Legends from our own lunchtimes

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.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another Day of Rest

Eventually, hunger forced us from our repose in time for morning tea had there been someone awake to offer it to us, and we wondered if we would ever again find the energy to venture beyond the four walls of our bunk. It seems that running around after our Miss One had taken an enormous toll!

We really had intended to do a bit of work on the boat while we were waiting in Saverne, We've had the floor tiles stored neatly in its nethers for four months while sufficient energy has been accumulating to start the job, but each time we checked our energy meters they seemed to be saying, "Why not just hang around and read a book?"

Thanks to Matt and Abbie and a surprise package from Jane waiting for us in London, the stocks of interesting reading material had increased by a thousand pages or so and it would be rude of us not to take advantage while we had the chance.

So we read all day, not leaving the boat at all as far as I can tell except to have a discussion long into the evening with the Danish couple moored beside us.


Monday, August 15, 2011

A rose by any other name

It was a Public Holiday in Saverne today, and the temperature was a bit too warm to take advantage of our "stay in bed till the temperature gets to double figures" rule to provide prolonged horizontality, so we adapted it to be the "stay in bed till the time gets to double figures" rule, which produced a much more satisfactory outcome.

We had heard a rumour that Saverne's world famous rose gardens would be open for free today, and since an opportunity to save 2€ doesn't come along every day we found the impetus we needed to drag ourselves away from our bunk, and muster the energy to walk the hundred metres or so to the gates of the garden.

Once inside, we found roses, lots of them which is I suppose exactly what we expected to find in an apparently world famous rose garden. Admittedly it is late in the season and many were past their peak, but there was not a plant which didn't have some sign of bloom hanging sometimes precariously from it.

Unlike last year when our journey of discovery did not take place until the onset of winter itself and resulted in a discovery of rose stems by the hundred and not much else, we were able to ramble among the beds mumbling things like "that's pretty" so the casual observer would actually clearly gain the impression that we had a genuine interest in each specimen.

In truth, we cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as "rose fanciers", nor even "flower fanciers" particularly, but they were colourful, it got us out for a bit, and we didn't have far to travel to get home for our afternoon snooze.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Horses for courses

This weekend there is a Concourse for horse-drawn vehicles at the Chateau. It's a two day event and on Saturday night there is a big party with incredibly loud music, which, out of deference to travel-weary neighbours is turned off at midnight exactly, about four minutes before the cathedral bells, which are apparently running four minutes late, strike midnight.

Last night was the first time I have been woken by those bells, and I suspect, since I was awake during the applause as the band concluded it's last set and was certainly not awake prior to the bells, that I must have been asleep for precisely four minutes.

Today we thought we'd walk across and see what the fuss was about.

We'd have a bit of a rest first we thought, and maybe read a bit, and put a load or two through the wash, perhaps we should read a bit more, or maybe have a snooze.

By five we were in synch and ready to go, arriving just in time for the presentation of trophies, having cleverly avoided.

The chap who won the big cup seemed very pleased with himself, but actually it seemed as though a fun time was had by all.   We watched until they packed up the load speakers, just to be sure we would be having an earlier night.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wandering aimlessly through parts of the city familiar and not, did nothing to soften our resolve to spend a lot more time here. It's seems to be like some sort of addiction, the more we have of it, the more we need, but for now we had been away for too long and home beckoned.

We both experienced the faintest flutter of butterflies in our stomach as we boarded the express to Nancy. This was interesting, perhaps even remarkable as for a few years neither of us have had a sense of "homecoming" nor even "adventure" during our travels, just a feeling that we were on another leg of our continuing journey, yet now we were wishing the journey away.

There was no need for that of course, the train was quite happy to convey us at far greater speed than any supercar owner could contemplate.   For a brief moment I felt sorry for the Ferrari we left in our wake, wondering if the owner knew we were racing.

