Tuesday 14th July

Alan's birthday. May be meeting Robert, Vicky and Sasha this evening. Off and under way about 7.20. Fewer locks this section -- though we were somewhat impeded by having to avoid wet paint on lock gates. Very windy -- steering tricky. Weather good -- cloudy but bright. Saw advertisement for Beck's beer, on the hillside of all places. It was made by selectively cutting a wheat-field, with the addition of a flower bed to represent the label. Very cleverly done. (According to some schools of thought it is done by selective planting rather than cutting, though I am doubtful whether this would have achieved such sharp edges).

Through Leighton Buzzard -- Nick and Penny stopping for us at yet another bank-side Tescos. Just after mid-day, stopped for lunch at the Globe. The pub was deficient in atmosphere -- on the way to becoming a 'Berni' it appeared -- but a fair selection of beers and an amazing collection of mustards provided. Thinks: 'Must get some of these for Wonersh.'

Off again about 1.35. Fewer locks -- one rather pleasant flight of three at Soulbury -- though the accompanying pub got the thumbs-down from Nick after a quick inspection.

We had been having quite a lot of rain off and on -- and the coating on my waxed jacket was beginning to look a bit patchy, despite having been renewed just before going away. On the principle that if you take an umbrella it won't rain, I thought it would be a good idea to get some more wax for it. The hat, in particular, had got to the state where it was letting in water at a great rate. Judging from the map, Bletchley looked a reasonable prospect for this purpose, so I hopped off the boat a couple of miles before Fenny Compton, which was the nearest point on the canal. Since there was a bridge and a lock there, it was also an obvious rendezvous point in case of delay.

I have to admit it felt rather longer walking than it looked on the map, but I managed to set quite a good pace and eventually re-joined the boat just after it emerged from the lock. The expedition was a success as regards its intended purpose -- a handy Millets providing the wax -- but in other respects the town was rather drab and uninteresting. It reminded me of some of those boring bits of London going out along the Harrow Road before you get beyond the North Circular. Not even the odd Hindu Temple such as they now have at Neasden to relieve the monotony!

With me back on board, we set off through Milton Keynes -- of which not a great deal was visible, except for a rather naff-looking 'Toby' (Harvester-type clone). Nick and Penny broached two half-bottles of good sherry -- the whole party proceeding in excellent spirits. I handed over the steering to Alan and began the jacket-waxing ritual. In the process I managed to knock over half a glass of sherry -- but at least it was my glass, not someone else's! Maddie, who is known to like sherry, quickly licked it all up.

Moored at 7.15. Hay fever has been particularly bad today, for those of us subject to it. Only one day was as bad: the first Monday, when Alan was impressed by my ability to go into a sneezing fit even in the middle of Braunston Tunnel -- about as far from pollen as it would be possible to get, one would have thought.

We've arranged to meet Robert at a pub: the New Inn, just over the bridge from where we moored. Vicky and Sasha stayed at home this time. I think Robert said that Vicky has a lot of marking to catch up on. We'd only seen them briefly the other day, but now there was time to note that Robert was looking very well. This was the first occasion I'd seen him for any length of time since he was with us for our earlier canal trips. The last time was in fact our only other two-weeker, a good few years ago now.