It has been a whirlwind of a week and a half. Two cousins from my Canadian Moms side, their spouses, and two of my siblings, and one spouse.

Mom was one of four children. Two girls, then twins, a girls and a boy. Each of those four children had five children between the late 40’s and early 60’s. Mom started last, 1950, and finished first, 1959. The rest spread them out a bit more, maybe some accidents along the way.

The oldest, Gwen, had three boys, two girls. Mom had four girls and one boy, stuck right slap dab in the middle. Shirley had five boys. Can you imagine that? Then Murray had three girls and two boys. Now if you have been counting that makes 11 boys and 9 girls. This is pretty much as you would expect. There are 103 boys born to every 100 girls. Y chromosome sperm, boy sperm, swim faster because they are less burdened with genetic material so they make it to the egg faster if the timing is right. Unfortunately that lack of genetic material also contributes to a shorter lifespan, on average. More boys when babies, more women when older.

Taken at 409 Hillsdale Ave, Toronto. Someone will supply the year! The house that Grandad built.

All fifteen cousins lived in North America, spread between Canada and the US, so they were as alien to us as could be imagined because we lived in England. Except we look a bit like each other. But some of us have become friends, and this week two cousins from the Gwen branch visited. First was Jim and his wife Karen.

Jim and Karen Oakden

Jim took to it like a duck to water. They sail in their home town of Fernie, B.C., and although this is different he jumped right in, OK, I gave him a bit of a push to begin with. Within a day he was dipping into a space between two moored boats to let a boat pass on the left in a tight squeeze on the Oxford Canal. He steered us out without hitting anything. The moored boat on the right gave him the thumbs up, clearly impressed with his maneuvering. We made great headway, going from Fenny Stratford on the Grand Union Canal to Banbury on the Oxford Canal with lots of laughs and great camaraderie along the way, mainly in the rain. We had lots of rain with some dry spots between, and even a little bit of sunshine. Karen, the other half of this dynamic duo broke her leg skiing in January, so she was just out of a cast and walking with a cane. She was press-ganged into helming and became an expert at narrow locks on the Oxford in no time flat. Then she got a massage in the evening on her leg and kept it up whenever she could. As you can imagine we rewarded ourselves with visits to canal side pubs whenever we were near one in the evening.

This one was not serving dinner, even though we had marched Karen up the hill. Had to settle for crisps and nut.

On the second day Karen’s walking stick went overboard and we could not retrieve it! We tried, but to no avail. Now I had picked a length of 1×1 wood out of the lock as part of garbage picking, so we wrapped some gloves around one end, and tied an apron around the whole thing to make a soft knob. It did the job.

Karen and her home made cane.

After a day of sharing locks on the Grand Union with an Australian couple, Lindsay and Beth we were in the Braunston Chandlery all together in our rain gear and good humour.

Jim, Karen, Lindsay, Beth and Maggie, and soon a new cane.

When asked if there was anything else that we needed Karen said, yes, a walking stick. And low and behold someone had left one six months ago. Instead of black it was flower power, but apart from that exactly the same. She was back in business. What a trooper.

In Banbury we met up with my brother Charlie, his wife Ann and my sister Mary. We ate dinner in the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn which dates from 1570. Of course we had to go there.

Ann, Charlie’s wife, Mary, Karen, Maggie, Charlie, Jim

We had the Globe dining room to ourselves, the paneling had been removed and sold in 1912, found in Islington, London in 1961 and restored in 1981. Now, how did they know it was from the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn? One of life’s mysteries.

The next day Martin brought over Jim’s sister Cathy, and her husband Les. Jane stayed home as The Ruben was visiting for the weekend, and Martin did not hang around. Both love their time with him and I can’t blame them.

Such a lovely little boy, and the looks are not bad either.

Cathy and I are almost twins, born just two weeks apart and we have become fast friends. As I only had to get to near Oxford we had a day in hand so did a “there and back” with everyone to Cropredy, for a pub lunch in The Red Lion.

Apparently The Red Lion is the most popular name for a pub in Britain, and I have been in a few on this trip, not counting that it is the name of my sister Sally’s local as well. The food was AMAZING, a proper roast lamb Sunday lunch. We rolled away, slowly, down the hill to Little Star.

The Red Lion, Oxford
The Captains Hat, from my beloved knitting group.
Les is a real Captain, an Air Canada pilot. This is his natural look.

All good things must come to an end and we parted on Sunday night. Then another good thing started. Cathy, Les and I cruised our way down towards Oxford. The weather had opened up and was sunny and warm. There were hardly any locks, and all the lift bridges were lifted open. It felt like an idle. Sauntering along the canal.

There was a friendly war of the Captains. Les is an Air Canada Captain, just like Jim he took over the morning checks, just as he would when getting ready to fly. I really appreciated the short break. In fact, on Jim’s last full day he had got up early, done the morning checks and set off while I was still in bed. I had the luxury of watching the sky out of my bed (it had finally stopped raining) for a while before I too got up. What a treat.

Not that common a name, had to take a picture

While in Banbury we visited Tooley’s Boatyard. It is celebrating it’s 250th anniversary. We toured the smithy, or blacksmiths, where they were making the table decorations for the celebration the following night.

The boats used to be made of oak, so the symbolism is explained. An oak leaf and an acorn. It is a fascinating place, well worth a visit, and soon to be expanded. They have acquired an old wooden boat that they are restoring. It is great to see the history being preserved, not only here but in most places I have visited. A real improvement to our childhood visits to such places, except perhaps Stonehenge. When we were kids in the early 60’s we parked and then walked right up to them. Climbed on them and really explored. Now it is much more controlled.

Charlie and Ann
Now I know what they were doing when I was helming!
One lock was 12 feet deep. Not sure if it is this one. A bit scary, especially in March when I first did it in the wind!

I could go on and on with this post, but all good things have to end. It was a lovely, lovely time.