Friday, July 29, 2011

Farewell Banbury

Not very good pictures here and some places I intended to take photographs of I just didn’t.

Banbury has everything that I don’t really like about a town yet I love it there; it even makes me want to shop!  Anything you could need is there. It has a fantastic recreational area and wonderful walks for Boots. While I am there Boots is exceptionally happy because Karen from RBC Pet Care Services comes in during the day to take him out on adventures. RBC are absolutely fantastic!



I was very grateful to my friends for allowing me to use their mooring while I was there. It is a lovely spot!

  I found it hard to sleep through the noise of the generators. I spoke to one of the generators who were lovely but that night another boat had their engine running and once again I didn’t sleep. I decided that I didn’t really want to have another night of not sleeping (there was one generator that was so far unused and I felt sure it would fire into action imminently!) so when a spot became available I moved along a bit and that cured the problem.

Theatre in the Dock was delightful (despite my brilliance) – I do hope it happens again next year.  The quality was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed Kate Saffin’s one women play and Debs Newbold.

Finally I have made it Ye Olde Reinedeer Inn. It is fantastic!  I had intended to go much earlier in the week but I flaked out only to resurface on Thursday. I met Chris and Joy Wren there which was great fun. It is a fine establishment with a selection of fruit wines and Hooky Beer. Definitely the place to go when in Banbury!!

When walking around the park late at night one can’t help but notice the rubbish that the locals have left absolutely everywhere from their day/evening of revelling. What is astonishing is Banbury has this totally under control and by morning it has all gone. It doesn’t reach the source of the problem but it is a perfect solution.

So, farewell Banbury. It has, as ever, been wonderful being in your arms.

Scrumpy and the Locks

I had a message from Scrumpy (Boots’ lurcher friend  from the North) the other day to pass on to Boots.

I (Scrumpy) fell in the lock and had to be pulled unceremoniously out by a man with a pony tale. Even worse Dad laughed and Mum had hysterics.

I imagine Scrumpy expected his good friend to sympathise… but when I told Boots I am afraid he wasn’t the most sympathetic…. in fact… he laughed his head off:


He did say he loves Scrumpy and his adventures! They are SOOOooooo funny.

I told Boots that we were going boating later… and he is looking a little bit sorrowful now he understands that he is going to be experiencing these lock things again….

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dear Granny and Grandpa

Following Mum’s debut performance there have been a number of problems at home. 

If she isn’t dramatically lurching from the paint brush to the tea bags she is doing her hair (with a fork!) or checking her wince (or smile as she calls it) in the mirror (the darkened window that gives “just enough detail but not too much”). This means simple things are going wrong.

Firstly I have had the same biscuits ALL WEEK. I am not complaining because I like biscuits but I am just having the round ones and I like LONG ones too. Mum usually prides herself on the choices of biscuit but I notice that even she peers into the biscuit tin with a forlorn look (practicing for another of her theatrical attentions I expect).  Secondly the conversation is even more boring and runs along the lines of ‘wasn’t I brilliant’ and ‘oh I AM brilliant’ It is quite embarrassing when we are out and about because I know everyone just wants to talk about something interesting and things. Thirdly the door is broken.

The door has always been a fragile commodity on my boat. It never seems to work during the dark hours and then only opens at random times throughout the day. In the past I used to just stare at it and it would be opened for me. Now I have to stare for much longer AND I have to sigh.

Oh Granny and Grandpa. It is most unsatisfactory. I have to spend longer standing up than is absolutely necessary and it is quite soul destroying. Yesterday I was so tired from all the standing that I nearly didn’t catch a rabbit.



Lots of Love


Friday, July 22, 2011

Theatre in the Dock – I was BRILLIANT

Last night ZeroSeefr kicked off the weekend of Theatre in the Dock with a trio of short plays inspired by the work of Tom Rolt “A travelling writer of ghost stories and his wife embark on their honeymoon on the canal; An heir to a fortune discovers a mysterious music box; spectres haunt lonely railway tracks as the age of steam lives out its last days and a rambler is led by distant lights into the heart of an inexplicable storm...”

