Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Making it look easy -Tuesday 26th May -
Panneçot to Châtillon-en-Bazois

If the absence of anything resembling life as we know it was disconcerting in the evening, it seemed even more so when we woke.  Despite using our best endeavours we couldn’t find anyone to take our mooring fees before we left.  On the one hand that means we have eight Euros to pour back into the well being of businesses along the way, but there was a small warning tinkling in the backs of our heads.  How can these businesses continue to provide services without payment for them?

It turned out that the tinkle was actually a real warning that we hadn’t heeded; it was the sound of the swings moving gently in the abandoned playground.  Lest imaginations begin to work overtime, there were no axe-wielding fiends just out of scene, but the wind was steadily increasing, and with that comes a commensurate increase in the degree of difficulty in navigation.

Winds that in a sailing boat on an open water would be welcomed create near havoc in shallow draft boat in a narrow space.  Seen in a positive light though, fighting its attempts to convince us that it was possible to fit ten metres of boat sideways into a five metre wide lock on a couple of occasions put us in good stead for when we arrived at Châtillon.

Mooring in the wind can bring out the inner Tourette’s in anyone.   Mooring in the wind in a crowded harbour is the time when words long repressed rise involuntarily to the surface, whispers become shouts which in turn can be misinterpreted and become shouted replies over the roar of an engine in full astern, NO ahead, NO the other way.  This is one of those activities which entirely more fun to be a spectator than to be a participant.

So perhaps it was to everyone’s surprise, not the least of them ours, when we managed through a combination of miracle and accident to slot without fuss, neatly in the only available position in the harbour, with millimetres to spare all round apparently using little more than telepathy.  Here we will sit for a day or two in the shadow of the Chateau hoping that our departure will appear to be equally controlled.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse -
Cercy-la-Tour to Panneçot

Tonight we are sitting alone in the little port at the camping ground at Panneçot. Since lunchtime when we bade the lock keeper our  our farewells we have not seen nor heard another living thing. 

The closest thing we have to remind us that people were once here is the little house across the lake, although there are a couple of empty caravans and some hire canoes locked up under the trees. 

The sign on the cafe says they will be back later this month perhaps, but this is a public holiday and we didn't really expect the place to be completely deserted.  There isn't even anyone to collect the trifling fee for mooring here, yet the electricity works and internet is provided.  It's as though the place has been abandoned. We even checked the maps several times to make sure we haven’t taken a wrong turning and ended up in Chernobyl.

One can only delight in the solitude and wonder whether it's the night before Christmas.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Now I get it! -

The fortifications of Cercy have been torn down and rebuilt on many occasions in the past eight centuries apparently, with the tower ("la Tour" from which it takes its name) taking a right old tumble during the Revolution and only having been partially rebuilt thereafter.  There’s a monument atop the bit where the tower once was which arrived quite late in the piece, the current version having been erected just before our last visit actually, which goes a long way to explaining how it was so spectacularly bright in the photos we took at the time.

It is inarguably a beautiful piece of sculpture, and replaced a somewhat less attractive piece of similar intent which had previously stood for fifty years.  That one had been erected to mark the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the vision at Lourdes apparently although given that we are presently seven hundred or so kilometres from Lourdes the connection isn’t immediately clear to those of us without this particular ecclesiastical bent.

I suspect this twenty-first century interpretation of the pose that is all things saintly was intended to portray supplication with a touch of humility, or protection perhaps for those below, and for the majority of its intended audience I am sure it succeeds.

I am afraid to say it struck a different chord with me.

There she stands, towering over us wordlessly, her eyes meeting ours. The body language is  unmistakably  motherly.  The interpretation is clear:

 “How many times do I have to tell you to clean up this mess?”.

When we leave tomorrow morning, it will be on the cleanest boat on the Canal du Nivernais.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Up up and away --
Decize to Cercy-la-Tour

After three days of staring at the lock and wondering what lay beyond, we decided to wonder no more.

The sky was menacing, but in a “well ok just one more” sort of way, the way a mother looks at a child warning them not to take another biscuit, but maybe one more is ok.

We called its bluff and beyond the lock we discovered patches of blue and sunshine with admittedly a little more breeze than we’d like, and fishermen, hordes of them.

We don’t necessarily enjoy coming across fishermen, they make themselves invisible, hiding behind bushes and trees often tens of metres from their lines, and they tend to want to play chicken with us, waiting till the last minute to pull their lines in, in an apparent display of resentment of the imposition we have placed on their lives.  None the less, we try to be patient.  We smile and wave.

We try to slow a little, which considering we are usually travelling at around seven kilometres per hour, is a bit relative, and we try to at least make a pretence of moving to the opposite side of the canal.  Again, given that the usable water width is barely ten metres the amount we move can only be seen as a gesture, but mostly we try.  Sometimes though, like this morning, people fish from both sides of the canal and things become a little unfair.   

