Day 3, Abbots Langley to Uxbridge
Yes, I really was awake - albeit not up - at five. Eventually I got up and finished Hold on a Minute, then strolled into the village to a. identify where we were and b. get some Sunday papers. Jim always jokes when we go to some little village that there won't be any Guardians; this works both if the place is painfully trendy (they will have sold out) and if it is clearly Colonel Bufton Tufton country (they won't have ordered any in the first place). I always laughed at this (no harm in that, seeing as it was a joke...) but he'd have had the last laugh this morning in Abbots Langley. Is there an Observer, I asked. Should be, the shopkeeper said, oh, no, we've sold it.
This morning was notable for me being able to mildly upset two dog owners - not that I have anything against dog owners per se (some of my best friends etc) but the first of these was one of that breed of people who seem to think that deftly flicking a pile of shit into the canal constitutes clearing up after your dog - er, no. If we wanted the canal full of shit, we've plenty of our own; think of what we'd save on blue. But there's a reason that's not allowed any more, and you, dog owners, are no exception. If only I had been able to put it so eloquently at the time, but it was a bit early for coherent argument.
The second one was walking two big boisterous dogs along a narrow path towards me. I just stopped and stood still to allow him to steer them around me, and after he passed he said 'You're welcome' in a very sarky tone. I'm still wondering what I was supposed to have been grateful for. 'Oh, thank you so much for not forcing me off the path into the ankle deep mud and dog crap (to which you have no doubt been contributing this morning'; 'I am eternally grateful to you for restraining your slathering beasts from savaging me as an aperitif before breakfast'; 'I am truly honoured to have been permitted to use the footpath when you and your hell hounds clearly needed it more.' But once again, the apposite response arrived five minutes too late. Esprit de gangplank.
On the way back from the shop I met Bob and James on a similar mission, and then we all had breakfast and after a bit set off. It was lovely and sunny today, and seemed to go by very quickly. We all did bits of polishing and locks while James steered, and heading towards Uxbridge texted Baldock to see if they wanted to meet up. By the time we'd had dinner and washed up, primped and changed, and forgotten it was Sunday, there wasn't much time left for drinking, and I for one was pretty worn out anyway - although still exhilarated by the whole experience. So it was back for a relatively early night...
Day 4, Uxbridge to Cowley Lock (me)/Paddington Basin (everyone else)
... And, concomitantly, another early morning. More like six this time maybe, but I got up straight away and started polishing. It was just such a lovely morning already and it felt like the right thing to do. When the time came to leave (after I'd put in a bit of practice negotiating the top plank) James said that I should steer again for my last bit of the trip, which was marvellous. So it came to pass that all too soon we arrived at Cowley lock, and while we were waiting, Penny went and bought everyone ice creams, and I steered Chiswick into the lock, handed the tiller to James, collected my bag and coat (wonderfully redundant on this lovely final day), said my farewells and thanks - which I record here for posterity - and without a backward glance set off on the long trek back to Uxbridge. Yes, I know I could have just gone from there in the morning, but I wanted to do every single lock of the trip, and with the steering, and the sun and the ice cream it was well worth it.
I'll be back.