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  • clivenmel

March 22nd

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Vicki duly arrived on Friday lunchtime, she phoned to tell us she had arrived and had found a free parking spot on the road but could only stay for 2 hours � it was great to see her walking across the bridge with all her bags � including yet another bag of books for us to read!   We all had a cup of coffee then hopped in the car and set off to suss out The Folly Bridge Inn to have some lunch and to see if they had a car park we could leave the car in.  No luck there though � they had stopped serving lunch, the car park was small and not very friendly a �25  charge if the car is left!  So, we walked back over the river and had lunch in a big pub called The Head of the River � it was jumping!  We had lovely homemade burgers, with real homemade chips � yum!   We finally decided that the best bet would be to leave the car in the Park and Ride so we found one of those, parked the car and got a taxi back to the boat then we cast off and headed for our most exciting adventure yet � we were heading for the River Thames!  I have to say, considering the Oxford Canal has been one of the prettiest we have been on it fizzles out like a damp squb!  It literally stops � a complete dead end right in the middle of Oxford, full of residential boats, with nowhere to turn around unless you are only about 35� long!  It�s a good job we had checked it out on foot first!  However, just before the end of the canal there is a lock called The Isis Lock (the Thames is known as The Isis in Oxford.)   As you can see from this photo, the canal fizzles out on the left - but our journey continues under the bridge and through the lock.  It was great having Vicki with us as she helped to do the lock.  Once through the lock we had to turn back on ourselves and go under a bridge then after a short way on a little backwater which linked the canal to the river we were on the Thames itself � scary stuff!  It seemed ever so big after the narrow Oxford Canal!   We continued along until we came to another lock, the Osney Lock � it was huge!  We had to keep the boat over to the left on the approach as there was a very fast weir on the right with big DANGER signs plastered all over it.  As we approached the lock the gates were partially open, then they started shutting!  There was a man working the controls so we assumed there was another boat in the lock.  Vicki and I jumped off and went to see what was going on � there was another boat in the lock, a small canoe!  The man on the gates was called John and him and his mate, Phil, were actually on a camping expedition in the canoe!  They had all their equipment in plastic drums in the middle of the canoe, John told me they had once held mango chutney!  He was having a bit of a struggle to sort out the lock gates, they were electric!  There were several buttons � Open Sluices/Close Sluices � Open Gates/Close Gates � finally we got it sorted between us and the big lock gates opened again to admit Lady Arwen � however just as Clive was gently approaching the lock two canoes shot passed him and entered the lock and pulled up on the left!  I called out to them asking if they could come over to the right side so that they wouldn�t get squashed but they climbed out of the water, picked up the canoes, trotted down the path and went back into the water beyond the lock � I wish we could do that!  Anyway, John and I walked down to the other gates and he pressed the Open Sluices button and sure enough the water started gushing out and very soon we could press the Open Gates button - wow that was a lot easier than using a windlass! Once we were out of the lock the river got even bigger!  We cruised along, rather quickly, as of course the river flows, unlike the canal, which doesn�t.  So, although Clive only had the engine on tick-over we were travelling at about 5 mph � that is fast!!!  We went around a few bends and then the river got even wider still � it was huge!  We had spotted a suitable mooring with rings when we had done the reccy at lunchtime so we headed over to the right bank and gently pulled in and in no time at all we were moored up.  However just as Clive was tying up the stern rope a passer-by walked over to him and whispered in his ear.  When he had gone I went and asked Clive what he had said � he had suggested we might like to move just a little further down as we were mooring right opposite the Drunk�s Bench!  He said they are quite harmless but a little unsavoury!  So we moved down a little further and left the bench to the drunks!  Sure enough we saw them arriving later � one with a dog of course! Once moored up we got ourselves ready for the folk club that was on at The Folly Bridge that evening.  Just as we were leaving the boat I got a phonecall from my friend Kate, who I had met at Burwell a couple of years ago, she lives in Cambridge (but is from Oxford!) and had driven over for the weekend as she had volunteered to steward at the Oxford Folk Festival for the weekend.  She said, �I am on the Folly Bridge � where the heck is the pub?�  I gave her the directions and soon after we all met up at the pub. We had a very enjoyable evening at the folk club.  They made us very welcome and there were some great performers to entertain us.  Clive, Kate and I all did a spot too and we were all very well received.  Then it was back to the boat for some shut-eye. Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and inevitably the drunks were on the bench supping cider � how can anybody drink cider and 9.00am!!!  The dog looked bored! The first plan for the day was to go and check out the music sessions that were due to be taking place in three different pubs in the city � we set off toting guitar and flute and headed for The Old Tom � Vicki and Clive were following the directions that Vicki�s phone was giving after putting in the post code � no sign of the pub anywhere!  They were studying the mobile and pressing buttons and looking puzzled � I went and asked somebody for directions!  We soon found the pub, back the way we had come, in fact we had walked straight past it!!!  We went in and found a huddle of musicians crammed into a tight corner just on the left of the door � there were no free seats, well unless you count the two that were supporting an empty fiddle case!  