Legends from our own lunchtimes

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chaos and Cholesterol

Chaos is, I have come to understand, like cholesterol.  There's the good kind and the bad kind, and it's been of the former for a few days when every man and his dog squeezed in under our unfinished ceilings to celebrate Christmas, life, noise and anything else they could think of.  Concurrently.

Our long suffering neighbours had guests of their own, but they suffered in silence, perhaps not willing to show their faces lest we should spill over into their house as well.

They were not to know that that was never a possibility as the recent modifications at Dickyworld have been pronounced by all the attendees to be entirely satisfactory, and we all seemed to be able find a place to hide that suited our own particular definition of comfort as energy levels fluctuated without synchronicity.   Perhaps the renovations have been too satisfactory, as there is talk among all who were present of a repeat event!

Now the resumption of normal programming has begun.  The guest list has reduced to just Miss Lily and her Mum now, and the world is almost silent once again ready for the sander to start on the one remaining room I would have thought.

Perhaps I should wait a day or two, or maybe a week.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh ye of little faith!

To be fair, the paint has only its seal coat, and the Danish oil on the timber work, including the kitchen bench top extension is still a little tacky, but we got there with about twenty minutes to spare before the first of the scraggy hordes began to trickle in.

I don't understand the psychology of the deadline, what it is that makes shopping centres open on time when just the night before there was a year or two worth of work left to do, but what ever it is, it works around this place as well.

I think it safe to say that we've broken the back of the renovation, from now we'll be chugging along at a much more relaxed pace, perhaps our reporting will reflect that too!

And now for the Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Were one to categorise the degree of chaos we are currently living in, I think it would be apt to give it an "utter" rating.  We have reached something of a crescendo though, with dust having crept under every cover and a few walls still to go.

But there has been progress.  The keen eye may notice the new ceiling fans, which nicely compliment the light fittings now installed, switches and power points might even be functioning by week's end.   Of course Brendon our long suffering plasterer is almost done as well, and another two or so days of sanding walls will see me ready to start the sealer coat.

That is after I finish the temporary kitchen cupboard extensions of course.  

We are settling down to a dull roar now though with the messy stuff almost over until the new year when we tackle the ceilings, and we can see an end to the disorder.   Perhaps it's not an end, rather just the end of the prelude.

On Friday, the chaos returns accompanied by noise as well, the sort of noise that ear protection cannot reduce.  On Friday we shall be occupied by things other than building for a few days, as the scruffy horde descends, and the centre of attention turns to grandchildren, all three.

Perhaps I shall just snooze on the couch under the covers and they'll be unaware of my presence!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Itchy and scratchy.

The insulation in our roof may look all yellow and fluffy, which is exactly the way insulation is supposed to look, but on closer inspection there are some gaps. 

Large gaps. 

Our very own CSIRO says that a gap as small as 5% in the insulation layer will reduce its efficiency by over 50%. By my quick sums we have an efficiency of somewhere around minus 300% which is quite a staggering thought really and goes a long way towards explaining why, given the right conditions inside the house can become quite uncomfortably warmer than outside.  

If there's anything worse than being of large frame in a confined space, it's being of large frame in a confined space full of dust when the space is inside a roof and the temperature is unpleasantly warm, cutting up bits of fibreglass insulation while the next ten year's quota of perspiration does it's best to ensure that the little shards of fibreglass stick to any exposed skin and work their itchy way below the surface. 

Perhaps that's why when the insulation was installed in our place they got out as quickly as they could without actually doing anything particularly useful with the fibreglass batts apart from storing them in the ceiling for convenience of some future owner. 

 It's all a bit of a shame really, because having decided that one of us would need to fix the problem, every time I looked around for a volunteer she'd be off doing some important job and couldn't possibly spend an hour or so doing a fair imitation of pilates in a sauna while lying on a bed of nails. 

Realising that there's have to be compromise if we were going to make progress, I started last night, and worked till midnight pretending that it was comfortable, that I was imagining the heat, and the fact that my clothes looked like I'd just been for a swim in them would have been pleasurable if I actually had. The first half is done, and in only took an extra twenty square metres of insulation to fix. I'd do the rest tonight, but I still remember how uncomfortable it was, and I think I'll wait till the rash has gone and the itching  has subsided. 

 We had the western facing windows tinted yesterday too, so ready as we are to thumb our noses at summer, today the cool change arrived.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


If this were an episode of Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud would arrive and look bemused or even bewildered and wonder to the camera what we'd been doing for the past few weeks.

The end is nowhere in sight, he'd remark quietly to the camera and remind us all that we are leaving once again in not much more than three months time.

But like catching monkeys, slowly slowly will get us there I'm sure.   If we're really lucky the plasterboard will be done in a week, the wiring is almost complete now, both repairs and new bits, and surely there can't be more than a few days of carpentry left.... can there?

Well actually yes there can.   The third bedroom has a "woof" or two in the floor just where the robe has to go, and that means dismantling at least part of the bathroom downstairs before we can start.   Even simple renovations have their problems it seems!

Joan, you can come, we will have a bedroom and buckets of white paint for you to splash in.

With Santa coming in a few weeks though, the building industry goes into panic and shutdown at the same time, so we'll have to see what we can do about a kitchen into the new year I suspect!

