Thursday, September 27, 2012
Even after a few hours sleep there seemed to be more grandchildren around than we remembered.
We counted them again, and there are still just three, but they have become faster and more wriggly and cleverer in our absence. Perhaps they have become noisier as well. We can't work out if all the hugs and cuddles are for their benefit or ours, and we don't really care.
They took us off to the nature reserve to try to walk off the northern hemisphere, but as they scampered along the boardwalk, the colours seemed even more disorienting.
We quietly bade them farewell and slowly made our way north to make an attempt at recovery from jetlag in the silence of our own company.
No doubt firmly in its clutches, one of us made a rash and uncharacteristic decision that he would attempt to cook a nice cup of tea for the other as she remained blissfully recumbent at some part of the early morn.
With unfocussed eyes he managed to fill the kettle and place it on the gas cooker. His practiced hands reached to the left for the ignition switch, and groped a couple of times until the nuero-transmitters of his brain manage to send a message back that on the boat, he would have been correct, but at home the switch is on the right. With a gentle click-woof the burner ignited, and with kettle in place he turned his back to find the teabags.
The kitchen became enveloped in a dull orange flashing glow. He turned to find the electric kettle which in fairness had until that point been quite similar in shape to the one the he had used daily on the boat, somewhat ablaze.
After carefully writing "Kettle" on the shopping list, he decided it was time for his journal to take a short break, lest even more foolishness be inadvertently recorded.
at 10:33 pm
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
We liken the Singapore wait in the airline lounge to being in the Restaurant at the end of the universe. We try to balance that confusion that comes with not knowing whether we are coming or going with the familiarity of our surrounds, but it is to no avail.
Whenever we are there, our life flashes in front of us as our minds try unsuccessfully to come to grips with the fact that it has been six months since last we passed, and six more until we will be back. We shower and try to relax while at the same time struggling to shuffle the various parts of our lives so that we may deal its cards in their new order.
Have we left the bilge pump on in the boat?
Where did we put the spare car keys in the house?
Despite running over a thousand questions like these, the answers don't come readily to mind, so we board our flight, settle back in our seats, wait our time, lose our night and a day and in our semi-conscious state, walk out through customs in Brisbane one more time.
It's very bright, the sun. It feels as though it might get hotter too.
Everything is as brown as we want to remember it, but no matter how familiar we try to convince ourselves that we are with these colours, the khakis and beiges of the bush are once again a novelty to our spinning senses as we drive along the motorway.
We are back.
But are we home?
at 10:11 pm
It seems too soon to be on our way, we know we have been here a while but the usual signs of autumn have not yet appeared and we feel a bit short changed by the lack of colour other than green in the vegetation. There should be flurries of golden leaves on the streets, and trees tinged with red which can be photographed against clear blue skies, but there aren't.
If we were birds we would probably not yet be flying south. Perhaps we'd be caught here for winter as a result of the late change in season.
But we aren't and we are flying tonight although we did spend much of the day plotting and planning a return in winter, as though the delay in the start of the season has actually affected us as well. Perhaps we will think differently tomorrow when we have straightened ourselves after the flight.
at 6:31 am
Monday, September 24, 2012
A month's rain in London is not particularly a lot by the standards by which we usually measure rainfall, but it comes apparently with quite a lot of wind and nowhere near as much temperature as one would prefer if one is to be out and about for the morning, so we stayed indoors and practiced packing our bags to make sure that all was in readiness for tomorrow.
As it turned out the afternoon wasn't much better because it takes quite some time to deliver a month's rainfall, and the growing pile of ruined umbrellas along the footpaths was perhaps suggesting that we would be well advised not to go too far into the outdoors ourselves.
So we didn't.
at 6:27 am
Sunday, September 23, 2012
This morning in terms of weather was as forgettable as yesterday was memorable. It made the setting for a perfect Sunday really, a good lie in, a late breakfast, a short time braving the elements followed by an even later lunch.
It was a pleasant day indeed, but we just can't help but get the feeling that perhaps yesterday we really did drink the last of the summer wine.
at 6:26 am
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Jules was appointed chief sifter, and after a good deal of doing so produced a list of four buildings worthy of our presence and an itinerary to go with it.
