Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All work and no play? Nahhh...
Friday 19th August

The really nice thing about this time of year is that people are descending on ports getting ready for the end of their seasons.  Most are moaning about how bad May and June were with the constant floods and we remind all about how lucky we were to have missed them, but are all almost desperate to have our three-yearly catch up and swap news.   

If ever there was a penalty to pay for delaying tidying up until the last day, today would have been the day.  Such however is the organisational skill of one of us, or perhaps it’s just her ability not to get distracted by things like conversation with newly arrived friends, that everything seemed to be finished by lunch time.  Well the jobs designated “pink” were anyway, the ones designated “blue” were bundled in a neat pile and stowed somewhere in the bilge until they become more urgent.

Graeme offered to cook tonight, providing we didn’t mind eating coq au vin from a can, so once again we forced ourselves to sit chatting with he and Nev and Viv until well past our bedtime.   Admittedly given that we had to be up by midday at least to get to the station to pick up Les, a gentle retreat was sounded well before our coach turned into a pumpkin.

What a lovely day.
Thursday 18th August

When one is in a port, the on-water community is large enough so that there is always someone else to help when the cleaning needs doing.  It’s funny how it’s far easier to help other people with their jobs that to actually get going on one’s own.   Therefore time spent inverted in Graeme’s engine bay twiddling was far more rewarding that simply tidying up at home.  Georges must have had a similar problem aboard Black Magic because he quickly volunteered a few diesel drums and a vehicle as well as his services as a driver to make easy work of topping up our tanks, a task that would have taken eight or ten kilometres of to-ing and fro-ing with the hand trolley to the service station a kilometre away.

Then, because we’d not really done anything during the day to make us tired, we spent a perfect evening aboard with Graeme regaling us with stories of his life in the Met, that is the police force, not the weather office all the while providing a running commentary on the river search happening before our very eyes, complete with helicopter, search lights, divers and flashing blue lights.  If the night swimmer was found, one can but wonder at the bill he will get.

On the weather front, the rain was supposed to come today, but it was put off till tomorrow, and that is exactly what we decided to do with the majority of our remaining tasks.

Monday, August 22, 2016

And now to clean.
Wednesday 17th August

We had a little plan to arrive in Auxonne tomorrow, just ambling down the river doing not much, but having travelled the distance planned for two days yesterday, short of overshooting the town and coming back there wasn’t much we could do to prevent a premature arrival.  

We’re going to stay here for a bit, below the window that Napoleon used to gaze from when his mind wandered from his lectures in field marshallry or advanced cannon shooting or whatever it was he was learning at the time.   If he could see us now lolling around on his river putting off till tomorrow what we really must do, he’d probably be rubbing that (possibly) ulcerated tummy of his even more vigorously.

That’s one thing we’re determined not to do, give ourselves ulcers, so with a healthy dose of procrastination in mind aided by an ever so slight dose of whatever it was that caused the writer to adopt a Napoleonesque pose for a few days earlier in the month, we might even wait until Saturday mid day to get the boat ship-shape before Les arrives.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mooring Fail
Tuesday 16th August

We’re from Australia.  We’re used to the heat. Everyone tells us that, so why is it that with the fourth day in the mid thirties in a row, we have decided that it’s just as easy to keep going than it is to stay moored?

Instead of ten kilometres planned for today, we did forty.   There’s a little place we know with room for just two boats and we were set for an afternoon shade.   No one ever goes there.   Except for today. So we ended up hot and bothered across the river baking under the setting sun in the reflected glare of the stone embankment with the half dozen or so others who weren’t here at sunrise to get the good spot.  

Mr Perkins too is protesting in his own disgusting way.   Dirty old thing that he is, he’s  once again leaking from both ends.  Despite having his snozz wiped regularly and his nuts jiggled from time to time, fuel seems to be escaping from somewhere, and oil, well the less said about oil the better.   He’s not missing a beat it must be said, so for that we must be thankful, perhaps it’s just withdrawal  symptoms since he stopped smoking.

