Sunday, 14 August 2011

waterman's arms, osney, now the punter

Had great fun at our friend's 60th birthday party last night. It was held at The Punter on Osney Island.

When we lived on the Island this Thames-side pub was called The Waterman's Arms, which had been its name for over a hundred years. I still can't get used to the new name. Where are the punts? I did see someone attempting to punt on this stretch years ago but the water is too deep.

I'd not been into the pub since it was taken over. I have to say that the name apart the pub is excellent. The interior is upmarket now but the changes have been sympathetically done, so that you still get a sense of the rooms as they once were. The food was delicious.

A fictional incarnation of the pub featured in John Wain's wonderful Where the Rivers Meet trilogy which follows the fortunes of the landlord's two sons before the Second World War. One son gets a job at the newly-opened Cowley car factory and the other wins a place to study at the University before becoming a don.

The pub also appeared in my first novel The Lock, which rather amazingly ended up being published by John Wain's son Will.

In this scene, two Oxford dons, Gerald and Jonathan meet at the Narrow Boat, as the pub is called in the book. Jonathan soon reveals that he saw Gerald at the pub on an earlier occasion with Alex, with whom he is having an affair.

Half an hour later Jonathan and Gerald were sitting out in the yard at the back of the pub.

When Gerald had found Jonathan, who had been sitting up at the bar chatting to the landlord, they had gone through the brief ritual of offering to buy the first round.  On this occasion the ritual was briefer than usual, with Gerald capitulating rapidly, which surprised Jonathan, and then proclaiming that he would go outside into the yard and sort out a table.  Jonathan found him sitting at the table nearest the street by the low wall that gave onto the Thames.  When he arrived Gerald was sitting with his legs either side of the bench staring at the river and the islet in front of the house on the opposite bank, a fact which, under the circumstances made Jonathan feel irrationally guilty...

...Gerald inclined his head slightly.  The expression he adopted was, perhaps, that of someone who is thinking, though his stare seemed curiously placid, even vacant.

‘Would you like to go for a walk?’ Jonathan asked.

He gave a snort of surprise and furrowed his brow.


‘It’s probably nothing, but some friends of mine have recently bought the house over the river there.’


‘I’ve been helping them out with their garden.’

Gerald smiled.  ‘Sounds very unlikely.’

‘About a month ago I was there and I happened to look across at the pub.’

Gerald bent his head forward, took hold of the rim of his glass between his thumb and forefinger and gave it a little twist, twice.  Then he tossed his head back and stared at Jonathan as if he was standing above him looking down.

Jonathan noticed how the skin over the purple smudge below his right eye had begun to pulse, though whether this was from a vein or from a nervous tick, he could not tell.

‘And you saw me here,’ said Gerald.  His head came forward again a fraction.


‘And I was with Alexandra Thorpe.’

‘Yes.  As I said it’s probably nothing.’

‘What did you have in mind?’

‘There are other things as well that made me think there might be something in it.’

He sensed that Gerald was trying to get out of something and this made him, suddenly, angry.

1 comment:

  1. Back to the allotment please ;-)

    Just looked through your tweet-line, the "four fork" saga has started well..........