Punting is a tradition in Oxford and Cambridge. I’ve been longing to try it since my first (of many!) readings of Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night. When we first moved to Oxford at the end of the summer in 2010, I was picturing the voyage with an active nearly-two-year-old Norah in the punt. At that time, that sounded like quite an adventure.
As it happened, it took until about three weeks ago to get out on the Cherwell. Only by this time, things have changed a bit. We punted with the whole crew. And we had the great fun of going with some dear friends, who brought their baby girl to cuten things up. The faces of bystanders were a riot, as we were expertly poled downriver by Will, with children ages 4, 2, 6 months, and 5 months.
The river, though never as raucous as what we witnessed in Cambridge, was particularly free of punts and other vessels. This was probably because we picked the Saturday of the Summer Eights. We’ve enjoyed those races in the past but punting took priority this year because we had to catch our friends before their return to the motherland.
I loved seeing the spires rising over Christ Church meadow.
You may think I’m a liar now that I’ve described the crew but truly the best word for our experience is peaceful. It was one of those late-Spring peek-a-boo sunny days with cool air and colder water, ducklings paddling around and little purplish forget-me-nots waving in clumps on the banks. I think probably restful was what punting was originally meant to be in Oxford; the river a clearing house for the tired minds of scholars. The way I’ve most often observed it today it’s good for more uproarious laughs and unplanned splashes than sighs. Though we had our share of laughs. That’s what friends are for.
For our fellow punters, with love. We miss you already.