The Bank of England on this fine sunny morning was to be our first stop. We arrived a polite time after the doors were opened to find ourselves standing in a line which was even longer than the one for the iPhone released earlier in the week. If one were to study the above photograph very carefully, one can just make out a red light at the intersection, just a few hundred people ahead, between us and it. When eventually we reached that point, travelling at a rate of twenty-five persons per ten minutes, we had just a further one and a half city blocks and two and a half hours to wait before reaching the entrance. At that point we suspected that we may not quite make the other buildings on our schedule this day.
The Bank of England is only open to the public on four occasions each year, or at least bits of it that are normally not open to the public are. If one is fortunate enough to decide to visit on one of those four days, and if perchance the day does not bring with it precipitation, one may even be allowed to traipse through the office of the governor himself, and accompanied by a nice lady guide and a rather large "no photos allowed please sir," security guard, that is exactly what we did.
Of course by the time we had finished being enthralled by the banter of our guide to say nothing of the countless artefacts and historical snippets, sufficient time had elapsed for us to abandon all hope of visiting any other building that day, but we'd already had our money's worth even in the absence of any samples being handed out.
at 6:24 am
Friday, September 21, 2012
On our return to Waterloo later in the day I didn't see anyone else with the sort of interest I had in finding vents in the glass roof, nor for that matter could I see any open.
I suspect that's why the tomatoes don't grow all that well on the platforms.
at 6:23 am
Thursday, September 20, 2012
For a retired geologist, a really good thing about living in Smeatharpe apart from the seclusion and the garden and the sheep next door is that is is located only a few tens of miles from the famous Jurassic Coast, the site of one of the richest deposits of fossils from the Jurassic Era ever found. This is apparently some form of heaven for those with a geological bent. To show us just what there was to get excited about we were guided along the beach at Seatown in search of ammonite fossils and a pub.
The beach had been thoughtfully designed using nicely rounded stones to protect users from gravel rash should they fall. After a decent few minutes scratching around the ammonites remained hidden from us but fortunately we had more luck with the pub.
at 12:04 am
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
We had not planned to stay in London for more than a night, but as we completed our carefully timed commute into the station at Waterloo and inserted our credit card into the machine to pick up our pre-paid tickets, it seemed as though we may have to change those plans.
The machine had taken it on itself to reject our credit card. I suspect that the little man in the machine does this from time to time simply to relieve the boredom. "Oh yes" he thinks, "these people have twenty minutes up their sleeves, let's have a bit of fun."
Without tickets it is rather difficult to board a train, so we made some haste towards the ticket office where we discovered a queue which reached until next Tuesday at least, full of people with whom the little man had been having similar jokes.
Not quite ready to admit defeat, I excused myself several dozen times as I squirmed my way along the snaking ribbon-defined line until I reached the front, where I explained my presence to the bemused young couple who had no doubt been waiting since last Easter. I'm not sure if it was out of kindness or whether they still hadn't quite come to terms with my sudden arrival, but whatever the reason they allowed me to slip across to the first available teller, where our tickets were issued without further fuss.
In the middle of the afternoon we were having a quiet coffee in the familiar surrounds of David and Barbara's living room, except we weren't north of Caboolture, we were in Smeatharpe.
at 6:01 pm
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
We can never work out why no matter how much time is available to complete a task the size of the task expands to consume it all. Today was no exception although with as little fuss as we can remember, we finally had the boat locked, next year's list (now grown to several volumes) tucked safely away ready for a new round of procrastination, finalised our farewells and were on our way with minutes to spare.
"Minutes" is a relative term, it means if all goes well as indeed it did today, we would be at the station before the earlier train had departed. That connection would of course leave us time for a coffee and perhaps the last Tart Citron of summer during our change in Nancy, and of course there's the three hour wait in Paris and what has become a sort of obligatory argument with the nice British Border people who seem to have it in their heads that we are somehow plotting to sneak in unannounced and settle somewhere dreary.
We had thought, oddly enough that procuring a passport to confirm my Citizenship of that country may reduce the venom with which we are interrogated, but it seems that it puts the other of us under even greater suspicion. Perhaps it's the lack of Australian Visa in my British Passport which tends to make them suspect that we don't ever intend to return to the Antipodes.
As always, logic and a bit of common sense prevailed and by dinner time we had been reunited with Shelley and Jules in London.
at 5:57 pm
Monday, September 17, 2012
One of us, the one who has been working solidly towards this day for several weeks, managed a timely entry into the bed, the other was still paying for his sins of the past week well into the early hours of the morning.