It’s ok though, we know that in the cool of the early morning we’ll wake under a cloudless sky, and look back beneath the bridge at the others in “our” spot among the trees, and wonder what the fuss was about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Monday 15th August

We could have stayed longer in Gray.  We should have stayed longer.  We owe that to all of the people from there who have showed us such kindness over the years, but really, now that summer has arrived, spending days moored on the eastern side of the river without shade, leaves us wilting a bit.    Of course it was a public holiday as well, which meant that the silence was deafening, apart from the constant but gentle choofing of a hundred hire boats making their way up or down the river.

It’s odd that at the first sign of summer, and this week has been the first sign of a proper summer with gloriously clear skies and hot days, everything including ourselves has started to wilt a bit.  It’s not even particularly hot on paper, with the thermometer barely nudging thirty-five aboard, but it’s not our favourite weather.

I had thought until now that a frost was needed to remind the trees to drop their leaves, but not so apparently, there are trees all over the place that are already deciding they are tired of being green, those that aren’t starting to brown or yellow, are hanging in with a tired khaki look about them that reminds us a little of summer in Australia.  It will be interesting to see what the next few months brings.  Will we see a spectacular autumn show, or will the forests simply cry “enough” and wilt away before our eyes?

Elbow grease and a lick of paint
Sunday 14th August

Summertime and the living is easy, and the air is buzzing suddenly with the sound of a thousand boat engines.   We really didn’t think we’d have a ghost of a chance of getting a spot at Soing.  Although we did get lucky once years ago but haven’t managed to find a spot since.   

Two of the things we derive particular joy from while living on the water are lying in bed till late, and getting out on the water early.  Since  these are somewhat conflicting aspirations and most don’t share our enthusiasm for the early thing, when we slipped quietly away with the mist still rising off the water,  we were quite possibly doing so with a several hour head start on the rest of the sleeping port.    

As it turned out we were the first to arrive at our perfect little mooring, secluded, beside the barrage with it’s sparkling running water to lull us into snooze time should we need it, and a great shady tree to contemplate the afternoon beneath.  

We did walk into the village of course to visit the Eiffel Tower replica, which is a nice try, but could never be mistaken for the real thing.  The cows grazing beside it are a give away, and it’s smaller, and doesn’t have the curves, or the proportions.  It is unique though in all of France we think because it has been maintained.   This is such a rare occurrence that there is even a plaque on it which proudly proclaims that in honour of it’s twentieth anniversary (in 2012) it was cleaned and painted, no doubt with some paint donated by a combined harvester repairer which explains the slightly different hue to that of the original.   Tiny criticisms aside, if one stands back and squints……..

Here come the elephants!
Saturday 13th August

Once when we were in Port-sur-Saône, we missed an international festival by just a day.   If we’d been here yesterday, or any Friday this month we’d have been here for the Summer Terrace too, in the square near the cathedral offering all sorts of refreshments and local produce.

The elephants in the square outside the Mayor’s office may have been a sign we’d missed something else, perhaps the spot on the map where France ends and Africa begins?  The Mayor seems to put them out there every year to mark our arrival, so actually we knew exactly where we were but are still none the wiser as to what is behind this obviously annual, but just as obviously (because of the condition of the pieces) temporary exhibition of African Art.

We moored in our usual spot, against the village quay, in what would have been uncomfortable heat were we not wondrously shaded by the very same trees that were just finding their leaves when last we were here.  And we were almost alone too, at least for an hour or so until boats started to arrive from all directions, or both directions if one insists on accuracy.  It was as though everyone suddenly realised that there wasn’t much left of summer and if they were going to get to see the elephants at Port-sur-Saône well they’d better jolly well get a wiggle on, so they did.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Living the Dream.
Thursday 12th August

For reasons that seem inexplicable, I dreamt last night that we were on some sort of romantic cruise through the waterways of France, on a massive barge, tiller in hand, straw hat providing our only shade.  Through deep forest we glided, waving to the crowds as bridges opened to let us by, stopping only to gasp at each bend as every new vista presented itself.

It was not at all difficult to carry that dream all morning as we continued on our merry way through the forest, right to the end of the Canal at Corre, the place where our river adventure will begin on the morrow.  Before then however cruising reality jolted us out of the dream.

It was a pleasant afternoon in port, if not a photogenic one.  Two weeks worth of washing done, unlimited internet allowing four devices to be updated, a myriad of other jobs sorted, the sorts of things one has nightmares about, but let's hang on to the dream!   