Almost three hours, and a quiet coffee in Nancy between trains later, we found ourselves sitting quietly around the table, at home, wondering what our next move will be.


Friday, August 12, 2011


There have been books written about Paris of course, and songs sung and movies made too, lots of them, so there is little point in rabbiting on about how it sort of eats into the corner's of one's psyche other than to note that we are yet to find the sort of Parisian whose reputation for arrogance and ferocity in defence of all things related to their way of life and speaking their mother tongue is legendary.

While checking the schedule at the station before changing trains we were ambushed by a man in a hurry, on his way to we know not where, but he had heard us speaking English and was determined to help despite our abundant lack of helplessness. He cross-examined us as to our intentions, walked us briskly to the ticket window, exclaimed loudly in angst when it was closed, pushed us across to the ticket machine and before we could object had inserted his own credit card, scrolling through screens at stroboscopic pace while simultaneously punching buttons, and telling us which platform we needed. In less than a flash he had thrust the tickets into our hands and began to race off in the direction from which he had come still shouting instructions.

I chased after him and pushed a note into his hand to cover the cost of the tickets, and thanked him as I trotted alongside.

Welcome to Paris.

As we sat that evening with Jayne and Peter in the twilight in the courtyard of an Italian Restaurant run by an Indian Family who spoke perfect English, surrounded by a community comprising predominantly Algerians, the world suddenly seemed impossibly small.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the Move Again
London - Paris

The little red book that confirms my Britishness was put to the test this morning as we departed my other country of citizenship.

"How long will you be away?" asked the nice lady from the British Border Agency in a marked contrast to the stern cross examination we underwent last year as the officers attempted to prise some illegal immigration intent out of us.

We explained that we were really only here to visit our kids for a bit, but we might flit by again in a month or two for a day or so on our way back to Oz.

About then she noticed our French residency cards and told us with a hopeful laugh that she was ready to be adopted.

As the Eurostar departed we pinched ourselves as we often do at the surreality of our situation, wondering just how we came to be doing what we do, delighted that we are, tucked away our London Transport Oyster Cards and rummaged for some Metro Tickets that were yet to be validated.

What day is it?


Ah yes, this must be Paris.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011


We mostly seem to be on the other side of the world when family birthdays are celebrated, so when the opportunity comes to share in a bit of Birthday Cake it's worth hanging around for, specially when Julian bakes it.

 As we shared Shelley's birthday Pad Thai in the bustling little place attached to a tiny pub in Notting Hill, I wondered, probably because we'd spent a bit of time standing outside her house yesterday, if the Queen knew what she was missing.

Life on the streets seemed to have returned to their usual as we walked home which is probably not surprising with over a thousand "rioters" now in temporary incarceration.   It did cross my mind that they may well have achieved part of their objective to have a taste of the life of the privileged classes, after all they were probably enjoying the same view of life that the Royal Family enjoys each day.

Through iron bars.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Christopher Robin went down with Alice

More than thirty years have passed since we last took leave of Her Majesty to inspect her guards as they changed shift, and one of us decided it was time we popped off once again to ensure that all was well.

We are not well practiced at this being tourists lark, having to be places on time, joining queues and so on, but had done our homework and the website had assured us that if we arrived fifteen minutes early all would be well.

Indeed it was, and we took our place around one thousand people back from where one could actually see anything, and proceeded to watch the backs of heads various for the next thirty minutes, progressing towards the fence ever so slowly as those in front, realising they would never actually get a reasonable view, wisely departed. Interestingly, those in the after positions seemed to become increasingly optimistic as they crept toward a position four or five people from their target, only to realise that the reason that the first four or five rows of people hadn't actually left was that they could see the action, and were therefore unlikely to give up their spots.

We didn't care. We were free to do whatever we wanted. If that involved looking at the back of someone's head for thirty minutes while somewhere in the distance out of sight a band worked its way through Neil Diamond's greatest hits, well so be it.

