Thursday 16th July

A comparatively late start today, about 7.40. Through some wide, calm, reed-edged sections of Nene. Locks hard work as regards top paddles, though the lower gate is a motorised guillotine. So much water coming over the top of the gates that sometimes we didn't bother opening the top paddles.

In a park near Billing Aquadrome there was an 'International Land Rover Rally'. Land Rovers, tents and caravans for (almost) miles around. At least one mile around, anyway. Judging by registration plates, flags and snatches of conversation there were people from France, Norway, Belgium and the USA.

Land Rover Rally

Finished Persuasion last night. On to Wives and Daughters today. Put some sun-cream on today -- the first time for a week that there has been any occasion to do so!

It turned out that only the first few guillotines were motorised. The rest are still fully manual. One problem is that you have to unlock the handle before you can raise the guillotine, and it is often a considerable struggle to remove it afterwards. It has taken us (literally) five minutes on some occasions. Later on, of course, it turned out to be very simple. A certain rod, not easily visible, has to be pressed in before the cylinder with the lock in will push home, allowing the key to be removed. We noted that the number of locks currently motorised is two greater than it says in Pearsons, suggesting that they are converting more each year (the Pearsons for this area is very recent).

Guillotine Lock Gate

Moored up by Wallaston Lock, at 12.25, and were immediately hailed by a local farmer-type chappie, recommending (in a fairly abrupt tone) that we put Maddie on a lead. Good point -- this is sheep country. He then appeared more approachable and advised that there is danger of dogs picking up ringworm (from cow-pats, I presume) so best to keep a close eye on Maddie.

Up the hill and over the fields, following a footpath (the Nene way) to Great Doddington (I don't see what's so great about it myself...). Actually quite an attractive village with a pub providing quite a good pint and ploughman's -- or in my case jacket-potato-with-curry.

On the way back, Maddie was startled to see a large Alsatian with paws resting on top of a garden fence, looking over the wall at her. She then had an anxious moment getting past some horses. What an exciting day she's having.

Spotted by an Alsatian

Horse Play

Back on board by 2.55, I could no longer resist the urge to get started cooking curry. Various spices available, thanks to Nick and Penny, plus a couple of jars of Patak's. Working along the lines of: (1) Basic curry sauce plus Rogan Josht paste with potatoes and spinach; (2) Basic curry sauce plus Tikka Massala paste with Quorn and coconut milk. Initial tasting quite encouraging. Put them in casseroles to heat up later.

We've just gone through a curious adaptation of the guillotine lock. The lower gate rotates rather than lifts, as follows: Still a bloody stupid idea, compared to proper locks, however they muck about with the shape of it!

We winded just above Higham Lock at 6.15 and moored near a footbridge which stretched across the river and then went on to another bridge over a dual carriageway road. Aiming for the pub at Higham Ferrers. Put curry in oven to keep warm, while off to the Green Dragon. Excellent choice of beers, including 'Sara Hughes' Dark Ruby Mild', chosen by June at Penny's recommendation -- which was a real corker.

Back to the boat. Curry turned out very well. Rounded off the evening by floating another couple of night lights down the river. Just managed to put them in without tumbling in myself. Current stronger than last night. It turned into a sort of Pooh-sticks (floodlit Pooh-sticks!) The one that was ahead we called 'Cambridge' and the trailing one 'Oxford'. At it happened, Cambridge got stuck, and Oxford went ahead ('... that is the definition of fiction ...'). Alan, Penny, Nick and I got off the boat and onto the bridge to watch their progress. Oxford went around the curve of the river, avoiding lock and weir, and off into the distance. Nick, Maddie, Alan and I struggled across a cowfield to follow its progress as far as possible. On the way back, we noticed that Cambridge had got unstuck and was following a similar route. Standing on the bridge, watching the last night-light disappear into the distance, I thought to myself, 'Earendil has got a lot further tonight!'