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18. CHAPTER XVIII.
LOCKS. - GEORGE AND I ARE PHOTOGRAPHED. - WALLINGFORD. - DORCHESTER. - ABINGDON. - A FAMILY MAN. - A GOOD SPOT FOR DROWNING. - A DIFFICULT BIT OF WATER. - DEMORALIZING EFFECT OF RIVER AIR.
WE left Streatley early the next morning, and pulled up to Culham, and slept under the canvas, in the backwater there.
The river is not extraordinarily interesting between Streatley and Wallingford. From Cleve you get a stretch of six and a half miles without a lock. I believe this is the longest uninterrupted stretch anywhere above Teddington, and the Oxford Club make use of it for their trial eights.
But however satisfactory this absence of locks may be to rowing-men, it is to be regretted by the mere pleasure-seeker.
For myself, I am fond of locks. They pleasantly break the monotony of the pull. I like sitting in the boat and slowly rising out of the cool depths up into new reaches and fresh views; or sinking down, as it were, out of the world, and then waiting, while the gloomy gates creak, and the narrow strip of day-light between them widens till the fair smiling river lies full before you, and you push your little boat out from its brief prison on to the welcoming waters once again.
They are picturesque little spots, these locks. The stout old lock-keeper, or his cheerful-looking wife, or bright-eyed daughter, are pleasant folk to have a passing chat with. * You meet other boats there, and river gossip is exchanged. The Thames would not be the fairyland it is without its flower-decked locks.
* Or rather WERE. The Conservancy of late seems to have constituted itself into a society for the employment of idiots. A good many of the new lock-keepers, especially in the more crowded portions of the river, are excitable, nervous old men, quite unfitted for their post.
Talking of locks reminds me of an accident George and I very nearly had one summer's morning at Hampton Court.
It was a glorious day, and the lock was crowded; and, as is a common practice up the river, a speculative photographer was taking a picture of us all as we lay upon the rising waters.
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