Oh well, back to the sander.

Tally Ho!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going Nowhere

Our little project is not entirely under control at the moment if truth be told. 

The living room is full of bedroom, the dining area full of study, the study is around here somewhere, and the bedrooms are pretty much empty of anything useful, except that whenever we need to find something that we absolutely can't do without a minute longer, it usually turns up under some sanding dust in one of them.

I suppose if I could only stay motivated to keep sanding for more than a nanosecond at a time I'd be making some visible headway by now, but every nanosecond generates an hour of clean up and cleaning up is one of those mind numbing tasks that leads to thinking. 

Today's thinking led to trying to discover what the living space might look like if the dividing wall was removed, except that once the wall sheeting was gone, the frame was riddled with electric wires running across and back and Trevor our electrician won't be back till Saturday, so we'll have to wait a few more days.

Today's thinking also led to discovering that cleaning up after removing a couple of gyprock walls takes even more time than after sanding. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A few weeks in and the list we have on the boat seems to have paled in to insignificance compared to the list of jobs in the house.

The first wardrobe is in at least, the second ready to go, and the third, well the parts are in the boxes with the funny writing on the labels although with a bit of deduction we think we can spell "Ikea" in Mandarin.

Perhaps we shall have three habitable by the time Santa comes, but that's a bold prediction.  It's about economics you see, it's far more economical to have Brad the gyprock guy in once than once for every room, so sadly the plan to finish each room before starting the next has involved into a plan to start every room and leave the place in a complete state of disarray for as long as we possibly can.

We've crossed one thing off the list though.  "Airline Tickets 2012"

If the disarray is still with us by the end of March, it is safe to say it will be here until September!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Dicky Beach

Ahh Joan, before the white comes the colour!  

The old wardrobes have magically disappeared, although it's fair to say there are rather large marks where it's been.  It's not just the colour that tells us a little of what has been before.  If one were to take out all the drawers in the old robe, and lie on one's back looking up at the underside of what may have been a dressing table, one would have seen carved ever so carefully in the chipboard, a heart with "Vanessa" scratched within.

Of course if one had taken to the structure with a big hammer and a crow bar, there would be no need to lie on one's back....

On another note, we've spent more time than we care to admit I suspect, poking around in a well known Swedish furniture store over the past year or so, acquiring bits and bobs for the boat.   

This became painfully apparent when once again we trudged south to a store from the very same chain, to start the reconstruction process for the house, and we discovered the cafe was on the wrong side of the entrance hall.  Not only that, but the tables were square not round, and as we popped in to start the day with our "free" coffee (for members of the "family" of course), we should not have been surprised that the prices had a dollar sign, not a "€", but we were!

Seven trolley loads, four hours and 450kg of more stuff from the collection point later, we had all the pieces we needed safely on a truck hopefully to re-appear in our driveway after a few days.

Then we can do the same in the other bedrooms, then fix the electrical stuff, then the gyprock, then perhaps, we'll bring out the whitewash!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dicky Beach

If there is anything more mind numbing than inexpertly painting the inside of a house, it must be unpainting it after it's been inexpertly painted.

Despite my best intentions expressed so firmly before leaving France that we'd do nothing to the house for a year, all that flaking paint and the creaking doors have got the better of me and so far the score since arriving back four weeks ago today, is one pirate ship, one larger hole in the living room wall than was once the case, and one bedroom almost denuded.

The colour revealed once the layers of time have been removed may once have provoked a "what were they thinking?" response from ourselves, but now, well it's sort of cheerful, and it reminds us of another place, another time. (click on the link or see the photo below!)

For an instant one of us considered leaving it, a blue-green sky dotted with friendly clouds...... but the rest of us thought I'd like to paint it quite soon please.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ship Building
Daisy Hill

It's hard to believe that we've been back two weeks. Even with the fog on our brains now dissolved we seem to have been living in something of a whirlwind.

We've been seriously planning what to do with the house, even knocked out a wall for good measure. We've walked along the beach twice a day with the mighty Grand Dog while trying to figure out what we might knock out next.

But Mr Four becomes Mr Five tomorrow and there was a pirate ship to build, so that seemed like a good place to start. It was nice to be hanging round boats again if I do say so myself.

Monday, October 03, 2011

It's come to this.
Dicky Beach

When one resorts to posting pictures of one's grand-dog on one's blog, it's probably time to hang up the keyboard for a time.

We are taking it easy, sleeping in fits, getting to know the house we left not quite settled in.

Even after a lifetime of living on this side of the world, the cars suddenly seem stupidly large, the sky similarly so, and drivers on the freeways just stupid.  

I had panicked for a bit on Friday, desperately trying to get all that had to be done, done before the shops closed on midday Saturday, to be gently reminded that they don't.  We went into a well known European brand of supermarket this morning and as is my custom, I made a bee line for the non grocery items on sale.   Browsing, I was surprised to find myself reading the instruction label on an item without faltering, and even more surprised to discover it was written in English.

I think we are a little disoriented, but to be fair to us we've been away a while and we will need to once again familiarise ourselves with some things.

Last Tuesday, in a Post Office in London we were scrambling to rid ourselves of change and found a gold coin that should have been a Pound, but it seemed too thin.   We couldn't work it out, so asked the lady in the queue behind if she could tell us what it was.

