten to give me my morning ding ding and I had two very empty bowls when She came home. Last night he’d even stolen my bowls, there was nothing what-so-ever to even lick!

So I had to be creative. I found a couple of things that smelt nice so gave them a lick, but they fell on the floor making a clanking noise waking them up! Tom stole these as well, saying it was for my own good as I must have caught what She had had. I hadn’t caught anything, well not that I’d noticed! If I had it certainly wasn’t tasty with a tail, because I’d have remembered.

I do not waste my time. They do!!

This morning I waited eagerly, my tummy rumbling, for the ding ding. But Tom forgot and he wasn’t even going to Liverpool! She didn’t do anything about it either!! So I had to spend much of the remainder of the day trying to sleep with the growling monster in my tummy making increasingly louder noises. When I couldn’t sleep I did get to watch the outside moving from inside. They had a few attempts at tying it up, but rejected these after a while. I thought the trees looked good, but no, who am I!

After breakfast I dug out my walking boots, the towpaths up ahead would be muddy so I traded trainers for boots for the first time in ages. We pushed off just after 11am our aim to reach a suitable mooring for Tilly to explore for the remainder of the day, see we’re not as horrid as she makes out.

Fishing at Aristotle bridge

We waved goodbye to Oxford. We won’t miss the trains through the night, although we’ll still have the railway for a while. We won’t miss the boat behind us running his generator till midnight! We won’t miss all the wheelie suitcases rumbling past. I won’t miss the narrow outside and lack of friends.

One for Bridget

At Aristotle Bridge one boat sat on the moorings where it’s been for ages, surrounded by fishermen. If we’d wanted to pull in we’d have caused quite a stir, but we’d only just pulled away so slowed to pass them all and say hello. From here on the towpath is closed as it is being improved.

Topping up whilst the washing machine works hard on my painty clothes

A gap in the works gave us the opportunity to pull in at the services just after Elizabeth Jennings Way. Another boat was filling so whilst waiting to use the tap, our washing machine already going, we disposed of the packing from the printer, ash, general waste and emptied the yellow water.

Our first lift bridge, usually left open

Once the fresh water tank was full we pulled away and were soon under our first Oxford Canal lift bridge, Bridge 238 which is left open.

Approaching Wolvercote Lock

Wolvercote Lock was easier to access than normal. The last boat on the moorings here must be off on a jolly at the moment. I wound the paddle and emptied the lock a touch for the levels to equalise then pushed open the bottom gate. This end of the Oxford Canal the locks only have single bottom gates. On deeper locks this can make for hard work, but at only 4ft 3″ the gate moved easily.

C&RT work boats tied to rotting felled trees!

Less can be said about the lift bridges! The bridges out from Oxford have a reputation. Last year I got their measure, but a year is a long time and things have been tinkered with and worn since.

Perry’s Lift Bridge 234 would not unlock. Was this the one that you needed to put your weight on and give your key a quarter turn to the exact spot? No, nothing seemed to work for me. I called Mick to have a go. A cyclist came by and was asked if this bridge had a knack. Everything was tried by all three of us, still locked. The cyclist headed off to find his mate. If you’ve ever been this way you will more than likely have met the chap who appeared, he’s often around helping or making comments about how shallow the canal is along the Agenda 21 moorings.

It just wouldn’t unlock

With the expert local knowledge he lifted and jiggled the lock. Apparently the post that the lock locks into can move, so some sideways lifting and jiggling got it aligned again at which point it unlocked. Hooray! Everyone was thanked as I sat on the beam to hold it open and Mick brought Oleanna through.

I should have had more pie to lift this bridge

The next bridge, Wolvercote Lift Bridge, I knew would be problematical, it nearly always is. No lock on this one just a lot of hoiking to do. I crossed over and grabbed one of the beams above my head and tried with all my weight to get it to move, nothing. I tried the other beam and got it to acknowledge that I was doing something. After being ill the other day I didn’t feel like being a monkey and working my way along the beam to the end and with no handy passersby I had to call for assistance from Mick.