By the time even we had run out of patience and turned to leave, the million or so people who had been behind us, were of course in front of us. In front of us in the queue no matter in which direction we turned. In front of us they were, at the Cabinet War Rooms, at Westminster Abbey, at Southbank, at Covent Garden, and Picadilly.

So we found a restaurant they didn't know about and did lunch.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Too Close to Home

It was nearly ten thirty and time we were leaving when the phone rang.

"Dad, we think you should get a cab home, things are getting a bit interesting outside. It's not safe."

Deep down we knew that we would have been fine on the Tube, change to a bus in Kensington High Street, walk from Notting Hill to Queensway and home. Anyway, we were miles from last night's troubles.

As we bade our farewells, we laughed with Paul and Bertha at the fact that we were old enough to have children who worried about us, quietly revelling in their concern for us, and we wandered out into the night to do as we were told. The taxi driver was quite sombre when we told him where we lived. "Queensway is closed, and I'll have to go around Notting Hill, they're all over it there", he said. "I don't know where this is going to end".

The streets were eerily almost deserted, few cars, fewer pedestrians, Policemen in pairs guarding electronics shops as we passed by. The radio broadcast sounded like the natural disaster reports from home, except this disaster wasn't natural.

Fortunately for all, the damage in "our" neck of the woods was petty, but the atmosphere that pervaded that night was one of incredulity.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Something in the Air

Sundays are a great day for having a long breakfast and just hanging around. We really should have gone for a walk or just sat in Hyde Park or popped off to a museum I suppose, but we've done a lot of that of late, and a day of nothingness seemed quite appropriate. Actually a day of nothingness was substantially overdue.

Of course when nothingness comes with a bottomless of broadband internet it turns into somethingness, so while one read, and two went out for coffee and a bit of respite from the old folk, the other found himself knee deep in gigabytes. By mid afternoon new operating system, updated GPS mapping, an application or two which may or may not prove helpful in time, a new system startup burned, everything backed up in triplicate and the absolute sense of a day completely gone with nothing to remember it by.

We did have an appointment down Regent Street early evening though, to see what the nice people at the Apple Store could do with Shell and Jules' old black computer. As it turned out, they didn't quite know either but if it wasn't going to be inexpensive they promised they'd do nothing which seemed like a reasonable compromise.

As we walked home we did notice that something was definitely awry in old London Town. In quiet backstreets of Paddington the friendly Bobbies were dressed to kill.

"Strange", we thought, and ambled home through the leafy dusk.

Clearly they knew something that we did not, but we didn't give it a second thought.

(Note: in the interests of staying within the bounds of the anti terrorism act, the photograph is from another day and another location!)


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Toy Museum

It was Saturday, but we all slept in as though it was Sunday. None of this places to go things to do people to see stuff. We'd all done quite enough of that for one week thanks very much.

Eventually we stirred and decided among ourselves that we really should get out and about, so we took a vote among ourselves and followed Jules curiously to the other side of town. As events panned out in the next day or two the "other" side of town, the one where one imagines that just below the surface, evil lurks round every corner, was to become international news. It's safe enough in broad daylight just before Saturday lunchtime of course, specially when one finds oneself just before lunchtime at the Museum of Childhood.

We'd heard reports, or to be less diplomatic, Julian had heard reports that it was pretty cool, stuffed full of toys of all kinds.

I suspect that we to a person would agree that while it was indeed stuffed full of toys some of which did have a certain charm.  The museum really amounted to a comprehensive albeit apparently semi haphazard collection of old toys stuffed into glass cases.  How very fifties!

Some of the items in the collection were quite new, many not, and one of them dates as far as anyone can tell from 1,300BC, which makes it quite old,  but in terms of display and presentation I suspect that we all felt there is probably nothing that a small environmental catastrophe wouldn't do to improve the whole thing.