After a short examination, she pronounced it to be:

An Australian One Dollar coin.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Patch of Blue
Dicky Beach

The sky is clear, the sun is slowly rising above a patch of blue.

It's a perfect welcome home.

The only thing wrong is that it's not much after five in the morning, and we should really be tucked up in bed with all the sensible people.    We've been awake for a while, thinking that it was an hour later than it was thanks to Mr Telstra thinking that we live in NSW and changing all our automatically updating clocks to daylight saving time.

So we sit on the beach for a bit, and pinch ourselves to remind us that we aren't actually dreaming all this.


Friday, September 30, 2011


Today is Thursday apparently.

 The fact that I could correctly answer that particular question should it be asked is apparently a good sign, but I am reminded of another exchange in the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy just after the two central characters have materialised inside the Vogon ship which perhaps better describe the way we feel:

 Ford Prefect: How are you feeling? 

Arthur Dent: Like a military academy. Bits of me keep passing out.

It's noisier here than I remember, there's a sort of background buzz and things seem a bit blurry, I can't put my finger on why, perhaps after a day or two I'll have regained my composure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Half Way House

Sitting in the shade of a mirror tree, while reflected sun rays made of fluorescent lighting bask the windows of the lounge is something that probably only happens in Singapore.

In time we are almost two thirds through our journey, another few feature length movies and it will be Brisbane!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Time to Fly!

The lag in body clock which comes with travel has begun, waking as we did before six this morning, not out of excitement or anticipation or any of those things, but because it was seven according to our brains, which hadn't computed that we'd not got to bed till midnight in yesterday's time zone.

We must now fly south for the winter.

By the time the day is finished it will be the day after tomorrow and we never quite come to terms with that bit.   It's late afternoon now, we have time for a quick goodbye on our way to the train, then our airport sojourn begins.

When next I type we will be in Singapore.  If that is not the case, the tale will be really worth reading!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Our journey of a thousand leagues begins with a cab ride, or actually with a Maggie ride to Luneville. There were little lumps in our throats as we glanced back at the harbour, and we weren't sure if it's because of the farewells, or the anticipation of the "hellos" in a day or two, but once again we couldn't help but notice the lack of emotion attached to the journey itself. 

Perhaps as travellers we have become "seasoned", comfortable with being "on the bus" that takes us to our next . 

Five trains later (if we count the change in the tube at Edgeware Road) with only a break for coffee with apple and caramel crepes in Paris, and a bit of a wander round the Galleries La Fayette, we were tucked up safely in London with Shelley and Julian.

Tomorrow evening, another train and then the journey begins. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011


All we had to do was sleep late, lunch, zip up our bags and the boat covers, have dinner and go to bed one last time in Lagarde.

But we woke before dawn, which is a reasonably simple thing to do as it's dawn around half past seven, If it hadn't been for the hint of fog and the stillness of the sunrise we may even have felt cheated by the early rising.  With so little left to do, the morning was sort of frittered away sorting photos and updating blogs, and Jacques suggested that we do dinner instead of lunch, as the restaurant would be a bit quieter then.  

He was smiling as he spoke.  It's been a two year labour of love getting it together and he's somewhere between terribly pleased and just plain terrified that in these early stages of the teething troubles that the crowds can bring.

So we did, and it was splendid, although much to his chagrin or is that big grin, not much less busy than earlier in the day.

Our bags are packed, we're ready to go.

Now we just have to work out how to sleep till a reasonable hour tomorrow


Saturday, September 24, 2011


It's completely uncharacteristic but I think we're almost done.  All we have to do is to pull on the covers now nicely custom fitted, lock the door and leave.

OK, we do have to pack and have a couple of lunches and a dinner or two, but by and large the boat is looking like something that's had an awful lot of attention this year, which is actually quite gratifying, because it has.  It's been hobby stuff of course, but it will be interesting now that the back of the major renovation is complete, to see what crops up next year.  There's always painting the outside I suppose, and a window or two are still awaiting sealant, but they can wait.

The photo by the way, is for Gerry who needed to see the new floor.  It and a few others suitably annotated may be viewed on our Flickr Album by clicking this link  for those interested.  Beware though, the album also contains the original "purchase" photos from 2009.

In summary, we've sorted most of the potential mechanical failures, replaced the 12v wiring, installed 230v wiring, a fridge, a washing machine, a new hot water unit, new flooring, replaced some plumbing, cleaned everything, made new floor hatch surrounds, stripped and relacquered internal timbers, rebuilt the aft cabin, and probably a few other little tasks, all while having a jolly good time in our spare time!

We aren't sure though, whether we are ready to tackle renovations on the house any time soon.  I don't think we'll be finished those for Christmas!

Now to pack the bags and off to dinner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Some people, it must be said, go to ridiculous extremes to make things ship shape.  Just exactly why every speck of dust must be removed from a boat which is about to be left outside in sleet and snow for six months, and will be covered in all manner of fungus when we return, has never been explained to me, but that is just the way it is.

Everything is almost ready, the outside has been scrubbed to within an inch of its life, we've stripped all the stain from the timber trims internally and given them a few coats of clear, I've finally found a solution for our steering inconsistencies, a few mechanical bits have been finished, we've made new covers for the boat, and our food supply looks as though it'll see us exactly through to the end.

