Fading Memories

Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Catching up - Thursday 19th October

In an effort to delay the inevitable, we didn’t think about getting underway before ten, then we wandered over to the bakery for morning tea supplies, had a coffee and thought that really it was almost eleven and if we left now we’d probably get to the lifting bridge at Nancy exactly as it was closing for the lunch time peak hour.

Better, we thought to wander over to the bakery for lunch supplies and wait just a little longer.  There is little point in getting all stressed over a six kilometre journey after all.   There seems to be a relationship between the speed with which time moves and deadlines, and in this case those few hours of doing not much seemed like several days, but we did get underway and finally found the last available spot in our least favourite port in all of France.   

Fortunately, it is filled with some of our favourite people, and so it was that after a quick wander uptown to let the place know we’d arrived, we spent a very long and pleasurable evening catching up on the news of the past six months.


Homeward bound - Wednesday 18th October

After more than a month travelling on rivers it came as a bit of a shock to find ourselves back in the much more intimate canal network once again, moored in the middle of a busy little village.   

Back in Champignuelles, we are once again only too aware that in a few days our boat time will be over for another year.  It’s always a strange time, filled with happy anticipation that we’ll soon be on our way south but mixed with the desire to eke out perhaps a few more days afloat while the weather holds.   

There’s a bit of a ritual to the whole process though.  We moor on one of the abandoned pontoons, walk to the hardware store for supplies that we’ll need to complete those little pre-winter jobs, have a cup of tea, and do not much else until it’s almost too late to take a photograph.  Then in last minute panic race out to see what one can make of the dying light.  Mostly we are too late, which explains the great collection of night time reflections in our photo files tagged “Champignuelles”, but tonight we had fourteen minutes to spare before darkness descended.

Bring your own colour - Tuesday 17th October

One can tell by the photo that we had arrived in Pont-a-Mousson before anyone had bothered to take the coloured crayons to the day.  While it may have looked a little on the glum side, the truth is that it was anything but that with a clear sky promising to bring the world to vibrant life as soon as the sun had rubbed the sleep from his eyes and we’d all had our third coffee.  

The glum didn’t actually descend until well after we’d arrived, a few minutes before “it’s coffee time at last”.  There is a bakery here which makes what we are firmly convinced are quiet possibly the best Mille-feuille in the galaxy, and our entire summer we had been steeling ourselves for this very moment.  How hard was it then to find not a one hidden among the delicacies in that same baker’s display case.   

Our enquiry was met with something that no doubt would have sounded like “Sorry luv, the Vanilla Slices are off” had we been in our other home. Which led us to think of how colourless our native language is, thinly concealed beneath a world consumed by bright blue sky, rainbow lorikeets and tropical flowers. There, a “Mille-feuille” is indeed a “Vanilla Slice”, “Flan” becomes “Custard Tart”, “Paris-Brest” a “Cream Puff”.  

We stopped thinking, made our purchase and were back on board with coffee in hand, unpacking the “Religieuse au Cafe” from its gift box, just as the first rays of sunshine began to glitter on the autumn leaves.  Suddenly it seemed that the day had become very colourful indeed.

Crisis narrowly averted. - Monday 16th October

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mr Four who by the miracle of time transportation is about to become Mr Eleven, enquired of his mother while being driven home from school as to whether we would be home in time for his birthday.  On receiving the answer in the negative, Miss Now Seven also in the back seat immediately intervened.

“Don’t worry”, she proclaimed “If they aren’t here they ALWAYS send a parcel in the mail”.   News of this, despite having made sufficient contingency for the event before our departure, sent us into something of a tail spin.   Needless to say, a day spent looking into reflections on our wondrous way up the Mozelle River did nothing to ameliorate what could very well escalate into a serious doubt on grandparent credibility.  We have it seems, set a very high bar for ourselves to jump.

Such is the wonder of the world in which we live, that at day’s end despite being moored at some from a centre of commerce a thing called “the internet” turned out to be very helpful indeed, and had promised delivery of a parcel almost in time for the birthday in question.  We therefore, settled into the evening in a similar state of calm reflection to that which the river had provided during the day.

If you can’t beat them - Sunday 15th October

Today was to be a perfect replica of the very best bits of yesterday, repeated every hour while daylight persisted.

The morning was curiously quiet given the weather, and we like everyone else it seemed were content to laze in the sun, happily soporific.  The tranquility was not to last of course, as slowly the crowds built.  At first a few runabouts appeared simply drifting aimlessly on the lake, while their passengers did what people do when they discover what hungry and thirsty work drifting aimlessly can be.  Then the picnickers arrived, quietly choosing the best of the sunny spots to sit, as we had been, to read and knit and while away the day in their own thoughts.

Eventually though, those who had perhaps had better things to do with the morning, having lunched with family and friends no doubt, (this is Sunday after all), came out in such numbers that the background sounds were not dissimilar to that of a busy school ground at lunchtime. Once it began the procession was endless and lasted until there was no more light; a non stop stream of humanity on foot, on crutches, with walking frames and prams and bicycles and mobile phones.  Hundreds of people walked by every hour, thousands perhaps, all in happy conversation, stopping only to buy ice creams or to take photos of our washing.


Life in a postcard. - Saturday 14th October

We don’t want to brag, but we made it out of bed before eleven today. Just.  It may have been because our bones were still creaking somewhat after our lengthy walk on rough cobbles yesterday, or it may have been because the morning fog was so dense until then it had blocked not only the light of the new day but any sound from a city attempting to wake to a new weekend as well.

None the less we did manage to catch the last of the fog slowly rising over the hills as the sun came out on what would be, according to the forecast a series of perfect September days, even if they had arrived a month late.  We also, quite astonishingly managed to replenish our supplies before the luncheon crowds descended on the the city centre, this despite being waylaid for a time watching the kids practicing on the canoe slalom course.

By mid afternoon the tranquility that the weather had brought was at odds with the swarm of people who had come out to enjoy it.  We therefore retreated to the comfort of our little home, to marvel at the contrast between the happy sounds made by the thousands of people walking, lying on the grassy foreshore or drifting in small boats and the complete silence of the morning.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Holy Batcave! - Friday 13th October

There are only two, or perhaps three ecclesiastical structures that we have visited in the world which of their own accord invoke in us a sense of awe, communicating in no uncertain terms that they are perhaps a portal to a presence of far greater significance than we.  St Therese’ in Metz is not on one of them.  

No one could describe it as humble unless one’s usual living space is a room eighty metres long and as wide as it is tall. It’s interior is dark, very dark despite the thousand square metres of stained glass cast in concrete tracery that clads its sides.   The exterior is of that pre-war Germanic school of industrial bunker kind, now garnished with vast areas of concrete cancer and a few dirty dribs left of what was no doubt in 1935 a very futuristic light green colour scheme.  It is not without some redemption though: it’s spire is a work of art, seventy metres tall, with the slenderness ratio of a telegraph pole.

In a watching a train wreck happen kind of way it is completely fascinating.  It is historically and architecturally intriguing, truly pioneering with it’s great concrete arches and stained glass inset.  There can be no doubt that it rightly earns its place on the register of a significant buildings, but it is one that asks more questions that it answers.   It was certainly worth the visit, but we found the walk through the botanical gardens en route to be far more uplifting.
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