Jane and Vyvyan, her wheelwright hubby, live in a canal boat close to Kirtlington Quarry. I first knew them when they were moored on the canal at the bottom of Frenchay Road in Oxford, but the Council rudely moved them away. They let me stay on the narrowboat for three nights and showed me how to empty the bilges, enabling me to experience a bargee’s life for my third book, Still Waters.
Subsequently they found a smallholding and started doing lunch and afternoon tea along the canal bank from a fantastic, colourful muddle of field kitchen, caravans, arbours and shelters. Queues line up patiently to load trays and retreat to a table covered with an embroidered linen cloth. They unashamedly indulge in a marvellous selection of cake and scones with home-made jam. Lemon cake, carrot cake, rhubarb crumble cake, white chocolate gateau etc etc, all baked on site in the field kitchen on a Friday to be served on Sunday afternoon.
Jane’s emblematic Englishness would have fitted in charmingly with Danny Boyle’s arcadian rhapsody for the Olympic opening.
The sight of groups of Sunday afternoon revellers in shorts and sandals and straw hats contentedly putting away a classic tea is very cheering in these hard times.