Remember when I said we’d be moving on to Albion in ‘about a week and a half’?
In reality, Albion is still not finished and we weren’t actually able to move in for a good three weeks.
HOWEVER, she is now fully liveable in…able. The bedroom under the tug deck was completed a few weeks ago, the bathroom is pretty much done bar some finishing touches and the living room is finally white after 11 coats of crap B&Q paint (do not buy crap B&Q paint).
However there’s still loads we want to do and, with that in mind, I’m saving my ‘Albion: Before, During and After’ pictures post until we’ve really properly finished (although if you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen a few snaps there).
Instead, I’ve got a bit of an update about where we’ve been so far.
With only superficial work to be done and the assistance of professional builders no longer required, we left the comforting womb of Stowe Hill Marina two weeks ago and set off into the abandoned wilderness that is the Oxford Canal, home to sheep, more sheep, red brick bridges, more red brick bridges and never ever any phone signal.
This same stretch was actually just featured on Great Canal Journeys, the Timothy West and Prunella Scales boating programme. This has been very exciting for us, not least because I have been doing some of the steering and recently managed to get into a diamond lock that made even the experienced Timothy West do a little crash.
Like. A. Boss.
I’m more than a little proud of this, especially as Ed’s always been the designated driver due to superior unpanicking skills.
Now that we own our own boat though, we decided that we should take it in turns to be skipper and so far I’ve managed to steer us out of some pretty sticky situations, such as the time we became grounded on a shallow bit of canal and nearly capsized until I saved the day with some expert tiller manoeuvring (Ed might have been simultaneously pushing us off the side with a barge pole, I don’t know, I was too busy saving the day). Or the time when another boat came round a corner so quickly that he didn’t leave himself enough time to turn and a crash was only avoided by my selfless decision to ground our boat on the side of the canal in order to get out of the way.
The Oxford Canal itself is part beautiful and part pretty weird, in that we’ve been treated to lots of beautiful scenery but we’ve seen some pretty weird stuff too.
We even braved the terrifying 1,867m Braunston Tunnel:
When I say ‘braved’ I mean Ed braved the tunnel and I hid inside making a timelapse video and only crying a little bit maybe once.
The Oxford is also pretty remote. Unlike the Grand Union, towns with shops and internet signal are few and far between so our original route keeps altering. Unfortunately I need the internet to work from home so we’ve been forced to move on several times from places we’d like to have stopped for longer.
Even the places we thought would be ideal have turned out to be the opposite. For example, we had planned to stay in Banbury for a couple of weeks to give us time to settle down and have good access to trains into London. My mum lives nearby and it’s a pretty town. We thought it would be nice.
Sadly, it was not. On account of the little shits.
We’re used to little shits on the canal, having spent our first boating year in London, but the ones in Banbury are somehow even worse. Instead of doing anything solid like actually mugging you, they just race up and down the towpath on their expensive BMX bikes, sporting 2004’s emo haircuts and calling everyone twozzas.
They’re all so painfully middle class that it’s 100x more annoying, especially because you know that — instead of lurking around shopping centres after closing time (yeah I see you smoking weed behind Debenhams) — they probably do have better things they could be doing.
On our first night in Banbury, the steam from the cooker kept setting the fire alarm off so we had to open the hatch onto the towpath. Within minutes, one LS had poked his head through the door. When Ed politely asked if we could help him, he panicked and raced off on his bike, yelling insults over his swiftly retreating shoulder.
It wasn’t until Ed went to lock up later that night that we realised they’d returned and untied the back of the boat in retaliation, setting us adrift across the canal. It wasn’t very dangerous, it didn’t do any damage, it was just really really annoying and made me want to shake my fist and clip people round the ear and other such irritable elderly person habits.
And while you’re being attacked by youths from the towpath, your boat is constantly being attacked from the other side by retired boating boy racers.
This wasn’t just a problem in Banbury, this is all over the Oxford. While we tend to pass moored boats at a slow tickover (because, goddammit, if a sign tells me to do something, I’ll do it), these Golden Age boaters zoom around as though they’re afraid they might not actually make it to the end of their journey. I’ve lost count of the times our little boat has been rocked so hard by speeding oldies that it’s knocked over all my new pot plants.
Thankfully we’ve settled for a while on the outskirts of Oxford and hope to help the pot plants recover from this traumatic journey and once more piece together the semblance of a normal life.
For the time being you can keep your eyes peeled for us in your local Ikea and hopefully I can share our finished interior pictures soon.