Open and sat on as Oleanna passes underneath

Here the bridge landing is high and overhanging so it’s not as simple as just pulling up with a rope. Our extra fat fender had to be deployed to help preserve the cabin paintwork. Mick then could join me and give the towpath side of the bridge a lift until I could get my weight on top of the beam to open it. I remember last year there being a strong wind which kept lifting me off the ground.

Wolvercote Junction. Left to the Thames, straight on to the north and Christmas

Wolvercote Junction next where if you turn west you end up on the Thames by King’s Lock. I’d half expected the canal to be high here and Dukes Cut Lock to be partly under water with the Thames being in flood. But all looked fairly normal. We carried on with our course northwards and into Dukes Lock.

Oooo Aaarrgh!

Soon followed Drinkwater Lift Bridge. This bridge is closing in the new year to have work done on the bridge approach walls and the bridge will have a manual hydraulic lifting system added to it. This bridge is used more than the other two we’d come through today, as quite a lot of boaters bypass them on the Thames. Here reading the instructions on the lock have always worked, especially the quarter turn of the key. Once unlocked it’s a quick dash across as the bridge is keen to open. Then on closing it needs some persuasion and to be quick at getting onto it to add your weight to be able to lock it again. With all this in mind it is easy and I managed it without too much bother. Just a shame it’s not Wolvercote bridge getting some attention this stoppage season!

Last one of the day and easiest

Now we had about a mile to go before Kidlington Green Lock came into view. The piling edge below the lock was empty, we found our nappy pins and moored up doing our best not to slip on the muddy towpath. It now being 3pm there was only an hour left before cat curfew. Tilly had been offered some food, a small amount before heading out the back doors, but this was totally over looked.

Hooray!!!!!

At last!!! A whole new outside, yet strangely familiar. There was plenty to sniff and check out. I made full use of my hour exploring, showing myself twice on the cat walk before heading off in a different direction. This is so much more like it! Then when I came inside there was a great big box to sit in, this made up for not being allowed to stay out later.

What’s in here?
A cat, what did you expect?

The joint of beef we’d bought yesterday went in the oven and came out smelling wonderful, it tasted good too!

2 locks, 3.99 miles, 3 lift bridges, 2 pesky, 1 easy, 2 cyclists held up, 3 willow trees ducked under, 1 work boat tied to rotting wood, 1 hour of shore leave, 1 empty wee tank, 50% rubbish disposed of, 1 full water tank, 1 amended Houdini drawing, 1 pair socks, 1 days cruising, 2 smiley boaters, 1 happy cat again.

Going Down And Stocking Up. 23rd November

Jericho

Stocks of the yummy things I like to have in to cook with have become somewhat depleted over the last couple of months, it’s been a while since we did a big shop. So with our planned escape from Oxford imminent we’ve booked a delivery for Thrupp.

I give up!

With the winter months still ahead of us the freezer was switched back on this morning so that it could be stocked up too. The problem with the sticking drawer hasn’t been resolved yet, but we have ideas. I’ve missed being able to dip into it over the summer months, now we can have peas and a stash of gluten free bread along with mince and chicken amongst other things.

Nine, just

One last look at the Thames was needed before we make for the hills. Below Isis Lock the ninth brick was just showing and the weir from the canal to the river was a lot more sedate than it had been last weekend. We walked round through the station to Osney Bridge avoiding muddy towpaths.

Here the level has also dropped, but the flow is still crazy. Link. The blue boat still sits on a list, clinging on for dear life to the weir protection with the waters rushing by. We walked down by the side of the boats and chatted with a chap from one of them. He’s been stuck here for five weeks now, he’s learnt his lesson of coming onto the river in winter. His aim had been to get to Newbury, but when the river permits he’ll be turning round and heading back onto the Oxford Canal.

The cat boat by the weir
Le Boat on the lock landing

The Lock Keeper has opened up the toilets so those moored can access water and showers, his neighbour has four large water carriers so he borrows those to top his tank up. He did end up hiring a car the other week to be able to reach the elsan point on the canal to empty his cassettes. He told tales of a hotel boat hoping to make it through the bridge but having to pull into a gap behind him, a Le Boat (big hire cruiser) had had serious difficulty at least three weeks ago and had ended up moored on the lock landing. Mick also knows of the boat that had moored behind us at Sandford Lock with all the cats. When he’d come up Osney Lock he got pinned against the weir, he managed to eventually get moved up a little just past it. Today his back doors were open, cats free to come and go. Have to say Tilly would not be allowed out in such a place, if she fell in that would be that! Link to weir.

