Monday 29 August 2016

If You Go Down to the River

Since it was a lovely day today, I wandered down the Isis to look at the boats. The river is one of my very favourite Oxford places, and it's great to watch the riverboats come and go and the slow changes of the riverside population over the year. Come for a ramble with me and look at all the pretty boats. If you're the kind of person that gets offended by me using female pronouns for boats then maybe this isn't the post for you.

Today was the August bank holiday, which is always on the last Monday of August on the assumption that no-one wants to be cooped up inside on what is likely to be one of the nicest days of the year, so I was by no means alone down on the river. The Isis Farmhouse (known to students universally as the Iffley Pub, despite not being in Iffley and there already being a bunch of pubs actually in Iffley) was doing a roaring trade. Most days of the year you think they're having a laugh with this many picnic tables out in the rain, but on their boom days it's easy to see that they easily fill the place.

This black riverboat has been berthed here most of the year. You can normally tell the actually lived-in boats from the tourist ones because the lived-in ones tend to accumulate plants. These guys are growing a bunch of succulents, but some of the others have full-blown veggie patches. Apparently vegetable theft on the river is quite the problem, though, so these boats are becoming rarer or more carefully protected.

There are a few of these fibreglass numbers moored up each day. They always look bright and clean, but if you have the choice between one of these and a narrowboat why would you pick one of these? The extra space and light can't possibly make up for the character (and the wonderful earthy smell!) of a genuine narrowboat. If you look closely you can just see the fingers of the little girl about to pop from the hatch and make me jump by shouting 'Bananas!' at me. Apparently my new system of measurement is getting around.

These littler boats are inevitably populated by two blonde middle-aged ladies and a large box of white wine. I'm honestly surprised that this one has its top on, as it was a lovely day outside and there's nothing like an afternoon nap in the sun after a long morning on the river.

Hey, it's the Dee Gee! She's always here. I've never seen her move, but she turns up at different moorings up and down this stretch, so someone loves her enough to take her out now and then. I'm pretty sure that her main use is as a fishing boat, but it's hard to tell, as her windows are extremely aged, making it hard to get a good look inside to be sure.

If you ask me, you can have a lovely colour scheme and a great boat, but you're not a proper boat person unless your boat has a name lovingly displayed on her somewhere declaring something of her character to the world. This blue one looks charming with her red curtains and her pinewood fittings, but how can I know for sure unless I know what she's called?

Rhoda May has it going on. Big, bold name. "Look at me! I'm here!". Nice details with the black and red, obviously well looked after. She's a local too, and is often sitting idling with her engine running when I come past. Sometimes when I have time I like to stand around and let the charcoal smell soak into my clothes.

Tom Tug has been here a few months now, and is a really nicely kept boat. He's one of the few boats that I don't think of as a woman, partly because he obviously has one of the most masculine names possible, but mostly because there's just something stereotypically man-cavish about this armchair sitting snugly in the bow.

Errol is so cute! I'm pretty sure that I saw this one once the first couple of weeks that we were here last year, but he must come from elsewhere on the river. The plants at the stern suggest that he's a living boat, but if he is then whoever lives here live quite snugly. Errol feels like a good name for a batchelor, maybe a retired vicar or something?

Another boat with classic character but no name. They're really missing out. Maybe it has a name but it's just not displayed to the public, or is only or the river-side or something to keep her secrets from the pedestrian riff-raff. I love this rich red colour, it feels very much like the boudoir of an aging countess or something.

Anglo-Welsh are one of the big companies that rent out narrowboats, and their boats are all this pretty Welsh bottle green colour scheme. Their boats always look great, but you'd want them to for the price, I looked this 8-berther up online, and know that it would have cost these guys £1770 for a weekly booking this time of year.

There was a little black Scotch terrier running back and forth on this one yapping his little head off, but he kept disappearing whenever I tried to get a photo. This one is almost as little as Errol, but those dark-wood furnishing are just smashing.

There's quite a few of these slightly wider, more modern boats that are so wide that the name 'narrowboat' seems like a misnomer, so I guess 'riverboat' is more appropriate. I like the big bench at the back of the Celtic Lady here , it just screams cups of tea and crosswords on sunny afternoons.

The council is working on some much-needed riverbank repair, and there's quite a few places that are marked for work, so this crane and barge is going to be a regular for the next couple of months. It's not technically a boat, I know, but the whole arrangement is quite impressive. I'm kind of surprised that the council had to load a regular crane onto a barge instead of having some kind of barge-crane on speed-dial.

As I wandered down the river I heard a sudden shout and explosion of giggles up ahead, and as I rounded the bend I came across this classic Oxford scene. To the right of the frame are a punt full of embarrassed tourists slowly drifting down the river, and to the left is their punt, trapped in the river mud. The only way that this could be a more stereotypical Oxford scene would be if they'd left behind their punter clinging to the pole! Student punters tend to keep to the Cherwell, which is a shallower river with less mud and fewer people walking past to take photos are laugh if you make a fool of yourself.

 I knocked. It doesn't seem like Ramy was home, but you never know. Maybe he just doesn't like visitors. This is another boat that I've never seen before. But she really stands out with that Royal blue, doesn't she?

Boats up this end of the river tend to be in more long-term moorings, and some of them don't move at all. I'm pretty sure that this us one of the ones that serves as accommodation for some more enterprising international students. It has a pleasingly classic tug-boat look to it, and somebody obviously looks after it, though, and that doesn't seem like student behaviour, so maybe I've got this boat mixed up with one of the others.

This green boat often has a number of washing lines rigged up, so I think they must live there with their kids. This isn't the boat with the lady that home-schools her kids, which seems to have moved on, but it's always kit up at night time. They seem to have all the mod-cons, a television and everything, which all seems very unromantic to me, but I guess even people on riverboats want to be able to tune in to University Challenge.

The Jay Bee obviously either houses or has connections with some seriously artsy types, as there's a nice rendition of a Jay and a Bee on the side. It's all very nice.

This one has a very suspicious boxing glove on the end of a long pole, which I can only assume is used for the legendary sport of narrowboat jousting, which is a good way to get yourself very wet. I haven't tried punt jousting yet, as it's the sort of thing that the establishment frowns upon and I'm a very responsible and respectable young man, but riverboat jousting just seems a little bit next-level.

I definitely wasn't the only person out enjoying the river on this bank holiday, and this is the most packed I think I've ever seen one of the local tourist ferries. I've heard the patter of the tour guides so often that I think I could probably do a pretty good job of it myself (...if we keep going from here for another four days or so we'll be in London...). At least it's a more factual and relevant speech than some of the ones you get from the tour guides out around town, but that's a story for another day.

Blaugust Writing Prompts
1) Have you got anything that you've always wanted to do that is technically against the rules?
2) If you had a pretty riverboat, what would you call it? What colours would you pick?
3) It's a public holiday! What are you doing?

1 comment:

Irac said...

As I prepare to walk to work in the rain your sunny day by the river looks beautifully attractive. I love this post. I agree that every boat should have a name and it should be displayed. Isn't that a law??