Everything is sparkling, it feels as though we should just go somewhere.   (Boring before and after photographs will appear shortly on our Flickr stream - stay tuned.)

We are of course about to go somewhere, we are excited to be on the move, but can't bring ourselves to describe our destination as "home" exactly.   "Home" it is of course, but we are here and this is home too.

We have become migratory animals we think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Storm Looming

For the first few days after arriving back, we knew we had almost two weeks to clean up, pack up, do a few odd jobs and generally get ready to leave.

So we did what any sensible person would do in our situation.  We lay in bed till late, read books, made lists, had coffees, designed kitchens for house extensions, played on other people's boats and generally resisted the urge to move on every couple of days.   Each day was such a perfect replica of the one before that it seemed pointless writing about it even.

The date of our departure was getting closer, the list longer, a storm was brewing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home at last
Parroy - Xures - Lagarde

We were faced with eight kilometres to travel to the end of summer, and the sun was out, the sky blue and we couldn't think of a way to extend our journey any longer so we eventually slipped away from Parroy. Then we realised we hadn't really explored Xures. The reason for that is that there is little to explore, a handful of houses and a church, and it's not much more than a brisk walk from Lagarde in any case, but today seemed like the perfect time and place. Eventually, despite our best efforts to delay progress we happened upon Lagarde. Home. We were barely at our mooring before we were being called on to see progress on the house, and visit the new restaurant, and check out the boat next door. We hadn't even completed writing our list of jobs before we were being invited out to dinner. Yes. We were home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stalling the inevitable
Champigneulles - Parroy

We could have easily made it back to Lagarde by mid afternoon, but the day was overcast, and there were intermittent showers and we really had our heart set on finishing our season bathed in sunshine, returning triumphantly with the roof back so we stopped at Parroy, concerned that the six kilometres per hour or so we'd been moving at was a tad on the hectic pace anyway.

After all, we'd passed a boat today.


Monday, September 12, 2011


Now where was I?

Some have noticed a certain absence for a few weeks almost exactly, and that has been for a very good reason.   I've been completely slack.  Despite the date of this post, I am writing in restrospect.

It's just that as we were approaching Nancy we had but a day left on the water, so we started to slow down.   When the rowing scull overtook us on the inside, we knew the pace was close to right, but even so it would take barely two days to get back to our base.

After a small dose of hardware shopping we had enough supplies to keep us occupied for the next ten days or so, and reluctantly set off in pursuit of the rower.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Slow down, we're going too fast.
Pont-A-Mousson to Champigneulles

This is Sunday, the day that all of France and if our experience from a fortnight ago is anything to go by, half of Germany as well, goes fishing.

There being no point in leaving in the fog, we had another coffee and wandered over to town to buy baguettes and perhaps a little something for morning tea.

Often one can find the bakery early in the morning by simply walking in the opposite direction to the line of baguettes walking to homes various, but occasionally in places such as this, things become a little more complicated. There is a shop in Pont-A-Mousson we quite like and as we cross the bridge that gives the town its name, the line of happy customers walking towards us laden with pastries and bread confirm that we are not alone. The equally large number of similarly people walking in the same direction as we are tends to give one the the impression that healthy competition exists in town, and this on a day when most of the bakers and pastry cooks can be found sitting on the banks of the river with a fishing rod in hand.

We eventually putter off up the river, with coffee and escargot au chocolat, in hand, having suddenly and for no logical reason realised in the process of buying the bread that we have exactly two weeks until we begin our return journey to Australia.

We drop the throttle back a notch or two trying to prolong our time on the river, knowing that we could easily be in Nancy tonight, but we stop five kilometres short without really knowing why.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

On the road again

Some days it's just time to go.

The sun comes up, or in the case of today the fog lifts after breakfast, we look at each other and we just sort of can't find a reason for not moving, so we do. We don't always move exactly there and then of course, a long voyage entails provisions, it could be hours before we stop somewhere near a bakery after all.

We thought maybe we might stop at Ars-sur-Mosellle, and wander round the "Aqueduc roman" for a bit or stay at Corny-sur-Moselle and perhaps cycle back to Jouy-aux-Arches, but we pushed on past and took another photo from the water making a note to stop next time. Then we thought we might poke around Pagny-s-Moselle too but by the time we got there it really wasn't all that much further to Pont-A-Mousson and about that time a fitting in the water system popped off and made a valiant attempt at draining our entire tank into the bilge before we discovered it, so Pont-A-Mousson became a port of convenience as well.

Suddenly we can't escape the feeling that we are on our homeward journey, we have our head down and our tail up.

Perhaps tomorrow when it rains again, we'll feel differently.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A lot of glass

I was going to describe in some detail how we hauled the plywood out from under the mattress and across to the picnic shelter at the rowing club, where we fiddled for a couple of hours dismantling our table and making an exact mock up of how we thought a new small table might be, and then decided we would be much happier not changing the original setup anyway, but there really isn't anything too interesting in any of that.

I wasn't going to mention that after lunch we finally succumbed to the lure of the illuminated monster that quietly guards our harbour.

Curiosity finally got the better of us so we popped inside the cathedral for a squzz. We don't normally do cathedrals unless there's something particularly significant about the architecture or the goings on inside, or we feel vaguely curious. We just don't have any desire to "tick the box" marked "cathedral" in every city we visit.

Through happenstance we often find something quite surprising or even satisfying when we do, and so it was today, having studiously avoided reading anything of the history of the building, and for that matter having studiously avoided the entrance even, when we finally succumbed we were surprised, to say the least.

When one finds oneself somewhat unexpectedly in a forty five metre high room (I'm sure it's not that tall outside) lined with six and a half thousand square metres of stained glass, one finds it difficult to maintain one's composure, let alone to keep up one's terribly blasé demeanour about such things. Yes, yes the Chagall windows are a wonder, as are the others produced by various artists over a five hundred year period, but heck this thing is more than a thousand years old. A thousand!

It almost makes me wish I'd listened during those history of Architecture lectures.


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Time Walk

We don't do museums often, and when we do it's because there's something we want to see.

In Metz we just had a suspicion that the museum, with building work interrupted in 1937 by the inconvenient discovery of an entire Roman Bath complex in the exact spot that engineers had suggested would be perfect for the building's foundations, may indeed be an ideal spot to shelter from the by now quite tiresome wind.

There's something definitely in the air that suggests that we may have seen the last of summer, although in a day or two we will have forgotten the wind, but not the museum.

The very fact that the history of three millennia can be recorded with artefacts collected within walking distance of their current resting place is thought provoking enough, but the story is beautifully told in a completely modern three dimensional game of snakes and ladders through which one makes a clear and logical progression through time, beginning a long time ago, descending through the Baths of only two millennia's vintage and arriving back near the entrance somewhere in the middle of the eighteenth century, after which one can wander round town and see the impact of "recent" history for oneself.

On the way back to the boat we told the harbour master we thought we'd hang around a few more days.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Looking out

I have been told that public servants are not allowed to look out of the windows of their offices in the mornings, to leave them something to do in the afternoon. One could ask how, with nothing to do, I can't even find time to report on the day's goings on on the day concerned.  I think it's the stress.

The front cabin floor you see has been decidedly spongy. We put off looking at it last year, deciding that one champignon garden at a time is enough to deal with, concentrated our efforts on reclaiming the after berth, and put the forward piece away for a rainy day. All year we've carried two half-sheets of ply under our mattress as a contingency against the time when we might peek under the vinyl, and it has to be said we've been delaying it all in the hope that it might just magically go away.

Today it was rainy, and time to attack the monster.

Strangely, extraordinarily even as these things go, after fighting with the vinyl for half an hour or so, when the ugly truth was revealed it did not lead to some massive amount of unplanned demolition and new construction. The floor had been repaired some years ago, and was in perfect condition, a few small adjustments to the access panels involving the use of a hammer and a screw driver and the sponginess was gone!

By the end of the day I hadn't been ashore for two days, another visit to the market by her good self had set the scene for a long and relaxed evening, and we have new flooring from stem to stern.

  (Yes Gerry, I'll take some photos as soon as I've put the tools away!)


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Another Work Day

Fortunately the wind was roaring again this morning, so there really wasn't any point in getting out of bed.

Ahh yes, the floor.

Well it's just that it involved work.  Scraping and cutting and bending and so on, and the wind was blowing cool and probably ill and if she hadn't made me a cup of coffee while I lay in bed reading, and announced she was off to forage in the market and it would be nice if there had been a start by the time she got back, there may not have been.

Today it was the middle bit, two simple panels, each less than a metre square, with two thirds of the old vinyl already freed from the sub base, albeit after a few hours of prising and scraping over the last week.  How hard could it possibly be?

Six or maybe even eight hours hard, that's how hard!

But now we have only the front cabin to go, and the basket of goodies that turned into dinner was superb!

Monday, September 05, 2011


We've driven in Metz a few times, and even with the aid of electronic wizardry just can't get the hang of it. Almost every street starts off being one-way and ends up one-way in entirely the other direction, which rules out things like having a destination in mind when one sets off, it's better just to wait and see where one ends up. Of course when one does end up the wrong way, one can choose to turn left, into the face of oncoming traffic as directed by the road arrows, or right, into someone's living room as directed by the arrows on the posts.

Our day went a bit like the road markings actually, we couldn't really work out what we wanted to do.

The weather was verging on indifferent, so we thought it might be a perfect day to spend in the museum. There again it was a perfect day to remain snug, warm and horizontal until at least museum opening time, and perhaps a little later I could battle for a time with the bits of old floor vinyl which still haven't released their grip on the plywood.

By the time we sorted ourselves our, completed our ablutions, put working on the floor off for another day, had coffee, wondered whether we might get a bus to see if we could find a mattress shop, and myriad other things, it was far too late to contemplate museums, so we wandered to the market to find something for dinner, but it was closed of course, this being Monday.

I suspect that tomorrow we shall begin this process again.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Centre Pompidou - Metz

I wondered about posting this photograph almost as much as I wondered about "the impression that the structure is exploding encourages the viewer to move not just with their eyes, but with their whole body".

I wish I'd thought of that, but by the time I got to that bit, which refers to a work "focussed on the ascendency of architecture, particularly museum architecture, over art", I'd read through three pages of justification for what is an acclaimed piece of architecture yet two of the four galleries could not be found by the busloads of german tourists arriving on a relatively quiet Sunday. It was on the fourth and fifth pages where the solution was to be found: the exhibitions on the first two levels were "until 04.07.11" a somewhat disappointing realisation after one had paid if not a king's ransom, at least the price of two coffees to wander through the interior of a gallery that by design, was half closed!

The visit though, was inspirational, the few dozen pieces on display truly modern masterpieces and it would be trite to suggest to those who clearly know a lot about this sort of thing, that perhaps signs are easier to read if they aren't in white on a white background.


Saturday, September 03, 2011

A lot of hot air

Things seemed to be going exactly according to plan as far as we could tell, the little hand was on seven and for a time we had been quite oblivious to that fact, eyes wide shut under the comfort of the doona, but then the roar of the montgolfiere interrupted our repose.

The hot air balloon festival is held every two years, although this year seems to be some sort of a minor fill-in with just thirty or so roaring into life a few metres from our berth each morning and evening before drifting silently away over the distant hills. Given the proximity, and despite the rather uncivilised time, it seemed to us that we would be in some way remiss not to drag on some more suitable attire and attend the proceedings for a bit as one by one the crew brought out their petrol powered fans to inflate their craft.

There's something strangely addictive about watching one after the other rise to a point where they can't possibly clear the trees, but they do, before falling almost back into the water, but they don't, then finally finding their ascendency and drifting off to the horizon each following the other as if joined by string.

As a mode of transport they make no sense at all, yet  at the same time if one can live with the randomness of the journey they make absolutely perfect sense.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Last year we discovered that we liked Metz a lot, and resolved to spend much more time here in future so true to our word we shall stay put for the time being.

Once more alone, we have suddenly had time to realise that we will be once again heading south this month and were suddenly hit by an urgent need to do absolutely nothing.

Metz is not an easy place to do that though, so we tried to fit it in between coffee with Gary and Robyn and drinks with Charles and Judy and ice cream in the cafe on the square, when we weren't poking in some of the older parts of town or foraging in the covered market for some artisanal sausage or an olive pickled in who knows what, or simply sitting watching the pilots take their hot air balloons over the hills and far away as the sun descended.

Even when civilised people are in bed, the illuminated fountains beckon with their music and laser lights and rear projection.

Perhaps tomorrow we shall try to do not quite so little.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

A good idea at the time

It may be nice, we thought, to deliver Shell and Jules to their German destination barely a hundred kilometres away. With visions of meandering through some of those little German villages we'd been going too fast to stop at as we'd tootled past during the week at seven kilometres per hour, we wandered down to the station and hired a car..

The reality of romantic meandering by car is that the romance is tempered somewhat by narrow streets and really fast superhighways and "no standing" signs and "I don't think we should have turned there" coming from somewhere behind the driver's right ear. If ships approaching silently from behind at ten kilometres per hour are something worthy of being alert, then cars approaching at three hundred are close to terrifying. It must be age which makes me think that the 130kph speed limit in France is something quite civli really.

Having entirely failed to meander, we abandoned all hope of a romantic tour, discharged our passengers, and after a fine lunch, slotted the little van into the fast lane home.

Autumn has begun and we have things to do, places to see, and in Metz we are unlikely to run out of either in whatever time we may allot to the task.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The big guys
Thionville - Metz

Lost in all the ramblings of fog and scenery, I may have failed to note that the river is a reasonably serious transportation route. Ships that fit exactly into the length of the one hundred and forty metre long locks travel at twice our speed in places and seem to sneak up and spring out from behind trees. They aren't terrifying, but at the same time they don't have to shout "boo!" to frighten us, they don't have brakes and we simply try to stay somewhere where they are not.

We waited in Thionville this morning while "Sonny" rumbled through the town, fully laden with more than three thousand tonnes of something very heavy on board.

We figured, correctly as it turned out that we'd be able to keep up as the way ahead was relatively shallow and twisty, and since he is a "littly", a mere one hundred and ten metres in length, there would be plenty of room in the back of the locks for us. We marvel at the skill of these guys, placing all one hundred and ten metres exactly parallel with the side of the lock, rarely touching, while almost twelve metres away, there is another side sitting exactly equidistant from the wall.

From our perspective though, ten metres away there is a propellor of several metres diameter and we understand what a fly must feel as it is about to be swatted by an elephant's tail.

We quite enjoy following the big boys though, no one can surprise us from behind, and they know what's happening ahead, so we wait when they wait as ships come round blind corners.

Three locks and a few hours later we are in Metz, and by midnight summer will be over.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I think I can see France!
Luxembourg - Thionville

So this is Luxembourg!

The very name somehow conjures images of something special, like Monaco somehow one expects casinos and marble and big black Mercedes Benzes full of glamour or something. I don't know why, and since the river runs at least thirty kilometres from the urban part of the principality, the mystery of what it really looks like shall remain somewhere beyond the morning fog.

What we can say is that fuel is very cheap, and a lot of people own speed boats.

It seems that this is just one more place we'll have to revisit when time permits, but for now we are running out of summer, and Shell and Jules need to be on their way in a day or so, so today we'll be back in France.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Saarburg - Luxembourg

Saarburg is just one large lock from the junction of the rivers Saar and Moselle.