Still high below the lock

The bottom gates of the lock were wide open and below the lock landing was a few inches under water. When Mick came up three weeks ago he’d not had to paddle when he reached the lock, today wellies would definitely be needed. I don’t think the reach above Osney has been out of the red for five to six weeks.

Fish

We carried on walking down to join Osney Mead. Well we couldn’t leave Oxford without a visit to the Fish Market. It was just about lunch time and there were queues of people wanting to eat in the restaurant upstairs, all paying before ascending. What to buy? We looked at what was available on the central display today, not as packed as we’ve seen it before, maybe because it was a Saturday.

Our fish

We came away with a large Mackerel for tonight, some smoked mackerel and a very good handful of fish pie mix to go in the freezer.

Our meat

Next port of call Meat Master across the way. Here we hunted out a nice joint of beef for tomorrow, some gf sausages, mince and some diced pork, most of which were later divided up into meal sized portions and popped in the freezer.

Waitrose came next, my leg now starting to complain. We stocked up on fresh fruit and veg to last us a few days, enough to get a free newspaper before heading back to Oleanna.

Customers at Waitrose

On reaching the boat we both wanted a rest, after some lunch we decided to stay put today. It would be dark by the time we reached anywhere Tilly could go out and I certainly felt like I’d done enough for the day, still recovering from the other night.

As the evening grew dark it started to rain, fingers crossed that tomorrow it stays dry as forecast and the rivers stay on their downward trend.

Mackerel, tastier than it looks

PS the Mackerel was very tasty.

0 locks, 0 miles, 9001 paces, 5000 walked, 4001 hobbled, 5 weeks on East Street, 5 cats still hopefully, 1 mackerel, 378 grams fish pie mix, 1 pack smoked mackerel, 1 silverside joint, 12 gf sausages, 547 grams mince, 475 grams diced pork, 1 free newspaper, 6 boxes on order, 20 litres cat litter, 1 wet evening knitting.

Dusty! 22nd November

Jericho

This is now the longest we’ve ever been somewhere other than when we chose to moor up in Newark four years ago and that was mostly for medical reasons. Tilly is so bored! Even when I put her collar and cat tags back on this morning she only had half an hour outside before coming back in yawning at the lack of excitement.

First boat to go past this morning, backwards

In the last five weeks I’ve only been to Isis Lock and back, hardly a cruise. The prospect of getting moving again is quite an exciting one. Last night we had our first sign that things along the canal were improving. A couple of hours after dark we could hear the sound of a boat engine. As the stern came alongside we could hear ‘Hi Oleanna, we’ll see you in the morning’. NB Dusty had arrived. They headed to the lock, winded and came back past us to College Cruisers for the night.

Here she comes!

This morning it was obvious that Dusty was being restocked. We could hear the clanging of gas bottles, then a coal delivery followed by diesel. Mid morning they reversed their way back towards us. Katy, Jock and Billy their dog on the roof. We were remembered from last year and I was asked how panto had gone. There was plenty of time to have a chat and catch up.

NB Dusty arriving from the north

Mick undid an empty gas bottle, Jock replaced it for us lowering a new heavy bottle into the gap in the gas locker to save Mick’s back. Bags of coal were loaded onto the roof. The boat in front of us had a delivery of something too before they reversed back to fill our diesel tank. Glad we’d waited until today as the price had dropped by 1p a litre with the new delivery, and it was far far cheaper than from College Cruisers.

Heading to the next customer behind us
TV monitor dimensions

Feeling better today I got on with a bit of work. Dimensions of a TV monitor had come through so plans needed amending for A Regular Little Houdini along with letting the production manager know which fabric I would like for some curtains. I’d received samples whilst I was in Chippy, so now I needed to dig out the card I’d used in the model to compare colours. In the afternoon there was a phone call from Vienna to choose paint colours! Not an easy thing over the phone translating them into paints available in Austria, but we got enough sorted for the base coats to be laid in before I arrive in January. The set is starting to be built.

