I love organizing things, so when I had the idea of renting a narrowboat for 5 months (it began as three and expanded) of course I put out the idea to friends and family that they could join me on my adventure. Anyone who wanted to could. Steadily my weeks were booked up. Little did I realize what a rich experience I was creating for myself, and I hope for those that have joined me on Little Star.
What an amazing experience it is being! Presently my cousin John, one of two cousins from my dad’s side of the family, and Daniel and Martin are on board. Daniel and Martin are friends from Hastings Avenue. We got to know each other while organizing the Hastings Avenue Street Party. We had a lot of fun at those planning meetings, and given that Martin and Daniel are a sophisticated gay couple we did not do things by halves. From the very beginning we rented tables and chairs for the potluck, and bought tablecloths that matched not only each other, but the canopies we bought and the street party colour, a delightful green. We did call upon neighbours for their BBQs, and we had one for meat and chicken, one for fish, and one vegetarian. Karyn organized the kids entertainment which is always phenomenal, and we have added kids movies under the stars with popcorn, live bands for the adults, and a badminton tournament. I will be returning to the street for future parties.
We ask the Firefighters, Police, the Canine Unit of the police, and Paramedics to come and entertain the kids. The adults enjoy it too.
I am not sure how we landed on Oxford as the place we would visit, but once we did it was obvious that John had to join us. He went to university there in the 70’s when you could get into the university on merit, not by the size of your parent’s bank account. And I thought we would all get along. I was right, we have had a blast, and we have all found our niches in terms of the running of the boat.
In my opinion Martin and Daniel live a pretty sophisticated lifestyle, and they love to try new recipes, which is right up my street. We spent the first day reviewing what we wanted to see in Oxford and the towns nearby, and then planned meals for the nights we would be home. Then we had to do a shopping marathon in Waitrose in 20 minutes before it closed. We were set. John avoided all these preparations by having appointments in London.
It has been a wonderful two weeks, great food, great company and lots of experiences, in Oxford, Blenheim, along the Thames to Lechlade and Kelmscott, and today, Stratford on Avon where we did two days of exploration of Shakespeare’s life in 3.5 hours.
Talking about Lechlade, I did not intend to travel virtually the whole length of the Thames, it wasn’t an aim of my time on Little Star, but I just about have. My sister Mary and I were on the Thames between Oxford and Reading. It was early spring and was raining, which made the Thames rise, and it was very windy. After being held up at Abdingdon for a day we fairly flew down the Thames. It becomes instantly wider and fast flowing as soon as you leave Oxford, and the wind added extra excitement, especially when we were trying to moor. It was a relief to get off the Thames at Reading and begin the journey west along to Kennet and Avon canal.
My sister Jane was on Little Star when we returned to the Thames at Reading and we enjoyed pretty wonderful weather as we tootled our way past Henley, of regatta fame, Windsor Castle, Eaton, of old school tie fame, The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and many many really expensive homes.
Three men and a Mann made their way up the Thames from Oxford to close to the source of the Thames. We ended our journey at Lechlade but the river is navigable for a few more miles. And goes on for a few more miles after that. So I only missed the very beginning, and the very end. I was not about to travel on the tidal Thames under any circumstances. I have walked along the embankment in London, and seen a narrowboat. It looked minuscule in comparison to the other boats and ships.
Another highlight of my time on the water was that journey to Lechlade and Kelmscott, and it did not fail to entertain. The river quickly becomes quite narrow and very very windy. We were constantly turning in almost 360 degrees, and the water was almost pristine. We could see the plants growing in the water beneath the boat. Luckier birds than those we saw living in the plastic debris in the canals of London. I didn’t use my garbage grabber once. Kelmscott Manor was a huge draw for me. It was the summer home of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris, he of elaborate, repeating floral designs. But his company also produced all kinds of household goods including furniture, carpets, tapestry, stained glass and metal work. Later he turned his attention to promoting his socialist beliefs, leaving the running of the company partly to his daughter May, who had a lifelong companion called Mary. They died within months of each other.
So it has been a time rich in friendships and family, and all have been very special, whether they were for an afternoon or much longer. Who could ask for more? I am having the worst time trying to upload my pictures of all the wonderful people and places I have enjoyed. Now they are saying that I can not upload an .HEIC picture and I have no idea what that means or how to convert it to a .JPEG. Argh. And I can’t load a lovely video of my neighbours children, Connor and Sophie performing at the street party. I may have to edit later, but really want to post this. So here goes…..