Imagine us, slowed to a dead crawl, running the gauntlet of half a dozen fishermen on one side, happily waving as we pass, then to the other another two dozen or so, clearly a family group also happily waving, presumably thanking us for our thoughtfulness, when one of them points to our flag.

“New Zealand?” he enquired.

“Australia” we replied.

The crowd “Ahhhed”, one of them called out “WELCOME!” then they cheered a little as we waved back, as royalty would.

Come to think o fit, we rather enjoy coming across fisherman.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Renovations -

We still suffer from the particular kind of mind-numbing that only Antipodeans can understand, when we read the information plaque on some of these places.   The gate to the old centre of Decize for instance was built in eleven hundred and something, but it’s not in its original state.  One can discount any architectural authenticity apparently as it suffered a major renovation not three hundred years later, although little been done since apparently, except perhaps for the installation of the odd length of plastic downpipe perhaps from more recent times.

Yet those who live on this side of the world take all that is old in their strides.  Having absorbed the “oldness” of stuff around them over generations they tend not to get quite as emotional as we do at the pending loss of so many untended artifacts.  They are the ones who think we are joking when we talk of the "old" house we are renovating at “home”, built somewhere in the early eighties.    We can dress it up of course and say it hasn’t had anything done to it since last century, but eventually they always twig that we are talking 1980’s, not 1480’s and the concept just doesn't rest comfortably with them.  They suddenly become as fascinated with our culture and its need to keep everything working and new as we are with theirs without that need.

Our little boat is from the mid eighties too, and being moored beside a monster hardware supplier for a few days has ensured that the endless succession of new things on it has not yet ended, and although I have perhaps in a form of memory repression therapy, failed to mention Mr P of late, some of his disgusting habits remain.   Some shiny copper rings have therefore been added to our box of things that need bolting onto other things, and perhaps sometime this century we shall find the time and the energy to once again tackle his sinuses.

Or perhaps we’ll leave it another four hundred years, and let someone write about him on a plaque, hopefully not recording that he was discovered at the bottom of a river, no doubt having been thrust there by a person unknown who couldn’t fix his rotten stinking leaking fuel line!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A monument to procrastination -

Seven years ago when passing under the bridge in Decise, we laughed out loud when we saw the colour sample patch on it.   There were no fewer than twenty-six not dissimilar colours and tones neatly set out for someone to assess and make a decision.  

We concluded at the time that it could only have been done in an effort to thwart the decision making process, that someone simply didn’t want to paint the bridge.  Instead of selecting one or two colours for approval, a sure fire way of getting a decision, some bright spark had prepared the panels with a dizzy array of alternatives and told the committee responsible for the making the decision that he’d be at home and would be ready to start the minute they called with the chosen colour.

Yesterday, co-incidentally armed with a list of things to do a mile long, we found it again.   If the bridge had been painted in the intervening period, it would have been need of doing again, but it hadn’t, so it didn’t, so everyone it seems has had a win.   

Some of the samples had faded a little, but mostly they were in all their glory, and the painter was no doubt still happily lounging around somewhere beside a telephone, an icon of procrastination.

We are moored alongside a collection of supermarkets and hardware stores, and are going to stay until after tomorrow, which, inspired by the success of the bridge painters, seems like the perfect time to put off what we have to do until.

Tomorrow, we will probably get the groceries and the hardware bits we need, and some fuel,  and clean and wash a bit perhaps, but in the meantime we’ll just poke around the town centre for a bit, or perhaps we'll just stay at home quietly waiting for the committee to call.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We only do it for the sunsets-
Vanneaux to Decize

A red sky at night they say is a sailor’s delight, while the same in the morning constitutes a sailor’s warning.

I can’t say whether the morning warning thing works as advertised or not, because the morning sky appears well before we have under normal circumstances, detached ourselves from our bed, so we just look up the weather forecast on the internet.

The internet today had one of those little info-graphic things with dark clouds, a sun sitting happily on them, and a note warning that from time to time we could expect a tenth of a millimetre of rain each hour for the time we wanted to be moving.  Oh, and by the way, for good measure the temperature may well not make it into double figures until late afternoon.  

It didn't have a puffy face anywhere to be seen so we were therefore unaware that wind gusts would appear of many more kilometres per hour than one needs for comfort when one is trying to keep a relatively light, flat bottomed boat away from solid objects with sharp bits sticking out.    Would a red sky this morning have done that?

The odd thing about the wind when it comes off those dark grey clouds is that it can change speed and direction in an instant, and this only happens when there is little room to manoeuvre, such as when entering or leaving a lock, passing under a particularly narrow bridge or when one is attempting to moor quietly in a very tight spot while others are watching.

An even odder thing is that once all the swear-words have been mumbled, the sweat mopped from the brow, the clenched teeth unclenched and pulse rate returned to normal, the breeze simply disappears and like magic the sun comes out bringing with it all manner of glorious reflections and shadows.  One is left dizzy and confused, wondering if any of the drama (to overstate things just a bit) had happened at all.

Sunsets are natures way of making one look forward to tomorrow!

But what does a grey sky at night mean?