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One step closer I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Trip Four: Strained Sinews

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 4 July 2009 | Views [387]

Fourth Trip Strained Sinews The beginning was not a display of logistics and time keeping. Have you ever noticed that time stands still longer for those who are stood still. Those racing to get to a point feel time slipping away through their finger like sand through the hour glass. Those that are waiting feel the inordinate stretching of time as the desire to fill it with something stimulating becomes almost to much to bear. That was how the day began: a mad rush for one of the pair and a boring wait for the other. The wait in the car park did reveal some good freebies as a jerry can and funnel found in the bushes whilst going for a piss where worth a good twenty quid. Quite why there was jerry can deposited in the bushes of an out of the way car park I’m sure can be innocently explained – just not by this blog. It was a bright day setting off from Wolvercote the chavs where frolicking in on port meadow as the sun stretched its lazy rays. There is something quite strange in seeing chavs out of their urban environment. They don’t seem quite so comfortable in migrating even this short way out of urban Oxford. The arrival into Oxford with the cattle grazing in the south of Port Meadow and the stand of pollarded willow trees on the west bank give for a wonderful reception into Oxford proper. The first unusual sight of Oxford was a dismembered heading bobbing along against the current. The pair forgetting they were not Catholic quickly crossed themselves and made the sign against the evil eye. When the dismembered head started talking it was found that although it was a human head there was a body below the surface belonging to a middle age woman who obviously enjoyed river swimming. They are a rare breed now raised before the spectre of imminent death from weils disease and other waterborne illness became over hyped. It was a good idea to swim in the water above Oxford rather than below them for obvious reasons. Being hedonitst at heart our explorers set of along a back water as the Thames braided. The stream followed led past the canal. The water course here was more congealed and impenetrable than many areas back on the Evenlode. The only thing that changed was the type of obstruction. Where once fallen willows and other natural flotsam had blocked the course now submerged bikes and shopping trolleys choked-up the way. The back water of Oxford also contained another impediment in the shape of a vertical weir. A little old lady walking a dog near by took a shine to one of the duo and offered advice on how best to navigate this set back as previous canoeists had done. “Nay lady. Surely none have dared to ventured in these here parts before”. Apparently they had and had easily got around the weir that was currently perplexing the passage of our duo. The centre of oxford with uproarious pubs lining the banks doing a great trade slid by giving way to the Oxford colleagues’ boat houses. They lined the river banks sporting architecture from the art-deco era to the more modern battle start style. I believe that the ‘battle star’ form of architecture is not officially recognised but this imposing boat house of brick, slicked in black is best summed up in that way. Rusticated into the countryside away from all the cosmopolitan joggers and intellectuals reading their classics on the river bank the rivers character turned a bit more bucolic again. An uninhabited, quaint boat house that was bigger than most peoples housing desires appeared on the east bank belying the large stately home on the hill with its sweeping landscape and memorials dominating this section of the river. Travelling on this wide open river the only bar to travel is the speed at which the paddle can be dipped in and out, in and out, over and over again. This can make for tiring work as the biological lumps behind the paddles try to keep the pace up to meet with their deadline at Abingdon. The first lock was unmanned. Maybe the usually diligent lock keepers needed to be somewhere urgently. After the ease and servitude of previous lock keepers to the twos progression the ignominy of having to exit the canoe and drag it around the lock smarted. The second lock keeper was more conducive to our duos progress letting them through without a hindrance. The adjacent public houses sorely testing the resolve of two finally honed athletes in need of alcoholic rehydration. The deadline was not quite met at Abingdon where every boat this side of London appeared to be moored. The only place to alight was these public moorings. The fact that they rose vertically for half a metre from the river was not ideal for canoeists. Weary but determined legs overcame the issue to find that the boat that was next to them sported a sign “canal missionary society”. When the occupant of the barge started making headway over to the two their legs found new energy in avoiding undue proselytising and went of in such of more ungodly entertainment for a Saturday night.

Tags: canoeing, thames


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