We may currently have fewer daylight hours then we’re used to, especially when compared to our summer excursions, but we will still make the very most of each and every one of them.
Which is why today’s journey began at 07:50. The sun was up, just, and we had enough light to travel by. Our aim was to reach a mooring point somewhere near a HS2 construction site (not the most glamorous location, but a good progress marker for us nonetheless).
Starting early meant we had to wrap up warm. It maybe been bright enough to travel, but there was no warmth from the sun.
A patchy mist swooped in across the top of the water, adding a distinctly dramatic atmosphere which stayed with us for the first couple of hours as we chugged along through some superb rural scenery, until we reached Banbury.
For most people, Banbury is one of those places you’ve have heard of, but don’t really know why. The canal guide book describes Banbury as a bruise on the peach that is the Oxford canal. I think that’s a bit harsh. It’s certainly a little outcrop of urbanisation amongst the farmers fields, but it’s quite pleasant and tidy. There appears to be quite a bit of rejuvenation going on, with new offices blocks, business premises, and housing being built.
There’s a single lock in the heart of Banbury, and we passed through it with some assistance from a fellow hire boater.
We also received some well timed assistance on the far side of Banbury. A young lad with a windlass was volunteering at one of the locks. Given how stiff some of the lock paddles were, all help was gratefully received.
Now, at last, we get to the bit that relates to the title: our four-legged Security Officer, Jerry.
Jerry had quite an adventurous afternoon…
It began when he unexpectedly stepped off the boat onto the towpath. Which may not seem like they bad a thing, until you add in the fact that the boat was moving. Stepping on and off a moving boat, don’t you do that all the time? I hear you ask. We do, you’re right, and our Security Officer does too – only not when he’s still physically attached to the boat by his head!
The Captain was on the towpath, trying to quickly release him, whilst I thrust on the breaks by slamming the boat into neutral and then hard astern.
Between us we managed to avoid any real drama, and our Security Officer was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. He didn’t really see what the fuss was all about.
Jerry’s next excitement also involved his lead, as he braved climbing down the steps from the stern into the boat.
He’s not the bravest Security Officer in the world, and it’s taken him three days to find out that he can actually get up and down on his own.
Yet on this occasion as he took a deep breath and made that all important first step, he managed to put his foot in his water bowl, spilling it everywhere and then get his leg tangled in his lead. He ended up as a slightly embarrassed heap at the bottom of the stairs.
Once again the Captain rescued him, and our Security Officer spent the next hour or so in bed, contemplating his situation.
It meant he missed our slow speed overtaking manoeuvre, as we bypassed another hire boat (this in itself took about 40 minutes… life on the canal really is a different pace). But, he did get to have one final heart stopping moment of the day. Heart stopping for us that is, for Jerry it was pure adrenaline.
Jerry is one of life’s natural sprinters. It’s in his genes, and his long legs. So we decided it would be good for him to have a bit of a run up and down the towpath after we’d moored up.
We’ve done this before a few times, under careful supervision, and he’s always enjoyed it.
Tonight though, our Security Officer decided that he’d get some real exercise by sprinting off away from the towpath and into the nearby fields. Completing a couple of laps for good measure.
I’m pleased to report that he did return when called but only because there were no rabbits or deer to distract him.
Anyway, after all that we made it to the HS2 construction area, which right now looks like various large piles of dirt and little else, and settled in for a dish of meatballs and pasta.
The Security Officer, for some reason, seems to be quite tired.