Thursday 9th July

Started out at 6.45, and plain sailing as far as Cleeve Lock, which we reached about 8.10, before the lock-keepers begin to operate. Manual opening and closing of the gates and paddles turns out to be very tiring indeed! Nick and I took it in turns with the handle, and it still took a long time. More effort than ten ordinary locks. Then through and beyond Reading, stopping at Sonning just before 1.00.

Lock at Sonning

While waiting for boats to emerge from Caversham lock, I was puzzled to see two launches coming out roped together side by side. They made very heavy weather of it, being almost wedged by each other against the side of the lock. Being roped in the way that they were, it was not possible for one of them to come out first -- and there followed much lifting of fenders, pushings-off from the side, and so on.I did wonder why it had been so long since the previous locking-down. This explains it. They must have taken just as long getting into the lock.

Most launch owners so far have been very friendly and obliging -- even the ones in what Alan calls the 'Gin Palaces'. Naturally there have to be some awkward customers, like the one who refused to budge when the roped-pair were trying to get out of the lock. Self-defeating, really, since he couldn't enter until they had got past.

Excellent jacket potato lunch at The Bull in Sonning. Under way again about 2.15. Through Henley about 4 o'clock.

Henley: Hotel by Bridge

Further along, along by the rowing course, we could see various marquees and stands of one sort or another still in place from the regatta, which had finished last weekend. Various post-regatta events are imminent, apparently, including a large concert on the river which they were preparing for as we went past. The regatta course itself was still marked out -- at least the buoys were there, though not the booms that go between them -- and we chugged majestically along for a mile or so between the markers.

Down the Rowing Course at Henley

Then, while buying ice cream at Temple Lock (above Marlow) I came across the most amazingly impressive lavatory -- worth 4½ stars at least considering that it was only an adjunct to an ice-cream and sweets stall. It had white walls, with green stencilled vine-leaf patterns painted onto it -- a slightly more elaborate version of which I had seen in my sister's previous house. Then there were curtains, together with net curtains, and a framed watercolour painting (not a print) on the wall. This in addition to the essential facilities of course! In context, arguably worth a 100% score of 5 stars. Incredible.

We arrived in Marlow about 6.50, and off in search of a pub that Nick had identified as potentially worth visiting: the Clayton Arms. It turned out not only to be a good pub (Brakespeare's) but also welcomes dogs -- that is, they are really welcome, not just tolerated. The landlady gave Maddie a dog-bowl of beer slops. Maddie reluctant to show too much enthusiasm at first, but made sure to wolf it down before we left! The occasional deep-throated WOOF! from somewhere about the house testified to the pro-dog character of the place -- and warned that Maddie had better mind her Ps and Qs! Much planning of where to meet June. With an early start, we might hope to reach Teddington by tomorrow evening -- not a bad place to get to by train from Wantage.

Back to the boat for samosas and some yoghurt-coated-dried-banana-slices. The latter were scorned by everyone except Alan (who liked them) and me (I quite liked them) -- and they became known on the boat at 'banana nasties'. We had found them in a health-food shop in Abingdon and felt impelled to buy some to satisfy our curiosity. I had brought my camera with me to the pub, and took some photos of Marlow on the way back. To get a better view over the parked cars, I took one while standing on a cast iron litter-box. Managed not to fall off, though caused some amusement amongst companions.

Marlow High Street

A little further along, I was rather intrigued by the juxtaposition of an interesting church steeple, with female-figure statue (from war memorial) in the foreground.

The Nymph and the Steeple