I went.

I starred.

I was brilliant.

I have searched on the internet for a review, but to no avail. I have no idea why because I was UTTERLY brilliant.  The third play required audience participation. First we had to practice rain, thunder and wind of varying degrees (there was no need for the running water as there was some to hand down the draining gutter of the dock itself) and then we were told they needed a volunteer. A hill walker.  Kate and Maffi volunteered me and that, combined with my dress code for the evening ( unfortunately as a hill walker) meant I couldn’t really refuse – after all I told myself I will just have to stand and stare and sit down again – a matter of mere minutes if that.

Cursing my two friends I arrived on stage and smiled sweetly in a ‘Oh dear’ fashion.  It quickly became apparent that standing taking a bow and leaving were not quite what I was to do.  It quickly transpired that I was THE actress for the evening and my job was to act out the narration.

I was brilliant.

Even if I say so myself. I was utterly brilliant. A total natural. With some exceptionally capturing and gripping scenes at my fingertips I mastered them all. Admittedly, I may have appeared slightly too enthusiastic and, as one member of the audience put it ‘a tad gleeful’ when I stumbled upon a dead sheep…

Later,  I soon adopted terror as I screamed gripping onto the back of the chair at the…mm… I forget what.. but the scream was inspired.

Finally the play finished. The audience were gripped throughout, on the edges of their seats with terror as the ghost story unfolded in front of them.  I forget my name but everybody was there with me, amidst the shadows, the fear, the storm, the closing in of the dark and the light… oh my! When I followed the right light you could feel the unease sweep across the dock.

I was excellent.

They laughed throughout all the serious scenes. One simply can’t get the right sort of audience these days. Anyone would think they were at a comedy show.

I, was utterly brilliant.  Signings will be taking place when my agent gets in touch.

Generating Quiet

BW make several of their rules quite clear and one of my favourite (as a lover of silence) is the one that keeps the peace and quiet.

I am currently moored near one of these which is bad in so many ways:


BW states on page 24 point 4(b) in their terms and conditions of licences (here) that “Whilst the Boat is on the Waterway, you must not:

“use any electricity generator, including the Boat's engine, at any mooring along the Waterway between 8pm and 8am, unless you are moored in isolation, out of earshot of other people. [We do not intend this Rule to stop you moving the Boat from the mooring.]”

I could whine and wangle on about these generators (and Silent ones are just as loud if you don’t have a TV, drill or radio to drown it out) but there isn’t much point; I am disheartened. I  understand the reason – after all, we all have reasons and solutions:

1) My engine needs fixing

- Why not just get some leisure batteries and a charging system?

2) I needed to run the engine for some hot water

- try insulating your hot water tank… my water tank stays warm until the morning…..

3) If you don’t tell me it is a problem it isn’t.

- but I don’t want to have to! You might hit me.

I do wonder though - do people really not know that some people go to bed before midnight? Do they not know that quiet is a good thing for some people? Do they not know how incredibly loud their generators are? Do they not know that there are people on the boats near them? Do they not think the BW rules apply to them?

So, back to my neighbour. When I arrived on my mooring I was told that there were 2 generators – one on the boat behind and one on the boat in front. Each night I have only heard the one (I think) from the one from the boat behind. Each night I have counted my blessings that only one generator is running. Last night, had the other started up, I might have spontaneously combusted (which would have solved all sorts of problems).   All I had to do was have a reasonable conversation to find out how the grass lies in these parts. I just wish I had done it a few days ago when it didn’t matter.

I feel sorry for the owner of the generator living next door to such a tetchy lass who likes the quiet and has sleep problems. I wonder if I would hate the generator so much if it wasn’t for the knowledge that when I am trying to sleep in my bed there is a yellow growling monster roaring on the towpath just a boat length away.

