Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Changeover day they call it in the charter industry.

It's the day when last week's guests check-out, and there's a frantic rush to clean and re-provision before next week's lot arrive, but the water was turned off in the port so we couldn't wash and there really didn't seem to be any point at all in getting frantic or for that matter in rushing either.

Instead, we wandered round Bar for a while, idly taking photographs of the preparations for the coming weekend's Renaissance Festival, trying terribly hard not to be taunted by the streets filled with decorations which looked for all the world like washing strung on clothes lines.

Alas the more we walked, the more obvious the taunts appeared to be, until all one of us could think of was what needed doing in the time remaining until Shell's arrival, and we were both forced therefore, to turn around and get something done in the way of cleaning, polishing and generally moving things from where they were to somewhere else and back again.

Tomorrow there will be water and we will wash, perhaps then it will be our socks hanging above the streets.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Long after the storm the rain remained.

The drops were just big enough to drown out the sound of the transformers, but not big enough to actually wet anything properly. Normally one would even consider staying in bed until it had gone away, but normally one wouldn't have a deadline.

It wasn't really proper rain in any case, just the useless sort of misty stuff that normally fills the boat with condensation, but after days like yesterday the twenty degree decrease in temperature filled the boat with big wide smiles instead.

We had places to go, things to do, people to see, a train to catch and people to put on it, and we had till tomorrow to do that, and it was really quite pleasant travelling in the damp, for yours truly at any rate. With Graham borrowing my rain jacket and the Captain in hers, there seemed little point in three of us getting wet.

Eventually the sun arrived in Bar-le-Duc a few minutes before we did and the smiles grew wider still.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Note to file:

When one is terribly comfortable under a cool shady tree and the forecast for tomorrow is "too hot to do anything", one should listen to the forecast. In the event that one absolutely must move on for any reason whatsoever, one can be assured that there will be delays at locks, breakages, barges and the sun will beat down relentlessly, then when one has almost had enough, the temperature will soar further and more locks will break down stretching a three hour journey to six or even eight.

Then, once everyone cries "enough" and the only shade one can find is being cast by high tension power lines, (but one is quite slender and it's better than nothing), if there are Canadians around it is likely that the heat will have begun to melt their brains and they will introduce a brain teasing game that probably no one in the world has ever solved, which will combine with the buzz of the not too distant transformers to leave everyone sleepless until the storm arrives.


Monday, June 27, 2011


As anyone who knows about this stuff will tell you what goes up, must come down. In the event of wanting to return to where one has come from on a canal system, the reverse is also true, and we have a good deal of going up to do over the next few weeks.

Fortunately this process means that there is a certain familiarity with the route so that if for instance the day dawns bright and clear and hot and humid, a lot like a summer's day at home, we have a fair idea of where to find the perfect spot to spend the afternoon. That is how we came to be sitting in the shade of a tree, all afternoon ,with Al and Sunny joining us in the shade, our snooze only interrupted by the sound of the water flowing over the lock and the birds above.

At one point I reminded myself that it's traditional to take a long walk late on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, it being Monday we could just sit and chat and read and wonder whether or not we would be leaving in the morning without having to feel guilty about not raising a sweat.


Sunday, June 26, 2011


Tomorrow we will begin to ascend the seventy locks we have come down since negotiating the Mavauges tunnel, taking care all the way to ensure that we have no broken wives to contend with, although now that Graham and Iris are with us even that shouldn't be a problem as we have a spare on board.

Today however, was Sunday and as has been our habit starting Sunday last, in the not unexpected complete absence of any activity whatsoever in the town, we made our way to the Scottish hamburger shop for a dose of what the locals call weefee, a magic invisible material which is found in some cafes and other public spaces and connects computers to the internet. This in turn enabled a few Skype calls to our nearest and dearest, including the Mother midway through her first solo day since leaving hospital.

Almost more intriguing was that it enabled us to view ourselves on television in Germany for the first time. Julian's translation (thanks to Mr Google) indicates that it seems to say something like, "Well aren't they having a good time," which of course is exactly what we are having.

Thankfully there didn't appear to be any in depth analysis of how successfully we'd integrated our habits with those of the local populace, so we didn't have to feel perturbed about taking our late afternoon stroll quite a good deal of time before lunch, and substituting it (on the advice of our elders of course) for a late afternoon snooze on the grass in the cool of a shady tree. Perhaps four minutes and twenty-one seconds of us on television wasn't enough to tell the whole story after all.

