Tuesday, 10 May 2016
Lower Heyford tears and laughs
I started off that morning feeling slightly out of sorts, probably because I have been doing too much. I got to the first deep lock which had such stiff paddles that I had to stamp on my windlass to turn it at all. As I am sweating and struggling, I look up to see a woman of similar age to me, standing behind me holding a windlass. 'Oh good', I said, 'help' and gave her a big smile. Nothing. Not a glimmer from her. 'There are some really stiff paddles on this stretch, aren't there? Still, at least the sun is shining'. Not a smile or a comment from her at all. 'Is there something wrong'? I asked. 'No, why?' she asked.
I still thought I'd missed something as I could see no reason for her unfriendly attitude. 'I just wondered why you weren't speaking to me?' She just stared so I continued 'It's just that most people I meet at locks are friendly. Best way in my opinion'. 'There is friendly and then there is garrulous'. I knew she had just insulted me but wasn't sure what it meant! Meanwhile I had at last managed to empty the lock and open the gate (with no help from her at all). So I smiled and said 'well, it was a REAL pleasure to meet you' and continued on. (Garrulous = overly talkative!)
On I went to the next lock where I saw there was a woman just bringing her boat in. I went to give a hand and said brightly 'Oh it's lovely to meet another single handed woman!' She looked at me for a second and then said 'Why?' My heart sank. 'Well, I don't meet that many'. I knew the conversation was doomed when she replied that she knew plenty, but then she had lots of friends! I wondered was it me or am I in an unfriendly area of the country?
Rather deflated, I carried on until I reached Lower Heyford's lift bridge. I had been warned that I wouldn't be able to operate it on my own but I had a go anyway. They were right. It is a large, aluminium bridge which is cantilevered to stay down. Even when I managed to, using every muscle I had, get it up, there was no way of securing it in the upright position and so I couldnt leave it to go get my boat. I did try and jam it open with my boat pole but I couldn't hold the bridge and wield the pole at the same time. Also I quickly worked out that jamming it open would have been dangerous as it could easily slip causing the bridge to crash down on my boat. I was hot, tired, stressed and rather scared to be stuck.
I struggled with it for about 20 minutes before I accepted defeat. I backed up my boat, intending to moor up until I could find help, when around the corner came a cheery little woman in a cheery little boat. She quickly calmed me down with a few cheerful words and between us we soon got both our boats through and I found this mooring just a little further on. What a relief and I was so grateful to my saviour that I admit to shedding the odd tear.
The rest of the day improved, culminating in a lovely pub meal with friends I had last seen 16 years ago! Much laughter and reminiscing over a meal brought the evening to a happy end.
This is the mooring at Lower Heyford and a glimpse of the Cherwell.