Friday, August 15, 2008
Today it did not rain
Day 17, Lechlade to, er, Radcot, accompanied by relatives
Part of the grand plan of coming up to Lechlade was to meet up ith some of the Swinon branch of the family; namely my cousin Janice, and my sister who came over from Newport in South Wales. Janice collected Ali from Swindon station and they arived in Lechlade around noon. Following some comedy mobile phone conversations (we were at the Riverside, we're now heading for the town centre... no stay at the Riverside... what do you mean it's muddy, is there a different Riverside? (answer: yes)... we're driving over the bridge now... we can see the boat ... Are you in the silver car behind the transit...etc) they found us. Or we found them. After some deliberation, Auntie Doreen (aged 89 1/2) decided not to come, but we all agreed that was a shame as she would have managed to get 0n the boat OK (not so sure about getting off, but that comes later).
We'd promised them a trip, but weren't sure how it would work. Wechecked with the lock keeper at St Johns where we might wind, but also had the bright idea that if we went on to Radcot, Janice's son, David, who was hoping to join us when he finished work, could meet us there and take Janice and Ali back to Lechlade to collect Janice's car. In the event, that's what we did. I think we had a super day. Ali and Janice liked the boat, as did David and Natalie. We all went for a few pints at the Swan at Radcot - as we had promised the landlady we would on the way up - and then off they went, taking Baz with them, to be dropped off at Swindon and catch a train home (which I note will cost between £51 and £67, making a 15 day Thames licence look like good value). Baz has left all his clothes behind, but taken his accordian, and promises to be able to play us a tune when we return.
It won't be the same without him, but he has been brilliant (including steering us through Radcot Bridge on the way back just now), and I don't blame him for wanting a bit of time and space to himself.
Thames lock keepers are marvellous, cheerful and friendly and helpful, despite the fact that they have a very responsible, and now apparently insecure, job, and have to deal with useless and half witted members of the public every day. Mostly. We had already taken a bit of a dislike on the way down to the keeper at Buscot Lock, as he had officiously insisted that we stop the engine, despite being the only boat in the lock, I know this is officially a requirement, but none of the others so much and mentioned it, and one or two actually showed an interest in the engine. Sure enough, same again today, but that wasn't the best bit. In the lock with us were three chaps in a small rowing boat. Where was their licence, he demanded to know. Very apologetically, one of them explained that they did have a licence, but it was in the pocket of his jeans, which had been left behind in the car following his having to jump in to retrive a rope when launching the boat. The lock keeper replied that yes, indeed they did have a licence; he had the record of it right there. But sadly this was not enough; they had to be carrying the licence. It was - and he really truly said this - more than his job was worth if they got to the next lock without it. I'm not quite sure how the epidode ended, other than that he took down all their details again, but I'm pretty sure that the very reasonable and pleasant keeper at the next lock would have not been bothered one iota. Bring back Richard Stilgoe! (On the other hand, as he was responsible for turning a whole generation of people like me into cynical paranoiacs, perhaps not)