Both our minds seem to be on where we are going now, rather than where we are. Today I slipped into the wrong side of the car to drive away, thinking of life on the other side of the world, surprised to find the steering wheel missing.
at 4:29 am
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I suppose it has to be as we have only two more sleeps until we leave, and I suspect they won't be terribly long ones, but at least the winter tarps are on. If we had to I suppose we could leave the inside looking as though a cyclone has hit it, and most of the contents would remain dry for winter.
This is usually considered to be a good thing.
Perhaps there is time for one more brief round of social engagements after all.
at 4:26 am
Saturday, September 15, 2012
For that matter, given that we'd been in Lagarde for more than a week we weren't at all sure why there was still so much to do, but we did know that we'd had a wonderful few days off, and as we watched the sun rise, the notion that less than twelve hours ago we had been standing in snow on a mountain top, seemed like some sort of abstract concept.
Finally we had reached a point where the wintering process had to be addressed.
Still, there was no need to panic, if we were able to complete about a day's worth of work every hour, we would leave on time, without fuss.
at 6:39 pm
Friday, September 14, 2012
Over breakfast however, Erika, with a knowing grin assured us that the weather would be perfectly clear on Stockhorn today, and she even volunteered to accompany us up the mountain if we were inclined to take a little bit of a detour on our way back to France.
This was clearly a cleverly laid trap. She knew that even in the unlikely event that one of us was determined to get back and get stuck in to work, the other was simply not going to forgive him if we did. The temptation was too great, and besides we reasoned, if we'd already put off some of our work till next year, there was probably no reason for us not to put off more, and we weren't going to wait another thirty years for the weather to clear.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and I am yet to take a picture that can adequately convey the emotion we felt while standing in the snow at the top of Stockhorn.
Perhaps it will suffice to say "We will return".
at 6:34 pm
Thursday, September 13, 2012
No matter how much we wanted to convince ourselves otherwise, there was absolutely no point in attempting to visit the mountain tops today. The cloud and mist would have provided a view akin to staying in bed with the sheets over our head.
Fortunately for us, Erika had kindly taken matters in hand by planning a few distractions as soon as she became aware of the forecast. We would, she wisely decided, escort Graham and Jill on the train to Berne and ensure they caught their connection. She would then deftly guide us over Berne's high spots, we'd have a bite to eat along the way and return to Thun in time to drive to the Abegg-Stifftung Textile Museum, where Isabelle had kindly offered to host our own private guided tour.
It was settled then.
This being Switzerland, things went exactly to plan, and we had ample stops for refreshments between to boot, and Berne was as wonderful as we remembered and the Museum (and our guide) simply sublime. For reasons that we could not understand, perhaps it was the weather, maybe the concentration or the altitude (after all we are sea level dwellers!), or just that we had been burning the candle at both ends for some time, by the day's end we were starting to flag.
Erika however is clearly made of sterner stuff, for almost as soon as we had arrived home she and Christian departed for their evening engagement, while we tired little teddy bears took ourselves off to bed at a time when most four years olds would have been happy to have been still wandering around the living room.
Tomorrow we would be totally refreshed, leave first thing, be back at the boat by noon, ready to work all afternoon.
at 6:33 pm
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
The weather was gracious enough to clear for long enough to snap a solitary photograph as evidence before closing in for the day but one of us was beside herself with excitement. The Swiss among us, and Graham and Jill for that matter who were still recovering from the shock of us turning up apparently unannounced, and having spent enough time in Victoria and seen enough of the cold in days gone by to feel well satiated were somewhat bemused by the size of the grin and the constant scurrying to the verandah to ensure that the mountains were still there, and when they were that there was snow atop them.
We had no doubt that had she would have climbed them had we let her, but cold, wet, cloudy days with snow on the mountains are best spent in coffee shops and in the higher country with Erika's artist and weaver friends, and the evenings are better spent on birthday celebrations well into the night.
Tomorrow the forecast has no promise of better conditions, but we have seen enough for one day. We were last in Switzerland thirty years ago. We spent some time in Berne and around the corner from here in Interlaken waiting for the weather to clear so that we could visit the tops of the mountains, but it never did.