Like I said before, at least I can still move. Although for various reasons that won’t solve any of my problems and a noisy generator and no sleep might be the lesser of two evils.

Generators and time keeping are not compatible.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aynho to Banbury

Hairy Neil was here on Sunday so we did an early morning car shuffle and prepared to cruise. With the commander in position we were able to set sail:


There had been a few changes since Hairy Neil came down the Oxford last – firstly Grants Lock wasn’t boarded up with a sign saying ‘not for sale’.


and there was a lift bridge, not a footbridge, at the bottom of Banbury Lock.

I had a great time cruising taking it in turns to do the lock and the steering. It was quite a pleasant novelty watching my boat coming into the locks.IMAG2073

Kate came to join us when I arrived at the water point in Banbury. We had a cuppa together and set off again. It was only after we had positioned her on the tiller and got her through the lock and lift bridge that she said she hadn’t come to go boating…. but she stayed on board, winded and left after we had moored up.  A fantastic day.

I do like having crew; I am always very fortunate and end up boating with the most interesting people. The time seems to fly by.

It is a good opportunity to put the world to rights and the continual flow of tea (from them or me) is wonderful. 

It is also interesting to be travelling with someone who can point out the changes. Once Hairy Neil mentioned it I was sure that the first time I came past Grants lock it was boarded up…it is easy to forget how things change and take things for granted.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heyford to Aynho

On Saturday morning the day started with the launch of the Muddy Waters boats. They are absolutely stunning and everyone I know who went there had a great time.  I had an even better time because Mo and his two children (12 and 10) turned up!

After a quick look around I pulled the pins and headed for Aynho…well, it WAS raining so it was a shame not to make use of the fabulous weather and go cruising.

Chris Wren did the lift bridge for me and so I thought I had made a brilliant start to the cruise – well, I had, but around the corner a boat was adrift:


then a tree was down but there was just enough room to squeeze slowly by:


Boots was surprisingly alert:


and the skies were fabulous, again:



I met crew at Somerton Deep lock which was fantastic as they locked me through – thanks! I enjoyed the view from the bottom of the lock for a change:


The lift bridge was left UP which was great!


I should have looked to see whether there was a key in the mechanism

And then I arrived in Aynho where some friends helped me moor up as the wind was rather blustery and kept pushing me over to the other side of the canal.

In the evening I dined at the Great Western Arms with two friends; putting the world to rights and catching up. It was lovely. The ladies Lavs were a sight to be beheld. Every wall was covered in notes:


Monday, July 18, 2011

Theatre in the Dock – THIS WEEK

I really like the flier for Theatre in the Dock.  Unfortunately Cinemascope by ARCC have had to cancel their engagement so they won’t be there, but other than that the program remains unchanged and looks fantastic – there is something there for everyone.  I am really looking forward to the 4 day program. Is anyone else going to be coming down?




Rousham House is a short walk from the moorings at Lower Heyford. Through the railway station, to the main road and turn right. Over the bridge, left at the traffic light and up the hill. I suppose it might be a mile?  Anyway, it is well worth a visit at £5 per person. It is not at all commercial and is totally unspoilt which means there is no tea room or shop, but there are lavatories. It is a marvellous way to wile away a sunny day which is exactly what SMiles and I did on Friday… we arrived in style pootling down the drive in his MG Midget. On arrival we found a nice place to have a snooze.