For the vaguely curious or simply entirely deranged, the television clip in question may be viewed here for a short time.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tricks for younger players

Vitry is a crossroads in the canal system and the rail network, and the highways in France. It's actually suffered a bit as a result of this, having been entirely obliterated on more than one occasion in the heat of battle. In a canal system it is difficult to find someone who is not either coming from the direction one has just been, or heading towards it, there are no other choices. But here, with four points of entry and exit, we all seem to be coming from somewhere else and going in the opposite direction.

We are with an eclectic bunch most of whom speak English, but those who can't, have dogs who seem to get the gist of most conversations. All of them seem to be in a rush to dispel the myths previously published about the town and the harbour by staying a few days more.

Indeed, the town is quiet, clean and tidy, it could even be described as attractive in our book. The harbour is actually quite secluded, private and quite peaceful when the shipyard isn't at work or the school is in recess, which unsurprisingly is the case for both on the weekend.

But for the next week we have our own on board entertainment system and are happy to share them with anyone who doesn't like the quiet.

We now have Graham and Iris, in the midst of their final European Fling after almost six years. They are old enough and wise enough to sleep in cool of the afternoon so they can keep us all up at night.

"A trick for young players" they say.


Friday, June 24, 2011


We had been warned about Vitry le Francois.

If it had a listing in the Hitchiker's guide to the Galaxy, according to what we had heard it would be something like; "Noisy, unsafe, and generally unfriendly."

After trying to find the perfect photograph of a heron all these years, not once in all that time had one remained in position long enough to pass, until today a few kilometres from our destination. It remained arrogantly still until we were abreast of it, when it pointed it's derriere squarely in our direction and simultaneously deposited it's breakfast in the canal. If the wildlife was this welcoming, what, we wondered would the people be like?

It was therefore with some trepidation we found the drainage ditch that serves as the entrance to the small pleasure boat basin, and cautiously poked our way in to its innermost sanctum. It's just a tiny pond adjoining a park, between a school and a shipyard and is conveniently quite invisible from the main navigation channel.  There is room for just eight and once inside we have no choice but to get along with those who have preceded us.

I'm sure at this stage if it's possible to leave, nor after our first impression whether we want to.  Certainly no one else, having found there way in, is in a hurry to get out again.

We were welcomed by many hands rushing out to assist us berth, and by the Capitaine herself, a remarkable young lady who, in the absence of a common language communicates by twinkling eye and knows every ship-board dog by name. She arrived laden with brochures, maps and descriptions of how to find all the important bits of the town and its transport system and reminded us that she wasn't there for lunch of course.

It's early days, but I suspect that the "Guide" will need to be amended in short order.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Almost perfect!

When one of us woke the sun was shining and there was blue sky.

It had been a week since we'd seen our shadows and the promise of an even more glorious day than the dull and rainy ones of the past week did bring a certain spring into the step, but by the time I'd showered and her eyes were going through the throes of their opening process, normal programming had resumed and the sky was a barely threatening shade of grey.

Nonplussed we dawdled downstream for another few hours, with not much to do but watch the birds in the forest, watch the cows in the fields, wonder why so many cows lie on their sides (no idea but they look as if they are dead), if it would rain on us in the locks (it didn't), what we would have for lunch (ham and cheese on a toasted piece of yesterday's baguette) and whether given that things were actually quite pleasant, we should push on for a bit after lunch (no).

We wondered how it is that the perfect days are never memorable.

We even wondered if we'd ever get the perfect snap of a flying heron (probably not, but we'll keep trying).

And we specially wondered if we'd remember to phone the Grand Matriarch late tonight to wish her a happy 85th birthday!  (Yep!)


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


"We will stay here today" our Dutch neighbour of the ten hours, twenty-eight locks and forty-four kilometre day said cheerily.

"My wife is broken," hastening to add; "Perhaps there were too many locks yesterday".

I nodded sympathetically, our own Mr Perkins had suffered that particular affliction on more than one occasion, so I knew how he felt.

