Banbury, 0.5 miles, 0 locks
Niceish weather today, but following a discussion about targets and how Paul needed to go home tomorrow, we'd decided that we'd have a day off and mooch around Banbury instead of trying to get to Oxford. It seemed like a sensible decision and also made me aware that, although Paul has enjoyed the last few days of boating and locking, really here's here to see me and we hadn't done much of that except on the back deck.
We got ready to go out and realised that all the other boats around us had left, so I suggested that we move round the corner to the posh moorings. As I tried to start the engine I realised why it has been reluctant to start of late: the glow plug relay has probably died. Normally you turn the key halfway and there's a click and the glowplugs kick in to heat the engine block so that it doesn't bring down the temperature of the diesel and prevent it from igniting, however the click wasn't happening and turning the key simply turned the engine over. After giving it several goes, the engine eventually spluttered and roared into life, but I remember that when I first got Oothoon and before I'd found the proper position for the glowplugs, it was always a hit or miss affair as to whether the engine would start, and often a miss. Now that the weather is getting colder, I'm going to have to get this looked at quickly. Fortunately, from our new location in beautiful downtown Banbury, Tooley's boatyard—yes that Tooley's out of Tom Rolt's book Narrow Boat—is about 100 yards away, so maybe they can do something.
Banbury seems to be another typical market town, with its market square and shopping mall, but unexpectedly you couldn't actually see any of it because it was all hidden behind a funfair. This is the Banbury Michaelmas Fair, which is a little confusing because my diary says that Michaelmas is in late September, but apparently it refers to Old Michaelmas, which was October 11th. I was told that you shouldn't pick blackberries after Michaelmas day, but I guess no-one told that first boat in the Fenny Compton tunnel yesterday (or maybe they did and they were naughtily harvesting the leftovers). The fair had obviously just arrived and was setting up, so it was all a hive of activity. It doesn't start until tomorrow, so we probably won't get to see it.
We wandered around and did quite a bit of shopping. Inspired by my Everlasting Torch, Paul bought two equally everlasting torches in Wilkinson's, except that these have three LED bulbs to my torch's one, they have a rubbery non-slip coating and a wrist strap, and they're powered by squeezing in a pop-out thingamajig rather than, er, waving the torch. Recommended.
We returned with the shopping and I had no problem starting the engine to charge the batteries, so Paul got on with getting the fire going. I explained the principles and went to do some fiddling in the engine room, but when I returned, although he'd created a lot of smoke, the fire hadn't taken. He tried again, but again it wouldn't take. I said I'd have a go, and it all looked very impressive, but it didn't work either. Paul wondered whether the new kindling was not really suitable and I was beginning to think he might be right. He had one more go while I got dinner ready, but fortunately with the heat from the cooker it didn't matter that the fire wasn't on.
Dinner was Scumbalina Fish Pie Royale. This takes the Fish Pie Deluxe I had a while ago and knocks it up a notch by using Salmon fish fingers and—as well as the tin of baked beans—adds in a small tin of sweetcorn and a very small tin of garden peas. The mash is upgraded to cheesy mash; and the cheese and leek topping is replaced by Tesco Ciabatta bread crumbs. Paul was astonished at how lovely it was and decided that it was far nicer than the Thai food he'd had the previous night, which I was very chuffed about.
After dinner we headed for the Old Reindeer Inn. It's a Hook Norton pub and the beer was good. Nicholson's says that it is "generally favoured by adults who enjoy a peaceful evening out, with no fruit machines", but what we found was that the place was crawling with Chess players. They were obviously meeting in a back room somewhere (perhaps the mysterious oak-panneled Globe Room) and would emerge in twos and threes to order drinks and slag off the other players. Chess bitchiness—who knew? We got another carry-out at closing time and headed back to a not-very-warm Oothoon.