DSC09903 DSC09904

and then took a stroll around.   DSC09900 DSC09908 DSC09907

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Last time I was in the church I set the alarms off (oops)– I didn’t this time!


next to the church was this little building with a bell. I wondered whether it was an old school room or something. SMiles decided that he would try and peer through the window – he wasn’t quite tall enough and was leaping around like a gazelle trying to peer through so I offered a leg up. He looked, reported back and I walked off…and he slid rather quickly down the side of the building…. I had failed to do the ‘leg down’ …OOPS. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt (and I did only suggest a leg up…I had forgotten a leg down is usually coupled with a leg up…)


Before we left we spent 15minutes doing a butterfly survey – there were quite a few along here but it seems that butterfly numbers might well be down this year:

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I love the way everything is fully dressed at Rousham; even the Bantams:


We went the long way home around the delightful country roads of Oxfordshire in the MG.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thrupp to Lower Heyford

The skies of late have been absolutely spectacular. On the way to Lower Heyford it was raining very heavily. Boots looked a bit miserable and stared me down until I donated my wax jacket to the cause. He settled down and continued his ‘lord of the manor’ pose:


The cement works looked fabulous:IMAG1966

The canal side is full of vegetation:


The sun came out eventually:

Dusty loomed into view at the last lock:


and the sky and light looked amazing.




Friday, July 15, 2011

Voices from the Dark

I like the title which is why I went; that and to accompany Joy who first mentioned it.  ‘Voices from the Dark’ was the true stories of women who have overcome life-changing events; specifically abuse.

We were told how abuse is not only physical, as often perceived, but emotional and mental too.  Inevitably the stories were littered with mental and physical health issues

The women were not actress’ they told their story. They are a group of women from the Eve Women's Well Being Project.  ‘Voices from the Dark’ was set not only to give these women a voice but to highlight the issues around the way people get lost, how even professionals do not listen to those in desperate need of being heard.

As people filed into their seats armed with ice cream and glasses of wine I wondered what on earth they were expecting. I wasn’t expecting an evening of entertainment; I was expecting an evening of education and certainly not one suitably for eating and drinking. I wasn’t alone. The ice cream spoons slowed and the wine disappeared as people sat, gripped, watching as the lives of people unravelled in front of the auditorium was silent.  It wasn’t harrowing; it was fact. All too common I expect.

At the end, as they all gathered together, I sat watching engaging and thinking.  There is a great deal of stigma around mental health issues not to mention abuse, so for these people to stand, in public, in front of those people who may judge them was… well… perhaps an opportunity to change not only their lives, but the stigma too.

The Eve project needs funding so if you want to give to charity and want to give to that, or if you want to know more the place to go is

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Medical Practices

Anyone that has known me for several years and has had the joy of being on the end of my medical rants will know how fond I am of the medical profession – particularly certain branches of it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the NHS and I love Drs and Nurses and I think they should all have sainthoods. However, every now and again something happens that makes my blood boil.

So, I need to see a Dr. I have clearly forgotten why I avoid them so I gave them a ring to arrange an appointment.

Reception: Hello, how can I help you?

Me: Could I book an appointment to see a Dr please

Reception: No, sorry we don’t have Drs appointments

Me: O.K. Could I have a Chinese takeaway then? (only I didn’t say that)

Receptionisht (continues): You could phone at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

Me: O.K. so I need to phone at 8:30 each morning to see whether I can have an appointment that day.

Receptionisht: yes, that is right. We have nothing for the rest of the week.

Me: Great. Perfect. Thank you very much.

Why do they bother answering the phone.

I loathe this completely, it isn’t unusual that one can’t get an appointment at the Drs surgery. The greatest comfort is that the rest of northern Oxford are clearly on their last legs too.

Great Tew

On Sunday Steve came by so we went for a trip into the countryside. We ended up at Great Tew. We visited the church this time:


and the gravestone that really caught my eye when I was up the tower last


I found the inside quite striking – last time I was here there was a lot of scaffolding. I climbed up it and sat at the very top looking down and around. There is quite a different view now it has gone (and I was standing on the ground)



The church yard has some overgrown areas ‘living churchyard’ they call it – or something like that. It is meant to promote wild flowers and wildlife. IMAG2008

We had a lemonade in the Falkland Arms. I have always liked this pub.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Shared Experience: Bronte & Shelley

Some time ago I saw the theatre group Shared Experience perform Bronte at the Oxford Playhouse. The play took what was known about the Bronte family and combined with imagination set the lives and interactions of the family before us. The play started with three girls wondering what it was to be a Bronte and then, before I knew what had happened, they had become the Bronte sisters. Emily Bronte (Elizabeth Crarer) stood on the kitchen table pointing, in silence, out into space scanning, with a pointed finger, the audience with an absent, yet haunt gaze I found her presence poignant, gripping and entirely enthralling. I was gripped. Crarer had utterly engaged me with her character. The portrayal of closeness, isolation and distance without a hint of loneliness in a tangle of what seemed mental unrest was unsettling yet engaging and convincing. I loved it.

