We had an interesting and busy few days after reaching the UK: pre-boat shopping and provisioning whilst we still had a car.
I knit quite a few rounds on the Ice Dragon blanket between Heathrow, Somerset, Merseyside and Oxford. And not a stitch for a whole week after having embarked on the Queen Bee!
We arrived on QB with all our provisions and worldly goods in garbage bags (no room for suitcases on a narrowboat). Steve, Queen Bee’s owner, met us for a handover and we moved in. This felt roughly like getting a quart into a pint pot. The boat has plenty of equipment and every locker had something in it.
We sorted ourselves out bit by bit whilst heading to Oxford. The canal and homes alongside were beautiful, but without tying up and going into the city, you really couldn’t see much of the Oxford of dreaming spires, etc. We did get one brief glimpse of Jericho – familiar from Inspector Morse! Next, we started heading north, with one of our first stops just north of Banbury.
After only 4 days, it felt like we’d dropped off the planet.
Internet is tricky and I’m trying to conserve! I’m not getting much time to knit a stitch, but the journey has been nothing but enjoyable so far.
You will laugh, but never have I felt the urge to be so tidy! During the whole first week, in between steering, locks, taking on water, finding fuel and pump-out facilities, shopping for additional gear (bath mat, a few extra towels) and groceries, we sorted cupboards and lockers so that we could fit everything in (and find it again). There is plenty of equipment on the boat: 3 dustpans and their accompanying brushes are handy, but the duplicates and other things we don’t need can be stowed deep in the most convoluted of the available spaces. Tidying up reminds me of the game with 15 squares in a 16 square grid: you have to move one thing to get to another.
J has been entertaining himself by gradually puzzling all the systems out and making fixes – all four burners on the stove now work (and the radio). I’m getting unnatural urges regarding Brasso and polishing.
Having fun on the cut.
I find myself juggling taking photos on my phone while trying not to use too much data. It’s bit tricky to get lock photos and action shots with just the two of us – we are both kept pretty busy.
After an intermittently rainy morning with a bunch of locks, which run through several appealing historic villages, we entered Warwickshire. Here the canal meanders along a contour line in an apparently aimless fashion. With many 180 degree bends, it takes 11 miles to achieve 4 as the crow flies. The scenery was magnificent – too expansive for an iPhone. Next, we had a full day with many locks ahead to get through Napton.
The hedgerows are brimming with wild fruit The wild fruits are stunning: hawthorn berries, hops, rosehips, elderberries, sloes, curranty-looking springs, to name only the ones I can name or describe. One morning, I picked a basin of blackberries – they are everywhere along the canal but not often convenient to pick. There are apples, plums and pears in profusion, in canal side gardens and many gone feral. The fields all look very smart and stripey in their recently harvested condition. The smells and scents of the countryside are delightful. The Oxford canal meanders along the contour lines, so not many locks. It’s such a pleasure to get away from the drone of motorways, hooting of trains, it’s just sad to know that the new planning white-elephant high-speed train will soon be cut through this extraordinary landscape – all to save a mere 20 minutes travel time.
On September 11, I finally knit one round on my Ice Dragon DK Blanket. I’ve either been too busy, late with dinner, or the evening light on the boat hasn’t permitted knitting or any fine work. We’ve found a solution, though. There is a small rocking chair on board and, if carefully angled (in the minute available space) so that I can put my feet up, I can then knit by the light of J’s headlamp. It’s very focussed but works. I’ve got 2 x 40” needles in the work now and a third one to knit with. J has got the radio and DVD player working and the boat has an eclectic supply of discs aboard.
Of course as soon as I picked up the blanket I discovered a FTRC (failure-to-read-chart) mistake from the road travel knitting, and had to change the colour of the centre line increases from 5 rounds back in eight places on both sides. Grr. Once I had that fixed I was able to proceed. One afternoon we had enough sun, and no locks so that I was able to sit on the stern deck and make my fixes as we transited Nuneaton. However I was exceedingly careful with my short fixing needles and crochet hook not to lose them overboard.
On we go… we have found a good rhythm and are enjoying every moment!