We are here at Banbury; we arrived eventually last Wednesday afternoon.
Banbury is rather special to me since it will always be my home town and though I have no roots or family here any longer, I continue to enjoy a feeling of warmth every time I arrive. The fact that I was born and bred here, my parents, wife, aunts, grandparents and a young son all in my lifetime, have been buried here, the feeling of belonging I find difficult to shake off.
And each time I arrive the place doesn’t change very much either. As I approach on the Oxford Canal from the north, through the last lock at Hardwick, by the noisy motorway, and enter the town, the well restored waterfront by the Museum and Castle Quay Shopping Centre is always welcoming. In the height of Summer the moorings may be busy but in early spring before Easter, when I usually visit, there are plenty of spaces available where we can tie up comfortably.
And the shops are beautiful too, even though they are so similar to other branches at similar shopping malls throughout the country and even though the rest of the shops in the once thriving High Street and Market Place have been forced to close down, empty gaping shop fronts have been avoided through their use by charities and estate agents. Hence the place tends to avoid looking too run down.
The Turnover Bridge at the start of ‘Fenny Compton Tunnel’
Trees and Rooks on a dull but expressive day
The first of the Oxford Lift Bridges
We were delayed on our way from Warwick by inclement weather conditions, for most of the time having to put up with fierce cold winds and Arctic blizzards, which made fingers and toes freeze while standing at the tiller in the stern of the boat. We felt better for the exercise when we had to operate the forty four locks on the way and so long as we had plenty of locks in the day we managed to keep reasonably warm.
After Napton we made good progress to one of my favourite moorings near the radio aerial just to the north of the village of Fenny Compton and it was here that my good friend Maffi on ‘Millie M’ caught us up and moored just ahead. It was good to meet up again and we spent a lovely evening catching up whilst ‘swinging the lantern’. After that the three little ships moved in close contact, first of all to the empty moorings at the top of Claydon Locks and then at Cropredy before arriving within hours of each other at Banbury.
A lonely Crocus
Little Bourton Lock
‘Futurest’ and I are here to have the Russell Newbery serviced by Tooley’s while Janis, to improve the efficiency of her leisure batteries, is having a twelve volt ring circuit fitted in ‘Roots and Wings’. So we should be here for a few days to explore the town and its delights.
Snow at Banbury
As a matter of coincidence there is quite a gathering of old friends here now, since yesterday friend Bones arrived in her ship of the same name and mutual friend Kate on her boat ‘Morning Mist’. The latter has been performing a good Samaritan act by towing to Banbury, through all the fowl weather, a neighbouring boat from their moorings down south, to Banbury in order to have a new engine fitted. It proved to be quite an adventurous trip I am told.
Entertainment-wise there appears to be quite a bit going on in the way of concerts etc. and last night Janis and I went to the Banbury Blues Festival at the Mill Arts Centre and though my ears were singing when we left, due to a continuous barrage of heavy amplified guitars and drums, I found the show thoroughly enjoyable and in particular a band of three young rock musicians calling themselves The Laurence Jones Band. Though they were very young, they showed great promise. So much so that Janis decided to buy their CD and had the lead guitarist sign the copy. She’s becoming a real ‘roadie’.
Though it continued to snow lightly as it had all day, it was a lovely night, though we didn’t arrive back at the ships, only a hundred yards from the Mill, till midnight.
The day after we arrived in town, on Thursday afternoon, Janis’ good friend Tina from Newark visited. She’d very bravely come through the snow and was happy to stay till Saturday morning. She had never been here before so enjoyed the personal tour of the place that I inflicted upon the girls on Friday. I had met Tina before and it was good to see her again.
Earlier in the morning, before Tina arrived, John the engineer from Tooleys had arrived to assess our separate jobs and then about five or ten minutes later my brother David arrived with his friend Patricia from Stratford-upon-Avon. I took them for lunch and conducted my first tour of the town for Patricia’s benefit. They left just as Tina arrived so Thursday became a day that we had to time to the minute almost. We were very busy.
So now we wait for our work to be done next week. Though it’s lovely to be here in Banbury I hope the jobs won’t take too long.