Friday 15 October 2010

Roydon, Domesday 1086

31st July

It is raining in heaven today. Diamante beads glisten on the tangled pink flowers bravely wavering in the breeze outside the bathroom window. This morning I ask myself, is tea making an art or a science? I am thinking about the precision of making The Doctor’s tea, because I don’t drink tea myself. My efficiency as a wife has improved due to recent uninterrupted sleep. I am no longer functioning on emergency power back-up. As an experiment I use a spirit measure to measure two jiggers of milk (that’s two doubles) and use a timer to brew the pot for exactly five minutes.

When Dr Swan was here to visit I told him that we’ve started using jiggers to measure spirits and we’ve even got a wine jigger, to measure a small glass of wine. The idea is to perhaps just have two 125ml glasses a night and to each keep to our respective recommended weekly units limit.
“So, has it reduced your drinking?” asked Dr Swan.
“No,” I replied. “But we’re measuring what we drink now.” I imagine the definition of a hangover incurred in such a measured way would be a “jigger-bug”.
Later, I was trying to describe to Dr Swan your typical bachelor, sketcher boater.
“You know the type, single bloke, lives on board, drinks a lot...”
“Careful!” he smiles, displaying mock affront. It sounds like I’m describing him! “Ah, Dr Swan,” I am quick to clarify. “But these people don’t use jiggers!”

We’re probably running low on water by now, but we are delaying the cruise to the next marina to fill the water tank because we want to stay a little longer in boater’s heaven. To preserve water we have bucket baths. One stands in the bath with half a bucket of warm water and a jug. A person can wash in a surprisingly small amount of water, and it reminds us of when we travelled rural India.

Today I took the children into ‘town’. Roydon has a population of 2,771 (according to Wikipedia). Behind Roydon lock is an extremely informal level crossing providing vehicle access to the lock cottage and pedestrian access to the towpath. There is no electric barrier to be raised, siren sound, or flashing red lights to warn of danger. The railway is accessible to everyone via a white wooden picket kissing gate. The only words of caution are on a simple sign which states the instructions,
‘Stop. Look. Listen. Beware of trains.’ At the risk of overly gilding him with metaphors I will say that The Husband of The Lady of the Lock is a rough diamond with a heart of gold. He has previously offered to open the gate on the far side of the railway for us. I knock on the lock cottage door and he accompanies us across the railway to unlock the vehicle access gate. I cannot fit through the second kissing gate with the double pushchair, and his kindness saves us from going round the long way, via the station. I push the buggy uphill along an un-tarmaced gravelly country lane through fields to the village green, where the shield shaped sign swinging in the breeze reads ‘Roydon, Domesday 1086’. It was first recorded in the Domesday book as Ruindune, later Reidona, c1130, then Reindon in 1204 and Roindon in 1208. (Thanks again, to Wikipedia). Roydon is a bit like the end of the rainbow for us – the epitome of rural beauty and charming village life, because it’s probably the smallest, prettiest place we’ve ever moored. Here, the vicarage is pink and proud, and bravely undefended by holly.

We took the recycling to the top of the hill. There is a black and white photo of The Beatles in the photo library display window at the top of the high street. There is also a charismatic picture of Jimi Hendrix, a print from the original negative.

“Is that Ringo playing drums?” my daughter asked me.
“Yes,” I said with pride that she can recognise and name each Beatle.
“And, have all the Beatles got willies?”
“Yes, darling.”

The cosy pub with the child-friendly beer garden has a wooden swing set that looks as if it’s been handmade by hobbits with no concern for Elf and Safety.

The water level dropped dramatically in twenty minutes today. Our boat was no longer level with the towpath, our ropes were pulled tight, and our mooring pins leaned and strained towards the cut. The Doctor and I wondered what could have happened. Later at Roydon lock I suspected the kind of thing that could cause this. I saw a hire boat waiting to enter the lock from below. (This means people on a narrow boating holiday). The eager lock-wheelers had walked ahead of their boat and were winding up the paddles on the bottom gates, to empty the lock in readiness for their boat.
“You need to shut the other gates!” I pointed out in alarm. The top gates were still open so the whole of the lock pound above could theoretically escape through the open paddles of the bottom gate! They’ll never empty the lock with the top gates still open.
Boaters are divided over whether it is polite to leave lock gates open or shut. If you happen to arrive at a lock and the gates are already open then it saves you time, as you don’t have to moor up and go ashore and open the lock. But shutting the gates saves water, as most locks leak a little, and equally it depends which way you are travelling, whether the open gates speed up or slow down your journey. The Boater’s Handbook (published by BW and The Environment Agency) says,
“Close the gates and lower the paddles before you move on, unless a boat coming from the opposite direction wants to use the lock.”

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