Thursday 11th August

 I know in France there are many “Floral Villages” and “Places Historic”  and there's no shortage of beautiful, but I’m not so sure that there are any "tidy towns".   Look at Selles, even with it’s dozen “fountains” if everything was perfectly manicured and the paving in straight lines it could never be described as “tidy”, it just doesn't have the bones, and if it did well we’d probably be in Switzerland, or Belgium.

Like so many other places we visit on our travels, at first glance the village appears to be dying.  There are buildings in decay or generally unkempt lining the streets, but on closer inspection something marvellous appears to be underway.  There are new cars outside, and they aren’t just bottom of the range “it’ll get me there” kinds of cars.   Scattered among all this are new windows, the expensive double glazed kind, the occasional fresh lick of paint on a door or trim, and even new bits of sandstone here and there.

There aren’t any businesses to speak of.  Well there’s the cheese factory which welcomes visitors two days a week (the day after tomorrow and yesterday), and the hairdresser and of course the bakery which is run by a lady who is quite possibly old enough to have been here when the turning bridge was first rotated more than a century and a half ago.   We nod sadly as we take our change, wondering if she will still be here when next we return, and if not her, will her business.  Early in the morning though her son and daughter-in-law are there hard at it, a promise of things to come perhaps.

Maybe it’s not just the bridge that’s turning.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It’s all about lunch.
Wednesday 10th August
Pont du Coney

Today was one of those days when so little happened that at the end of it it seemed to have gone on forever.   It was so chilly when we woke that we had to invoke our “rule of ten”, waiting for something either time or temperature to hit double figures.    Thankfully it was also destined to be a clear and sunny morning, and the cabin temperature rose to the teens in plenty of time for us to be underway by nine.

By eleven with close to eight kilometres under our belt, with a delightful forest mooring in our sights and just as we were getting close to having had enough travel for one day, we were met by an ever smiling Abdullah in our last lock.   When we told him where we were about to stay his usual effervescent self became even more animated and he directed that “We must have lunch at the restaurant” (not one hundred metres away).   “Tell them I sent you” he commanded, “and you will get very big plates of food”.    With that he disappeared into his van and came back with a fresh baguette.   “You will only want this and some cheese and maybe a little wine for dinner” he said, hastily adding with a smile “and mirabelles”.

Overcome by his generosity and concern for our well being, we thought it would be rude if we ignored his message.   The restaurant as it turns out, was splendid.  Italian.  Sensational value if not cheap. We were very lucky that they found space for us (sorry you’ll have to be in on the verandah), having arrived with no reservation at a few minutes past twelve.  Thankfully we didn’t try for the “very big plates”, because as it was we cancelled all plans for a bike adventure this afternoon in favour of working off lunch in a somewhat more sedentary manner.

And yes, the baguette and a little cheese was sufficient for dinner.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tuesday 9th August
Pont Tremblant.

According to the forecast when we retired last night, it would rain until midday and then we’d see sunshine for the rest of the day.   By the time we’d had our statutory eight and a bit, there was indeed a dullness to the day and a gentle drizzle, but it was also accompanied by a revised forecast which predicted a halt to precipitation by nine, with some sunshine by ten.

We therefore timed our arrival at the little village with the bakery for nine, in time to see the drizzle miraculously cease and the merest hint of brightness peeking through the clouds.   When we arrived half an hour later at the first lock of the day, the sky had not changed, but the brightness came from possibly our favourite lock-keeper in all of France.

Abdullah, loves what he does and doesn’t mind telling anyone who will listen.  After reacquainting ourselves, and receiving his solemn promise that he’d keep an eye on us all day, we couldn’t help but notice that whenever we were underway he seemed to be somewhat manically shaking trees and climbing them and definitely looking for something, but we couldn’t work out what.   By the third lock he came to us with a hatful of unripened mirabelles, apologising for the quality and promising, while looking at the sky that if we ever see sunshine again they’d ripen in a few days.

Actually the sunshine he brought to us was easily as good as the other kind during the perfect afternoon we spent cruising gently down the canal to a spot which not entirely coincidentally is fifty metres from the lock house in which he lives.   I suspect the sun will be shining on us all day tomorrow as well no matter what the weather!