We were living a repeat of that earlier visit, but I suspect we will remember Erika's birthday from this day on.
at 5:39 am
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
This was not the best morning in the life of a motorway. Accidents and roadworks caused bottlenecks and lengthy delays across all four hundred kilometres, and the Mazda with it's six speed gearbox and console placed exactly where one's elbow wants to be to change into three of them was exactly unsuitable for this sort of driving, reinforcing my first impressions of it. By the time we had found the the house with the green shutters behind the meadow with the two goats we were well and truly ready to stop.
We knew that Graham and Jill were also visiting, and Erika had gone to some trouble to keep news of our impending visit from them, and our sudden appearance on the wrong side of the world actually appeared to take their breath away for a time.
Our breath had long gone. It was the view. Across the lake we could just make out the outline of what we thought were distant mountains, even in the overcast and rain we could sense that we were in something of a special place. When the weather clears we were assured, there would be alps.
We knew we were in a different world when the bells on the church clock next door rang. Exactly on the hour. They are, explained Christian with only the faintest hint of a grin in response to our bemusement, timed to the second, synchronised with the atomic clock in Zürich.
Welcome to Switzerland.
at 5:35 am
Monday, September 10, 2012
It's getting a bit hard to find excuses not to knuckle down now though, but it's also hard to do anything other than just sit watching with a cup of coffee in hand while the mist is gently rises from the water each morning.
When it all boiled down, the morning promised a day that was too good to waste working for all of it, so we reshuffled the dreaded list just a little bit more, and spent the day getting a few things together and talking about what we had do when we got back from Switzerland. We were, after all looking forward just a little to our respite, even more after receiving Erika's instructions on how to find their place.
"The house with the green shutters, beside the church and behind the meadow with two goats in it."
If we had ever had pre-conceived ideas of what constituted a house in Switzerland, I fairly sure a meadow with two goats would have been involved.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Sunday is of course national "have lunch with family day", and if one doesn't have family of the related kind then family of the friends kind is good enough, and our family here were kind enough to ensure that we didn't have to sit out the whole of lunch time alone. The whole of lunch time is not a fixed or even finite measure of course. In many families it seems to wind up some time around four in the afternoon and we have often taken a great deal of pleasure in watching several generations appear from nowhere dressed in their Sunday best to perambulate along the waterfront.
At Jacques and Maggie's place however, by four we are barely through the aperitifs by that time, so the other families were forced to walk without our accompaniment.
Besides, we had to conserve our energy for work tomorrow.
at 7:12 am
Saturday, September 08, 2012
At the appointed hour last evening we wandered up to Lagarde's finest restaurant if it's only one, where we met as something of a committee to discuss what further items we might be able to strike from our list in order to get it all done in the ever reducing time available. There was a suggestion that given a certain lack of progress in item's marked "him" that perhaps a reshuffling of responsibilities may be the only way of actually getting anything done at all. Apparently according to them, as indeed pretty much every teacher that ever had the privilege of providing me with an education was heard to say, my mind doesn't seem to be on the task in hand.
So while this morning they left us for the hundredth time this year, I went for a long drive in the countryside to think about all of that, and of course to purchase some new tarpaulins to make a start on the boat's winter covers.
at 7:10 am
Friday, September 07, 2012
A start simply had to be made, so while the morning mist was still trying to decide what it was going to do with the rest of the day, one of us braved the chill and began scrubbing the decks while the other quite sensibly under the circumstances was tucked soundly in the warmth enjoying her morning cup of tea, no doubt planning a super human effort for the rest of the day.
Fortunately for me respite came almost immediately in the form of Jacques requesting assistance in picking up one of the company 2CV's from the workshop in the next town. I returned to the boat as soon as I was able of course, just before lunch as a matter of fact, to find substantial progress had been made on the list marked "hers", and before there was time to say "whoops, I'll do better this afternoon" it was time to head off in the other direction to pick up the hire car.
The hire car company, bless them, had presented us with an upgrade. It was apparently one of Japan's finest, but to say first impressions were disappointing would be the most polite way of summarising my feelings on the drive home. Sixty five years separated the two cars I'd driven today, one of them was a delight as we cruised along the winding country roads. It had a sunroof, low profile tyres, supple suspension, predictable roadholding and ergonomically placed gear shift, the other was a brand new Mazda.
at 7:36 am
Thursday, September 06, 2012
After a quick review of what we need to do we discovered that we needed precisely twelve and a quarter day's to have the boat packed and all the end of summer jobs done and we had exactly eleven days until we leave. This was not entirely good news, so we decided to have a wander round the village to consider our predicament.