This evening I was at another Shared Experience event: Mary Shelley in Convocation House in the Bodleian library we were privilege to the first draft of this new play which, in full, will be touring next year.

We didn’t see the whole play but a select few scenes. The occasion was to give the audience a glimpse of what the director, Polly Teale, called ‘behind the scenes’. I was gripped. Totally gripped. Again Shared Experience have captured torment, emotion and atmosphere beautifully.

Something really interesting to me was the ‘clapping’.  We were told that during rehearsals the director will, occasionally, clap. This is the sign for the actor/ess’ to freely express the emotion within them… the sort of thing the character is ‘feeling’ deep inside. Then, when the director claps again, the scene resumes and interactions and communications continue much like they do in real life. It was, really was, incredible.

Shared Experience are brilliant.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Dear Granny and Grandpa

Tremendous news. I am a million times better and I haven’t been sick anywhere for ages. I even caught a duck on Sunday. Norty Maffi - he was so excited at how brilliant I was at catching the duck that he decided he would help. I had just caught it by the neck when Maffi threw himself at me and we ended up in a big ball on the floor; Maffi on me, and me on the duck. It was quite a fright actually and unfortunately the duck escaped between Maffi’s legs. He seemed to think it was my fault and was telling me off really quite sternly but I gave him a hard stare and made sure he was quite aware it was MY DUCK and he RUINED IT ALL.

Ducks are easier to catch than sausages.

Last Sunday Mum took me to the boat show. I went last year and had an ice cream because it was “so hot”. Then I had to sit under the tap because it was “too hot” (hateful don’t try it). Then I had a sleep on Chertsey while Mum got hot somewhere else. 

This time it started off not hot. I knew things were going to be great because as soon as we arrived Sarah (from Chertsey) suggested we all had breakfast together. I sat next to a huge breakfast sandwich whose owner, Mr American, was delighted to see me.  He was not quite delighted enough to give me his sandwich though – how he resisted my big brown eyes and floppy ears for so long is beyond me. I even breathed in so my ribs stuck out even more.  I ran through my manners; I lay down, I looked disinterested, I sat, I pretended to be asleep but I had to watch him eat ALL THE BREAKFAST really slowly; one bite at a time chewed a hundred times.

Oh Granny it was awful

I had a miserable time.

He didn’t understand sharing AT ALL. Or so I thought.  Right at the very end he gave me a HUGE sausage.  I was so surprised I nearly fainted.  No sooner had I started chomping at it than Mum took it off me and stole half of it for herself which was very annoying (what is it about Humans – if it isn’t ducks it is sausages).  Actually, it was O.K.because she didn’t eat it herself she gave it to Scrumpy – I had forgotten he likes sausage. 

I like Scrumpy; he is a bit wiser and a bit older than me. I used to think he was really hairy, but he isn’t. He just likes to wear his bed so he can lie down comfortably at all times. Very sensible indeed.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Dear Granny and Grandpa

I am poorly. I am SO poorly. WOE is me. Oh Granny, EVERYTHING, keeps falling out EVERYWHRE and it is AWFUL.

It is SO unfair I am not allowed anything to eat until 7am and then I have to wake up for boiled rice only. Oh Granny it is so long away and I don’t like 7am AT ALL EVER. Mum says that if the rice doesn’t explode inside me then that means I am better.

I am not better yet. I am so miserable.

Lots of Love