Also on Tuesday I went for walk up to Binsey and back along the river. As usual I was depressed by the appalling noise pollution, but Binsey Chapel and St. Margaret's Well are rather a remarkable survival. I always try to remind myself that as they have been there about 1200 years or more, they are lilkely still to be there when the horrid motorway and its noise are gone for ever. Unfortunately I shan't live to see it. Someone had left bunches of daffodils down inside the coping of the holy well, plus some other strange objects which I think were crystals or something. Like an idiot I left my camera behind again, which is a pity as there were some very nice goats just next to the churchyard, and I noticed for the first time the gravestone of one of Laurens van der Post's sons, Jan, which was curious. I am a complete sucker for the joys of spring, and though today it was extemely wild and windy, there was quite a lot of sun and it wasn't really cold at all. With the sudden change in the weather all the flowers that have been held back by the freezing temperatures have suddenly burst out – crocuses, daffodils and even some primroses, all together. One way back down the lane from Binsy I came across a field full of sheep with very young lambs – they were ridiculously woolly and appealing, like soft toys; there were two coal-black ones. 'For all this, nature is never spent'.
It’s been such a joy to go down river again, and get away from all the annoyances of town – the traffic, the noise, the horrible yobby people – and just be surrounded by water, trees, grass, etc. The weather finally took a better turn – surging downstream in the Spring sun, with the light glimmering off the water, the wide skies overhead, and the occasional rowing boats skimming past reminded me of what the whole idea of living on a boat was all about. I spent two nights moored at my favourite place opposite Nuneham Courtney – it’s such a delightful spot, and I got lots of lovely dry beech branches for the stove – and in between went down to Abingdon to get diesel and some bits and pieces of shopping. Abingdon ought to be quite a nice little town, and in some ways it is, but as I’ve mentioned before, as usual there is a sad, brutalised working-class yob element – possibly to do with the barracks – which slightly spoils it. They slouch about the shopping centre, yelling and snarling at one another and passers-by and wheeling endless babies around. What a pity it all is – I‘m sure they have no idea how debased their lives are – that‘s just the ‘norm‘ nowadays, reinforced by endless ‘reality TV‘ shows and crummy soap operas. However, once you get away from the centre of town back towards the river and the old abbey ruins, it’s much better. The boat seems to be running well (fingers crossed) after its big service; in particular the engine sounds better and doesn’t seem to be heating up as much as it did, which is good. I really need to start doing some touching-up of the paintwork, now that Spring is apparently here – though they are warning of quite a lot of rain in the next few days, which is hopeless for painting.
Finally made it back on to the river, yesterday. It's nice to be back on the fresh, breezy, flowing stream after the narrow, slightly stagnant, safe old canal. Though actually the Isis opposite Christ Church Meadow feels alarming wide and windswept – this horrible east wind is persisting, and bounced the boat around a lot last night, which was a bit of a contrast to the static water I've been on lately; also I'd forgotten that on Sunday mornings the rowers do this really annoying thing of rushing up and down the river in a group at top speed, which throws the boat around violently – I suppose they're practising race conditions. If only they didn't start about 7 am! But on the whole I am glad to be back, and look forward to resuming my river routine and re-visiting my favourite rural mooring places up and down river.
I've been back doing quite a lot of time working at Christ Church. I find it limits my opportunity for creative work, but I do need the money, and it's nice of them to give me work at the drop of a hat on my return like this. I'm practising to start doing tour guiding there soon, which should certainly be more interesting than spending hours sitting on various gates, etc. They've even given me my own personalised badge – though they still haven't managed to spell my name right. People do seem to find 'Laurence' rather a difficult one. The Oxford Literary Festival is coming up next weekend, which should be fun in a rather busy sort of way. There are many 'names' attending, though I wouldn't say that many of them are likely to be so very interesting – maybe Brian Aldiss, Richard Dawkins, Francis Fukayama?
I haven't really had any experiences or thoughts to speak of about music in the last week or so to write about; only a chance broadcast of Vaughan Williams' glorious Oboe Concerto in the midst of Sean Rafferty's empty twitterings on Radio 3 one day. It created a sort of beautiful hiatus for 20 minutes or so in my day – what an absolutely ravishing and deeply nostalgic piece that is. And if RVW was feeling nostalgic for some lost English pastoral vision in the 1950's, heaven knows what he would feel now! But the mere existence of such music is a kind of consolation.