Many people have heard of a grape based product that originates in the Moselle region, and while that region is in France, and when we turned left we were still in Germany, we can confirm that a lot of that very same grape based product is produced on the river's banks for a very long way indeed.

At seven kilometres per hour, battling ferocious winds and a little current all day, castles, cute little villages and grape vines merged into a sort of very slow, very scenic and very repetitive blur somewhat reminiscent of a scene from a well known television programme of last century, in which Gondolas seemed to appear at every turn.

Should we visit this ruin we would ask ourselves, or wait for the next in a hundred metres or so? The question was largely rhetorical, as for reasons known only to the authorities in charge of these things, for almost the entire length of river until the Luxembourg border, no parking signs are the only thing that is in greater proliferation than grape vines.

Perhaps next time we shall summon the energy to explore by bike!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quite Beautiful

The scrawl in fountain pen across the green bit on the map said "Quite Beautiful" and given the complete accuracy of the scrawls thus far, we didn't doubt for a minute that it would be.

We quietly slipped away in the wee small hours, not much after eight, with only the sound of the frying bacon and tomato on our stove, and of course the dulcet tone of Mr Perkins breaking the morning still. There were we, alone on the river with Mr P's belches mingling with the morning mist, except for the company a thousand or so fisherman lining the banks, and one or two or maybe three hotel barges, wondering whether what we were seeing was actually "quite beautiful", or was it really better described in more superlatives?

"Stunning", perhaps.

Tuppence's notes against the town of Saarburg, not to be at all confused with the Sarrebourg that we are quite familiar with, indicated that it was quite pretty, but "a bit touristy", and therefore we thought it may well be to be exactly the right place to rest, perhaps after a ride on the chairlift, a climb to the top of the castle turret, a visit to the Mill, and a monster ice-cream beside the mill stream.

Here, I think Tuppence and we may diverge in our descriptions, sure, there were tourists there, and a chairlift too, but actually we think she had it right earlier in the day.

"Quite Beautiful"


Saturday, August 27, 2011

On Reflection

The plan was that we would depart first thing in the morning, before the cacophony of the day began, and in a rare reversal of our usual form, everything unfolded in perfect accord with the plan.

Not having experienced this sort of thing before, we then realised we didn't actually have a plan for this eventuality, so we just sort of drifted off into the morning calm. Our plans may have been scant, but even they were not quite so scant as our charts, which comprised mostly photocopies from borrowed books and a few notes in the edge column of my diary.

We would find the Sarre from all accounts to be a beautiful spot, and indeed that's how it turned out to be, although with few places to stop should that desire beset us, we decided to strike out for a harbour about half way to it's junction with the Moselle, a small Boat Club harbour with a note written against it in Tuppence's hand which said " harbour master speaks English and sells beer".

It didn't say that he smokes cigars, nor that there would almost certainly be a large thunderstorm later in the day which will catch one if one felt like exploring the town, but he did and there was.


Friday, August 26, 2011


Shelley and Julian have a propensity for bringing rain with them. Not just drizzle, cold icy storms which come from nowhere.

We should have known better than to leave the boat wearing shorts and sunglasses for the ten minute walk to the station. At precisely the minute their train was due, the lights on the platforms suddenly switched on and things took a decided turn towards damp, with a touch of ice.

Sarrbrucken is a bit bustling for our taste, or at least the mooring is. The city centre itself is wonderfully clean with everything in it's place, lined with huge department stores and there is a buzz about it that is subdued and almost dignified, but we are moored beside what could perhaps most accurately be described as a four lane freeway. We are moored astern of a barge with the rather ominous name "the Piraterie" which on a Saturday night hosts an ACDC tribute band long into the hours of Sunday apparently.

The lawn beside our mooring is a coloured testament to party time as well, with what at first glance appears to be confetti but on closer inspection turns out to be beer bottle tops, tomorrow night may not be too peaceful.

We think we can probably do better, so first thing tomorrow now that we once again have a full compliment of crew aboard, we shall resume on our cruise down the Sarre.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Postcard from across the border

Despite the changes that had been creeping up on us for days, and for that matter the fact that we have been travelling down a river whose centre marks the border between France and Germany, it was with something of a jolt that we suddenly found ourselves in an entirely different country.

We can no longer read the signs, nor ask for directions, everything is subtly different, from the way people dress to the size of the ice cream servings at the snack bars in the city. It's fascinating to us that we should be so fascinated.

The hum of the crowds drinking and eating in the outdoor cafes is different, noisier or louder or quieter or what we can't quite work it out, but it is different.

We don't take the changes we see between villages in France for granted by any means, and while we are becoming more familiar with the produce of the various regions we are surprised a little to come to the realisation that that environment is no longer foreign to us.

This brief excursion beyond familiar borders has again given us new eyes

We really should get out more.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Food to spare

When we eventually drifted into Sarreguemines we found Jørn and Birgit moored just below the entrance to the Casino, with a space in front of them which seemed exactly the same size as Joyeux.

This was fortuitous as with the departure of the other two we have sufficient food on board to survive a lengthy siege, and in the absence of any signs of insurgent action a lengthy dinner was planned instead, to celebrate our last night in France (for a week at least), our last night in the canal system (for two weeks at least while we move onto the rivers) and anything else we could think of during the course of the evening.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Things are a changing

By late morning we were alone once more and the blanket of silence which descends after such sudden departures took no time in arriving. I's a pleasant silence though and once again alone, we will have more time to smell the flowers I suppose, not that much time is needed because the last displays of summer are everywhere in the villages.