Fortunately for the collection, sadly for the presentation, toy museums don't seem to be high on the looters' list of things to do for now at least, and days later the much needed catastrophe has thus far failed to materialise.


Friday, August 05, 2011

Have they really gone?

There's no way of describing the vacuum that is created when a bunch of people with whom one has been confined for a few weeks disappears in to thin air.

When one of the people concerned is a little over one year old, the silence in that void is absolutely deafening. For an instant, when the shuttle arrived to transport them away, we were sad that it had all come so abruptly to an end.

Then were at a loss, constantly checking beneath our feet an over our shoulder to ensure we weren't about to step on her.

Even the statue of Physical Energy in Hyde park seemed to have stopped mid salad to check that all is well.   By tomorrow they will be back where they started, and with just a little effort, we will be winding back to a far more sensible cruising pace.

It will be quiet though.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

It's a bit tiring really.

Feeling decidedly as though yesterdays plan had been a good one until we changed it, we left the tourists head off with their guide to see the rest of London.

 Not for us another mad uncivilised dash around the place.

A gentle walk for groceries, an hour or two playing with Uncle Julian's Jenga blocks and a couple of long sleeps seemed to be a perfect solution to passing a bit of time in company with one's grand daughter.

She in turn thought exactly the same as her elders, and when we eventually woke it was barely in time for tea.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

We had decided that arriving in London before the shops were open would be a good thing, as it would allow the reunited sisters to belt around like mad things catching up on a few years of separation while we could simply spend another relaxing day in the company of Miss Lilly.

In coming to that conclusion we probably hadn't taken into account that after a long day of exploration we'd have to leave our hotel at a terribly indecent hour, in darkness during a heavy storm, and by the time we'd travelled as sub-sonic speeds for a couple of hours, we'd feel as though we'd been travelling for a week.

For reasons that seem difficult to explain even with the benefit of hindsight, with Miss Lily dressed in her English finery with her new Guard bear we diverged from our plan.

For reasons inexplicable except that it seemed like a good idea at the time, we accompanied the intervening generation across Hyde Park, past the Serpentine and the Albert Hall, past the Princess Di fountain onto double decker buses into the City itself, around Fleet Street and Covent Garden, through pubs that had last been renovated in the seventeenth century, past cathedrals and towers and spires, via most of the places on the monopoly board.

I'm glad Shelley had decided there was no point in trying to take them to see everything on the first day.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Madding Crowd

If a day running around with one's children in Paris is a lot of fun, a day without them, left in the care of one's granddaughter is even better. We walked and walked and walked did. We and Lily, to places she may not have thought to visit on her own.

While her parents were dashing about trying to fill the gaps in yesterday's overview, we were ambling through parks and gardens, past docks and homeless people living in tents under bridges, well away from the beaten path of the tourist coaches.

Occasionally we'd pop into the Metro and pop out somewhere completely unexpected, for the better part staying clear of the throngs of summer tourists who seemed to be hanging from every monument, or if they weren't hanging from, hanging round making zany poses for the benefit of the camera. Two days in Paris is a lifetime too little we concluded, and steeled our resolve to bring the boat and spend more time here next year, a lot more time.


Monday, August 01, 2011


A day spent as a tour guide skimming over the major attractions of one of the world's most beautiful cities in perfect summer weather offers many highlights, wandering along the Seine, a stroll up the Champs Elisses, a climb to the top of the Arch de Triumphe, a sit in the shade of the Eiffel Tower.

The second best I think is the look of intense fascination on the face of a one-and-a-bit year old, when one crushes a soft drink can underfoot. This of course was carried out with some flair by the grandfather, ensuring a satisfying "crunch" accompanied each deft move of his size elevens, in one swift move reducing the can to a mere fraction of its former volume before disposing of it thoughtfully.

The highlight of the day though, was Miss Lily's continuing efforts thereafter to reproduce that crunch on every leaf, cigarette butt, lolly wrapper or chewing gum dag she came across.

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