Sandford Lock, at Sandford upon Thames, is not to be confused with Dry Sandford (where once the distinguished emeritus bishop of Ebbsfleet maintained his episcopium, sadly distant from his eponymous sandbank and his very grand private railway station). The other side of the Lock was the home of the recusant Powell family, and the church contains a fine Assumpta, which was concealed at the Reformation.
Regina caeli, laetare!
It is edifying to consider the importance of the River in the days before roads were anything better than mud-baths. At the Dissolution, loot from the suppressed Abbey ar Reading, including fine panelling, travelled upstream to grace Magdalen College; that carving of the Assumption hidden in Sandford churchyard could have come from Oxford or Abendon; the allegorical painting in the ceiling of Wren's first commission, the Sheldonian Theatre, was painted in London and barged upstream.
Now, of course, the Isis exists for little more than recreation and undergraduate rowing.
And for leisure. One of the aspects of this involves the longboats moored along the banks for summer use or, occasionally, as permanent or semipermanent homes.
The other day, taking the daily exercise still graciously permitted by the Authorities, I strolled down there to count the cormorants and to admire the kingfisher. And there was a new boat moored there which made me pause in thought. It is very smart, painted partly in a colour you might call Cardinals' Red.
Its name is "Vinny Boy".
Gracious, I thought. Warming to my theme, and suddenly inspired by the wraith of Warden Spooner, I wondered if this might be the Eminent Retirement Home of the Most Imminent the Father in God the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
The masculine name would otherwise be unusual. You see, most of those boats have feminine names. I assume this is because when the rude mechanicals who own them gather together for laughter and lager, they like to be able to make sophisticated jokes to each other such as "You gonna be getting on board Petunia next weekend?"
A few yards North of Vinny Boy, Nirvana II is safely tethered.
God bless her and all who sail in her. I wonder what fearful catastrophe befell Nirvana I.
We must all remember to wish Cardinal Vincent a buoyant retirement (Plaudite! Plaudite!), when he retires.