Day 20, Abingdon to Reading
Dear lord, can this river go on much longer? It almost makes one yearn for the Nene - at least that's out of the way in three days and the sun occasionally shines on it. Nothing bad has happened today - indeed a few good things, small crumbs of comfort, have occurred - but it has been dull and drizzly, with occasional rain, cold wind (particularly enervating) and nary a sight of the sun since first thing. A minor bad thing happened, in that I left a full glass of sticky fruit juice on the table and by the time I came back from my lookout duties it had vibrated itself over the edge and distributed its contents over the sofa cushions, floor, rug and much of the furniture. But as no one else saw, it doesn't really count.
Lookout duties (Where's the channel? Look out for diesel! Is that a lock? etc) have been greatly enhanced by digging out the binoculars that my father bought from Boots circa 1975. They really work! Today we have obtained water, at last (out of order at Eynsham, and couldn't get on the landing at others); got rid of rubbish, and filled up with another 133 litres of diesel, for £118 this time (Looks through binoculars... 'well, it says 89p so I guess it must be diesel'...). Again, we passed about three boatyards where it would have been just impossible, or too terrifying, to get to their fuel pump. So while we have seen a good few other narrow boats today, we still feel kind of unwelcome; unconsidered, and definitely not at home.
Three cheers then for the very aptly named Better Boating Co. at Reading, which has a decently long and approachable pontoon, a proprieter who stoically bears you approaching the wrong way because you didn't see the sign, and a wonderful shop, which has trendy gifts, old and new, lovely earrings, a book swap for the RNLI, incense sticks, very stout mooring pins and a lovely atmosphere, all at very reasonable prices. And diesel. We've tied up just beyond there, at Kings Meadow. I'm not sure if this is the 'rough' bit ... it's near Tescos - but even if it is we feel pretty safe as we're about four feet from the bank. No doubt why no one else had moored in this spot, but with some clever use of the trees for temporarily tying to, and deployment of the plank, we're in, using our new, stout and very reasonable stakes. We have pulled up the drawbridge just in case. It's nice being under the trees, as it shelters us from the rain.
The day got off to a good start, with the splendid approach of George through Abingdon bridge. Later we encountered, and shared a copule of locks with Hector, a Roger Fuller tug which we coveted when it was for sale a couple of years ago (but it's not nearly as lovely as Gazelle, sigh...). And, just as I was about to sit down for lunch I was called back to the bridge (sorry, don't know what's coming over me terminologically), in a lashing storm in a bit of river so wide and choppy it might have been the sea for all my limited experience of the latter, and there, going the other way, were Kevin (he of Canal Boat fame) and Vicky on Star. Much frantic waving ensued.