Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

The Lock at Clifton Hampden by Robert Lorimer

Posted by Listen With Others on 2 July 2014

A recent crossword (Listener no. 4294) was based on Three Men in a Boat. I was solving it when I started my trip back from Turkey to Bishops Waltham in the ancient mobile home I call Hilda. Here’s a shot with the near-completed grid and a superb pork chop in Greece:

The official solution for the puzzle is shown at the end of this piece

The official solution for the puzzle is shown at the end of this piece

This brilliant puzzle by “Hedge-sparrow” stirred some vivid memories for me. Back in 199x a friend and I rented a boat from Oxford: “sleeps 4 / 5 ” I think the brochure said. There was just about room for 2, given separate cabins. But, gosh the bed linen was nice and fresh.

The Thames is largely unchanged in 100 years or perhaps 150 and more. The pubs mentioned in Jerome K Jerome’s classic are all still there, but some are more appealing now than others were. The “Barley Mow” at Clifton Hampden was an old favourite, and still is, for some. But there’s another pub in the same village. I guess you have to walk 100 yards or so from the river to find it, and for some reason Douglas and I preferred it. As it turned out, the publican was Turkish, had an excellent menu (wonderful lamb chops, for example), and a lovely niece who had arrived from Eskişehir that day to help staffing his restaurant in her summer vacation. We were this girl’s first customers, and she was delighted, when I spoke in Turkish, to find that everyone in England was so easy to understand. The publican later thanked me for making her first evening less stressful than it might have been and, when he learnt we were staying on a boat nearby, insisted we come in for a free breakfast next morning. Preparing a full fried breakfast is not something you want to do any time on a rented boat, so we happily took up his offer, and we went back onto the river later and fuller than we otherwise would have been.

As we approached Day’s Lock, a thunderstorm took up. We were well protected, and the little windscreen wiper worked adequately, so it was not a big problem. The rain died away quickly, and there was a little sun shining on the lock gates as we approached. I guess it may have been a Sunday morning, since we had to operate the lock gates ourselves. Luckily, another boat was coming upstream and, seeing us, left the gates open so we could drive into the lock immediately.

Douglas was at the helm, and once we were inside the lock and alongside I stepped off the boat with the rope. The wet metal grids on the lock side were like ice. In my unsuitable shoes I slid at once back into the Thames, still holding the painter. Falling into a lock, trapped between the boat and the sheer concrete wall, is presumably very dangerous, but I was lucky. I opened my eyes, about 4 feet under muddy brown water. Right in front of me was a ladder. Douglas had heard the splash and was terrified for me. He hurried up onto deck and was amazed to see me emerge from under water, still clutching the rope, climbing hand over hand up the lock-side ladder

In a way, this was just the start of my problems, since I now had to dry my clothes somehow. We found a secure mooring at either Goring or Streatley, or is it Goring and Streatley? Anyway, the railway station was close nearby and I reckoned that there must be a laundrette in the next town down the line: Pangbourne. I jumped on the first train coming through, only to find it was going back to Oxford, where we’d started from two days before. I did eventually get down the line to Pangbourne station and found a laundrette where I dried my clothes, and later returned by train to the boat, to discover that the ceiling of my cabin was leaking water onto my bed-linen. Never mind. A beautiful, memorable day.

Writing this episode has reminded me of another trip in a rented boat: Douglas and I arrived at one of our favourite pubs – the Waterman’s Arms on Osney Island in Oxford, where we often played “pool” on their small but well-maintained table. Douglas excitedly told Jenny The Publican’s Wife that “we’ve come by boat!” Her reply was succinct: “That’s sad!”. We loved her response because Douglas was a “regular”, since he lived just three bus stops away.

Douglas died last year, which IS sad, but we always laughed at the memory of those days.


Below is the solution for Listener no 4924. OD, DR, WD etc are abbreviations for the towns found along the river. I fell in the lock before DorchesteR and eventually dried my clothes in PangbournE.

Listener 4294 RL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: