London to Aldermaston (Borough to Paddington on the tube in rush hour, Paddington to Reading on a train, then we missed the connection to Aldermaston by a few seconds ….we watched the train pull out of the station), Aldermaston to Woolhampton by canalboat
When you travel to England you do not make plans that are weather-dependent. Did you ever hear anyone say you need sun to have a picnic?
Last time we were in these parts we had a wonderful sunny afternoon with family in Alton. When they heard we would be back this way they suggested we get together again; we optimistically suggested a picnic at Aldermaston Wharf before we picked up the canalboat and they graciously agreed to make the trip to meet us. They even ordered the weather.
It didn’t rain. No, no. no. Not rain. It wasn’t even drizzling according to the cousins. Well, not much anyway. And to be fair, it wasn’t until we had almost finished eating that we needed to pack away the coleslaw to prevent it drowning. Thankfully we were wearing our raincoats – not that it was raining or anything. But it WAS cold! We don’t usually go for picnics in 12 degrees Celsius at home. And certainly not in the drizzle. We ended up sheltering under a tiny verandah…..and it was lovely (make that first syllable rhyme with “put” as in “put the umbrella up”) to catch up with GrandpaBear’s father’s sister’s boys and their wives. But just quietly, between you and us, it was wet. Wet and grey.
”You chose a lovely day for it,” (remember to say lovely the right way!) as a runner along the towpath called out to us soon after we had set off. I guess there’s a reason the shoulder season for boats started this week….but from what we hear, the summer wasn’t all that different!
Don’t make plans that are weather-dependent in England. How bad could a canalboat be in the rain? we had cheerfully wondered from the comfort of our study in front of a computer screen showing a happy couple on a sunny waterway….
We set off in a steady drizzle that slowly soaked us through and froze our extremities (feet, hands and noses). Eagerly anticipating descending the stairs to the warm haven below, the bigger members of the party stood stoically outside ready to man the locks and control the bridges. In the short hop from the wharf there were a lock and tilt bridge to learn the ropes on and then another lock and swing bridge far enough away that the steerage crew had worked out how to stay in the middle of the canal to practise on before mooring for the night.
For me, standing stationary outside in the cold and wet was as miserable as the wet day on the Camino had been for others (I preferred cold-and-moving and did not mind being wet when walking). Only this day was not to end in a warm Pension; the heaters would not work! Thankfully the duvets and blankets made for a snuggly night.
Did I say something about weather-dependent plans? We had booked the canalboat with a view to travelling up the Thames to Oxford. It was a wry smile the guy in the office gave us as he brought up the warnings page on the computer screen…..apart from two short sections, the whole of the Thames route is “red boarded” due to flooding. Red board is a bit like a red light, the only difference being you have to wait 24 hours before proceeding once it has been removed. And 48 hours of no rain would be required to get the flood levels down enough….what’s the weather forecast? Sunny for the whole of England except the southwest. Guess where we are! And we only have a week! So there’s no way we’ll be heading to Oxford, and we can’t go to Windsor Castle either. We’ll head westwards instead and visit Newbury, Hungerford, maybe even Pewsey; places we’d never heard of before today! If we had an extra week we’d even make it to Bath and back…and some big kids who were previously eager to get home were overheard wondering why we couldn’t stay for just another week
Although we are supposedly staring at showers for the next two days, we’re not too despondent; if there’s one thing we’ve learnt about weather forecasting in Britain, it’s that it’s even more unreliable than in New Zealand! We suspect they predict rain every day and then if the sun breaks through everyone thinks it’s a bonus! We’ll see what the morning brings (I can tell you now it will not be sunshine, but the clouds will have lightened and a technician will come out to work his magic and fix the radiators!)
Tags: 2012, postcard: England