Our Holiday On Jemima D July 2000
From Chris Ginger
The week began in Banbury. In the market-place we bumped in to an acquaintance from our street, giving us an auspicious small world feeling. After a night in a 'posh' bed and breakfast we made an early start the next day, purchasing provisions in the same market and buying a delicate frond-like plant to leave aboard.
This was going to be an extremely laid-back week for us both. The only question was how long it would take us to chill. Children and other accoutrements were far behind us in Leeds and, though Jemima is of only a modest capacity, she is truly palatial for two.
The pre-voyage formalities carried out - are there enough matches? is the fridge talking to us? - we set sail from er..thingumiebob leaving the church spire behind on the correct side. Speaking of which does anyone else have problems with which side of the canal to cruise on, these only being resolved the first time you meet a boat going the opposite way? No it's not the same as driving on the continent, more like a complete lack of urgency until....
So, just a couple of hours into our fairytale land and the rest of the week ready to melt into place. I think it must be all the yoga we did in preparation. Life ashore complimented our meditative mood, it still being he 'low' season. Near-empty pubs, a gas station with a mobile phone number for if no-one was there. We didn't ring. Another canalside establishment which the locals assured us was open until the afternoon we arrived. This necessitated something which passed for haste on towards a more accessible venue downstream.
Our impressions of the Oxfordshire countryside were of little going on except behind closed doors perhaps. A disused cement factory, jigsaw cottages, but where were he people? One morning we synchronously woke at dawn and were surprised by all the noise!.. frogs and other small mammals chattering away for a brief time before silence regained its hold. There were trains zooming past and the M40 not quite shuttered out in the distance but along the waterway...another world.
Visiting the shop in Upper Heyford proved an interesting venture. Starting from the pub which 'had to stay open all day' so the landlady could serve sweets to local children alighting from the school bus, we set off across the now defunct cruise missile base. The Americans left several years ago. I distinctly remember urging them on their way from a CND rally. The base is still preserved however as an 'enterprise' park complete with 10' barb wire fences 'in case they need it again' the child-friendly landlady said.
It was an awesome walk. Not everywhere are you regaled with a warning notice 'MOD PROPERTY ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK' on your way to buy margarine. Along the way empty garrets and at one point a disused bowling alley complete with 50's logos. On the other side the 'enterprise' seemed to consist of literally acres of nose to tail 4x4 vehicles all brand new dwarfed by aircraft hangars of gothic proportions.
The shop itself, unusual to say the least, what it lacked in the way of stock it made up for with huge tracts of empty space. We could have sailed Jemima around the shelves! A transistor radio in one corner struggled to be heard in household goods.
Margarine replenished, it was all downstream after that. We could have sailed right into Oxford but we were just too lazy. We just about made double figures on the mileometer - is there a mileometer? I went back to thingie to get the car and, sadly we were whizzing back up the M1 before the ink had dried on the logbook. I always find this part of a Jemima holiday rather disorientating.
Til' the next time|