Fading Memories

Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Not today dear, I'll get a headache.
Wednesday 18th July - Anseremme

We looked around when we woke and really couldn’t see a lot of point in moving on today.   

Moving on would mean the buzz of a city, and museums and dirt and those little round dollops of other people’s chewing gum that seem to make patterns on the pavement as much a sign that people live there as the cigarette butts that lie in long lines between the cobbles.  While it’s true we may have been semi-roused from our sleep sometime after seven by a freight train tip-toeing over the bridge, we just felt we needed to gather a bit of strength before making the transition to the noise of “civilisation” once again.

So through blurry eyes we just enjoyed our surroundings, our sky and our cliffs and our trees, until the coffee kicked in and we felt the urge building to quietly be out amongst it all.  That we did in due course, walking along the river’s edge at times against the cliff faces at others in dense forest but never with a particular objective in mind, except perhaps that we should return before dark, which at this time of year is a very very long time after tea time!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A change of pace.
Tuesday 17th July - Waulsort to Anseremme

Everyone here is on holiday and clearly not intent on spending it in a mad three week dash through France, therefore when the little hand was on nine and we started to get the moving itches, we warned Mr Perkins to whisper so as not to disturb a port in which there was nary a sign of movement.

Happily when we arrived in Anseramme there was one place left on the dock, which was exactly the number of places we were looking for and it was just a few tens of metres from the railway station and the kayak hire base, both of which are useful for people wanting to begin a descent a dozen or for those fitter than we, even twenty kilometres upstream.

All of which is how we came to spend a wonderful afternoon gliding beneath chateaus, bouncing over barrages, bumping into the occasional rock, sliding past sheer cliff faces and generally mooching through dense forest in the sort of intimacy that only travelling on a river in the company of four hundred other kayaks can bring.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wot no chocolate?.
Monday 16th July - Givet to Waulsort

We almost stayed in Givet for a bit longer, but then quite suddenly, we didn’t.  We decided instead to move on in search of shade, because that’s what one does when the days are on the upper end of the temperature scale.  

We found it too, a dozen kilometres away albeit in an entirely different country, in a little village where the moorings have been built on the opposite side of the river to the town itself. While it’s a little unclear if the intention was to keep the messy boaties away from the villagers, or the messy villagers away from the boaties, it’s an arrangement that seems to work well for both parties.

Whenever the twain is required to meet, for instance when a boat load of people hear the siren call of a waterfront cafe yonder, there’s a little punt with an interconnecting cable that the manager of the port pulls across the river by hand in the time proven manner.   Not having heard that siren call, we didn’t see the need to leave our shade today even when we walked.  All of that chocolate and waffle and lace and beer that we have been led to believe is in Belgium will just have to wait for a time when the weather is less clement.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Of wars and other things.
Sunday 15th July - Vereux to Givet

From time to time we have wondered, truly beautiful though it is, if the River Meuse through the Ardennes is actually the very same valley of the shadow of death mentioned in the famous Psalm, such has been the amazing and awful impact of two thousand years of warfare on its history.    Today we arrived in Givet early enough to explore Charlemont, the fortress towering over the town. Built originally in the sixteenth century, and built again, destroyed, extended and captured several more times as history was writ, finally meeting it’s match as more destructive weapons were developed in the last century and again felt grateful that we were born where and when we were.

Even though “the match” was not due to start until five, the place was eerily deserted.  The food van guy left us to our own devices as soon as we’d bought our drinks, lest he should fail to make it to a television set in the four hours that remained before kick off, and a deathly silence descended on the country.

Four earth shaking cheers that threatened to rent the village asunder were the only signs of life in the late afternoon, each one accompanied by a goal from the home side.  It was difficult to decide when the match was over whether a war had started or world peace had been declared, as blaring horns and sirens consumed every molecule of air, and flares and fireworks erupted throughout the city for endless hours.  What a shame it is that all international battles couldn’t be fought on a football pitch.

It was twenty years almost to the day that France won its last world cup, and it’s not hard to believe that it will take at least that again for it to recover from this hangover.  

Small is beautiful
Saturday 14th July - Haybes to Vereux

A float tube is like a giant inflatable pool noodle bent to a horseshoe shape, with a seat slung in the middle.  The pilot presumably wears some sort of garment on the lower half of his body to guard the contents of his trousers against the damp and what must be significant chill, and dons a pair of giant swim fins to propel the contraption.  He then trawls for the biggest fish in the waterway which can often be monster things with big mouths and long rows of teeth.

One can only guess at the adrenaline rush that actually hooking a sizeable creature would bring, but presumably it’s akin to arriving in a port to find that the only space available to fit one’s ten-point-four metre boat in, is actually ten-point-six metres long.   At that moment, one actually lusts after a craft the size of a float tube forgetting that there may well be other disadvantages to long term cruising in one. 

By the combination of skill, dexterity, experience and scaring the owners of the adjoining boats into perhaps lending a hand, we managed to snug ourselves in for the night, exactly beside one of the busiest hot chip vans we have seen to date.   Perhaps in our float tube fantasy we may have caught a fish to go with a large serving of hot chips and our lives may very well have been even more complete!

There’s no point in us getting older if we don’t get wiser..
Friday 13th July - Fumay

Having spent the day yesterday generally tidying the town and hanging around with Kris and Gil the happy folk moored behind us, we thought it best to call a lay day today in preparation for what may have turned out to have been a big night of National Day Eve celebration.

Since they seemed happy with our normal laissez-faire approach to things, the plan for the night was set: We’d wander off to the big tent on the wondrously named “Boulodrome” to find a bite to eat, then we’d watch the light parade before hanging around for the Rolling Stones tribute band who were apparently going to play the entire “Sticky Fingers” album, followed perhaps by a spot of fireworks.

The food thing turned out to be tomorrow and by reservation only, so we ate on our boat while the thunderstorm rained on the parade, which did it’s best but turned out to be half a dozen firemen with just flaming torches and a few by then over-tired little kids whose parents were carrying their lanterns for them.  We all looked askance at each other (because we couldn’t hear a thing over the pre-concert music) and gave each other that nod, which turned out to mean “Let’s give this a miss, and listen to the fireworks while tucked up in bed.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Doing our bit.
Thursday 12th July - Fumay to Haybes

Some might suggest that we could have cycled to Haybes faster than it took to untie the boat, and who would we be to argue with them.  Although three kilometres is not the shortest distance we’ve travelled in a day, this journey made longer because we had to travel on the outside of the curve relative to the cycle path, it does make for a fairly relaxed breakfast cruise albeit without time for a second coffee. 

There’s a noticeable tidiness about the towns we have been visiting lately, a sure indication that we are nearing a border.  At the top of those hills just a few hundred metres away lies Belgium, and there’s obviously some sort of genetic overspray that carries down the valley on the river mist which causes a cleaning and tidying fervour from time to time and perhaps a desire to keep things that way.  Twice in two days we’ve noticed paving being pressure washed for instance.  

Every now and then we come across vestiges of that delightful French lack of order, and sometimes when we do,  for instance when passing those tiny “free library” stations it is impossible to restrain the one in our midst who values tidiness above all else. Taking it upon herself to ensure that the contents are straightened and sorted if not catalogued into a state more in keeping with the tidiness of their surrounds is a certain sign that she is feeling more at home as each day goes by.  
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