Saturday, March 27, 2010

Trains, boats, ducks and geese

My daughter and her family sold their London flat before Christmas and moved to a village just a few miles from Oxford. My husband (the MM) and I took granddaughter Millie into Oxford one day last week. The train journey was an exciting experience for each of us in different ways: Millie was thrilled when the engine driver waved to her and then entertained all our fellow passengers with her commentary on everything that she could see from the window on the 7 minute journey into the city. It ran something like this: "Bye bye tree; bye bye ubber tree; bye bye ubber tree; bye bye horse; bye bye ubber horse; bye bye dog; bye bye ubber tree ....." There are many trees alongside the track!

The exciting elements of the journey for Grumpy and Grandma included negotiating 4 flights of steps and a bridge with a pushchair and toddler; discovering that nappy-changing facilities at Oxford station are in the LOCKED disabled toilet and the man who has the key is well-hidden from the public; finding that many people, especially young men, were helpful when they saw obviously inept grandparents struggling with doors etc.

First familiar sight in Oxford - not a dreaming spire but....
We didn't think that Millie would be very interested in the colleges but here's a glimpse of a spire, just to prove that these really are Oxford bicycles
 I did say a glimpse

Of course, what Millie really wanted to see was the Oxford canal with its narrow boats.
Some have interesting names such as this one, named after Frideswide, the 7th century Abbess of Oxford and patron saint of the city. Many are decorated with pots of flowers and herbs and most have bicycles tied up alongside, ready for the last minute dash to seminars.

If only this were a real lock, we might go sailing up to Coventry!

Although I have had a boating holiday on the Thames and spent many a pleasant hour punting on the Isis, I have never been on board a narrow boat. I have always considered them as attractive and rather romantic vessels but I am currently reading Terry Darlington's Narrow Dog to Carcassonne and my views are being seriously challenged.

The boats share the canal with ducks and Canada geese
Millie was delighted with these but puzzled by this headless creature:

The purpose of our visit was to buy a present for Baby Benjamin so we had, reluctantly, to leave the canal and walk along to Cornmarket Street, where it is advisable to look up to see the splendid architecture above the modern shop fronts:
This beautiful Tudor house is also a mobile phone shop and sandwich bar!

At this point the heavens opened and we ran for shelter and the camera was put away for another day.


  1. What fun. I'm green with envy.

  2. We had some lovely times with her, e. I'm hoping to go back after Easter for some more!

  3. How purely delightful to tour Oxford with your granddaughter, and to see the bicycles, the canals and the narrow boats. The book you mention sounds of interest to my dh and I, so I took note of it. Oxford is especially meaningful to me because C.S. Lewis taught there.

  4. What a wonderful day you had with the adorable Millie. Like erp, I'm also green with envy. My eldest son did what was called a scholar's semester at Oxford while pursuing his Master's degree in history. It's also where he met his wife!

  5. Lovely glimpses of Millie I like Canals... The Milk from my Grandpa's cows traveled by barge long ago to it's destination the Cadburys factory..where it ended up as rather yummy chocolate.

    Aren't strollers challenging on get so desperate not to catapult the offspring that you end up nearly doing yourself a mischief ..I love the train commentary drew a delightful picture that really made me smile!

  6. We used to live not far away, and I love Oxford. I recognise the shops in the last picture!!
    I remember taking our eldest there when she was only about a week old. I was desperate for a day out. It was May and incredibly warm. Totally wiped me out but I remember it so well...

  7. Do you think you've planted the seed of a dream of those dreaming spires in Milly, M? I love visiting Oxford and was last there about five years ago for a memorable weekend with friends who were St Hugh's alumnae. Was made to feel incredibly welcome and given much encouragement to consider applying to do a postgrad degree there. Yes, at my age!! Not a logistical possibility but a lovely idea.

  8. Terra - I have enjoyed the occasional drink in the Eagle and Child pub, where "The Inklings" (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and their literary friends) used to meet. I hope you enjoy the quirky humour of the narrow boat book.

    Jodi - I did a one year post-grad course there in 1970/71 and then my daughter followed suit thirty plus years later. We both enjoyed our time in Oxford.

    Val - you need to have used public transport with children in tow to appreciate the difficulties and you obviously have! The conversation with the little one makes it worthwhile, doesn't it?

    Rattling On - This was my first visit to Oxford shops with a toddler and I didn't find it easy. Of course that could just be an age thing! I expect you dashed around when you were a young mum. But I do love the odd juxtaposition of old and new that you get in cities like Oxford, York and Chester.

    D - go on, do it. You know you like a challenge!

  9. Spent a year in Oxford after my degree and always love going back. Had a nostalgia trip two years ago and spotted someone I knew from '75 still working in the Bodleian! Was your walk in Port Meadow? don't remeber so many boats!

  10. Are the narrowboats like houseboats - do people live in them? I have always wanted to go on one of those tours when you run your own boat over the canals - sort of a Three Men in a Boat pilgrimage (to say nothing of the dog!) You are so very lucky to live where you do.

  11. Ali - no, not Port Meadow, we were at Hythe Bridge, where the canal comes to an abrupt end.

    Nan - yes, most of the narrow boats we saw were being used as houseboats. Some had little gardens alongside. Like you, I've always fancied taking a holiday on one but nowadays I think I would invite some youngsters along to work the locks.


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!