Fading Memories

Legends from our own lunchtimes

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thursday 4th July - Samara to Amiens

The signs setting out the mooring rules on the Somme are in two languages.  Whether by accident or design people who can read the French version are allowed to stay for “3 jours” (three days) while those reading the English translation are limited to “48 hours”. 

Naturally there are times when one would like to stay a little longer in one place, and this can be achieved in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is “ask for permission”.  Failing that it’s a bit inconvenient but perfectly acceptable to move away for a day or perhaps in the pedantic English  version, an hour, and start the calendar (in French) or clock (in English) again.

When all else fails, there’s the “blend in with the background and hope no-one notices” option. 

Wednesday 3rd July - Samara

We stood transfixed in the Samara Archaeology Museum yesterday, watching in the semi darkness of a prehistoric hut, as a man patiently explained the ins and outs of making paleo-fire, ostensibly by banging together a couple of rocks.  We were in a group of thirty or so eight year olds.   We are not sure whether it was his absolutely charming manner with the children, their absolute attention to his questions or the thoroughness of his explanation, but after half an hour and a raging fire burning, we left feeling there was little left to learn on the subject.

Then we moved on to watch the blacksmith, who had obviously been to the same charm school as the “fire and rocks” guy, gently coaxing the children around despite their fear of the roar of the fire as he pumped his bellows.  “How will we know when the metal is ready?” he asked, “Will we just wait for the ‘DING’?(of the microwave timer)”.   

Having spent the better part of the day in the company of these expert demonstrators (and hundreds of primary school children of exemplary behaviour), we left confident that despite the language barrier, we could start a fire, make a spear, weave a hat and possible even build a pot.  About the only mystery remaining, which if it was explained was not understood, nor could we find a demonstration, is “how did iron-age man make the rubber bands needed to keep their cute little man-buns in check?”

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Day of Archaeology
Tuesday 2nd July - Picquigny to Samara

Not very far from Picquigny, there is a shady little mooring bathed in green that happens to be adjacent to “Samara”, a museum of History and Archeology, with a nature park thrown in for good measure.  We spent much of the day there, happily crunching through the sands of time, fascinated as always at how the evolution of man has been recorded and interpreted by experts.

Our own archeological endeavours earlier in the morning had almost left the work of those professionals in the shade.  To our astonishment, the cafe which featured in yesterday’s photo, the one that appeared to be boarded up with the eclectic miscellany in its window and left to rot, was alive and well as we wandered past in search of a bakery.  More horrifying than that, the miscellany appeared to be actual current stock!

In complete fascination and perhaps no small amount of awe, we made a complete catalogue of the cracked and faded items in the window with a view to sending a copy to the nice folk at Samara for their professional interpretation. 
  • six fidget spinners, 
  • a few cigarette packets of the kind that automatically eject cigarettes when opened, 
  • two racks of sunfaded batteries, 
  • twelve imitation leather watchbands in three styles, 
  • three packets of charcoal fire starters, 
  • a torch,
  • two leather purses, 
  • two tubes of superglue, 
  • one glossy plastic dog turd.

AND they sell postage stamps too!

Closed today.
Monday 1st July - Picquigny

With many of the shops shuttered, some with signs removed, the last vestiges of stock left sitting faded in the sun, it’s a bit of sport to try to identify the business by it's somewhat eclectic some may say miscellaneous collection of leftovers.  If it is diversity that keeps the remaining small businesses afloat then the funeral parlour which sells a comprehensive range of fishing equipment is likely to survive into the next millennium.

A more conventional pathway to economic survival might be to simply open the doors at a time when the customers were not elsewhere.

Today for instance, the baker had sold out of croissants yesterday but did not bake more because they are going to be closed tomorrow.  We could have tried the little supermarket if they weren’t closed “exceptionally” for stocktake.  Even the castle ruins are only open in the summer holidays (for inspection with burning torches no less) on Fridays by appointment.  We do like this little town though even if it gives us the distinct impression that “we should have been here yesterday”.  


Sunday, July 14, 2019

The never ending story.
Sunday 30th June - Long to Picquigny

Except for the minor and quite reasonable cost of requiring a two Euro coin from time to time to feed the little green boxes which control our water and electricity supply, incredibly there are no other direct costs associated with navigation on the Somme.

Those little boxes are at the cause of a bit of a paradox.  Electricity and water are supplied concurrently, so when we insert a coin with the intention of topping up our water, electricity is also available.  The thought of that connection is enough to send one of us into a washing frenzy as load after load of slightly soiled or maybe even soon to be soiled items are dealt with by our electro-mechanical marvel.  This  is all well and good, but it also ensures that by the time our allotted electricity supply has expired, we are about run out of water.

It’s not easy to understand why it is so difficult to find the required coins, but it is one of our greatest challenges.  For instance in asking in one town, we were directed to a post office in a village six kilometres away as a possible source.  When we arrive somewhere, our first task is to seek out a business that is actually open, the next to find something to buy which is worth preferably a few cents more than five Euros. Then we offer a Ten in payment, ever hopeful that we won’t be handed a fistful of twenty cent pieces in change.  

In Picquigny we hit the jackpot, leaving the bakery at the far end of town clutching FIVE of the elusive coins in addition to our bakery treats, which should be sufficient to allow us to hang up our walking shoes for a few days at least.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sandwiches again.
Saturday 29th June - Long

Several people had recommended or even insisted that we should not miss eating at the little bar in town, the uniquely named “Café Français”.  

We’d turned up yesterday afternoon to see if a reservation was necessary for dinner, but they don’t do dinner so thinking on our feet we said “lunch tomorrow then” and were given to understand that no reservations would be necessary.

One thing led to another and it a little after the beginning of lunch o’clock by the time our act was sufficiently together for us to cross the bridge that leads into town.  By then every one of the chequered table cloths in the place were covered with drinks and food and arms and paraphernalia that did not belong to us.  It seemed that in our absence every cyclist that ever there was had heard about the “Café Français” and had simply turned up from nowhere, getting their luncheon acts together well before ours.

Ahh well, it was an outing, and a lovely walk back to “Café Joyeux”, where every meal is the “plate of the day” and no reservations are necessary at any time.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The big clean
Friday 28th June - Long

Legend has it that the Chateau in Long directed that the canal be diverted during its construction so that its owner could watch the ships passing.   

We are usually quite cautious in our assessment of legends such as these, so ask ourselves if that were the case, why the owner didn’t think while he was at it to orient his chateau to capture the views he had thus created.  Whatever the reason, he certainly had plentiful access to water to ensure his vast gardens and greenhouses were never going to go without.

The thought of cleaning all those greenhouse windows did inspire us to look around a bit closer to home, and we realised that perhaps one of us had been more diligent than usual in avoiding his exterior duties.   Suffice to say that after a morning with pressure washer and microfibre towels,  the dazzle of our ship moored so close to chateau will be sufficiently great that the owner will need to keep his blinds drawn for the time being at least, to avoid possible damage to his eyes.
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