Mick headed off with a bike to collect a new printer from Argos, our old one having got cartridge confusion and now can’t print in black. The hunt for a suitably sized printer had taken a little while as the cupboard our office lives in is only a certain size. The box it came in though was ridiculous. Yes the printer is white, but is all the packaging really needed? Every surface was covered with a protective layer of plastic, instruction books had their own cardboard protection and plastic bag.

Thoughts turning to transporter bridges again

We now need to dispose of our old printer and all this packaging, most of which will be able to go in a bin up the way, but the cardboard will wait until we reach Lower Heyford to go in the recycling bins there. At least once the polystyrene has gone Tilly will make use of the box for a while.

The box is twice the size of the printer

NB Dusty had come down the River Cherwell section on Wednesday to Shipton Weir Lock, it was still in the red, but they had managed it without too much problem. We’d be going against the flow so it should be easier heading upstream. When they came through Thrupp there was some space to moor. So this evening we have been making plans for our escape, including a supermarket delivery. Fingers crossed that space is still there.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 better digestive system, 1 light head, 546 x 956, 3 moving boats, $100, 1 cat with cat tags, 28 minutes shore leave, 125kg coal, 36 litres diesel, 1 gas bottle, 83p, 1 giant box, 1 small printer, JS016, 4 yellow reaches, possibly 8th brick, 2 boaters and 1 cat making plans.

Medication, Not Of The Chilled Variety. 20th 21st November

Jericho

The post panto song worm in my head is starting to wain thank goodness. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are good, it’s just there is only so much you can take of ‘DND, Do not dispair. CYC, Cause you care. SOS, Save our Square’ most days and nights.

On Wednesday morning one job was long overdue, although Tilly didn’t see it that way. It was her three monthly flee spot on treatment. I take her collar off for this, so I try to do it when we know she won’t be allowed to go out. Today however she had a quick look outside and then decided to sleep the remainder of the day as we still hadn’t moved the outside! After a second of fluffing up her fur she realised what was about to happen. Her legs shrank and she silently scurried from one end of the boat to the other. When my hand reached to the top of the cupboard where the flea stuff is kept her legs disappeared all together!

B**st**ds!!!

One vet once told me that the spot on stuff doesn’t hurt them in any way. How many vets have had this evil stuff applied to the back of their neck and between their shoulder blades?! Houdini hated it also.

We used to try to work as a team pinning Tilly down to administer the stuff which comes in a little tube. But the last few times I’ve tried to do it myself, it feels less threatening and on occasions has been a lot easier as Tilly doesn’t scrunch her shoulders up, as much. But on this occasion she managed to squirm her way free before all the spot on stuff had been applied. We are so used to her bell that she can sneak about without it, catching her again I had to keep my eyes peeled.

Next was to stock up on some gluten free flour whilst we were near to a Chinese Supermarket. Being away for panto has meant my sour dough starter has died a death, I’m not sure it was all that strong anyway so I’m going to start from scratch. This time using a different method with Buckwheat and Sweet rice flours rather than just Brown rice flour.

Seven, just

Mick came with me to the supermarket then carried home my purchases whilst I hobbled into town to try to start my Christmas shopping. The seventh brick below the lock was showing today, so the Thames is on a downward trend.

My Dad’s favourite

I managed to get a few stocking fillers but nothing majorly exciting, refueled with a gf sandwich from Tesco I persevered for a while longer spotting one thing my Dad would have loved, Meltis Fruits. I even tried to spend a voucher I got last Christmas but there is still nothing at The White Company I fancy that would fit in with our life style, space and current muddy towpaths.

Decorations outside The Ivy

Mick had waited in in case NB Dusty the local coal boat arrived. They are based at Lower Heyford north of Oxford and had planned to do a run to Oxford this week, but there was no sign of them. We’d been hoping to see them to stock up but also as an indication that Shipton Weir Lock would be passable, the C&RT Strong Stream page isn’t working at the moment.

My post Panto cold seems to have been kept at bay, but sadly something else got me. An upset stomach which kept me awake for much of Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. This necessitated Mick and I swapping sides of the bed. Despite trying to keep my fluid levels up I then got cramp in three places on my bad leg. Each one requiring my leg or foot to be bent in opposite directions, impossible to solve or so it felt.