I looked back at our tally of locks for yesterday, and glanced at a wife of my own who thankfully didn't appear to have even the slightest sign of breakage, and the sky which was definitely clearing for the first time in a week, and told him we'd probably move on and wished him all the best and hoped he could get his wife fixed quickly.

About half an hour into our journey, I was beginning to think that a broken wife might have been a reasonable alternative to what was undoubtedly about to happen. Usually at ten in the morning, one has no difficulty seeing things like lights on the shore, mostly because there aren't any. Usually at ten in the morning the sky is not a dark green-grey and doesn't blanket the entire day's supply of sunlight.

Usually at ten in the morning, a boat that is capable of making twelve kilometres an hour across a flat river, is not blown backwards while attempting to exit a lock.

Storms and boats make unhappy bedfellows, and for a short but quite exciting time we were forced to navigate in the face of a water cannon, in a narrow waterway, by ensuring that we couldn't see the shore on either side, reasoning quite correctly as it happens if we couldn't see it, we were unlikely to hit it, although we remained hopeful that at the same time there was no monster barge heading in the opposite direction with the same philosophy.

Thankfully neither we nor the boat were broken when the storm abated, and as we were exactly at the end of our travel in any case, we each settled down to a long afternoon with a good book.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going Slow

"Almost ten hours" replied the Dutchman to my question of how far he'd come today, "Ten hours, twenty-eight locks and forty-four kilometres".

I didn't know that was even possible. Actually I'm certain it isn't without a good deal of good fortune and a tiny bit of exceeding the speed limit, but it prompted me to calculate our own effort for the day: A lot under two hours, four locks, a lifting bridge and four kilometres - much more sensible I would have thought, and being snugged up in time for lunch has its merits as well, as indeed does having the ability to cycle back in the event of having left some precious object behind, and perhaps having a bit of day left for a neat little snooze should all the parties of the past week start to catch up.

Despite our bravado and denials, we have actually made a few plans for summer, most of them revolving around being in certain places to meet certain people and to deliver said certain people to other certain places en route.

We thought it would be smart to go hell for leather on our outbound journey, and have a much more relaxed time of it coming back, and to keep that plan in place there is this relentless drive to keep moving. Having had my curiosity well and truly piqued by the man with his head full of statistics, I thought I would calculate our own progress in the past month.

Four kilometres per day give or take.  So today was an exactly average day it appears.

It will be good to slow down.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Moving on.

We had decided on Saturday evening in the middle of dinner that we would move on Monday no matter what. Even after Malcolm and Janet decided that we should join they and the crew of Fidelite for lunch on Anthonia on Monday and we really wouldn't have time as lunch does tend to consume much of the day, as a committee we decided that a move may well be of a hundred metres or so is still a move.   To stick with our plan we would commute to lunch by boat.

But the day loomed wild and windy and damp again, and when the time came it just seemed so much easier not to move at all, so we remained tied firmly to our pontoon, donned our raincoats and walked to lunch. Xavier and Marie-therese had half the distance to commute, choosing also to walk, but with no propellor and propulsion for their barge provided temporarily by a monster outboard strapped to its rudder and no reverse gear to provide braking of any kind, none of us needed the excitement of them attempting to arrive by boat in any case.

Xavier did explain that his manoeuvring problems are somewhat exacerbated around we tourists by the fact the he only knows four words in English: "Hello", and "I love you", neither of which seem particularly conducive to having a stranger rush to his aid, but none the less, those four words, the former at the beginning of the day and the latter used more and more frequently as the afternoon did anything but "wear" on, stood him in good stead throughout the day.

Wild weather isn't conducive to moving in campercars either apparently, and we thought it only fair as we tiptoed quietly past Warwick and Julie's truck on our way home late in the afternoon, that we should spend five or six hours letting them know that tomorrow, we will definitely move on.




Sunday, June 19, 2011

There she is!

There's no way of avoiding this:  "It was a dark and stormy night", and when the day dawned it remained dark and stormy. Not ferocious huff and puff and blow your house down stormy, just the sort of sulking greyness that dares you to go outside so that it can turn another fire hose on for the exact amount of time you have no cover.

We did what all sensible people would have done when faced with such a situation. We stayed in bed until it was almost too late to phone all at home, but at the last minute made a mad dash for the Scottish hamburger store in search of free WiFi.

There we noticed them in the corner hunched over their computer, they had a familiar air, something in the texture of their skin perhaps we couldn't pick it, but wondered if they were from our island.

Hours later, amid a break in the showers a resounding "gidday" and the shadow of a gentlemen of my own stature would have filled the companion way had there been light enough to cast a shadow.

It was one of the "them" and they were Warwick and Julie and were, as we had guessed from "home" and for the rest of the day most of the night we ate and drank beverages of all descriptions (mostly described as "tea") and moved between our boat and their campercar and wondered why humans have a compulsion to walk to the end of jetties or through arcades or to climb the highest point just to see if they can see "home" from there.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


It's amazing how after a week of four people aboard, a small boat can seem completely empty after the departure of two, the silence almost echoes from one end to another and suddenly what seemed a few hours ago like a tiny space has ballooned once again to a more than adequate sufficency.

Tonight we sat in silence except of course for the bit when Malcolm and Janet were here and the silence disappeared for the whole evening.

Silence of course gives one time to reflect on what one has seen in the course of one's day, including Mr Richier's extraordinary "Death as a Skeleton" which is quite deservedly held as a brilliant example of Renaissance sculpture. A memorial to one Rene de Chalon, it presents him as he would appear three years after his death.

"It is sculpted in a deeply moving and radically new way" says the popular literature, "The figure is resolute and heroic, its right arm holding a shield and the other hand resting on the heart of the decaying human carcass which stands proudly, its hope clearly coming from heaven."

It is brilliant as indeed was he.

Five hundred years ago Richier captured the state of our Superannuation fund perfectly, as if to confirm that the ATO doesn't have a mortgage on retrospective interpretation!


Friday, June 17, 2011


I may have mentioned yesterday that indications are that Bar-le-Duc may have been here a while.

Any town in which the tourist information apologises that only a few relics exist from the Celtic era and that a proper history is only available from about the first century AD, is old in my assessment. This is one of those places and if we do say so ourselves in a mode of subtle self-congratulation it seems like an entirely suitable spot to sit quietly for a few days.

Even Mr Perkins has been on his best behaviour, partly I suspect because we haven't attempted to start him for a day or so but also no doubt because this is the place where the diesel engine was developed and he is doubtless in a suitably reverend mood.

Which brings me neatly to the Renaissance which pretty much had its roots in Bar-le-Duc a good hundred years or so before anyone else had thought of it, and by the time others around the place thought having a Renaissance would be a good idea, the local artisans were pretty much on top of their game, as indeed were their patrons. Even though half a millennium has elapsed since the likes of Mr Ligier put down his chisel for the last time, it's pretty hard not to be impressed with what they have left.

The layers of the history of this town, like the signs on its buildings, are indelibly superimposed over each other. Perhaps in a day or two we shall have managed a glimpse at the corners of some, but I suspect we will have moved on before getting a clear view of any.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


Two days in a row now we have been up at the crack of dawn, or what would have been the crack of dawn if the sun hadn't risen so early. One of the reasons for this, apart from having a monstrous sixteen kilometres to travel in the course of the day, is that our new friends on the good ship Anthonia are travelling the same route, and being larger than we and slower (in theory) they kindly suggested if we were to leave before them we would not be held up on their account.

So here we are in Bar-le-Duc, having only been held up by six or eight of the sixteen locks breaking down on the way, our destination for a few days respite. 

It's an old industrial town with not much of a history at all apparently as these things go, even the church only dates to the 12th century although there is a second century remnant of the original settlement somewhere, and a monument or two to the Michaux brothers who invented the pedal velocipede and a few thousand relics of the Renaissance scattered through the old town not counting the bits of the village rebuilt in that time.

The port is quite pleasant and leafy, and as quiet as a port can be when it is wedged between a freeway and a railway yard. Perhaps it is better described as "leafy" with the rest left to the imagination. Eddie the harbour master, is an Aussiphile just back from two years circumnavigating our island and he, perhaps only he in all of France would understand as we watched the setting sun reflecting on the sheet piling of the collector road opposite and were given to ask rhetorically:

"Ahhh, how's the serenity?"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Early Risers

"Just do what you would normally do".

The words of "our" television journalist Barbara kept ringing in my ears today as we continued our mad dash towards the railway station at Bar-le-Duc. We had at least eight kilometres or so to reach our overnight harbour at Ligny-en-Barrois, making it our third straight day on the run without a break.

We would normally have stopped of course, and poked around, poked again perhaps, bought a baguette then had a rest before continuing, or perhaps not continuing at all for a day or two, but as so many have warned us, having guests aboard imposes destinations and deadlines, and deadlines are there to be met. They aren't plans that can be thwarted, they are deadlines that meet up with railway schedules and force us to have contingencies and to get underway early in the morning when four pairs of eyes are barely open.

 Nine o'clock it was this morning. Nine!

Surprisingly the sun was up and we were able to get a few things done without groping around in the dark, and even more surprisingly "Melinda" was gone, having slipped away a few hours before, as quietly as 150 tons of steel can slip.

What we "normally do" definitely does not involve waking Mr Perkins at nine!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tonight we are moored a few kilometres from where in 200AD more than 15,000 people lived in the Roman Town of Nasium and as always when faced with the reality of a history that dates to even before Giligan's Island was on television, we are feeling just a little introspective and incredulous about the minuteness of the time we will spend on this planet and indeed with the minuteness of the recorded history of the country of our birth.

We are also reminded of the minuteness of our little ship as we lie beside a wall, neatly hemmed in by "Anthonia" and "Melinda", bless them, the only two other craft we have seen all day on twenty kilometres of waterway.  It's a well known fact that huddling together would keep us all warm for the night.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The end of the tunnel

After a long and arduous day in which we managed to cover an extraordinary twenty or so kilometres, we found ourselves moored in the shadow of a mountain, right where the shadow of another mountain would be if the sun were coming from a different direction. Dead ahead lay a big black hole, beyond which, if legend (or the map) were to believed lay another matching black hole some five kilometres away connected by a tube of equal blackness through which we will have to travel.

If we have packed sufficiently well for our voyage, tomorrow just after breakfast we will move through the void and arrive on the other side. There will be no report of the journey as I am fairly certain that the description of travelling through a five kilometre tube of stone and steel would test even the most enduring friendship. It would be something akin to watching a video of one's Mother's endoscopy I suspect.

Speaking of which, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, communication and in no small part to the resilience of herself, the Matriarch is to return home tomorrow, to continue her own journey in a different kind of tunnel.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This time we really meant it.  We would leave first thing.

After a bit of a wander through town and a quick visit to the museum and running a couple of loads of washing and lunch, "first thing" quickly arrived and in a puff of smoke we were off. To where we knew not, but in those first smokey minutes I wondered if one's fairy godmother whom legend has it makes an appearance in a similar puff,  is actually conveyed by a Perkins.

In an hour or two there would be a branch in the canal and we'd have to make a decision as to where we might be headed but until that time arrived here didn't seem to be any point in worrying about it too much.

It came as quite a surprise then, when at the last lock in the chain, still many kilometres from our decision point, the eclusier required information as to which direction we were headed. Despite my bravado when faced with conversation, my comprehension of his language could be described as somewhat less than "inadequate".

In times like these the contents of my skull reduce themselves to a quivering mass of something that invokes panic in my voice and so it was that the first town that came into my head was Vitry-en-Francois. Fortunately he understood my single stammered word, so "direction Vitry" it will be.

Another decision had been neatly made, without fuss or debate.

Now we just need to work out where Vitry is.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The pointy end

It doesn't matter how organised one tries to be, living and making things contemporaneously in a space that is smaller than a single car garage does induce some degree of disruption, but we are at the pointy end of our journey and it is fair to say that after our week of work, there was some serious putting away of stuff to be undertaken before we could resume our travels.

A days worth of putting away to be precise, which was exactly the amount of time we had until the train arrived carrying Sue and Silvia, less a bit for a small cycle to the Supermarket for a touch of providoring, and three or four minutes to walk to the station in the evening.

Being back in a "living" space as opposed to a "working" one, felt pretty darned good.

All other projects except perhaps for a bit of spit and polish, are on hold until further notice!


Friday, June 10, 2011

The week that was

Anyone who has been taking notes will have noted that there has been a dearth of posting to this blog of late. Each day this week seemed to pan out identically, it was Groundhog Day in France played with a Dutch accent.

"It's time to stop work now and have a drink/coffee/lunch/cinnamon biscuit" became a constant cry. Between daily visits to the hardware outfit, making sure Our Tony (who by mid week had decided to stay on for "just a few more nights") didn't waste away, and the constant interruption of the harbour guys who were plying me with proper tools and whatever work we could fit in between, we had had a gloriously productive, social, tiring and deadly boring to write about time.

Despite the distractions the after berth was now complete with it's new lining, timber trims, bookshelf and curtains and storage beneath the bed. We also have a tachometer installed, trims around the washing machine, more flooring in the bilge and the battery boxes have lids.  There is more to do of course, but it's all packed away now ready for when we next have a rush of blood to the head.

The Dutch fleet have gone in search of a source of replenishment of their cinnamon biscuits, we had a Birthday/farewell soire last night for Our Tony, and watched almost tearfully as he departed, and with aching bones and great satisfaction we now recommence normal programming.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

It Begins!

We managed to speak to the Mother on the phone, she seemed remarkably well and while there will be an undoubtedly long recuperation, she herself left no doubt that she has what it takes to make it happen.

A little relieved, the first day of serious work began, perhaps a little later than planned, as by now it was after lunch, but we had a beginning.

The first thing my father built each time we moved house was a work bench, and that seemed like a sensible place to start.

I built a work bench that slotted in to the aft cockpit, and we moved the bed back into the dining area ready to start fitting out the aft cabin, and it was just on three in the afternoon so we had five hours of daylight left in which to make real progress, when there was a knock on the window.

It was Paul, the Dutchman from the boat next door.

"It's time to stop work now and have a drink with us" he commanded.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Blowin' in the wind

The breeze that had accompanied us up the river seemed to blow the entire Dutch cruising fleet into Toul. We were unsure for a time if we hadn't overstepped the mark and ended up in Rotterdam.

We could guarantee if we played our cards right, that there'd be cinnamon biscuits and half decent coffee for smoko at least, so we set about making lists of things to make and do, and instead of rambling round the ramparts or inspecting the cathedral as would most visitors to the town, we wandered off together to browse the stock in the hardware supermarket not two kilometres away.

Friday, June 03, 2011

There is a season

With the Mother's condition stable, I can't say if it was watching the swans erect an evening barrier around their clutch or whether it was something else, but we made a decision.

We would have a break from the relentless pressures of cruising after tonight, after all we will have been on the go for two days and in the words of a once popular song, "there is a season, and a time for every purpose..."

Instead of moving, we would stay in Toul for a week or so, and simply work on the boat, alone, unimpeded by the constant interruptions of friends, visitors or schedules.

We broke the news to an incredulous Our Tony, who after a period of adjustment decided that it would be in both our interests if he stayed with us for a few days at least, "just in case".

Thursday, June 02, 2011


On edge, waiting for news from home, we decided to depart, after all we will only ever be a few hours from a car hire business or railway line should the worst outcome occur.

With Our Tony in the lead we pottered slowly east, stopping at the monster hardware store on the way intending to "get a few bits" to keep a couple of projects going over the coming weeks. We would travel together on the Moselle, for the next two days, then go of in our separate directions.

We had a plan, we were moving, and we felt the sort of freedom that people wax lyrical about when they have cast off the shackles of their daily lives and can go anywhere they want.

In a week or so we would be in Reims, tonight we were once again snugged in the tiny inlet that serves as a harbour in the unfortunately named (for people who read all signs in English) Liverdun.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

News from home

Today was the day.

Today we would cast off our mooring lines and began once again our directionless wandering. That was the plan in any case, but as it turned out when we looked out at the harbour, we were a bit tired even after rising late and having a couple of nice cups of coffee and it really didn't feel like the it was the day we would leave after all.

Today was the day we decided that tomorrow looked entirely more suitable.

Having made that decision it seemed only natural that we should do absolutely nothing all day. We hadn't done that in a while after all. Our Tony had intended as had we, to depart this day and after a quick conference he agreed that our idea was splendid, so together we walked to the marina office to pay for the extra day's rent.

Then, the phone rang.

On the other side of the world, my Mother, the bulletproof matriarch of the clan, three weeks shy of her eighty-fifth birthday, had suffered a stroke.

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