Celine and Dume were surprised to say the least, when in Niderviller they bought bread and were told the price in German, and that was forty kilometres back. Now within a few breaths of the border the changes are much less subtle. It's not just the town names and the beer billboards written in this new foreign language, the architecture is different the gardens show a different disposition, flower boxes seem heavier, not more beautiful by any means, but the planting and character is distinctively different to the arrangement and colours in Alsace.

We aren't in Germany yet, but we can feel it coming.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A new plan

Dume and Celine's world had been turned upside down with the receipt of some news overnight which required them to travel home as soon as possible.

One of the interesting things about travelling by water is that "as soon as possible" is often not as soon as one would think it might be, and while we could have retraced our steps of the previous day, it seemed to us all that since they were not at all keen on driving through the night, the logical thing to do would be to continue to Mittersheim where they could perhaps find a connection back to the car and drive home tomorrow.

The only problem with that plan was that Mittersheim was a mere ship lift, two tunnels, fourteen locks and forty-seven kilometres away and achieving all of that in one day, while entirely possible, is equally entirely contrary to our well worn cruising mantra.

But one must do what one must do, so we bit the bullet and set off on what I think would have been a pretty fair imitation of day in the life of a hire boat had it not been for the stops for walks beside the lakes or the picnics with the roof back in the shade.

Note: photo taken tomorrow in Sarralbe(!).


Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the road again
Saverne - Lutzelbourg

By late afternoon, if well after six counts as afternoon, we had only travelled fourteen kilometres.

We had battled hail storms and heat and had watched and coached and coaxed a lovely German family on their first day on a fourteen metre hire boat as they attempted to enter each of the sixteen locks backwards sideways and in every other direction but through the gates. The storms had wreaked havoc on the electrical and telecommunication systems for the locks, and having wreaked their havoc had left us in steaming sunshine with winds gusting from all directions making conditions challenging enough without having to wait for a small eternity at each lock for the gallant keeper to arrive to sort out the situation.

When we finally decided that we could endure no more, or possibly it was the closure of the waterways at seven that made the decision for us, but none the less, when it was made we happened to be in the midst of a beautifully silent patch of forest, just near a bridge that land-bound tourists pay actual money to see.



Saturday, August 20, 2011


It wasn't lack of energy which delayed my rising today, it was lack ability to bend my legs at the middle bit. Perhaps when one gets to a certain age, one must be careful after all, not to overdo things like laying of floors in confined spaces.

Whatever the reason, I have often smiled as i have walked past the Roman runner statues in the Chateau grounds, the ones which by dint of structural inadequacy ended up running in one high heeled shoe. I have wondered as I have smiled at how they must have felt after running a marathon with footwear such as they have.

Now I think I have a fair idea.

Eventually I stopped sooking around and warmed up my knee, in time to tell Celine and Dume they were going to take us for a drive to see the sights of Saverne instead of walking.

I am now wondering about how I may delay replacing the remaining two sections of flooring, perhaps for a year or two.


Friday, August 19, 2011


Surprisingly, with the passage of just one night, and the bleariness that comes with rising before ten, the trims around the hatches looked almost acceptable this morning.

Deciding that no remedial work was required set the scene for the day today, a scene which involved me gluing numbers of small pieces of vinyl together to make one big piece.

In theory this is a very simple exercise, I've seen the video tape and it only takes an hour and a bit to do an entire room the size of a small convention centre. Perhaps it was something I missed in the translation. In a very small space divided by a door with no fewer than four separate access hatches, all of which by now are neatly trimmed with aluminium, I can confirm that only three tiles will not need trimming of some kind.

It had been a longish day, but by the time we adjourned to Jørn and Birgit's boat for the evening, I was feeling quietly satisfied. Actually I was feeling as quietly satisfied as the bloke that won the big cup at the horsey "do" last weekend.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

With the smell of progress in the air, or perhaps it was smell of the goat's cheese in the market, hanging in an unusually sultry Queensland sort of air, the work on the trims progressed slowly but surely.

With each slip of my hacksaw or drill my French seemed to improve.  By day's end the frames were in place, more a testament to some semblance of patience which I seem to have learned in latter years than craftsmanship. "Workmanlike" is probably an apt description, but we are ready to "do" the floor.

We have an entire galley and aft cabin floor that looks decidedly ugly and bare except for the shiny new trims, and a clear idea of what lies ahead tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back in harness

Eventually, hunger forced us from our repose at quite a respectable hour, and we wondered if we would find the energy to venture beyond the four walls of our bunk, and then we wondered why we wonder things like that.  (didn't I say that yesterday?  Oops!)

The answer lay in a rapidly disappearing week, one in which I had planned (there's that word again) to achieve great things in terms of work on the boat, and at the end of which Celine and Dume would arrive to spend some time with us.

On balance, we were at the point where if things didn't get started, perhaps they'd be best left undone. Time to get back on the Merry Go Round.

Knowing the potential enormity of the task, and having a mind full of the things that could go wrong, I reluctantly began removing the old aluminium trim from the floor hatches ready to make the new ones.

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