There was tons of room through the other end of the room, it was empty, but no point sitting in there playing by ourselves!  Vicki took an instant dislike to the pub altogether and couldn�t wait to get out, so we made a sharp exit and headed for the next pub � Far From the Madding Crowd (that�s its name, not the location!).  The streets were very very crowded and there were Morrismen everywhere you looked � hundreds of them! The whole place was jingling!  Evidently, I have it on good authority (the festival programme!) there were 600 Morrismen descending on Oxford this weekend.  Anyway we finally found the pub and it was full of Morrismen � having lunch � not a single note being played by anyone!  We decided to stay and have some lunch as we were all hungry by this time, then we headed off for the next pub The Flag and Lamb.  We knew where that one was as we had passed it in the car the day before, trying to escape for the centre of Oxford!  I think we had passed it three times! We walked in the pub and couldn�t hear any music!  I went up to the bar and asked where the session was taking place, the reply was �oh there was one earlier but they�ve all gone to the Town Hall � you could always start your own!�  Hmmm � one flute and one guitar doesn�t really class as a session!  So by now we had lost the will to live and all hope of finding a session anywhere so we set off to the Town Hall. We had bought day tickets for Saturday, which meant we could get into any of the events that were going on around the city at no extra cost.  We went into the Town Hall and got our wrist bands to prove we had paid!  There was a craft room, which we went and had a look at � there was lots of lovely handmade jewellery � as if I needed any more of that!  There was a young harpist playing in the corridor, we stopped and had a chat with her and she gave us some very interesting information about harps, which we didn�t know.  She played beautifully and I could have stayed and listened to her all afternoon � the harp is a really beautiful instrument.  I would love to learn to play one, but I think it would take up too much room on the boat! We found our way upstairs and discovered the bar!  However we decided to save that for later so we had a coffee and a bun instead!  There was a gig going on in one of the smaller halls so we went in there for a little while, had a browse around the stalls and then went to find where the Main Hall was.  There were two gigs on Saturday which we wanted to see, one at 4.40pm - Lau � a brilliant Scottish band.  They are absolutely fantastic � we have actually been to one of their gigs before in Great Gransden Village Hall, which is just a few miles from where we lived in Cambridge.  The other gig we wanted to go to was Kate Rusby and that was at 9.00pm.  She is from Barnsley in South Yorkshire and is an great singer/songwriter, we have been fans for a long time but have never actually seen her.  We just managed to squeeze into the hall for Lau as the hall was packed so we decided to be in plenty of time for Kate so as not to miss her � we were therefore right at the front of the queue, we had quite a long wait but it was worth it, we ended up on the third row!  We were not disappointed with either of the gigs, they were both really good � it was a really great end to the day.                      Clive woke up before me this morning and went up on deck to take the air.  The river was really peaceful and tranquil and looked really pretty in the early morning light.  I woke up a while later to the sound of shouting and splashing!  Clive popped his head out of the hatch and unlike earlier, the river was full of boats!  Boats as in the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race boats � loads of them!  Big ones, medium sized ones and little ones.  By comparison to first thing in the morning it was total chaos!  There were people running down the bank shouting instructions to them, cox�s in the boats yelling instructions and it was quite amazing.  By all accounts this is a typical Sunday morning on the Thames in Oxford - all the rowers come out to practice! Whilst Clive was watching the boats he also caught sight of one of the guys who was shouting instructions from the bank � he had a big, wide belt on with a ring in the front.  Attached to the ring was a dog lead, attached to a dog, which was pulling the man along the towpath � now who is taking who for a walk here?  Also if you look to his left you will see a couple of the drunks on their bench - supping cider again! I mentioned my friend Kate earlier who was stewarding at the festival.  Her parents Robyn and Julia also live aboard a narrowboat, in fact when we were first thinking about embarking on this adventure they invited us to visit them on their boat whilst they were moored just at the top of the Foxton Flight.  It certainly helped us to make our minds up that this was really what we wanted to do � we were very envious of them at the time.  Anyway, why I mentioned them is that they were moored in Abingdon, just a little way down the Thames and this morning I got a text from Kate to say she had gone to Abingdon to help them bring their boat (Locksley) up to Oxford and that they would be mooring up near to us.  Sure enough we saw them arriving this afternoon and they moored up about 50 yards along the bank from us.  It was lovely to meet up with them again.  They came on board Lady Arwen to have a look around and then we all went to the pub. Unfortunately both Kate and Vicki were due to drive back to Cambridge this afternoon, however Kate decided to stay one more night and drive back early in the morning.  Vicki couldn�t do that as she didn�t want to leave her pussycat, Mew, on her own for another night � bless!  About 4.30pm Vicki called a taxi to take her back to the Park and Ride to pick up the car and we had to say goodbye � its been lovely having her here for the weekend and its always hard to say goodbye � still we keep in regular contact by text and on MSN in the evenings.  Thank heavens for modern technology! So here we are, on our own again!  We are going to the launderette tomorrow � oh joy!  There is one about five minutes walk away and we really need to get some washing done!  Hopefully we will meet up with Robyn and Julia again for a coffee before we head off in opposite directions. Its been a lovely weekend, apart from the disappointment of the non-existent sessions!

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