Nurse Tilly, making sure I didn’t move

So, much of Thursday was spent catching up on sleep for me, watched over by the still silent Tilly. Mick headed to the chemist for some Electrolyte Powder to help with my re-hydration. Luckily my legs since have not cramped up again, but my bad calf has been left feeling bruised and very painful to walk on.

By mid afternoon I was starting to feel a touch hungry, so a poached egg on toast was prepared by the master breakfast cook. This went down a treat and was followed by a snoozy afternoon in front of another Morse episode and a bit of french cuisine with Rick Stein. We’ve no idea what caused the upset, maybe the Tesco sandwich as this was the only thing Mick didn’t eat.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 collar and cat tags, 3 monthly torture, 1 bag potato starch, 1 bag tapioca starch, 1 bag millet, 1 bag sweet glutenous rice, 6 boxes New Berry fruits, 0 white things, 0 cold, 11 visits, 1 sleepless night, 3 cramps at once, 200ml electrolytes, 1 very slow quiet day.

Steak Secrets. 19th November

Jericho

Studio 2 in Morse

Yesterday we watched the second ever Morse episode, well we are in Oxford! ‘The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn’. Parts of the story were filmed in Jericho on Walton Street, we’re getting good at spotting them. Barbara Flynn did however get out of her car close to the Oxford University Press and walk towards the city centre , the next shot had her walking in the opposite direction towards Studio 2 (The Picture House). This isn’t that uncommon and keeps boaters who are not going very far at the moment occupied.

Just still light when we came out

Today we decided to see what the interior of the Picture House was like and opted to see ‘Official Secrets’. This had a Silver Screen showing for which Mick got £4 off his ticket, I suspect I’d have got in cheaply if we hadn’t been honest when buying our tickets. With large comfy seats we settled down with about ten other people to watch the film. No adverts, other than for the cinema, which was a surprise, but a couple of trailers for films to come which we may keep our eyes open for.

Official Secrets tells the true story of whistleblower Katherine Gun who leaked a memo asking GCHQ to find out personal information on diplomats from smaller countries at the United Nations, so that they could be blackmailed into voting for the second UN resolution on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Her actions changed the allegiance of The Observer newspaper who brought the story to the public’s attention despite the Americans claiming it to be a hoax memo. The film follows the story up to Katherine Gun’s court case for breaching the Official Secrets Act. We both thoroughly enjoyed the film with it’s great English cast including Janie Dee who I know from my Scarborough days.

Morse
The tiny house

On our way back to Oleanna we walked down to look at Combe Road where the first ever murder happened in Morse. The house most definitely is a tardis. No way would three people and a grand piano be able to fit into that little house.

With the stove on Oleanna re-light for the second time today, we suspect the chimney needs sweeping, we headed back out for some food at The Old Bookbinders. The pub had been recommended to us by several people and the menu was attractively French.

Warm and cosy we were greeted by a very French man who directed us to a back room sitting us by a radiator to warm up. The place was starting to fill up when we arrived and we were glad we hadn’t waited until later to eat. There was a Menu Du Jour which we had just arrived in time for (good value), but we both decided to chose things from the A La Carte Menu.

L’entrecote and burger

Mick chose Le Benicassim, a burger with everything including a fried egg that revealed it’s yolk through a hole in the top of the bun, it was very tasty. I opted for L’Entrecote Frites, steak and chips with a very nice salad and loads of garlic butter, the aroma will wear off in a couple of days I’m sure. My steak was cooked perfectly rare and had been left to rest before being served.

Pudding!

We followed on with a crepe for Mick, sadly these were not gluten free, so I had a creme brulee. Both were very tasty. With a large glass of wine and a pint of Tim Taylor Landlord our bill was just shy of £60. We don’t eat out much and have become used to pub food being only okay, so today was a treat. If you fancy a slice of France in the middle of Oxford we’d highly recommend the Old Bookbinders, which is nothing like it was back in 1987 when Morse visited.

It’s changed a bit since 1987

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 silver screening, 1 memo, 1 secret leaked, 1 courtcase, 2 times to light, 1 burger, 1 steak, 1 crepe, 1 brulee, 2 fat content boaters, 1 bored cat who just didn’t bother today.