Using my latent mutant power to emerge from bed about 9:30am to meet with juggzy and jackfirecat for the punt to take us to the Vichy Arms for the Oxwalk. There was some confusion about the time and mr_snips arrived to join us about half-past and we set off about a quarter to one. There were a few doubts we'd make it to there by two, rather there were a few hopes. We really hadn't a chance. Didn't seem important given the circumstances. Good company, on a boat, on a sunny day. I were a bit unnerved initially by how close the side of the punt were to the waterline, what about 15cm or less ? After a while though I just learnt to enjoy it.
I've just been in to see my misguided boss for one of her pointless lectures. The phone is now switched off.
There. That oughtta bring my happy back again. Though John and Neal did the share of the work, I took over a few times. The first spectacular was the most graceful of turns which took in a wide panorama of views on our first big bend, like Starsky and Hutch with ballet in place of a car. Or Han Solo taking out Vader's tie fighter if thats more visible to you. After that though, I mostly sucked taking us into trees, and trees, and branches. I've got a big cut along my waist, another at my neck. Don't fret, theres something quite funny about all these scars.
One of the weirdest moments was a half hour in, when we had sailed for about fifteen minutes to find what seemed a dead end. The only near way out was through a litte hole between about six bushes, just a little bigger than the width of the craft, and about enough room for us to get through provided we all adopted the duck and cover position.
There. I think you can make it out.
mr_snips packed ginsters slices and shortbread cookie stuff and some fancy cream wine so I yummed them down, as my university provided breakfast at this time of year tends to mean foraging for rats and orange rinds. Bless im. juggzy (whom I almost called "Juggzy!" very loudly over a crowd of pedestrians earlier before I remembered that I wasnt sure about doing that though I think John JackfireCat did it anyway), well Juggzy aw bless she fell in the rollers, and then near 3 o clock spotted some other people with livejournal names who were to go walking with us. So by the bank she jumped ship and went for the Vichy Arms. I had planned to jump ship too, but my shoes were off, and I was too busy to action in struggling to keep track of the narrative.
One crewmember down and the skies overcast parts of the journey began to become less idyllic and more like a Willard Price book. Particularly after departing the Vichy Arms. On the way we saw some midget ducklings. We saw some people I lived with in student halls. We saw some people we did not know. I saw Cherwell Boat House, and the place were John went to uni, and the place were Caption used to be held. At the Vichy Arms there was a small hutch, which John asked what it might house. supposed might be for otters, weasels or water rabbits. Aqua Rabbits, he explained. So not ducks then, as I'd thought. For it to be ducks, they would have to be battery ducks, cos the hut would only fit about six, or maybe twenty battery ducklings. I didn't realise all those things existed in this part of England. My, what a big place.
Look at that picture wouldja. Like some Jedi Minbari with a storm up his back. Neal and I had taken one another into a pack of face full of thorns but that John fella, hes wrestling nature and coming out better. Like he mentions theres a weird sense of the scenery "moving in on us" (link to J's blog). Once I'd gotten used to this I managed to use the branches I kept hitting as rudders, steerers and in the case of Johns fallin in as a tie-up point. John falling in was very scary. He'd been telling us tales throughout the journey about a boy who had fellen in and not resurfaced - people were laughing thinking it was a joke but the boy in the story had got stuck in the mud and drowned. I had been wondering what would be the best response if someone fell in and five minutes later, splash he went. Neil told me to bring the boat to the bank. I had the only paddle. Forgot which way to paddle which was probably not helping as John spat out a puddle of Cherwell. That didnt last too long for I got us moored and we got the Captain back on the bank, Neil sorting him out with a change of clothes.
Neil and I took over for whiles, trying not to bounce the boat from side to side. We trashed the homes of a few ducks along the way, and spotted a weird bird which I thought to be a kingfisher but turned out to be a heron. There were a few happy cheery families, young people and other schoolkids. We crashed them too, and sent them spinning in other directions. I feel no remorse for these people. John took over on the punt again as he seemed to know what he was doing by a wide margin. I paddle raced the home straight, at something like Walk Factor Nine, as mr_snips dubbed it.
I had felt dizzy a lot of the time paddling, regularly paddling in the wrong direction for a minute before starting proper. My shipmates stared at me with a "you're doing it again". I did pretty well once I caught on, my canoeing and boating skills of my formative years coming straight back. It was a therapeutic day out, I laughed a lot, I felt special. I felt the sun on my face and the wind in a breeze. Thanks you guys, I wuv you.