Lagarde is not a large village, and wandering around it is not actually the sort of pastime which is conducive to passing a lot of time, unless of course one bumps into Bill, who bounded over with his eyes all asparkle to greet us with the news that he'd (finally) published his first book. It's an ebook of course, self published and by his own admission apparently not very good, but it is done. News like that deserves a celebration of course, and we spent a terribly long time that evening interrogating him about the details of the story and trying to work out how we could get hold of a signed copy of the first edition. I suspect had the red wine not been in moderation, there may have been an attempt to take a Black Marker Pen to the computer screen.
When all that was done, we had ten days remaining, and no matter how hard we looked and from which angle, still twelve and a half days worth of work to do.
For the curious or even the adventurous perhaps, Bill's book is available for Kindle only at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Revelation-Destinys-Children-ebook/dp/B0093LMROY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348034389&sr=8-1
at 7:29 am
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
When we left, spring had not taken hold, and despite the cooler mornings now with us autumn has not quite arrived yet despite some of the trees doing their best to be part of the party. In the past the temperature alone has informed us that it was time to head south, but this time we seem to be remarkably acclimatised.
We have a week and a half to pack and finish our cleaning and maintenance chores, so today we just breathed deeply and sat around to gather our strength for the party tonight, and for making the lists that form an inevitable part of our departure routine.
at 7:22 am
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
It looks as though the scene is set for another in our continuous round of farewells as Ron and Robin arrived again yesterday to await the arrival of some visitors, and will follow us up the canal in a few days. They plan to travel past us, to reunite once again a week or two later, creating opportunities for two further bouts of celebration and still another two farewells. Their boat is of the variety know as a "double ender", it has a canoe stern, which means from some angles it can be difficult to tell whether it is coming or going and lately it's been coming and going so often it probably doesn't matter anyway.
This morning it was time for our Tuesday farewell before we set out to waters beyond the salt factories and grain loaders at Dombasle into the countryside once more. We actually quite enjoy meandering past and under the factories, watching the dust and steam escaping from joints in the pipes, and the grain falling into ships loading below the conveyors, but many we have met seem to think that the industry is somehow unattractive.
I thought I'd pop this picture in to demonstrate just how wrong they are.
Perhaps we like it because it ends so abruptly, forming a gateway to the Lorraine countryside, a gateway to home. Once we have them in our aft windows, we have less than a day of travel before our season ends, but we always get the hankering to linger just a little longer, so once again what could have been a day became two and we moored in Parroy, just a few kilometres from home for one last night alone in the countryside.
Monday, September 03, 2012
This thought was prompted by the reality that we no longer have large bicycles. The small ones with their infinitely adjustable geometry did prove to be a perfect means of retracing our journey of a few days past, along the tow path by the lock staircase, where this being Monday morning, almost every shopkeeper in Nancy was out walking, cycling or simply sitting fishing, except perhaps for the one community minded soul who was content planting a little patch near one of the bikeway entry points.
The girls in our number, perhaps not giving a thought to the time of week, decided to seek solace in our absence, in one or perhaps three of the patchwork shops in the centre of the village. Given that patchwork shopkeepers are no different to any other kind, the solace seeking mission was singularly unsuccessful and apparently morphed into a coffee seeking mission instead.
But whatever the case, solace was found, bicycle adventures completed, a long luncheon had and once again farewells bade and the silence that comes with departure descended on the boat once again.
Or was, we wondered, that muffled sound approaching in the distance that of a recently installed air conditioning unit?
at 6:44 pm
Sunday, September 02, 2012
It therefore came as no surprise to discover that it is also the home of…. err…
at 6:16 pm
Saturday, September 01, 2012
They were to be our last visitors for the year, another of those signs that our summer is coming to an end.
As we waited in the familiarity of the station the reality of how close our return journey is struck home. The station in Nancy is in many ways our gateway between Paris and the boat. It is here that we wait for our change of train on the first or last leg of our travels, either filled with the excitement of a new journey or weary with jetlag and willing the past twenty four hours to disappear from our memories in the shortest possible time. We have a corner in the coffee shop we call our own, our own club lounge if you will where we while away the hour or minutes with one "last" snack.
For all of that familiarity though, I can't say that we had ever particularly noticed that the platforms are painted red.
That of course gave us a head start on the rest of the town which was just as well really, as we only had a couple of days.
at 6:07 pm