Now, where was I – I think we had taken shelter in Braunston last Sunday and were waiting out the terrible winds and driving rain in the shade of Bridge 89. There's a handy footpath from bridge 89, through the field to the church at the top of the hill. It's by far the best option for getting to the village. You may have to tiptoe around the earthworms that have been missed by the early bird and try to dodge the sheep pellets scattered liberally along the route, but generally, you get to your destination looking fairly presentable. Any trip along the tow path takes twice as long, due to the amount of time required to slither along without falling over and then the mucky job of scraping the mud off Tricky's paws when you get back.
The boat moored in front of us broke free from its moorings twice during the windy weather. There was no-one on board and so it was up to us to rescue it and tie it up again. The first time, it was tipping down with rain, so I hung onto the centre line while Carl did a temporary lash up with a handy bit of rope – well, it was actually more like thick string but it was the best we could do at short notice. I was hoping that the owner would come back and fix it himself, but no – the next morning, the stern rope had pulled free and the boat was making its way towards the sheep field again. I had to sacrifice my best orange washing line to tie it up for a more permanent repair – how will I dry my smalls now?
Once the wind had dropped we set off for a short cruise along the South Oxford to charge the batteries and get a change of scenery. The lovely views from the canal as you leave Braunston and chug towards Flecknoe are a welcome change of scenery and all three of us are happy to be on the move again. Tricky was in her usual place on her mat on the hatch and Carl and I stand just inside the boat where it's a little warmer than being totally exposed to the elements on the steering platform. By the time we got to the first winding place, the dark clouds were gathering and that cold wind had got up again. Carl leaned on the tiller and the boat whizzed around in a graceful circle to turn us round and we started back towards a nice little mooring spot we had noticed on the way down. We had traded one sheep field for another and I spent some time watching two of the stupidest ones standing nose to nose, locked in some kind of staring game, only moving far enough to make room to butt heads from time to time. Am I turning into Shauna the Sheep? Is sheep spotting a recognised pastime? I'll stop bleating and move on.
We arrived back in Braunston in time to do a 'big shop' in Daventry before meeting up with our friends, Terry and Liz, on their boat Beertriss. I was soaking the bread in cold tea when they arrived, those of you who have made this old fashioned teatime treat will know that I was making Bread Pudding. I flung the rest of the ingredients into the mix and I crossed my fingers hoping it would be one of my better attempts. I'm afraid to say that Mary Berry would have had something to say about my 'soggy bottom'! I had to resort to the old faithful BeRo scones as our contribution to the celebratory lunch on board Beertris at the top of the Braunston flight. We had a couple of glasses of wine to celebrate our maiden voyage together and then set off on the last leg of our joint venture through Braunston Tunnel. Tricky and I hunkered down under the hatch as usual and watched the world getting smaller and smaller in the vanishing light behind us. 'I should drink wine more often' I thought 'this tunnel's not scary at all'
The next day, we left our boat at Norton Junction and went off to help our friends with the 7 broad locks of the Buckby flight – mainly so that we could have breakfast in the Whilton Marina Cafe at the bottom of the locks. Carl had a windlass in his hand for a change and the damp, drizzly morning soon brightened up into a beautiful warm spring day. I looked over a hedge and there were half a dozen porkers in a field, sunbathing, sprawled contentedly in the mud. Further away, the M1 motorway traffic crawled along doing less miles an hour than our narrowboats.
A man came up and told us a very sad story about his home life. Apparently, he had been ironing his pants on the worktop and ruined the surface, which had annoyed his girlfriend who 'had a go' at him. Then he'd got the wrong air freshener so she'd sprayed it on his toothbrush to teach him a lesson. He'd had enough, he told us and he'd left her to it and come out. Now I'm a person who likes to 'share' but that was too much information, even for me!
Sometimes I wish I wasn't the eldest child! I am condemned to be forever the 'bossy' one – I can't help it. No matter how I try, I cannot keep my nose out. When we met up with a holiday boat coming into their first lock on the Buckby flight, I was very soon chatting away to the man with the windlass on my side of the lock. I looked down into the boat and the four ladies of the party were crammed into the bows, some still in their pyjama's, clutching coffee cups and looking worried. I'm afraid to say I went into bossy mode, getting them roped up and then spotting another boat coming along for them to share with and generally directing operations to get them safely through their first lock. I do hope they enjoyed their weekend break and that they're all still friends – 8 people sleeping together on a narrowboat might test the best of friendships!!
On that note, I'd better call it a day before I test your patience too.
Love as always
The Floating Chandlers
PS We saw the first swallow today as we went up the locks at Watford – how blooming marvellous!