Legends from our own lunchtimes

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Small Party

The change that everyone around us had almost believed was on the way did come, but it didn't bring sunshine, instead, to relieve the constant drizzle it brought the odd heavy shower as well.

Despite all of that, or perhaps because of it, tonight had been declared party night, and the happy coincidence that there was a birthday to celebrate did not go unnoticed either.

When most people talk of making a meal of "leftovers" they talk in terms of re-heating the remnants of a meal that had been prepared earlier.   Joel has an altogether different view of what that term means.   To him, "leftovers" are anything that has not been bought at the supermarket deli-counter by ten past nine in the morning.

When he was preparing his feast for the four of us this evening, I am convinced that someone had forgotten to tell him that the other two hundred people had sent their apologies.  There is no doubt that had a week to consume his art, we could have stretched it to that, but as has become our habit with them around, we simply made the best we could of the situation until  the time when sensible people would find themselves in bed, and then we kept going for much, much longer until we had made at least a sizeable dent in his offerings.

Eventually they retreated into the early morning, and we were left dazed and wondering whether we would ever need to eat again.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Warming up!

Still the rain continues, and although we are pleased to have this very morning discarded our winter underwear it is probably more out of hope and electric heating than a reflection on the actual temperature outside.

Our wandering to find provisions today seemed more like traversing an elaborate maze than the village we know, as we jumped from building to arcade to enable us to be outdoors in the wet for as little time as possible.   

But it is definitely a little warmer outside too.

I wonder if it is a sign that a change is imminent.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Feeling Sorry.

I suppose I could have described our state of being this morning as "trapped".

Trapped by a complete lack of desire to get out of bed and to do anything at all.

For a long time we did just that, lying reading, talking, listening to the rain and thinking, but mostly just lying under the two doonas feeling sorry for those who weren't doing exactly what we were.   At some point late in the morning, not long before the afternoon really, we did venture out only to find that no one else actually had, and that if we were making any sound at all that would announce our stirring, it was probably everyone else that was feeling sorry for us.

Therefore, with only ourselves to feel sorry for we made a quick dash through deserted streets for some supplies, before retreating to the warmth of Joel and Cindy's motorhome, for what was to be a long evening accompanied only by the sounds of endless and not to make too fine a point of it, incessant rain.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How old is old?

There are lots of old things in France, and Auxonne is full of them.

The first time we moored below the fortifications of the village, where Napoleon spent a number of years of his early his military life, it all seemed so curious, so novel, like watching a documentary not being actually present.   Then as we walked through the village past the houses from the sixteenth century and the town hall from the fifteenth, the city gates from the fourteenth and the back bit of the church from the thirteenth, we began to feel that we had grown up with a seriously inadequate connection with the past and we wandered around in a sort of quizzical daze, feeling entirely historically inadequate.

Not long after that we passed through Port-d'-Atelier, the village that Attila the Hun used as an embarkation port in four hundred and fifty-two, and our heads began to spin to the extent that a good lie down was in order.

This time, things are different.

We didn't feel obliged to stop at Port-d'-Atilier.

We have the familiarity born of time spent here before.    We no longer need the City Walking Tour to help us through the alleyways.  We have the self assuredness of those who have lived here for generations.  We can wander through the Place d'Armes with nary a sideways glance at anything that's been there less than half a millennia, feigning nonchalance, carrying our cakes home for morning tea.

But there are still old things that offer surprises.  

Old friends for instance, like Joel and Cindy turning up in their Camping Car to feed us and keep us up for so long that in the end we really did need that "good lie down".


Monday, May 27, 2013

I love it when a plan....
Savoyeux to Auxonne

Since quite predictably, nothing of our plan to date had come to fruition, with the possible exception of the bit where we were still heading more or less, or perhaps exactly in the direction we had intended to travel, we decided as the gloriously blue sky showed itself for the first time in a week, to review what was left of it and make a new one.

A little bit of mathematics involving our location, our deadline and our destination was all it took to determine that we had a very gentle pair of half-days' worth of travel, and five days to complete them before our planned rendezvous in Auxonne.  Addtionally, we had promised ourselves that we would spend more time in Gray and coincidentally a perfect day like today seemed to present an ideal opportunity to keep our promise.  In fact, we could stay for three more and really get to know the place.

With the new plan cast in stone, we once again in glorious sunshine, jumperless and shoeless for the first time in weeks, left the comfort of the canal and gently poked our noses back into the still swollen river,  where we found ourselves sometimes hurtling along at speeds approaching fifteen kilometres per hour as the river narrowed in the bends, at other times in the wider parts our more stately pace resumed.

Why, one may ask, does he keep prattling on about rivers and sunshine and beauty and countryside?  Surely there is something to tell of Gray?

Well yes, as a matter of fact there is, thanks for asking.   As we idled through it, the sun shone on Gray, it's ancient buildings sparkling after all the rain, teasing us, reaching out and inviting us to stay for longer than we had planned.

We may have too, had we been able to find a dock which was not submerged.  Call us soft if you want, but neither of us relished the thought of walking knee deep in chilly flood water to get to shore, and when I suggested that I may have to stay with the boat to ensure it was safe, the other of us came up with a new plan.

So tonight we are in Auxonne, suddenly at the end of the first leg of our summer journey, with fond memories of a near perfect day on the river, wondering where our plan will take us next.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tunnel vision
Port-sur-Saone to Seveux

With our heads full of "gospel" songs, we may not have "stack' banana till the mornin' come", but when we went out last night it was Barry and Claudette's thirty-somethingth wedding anniversary, and by the time we found our way into the warmth of our bunk it was mornin' already - only just, but mornin' none the less.

When the daylight kind of morning did come, we didn't actually take much notice of it to be completely accurate in our reporting, as it had come entirely too quickly for either of our likings.

But, we had had a delightful evening in Port-sur-Saone, and today is Sunday, a day of rest for even the wicked, or travel for those who would otherwise be sitting round waiting for Monday.  With sleep still in our eyes and coffee in hand, we resumed our downhill slide towards Auxonne on a river which looked ever so much less angry than it has for a week, just happy to be gently on the move.

Today's tunnel, that of St-Albin did provide an interesting if quite spacey diversion.  We always like tunnels for the disorienting-floating-in-a-tube sensation they provide.   This one got positively trans-dimensional with it's combination of smooth walls, odd algae and moss colours, their efflourescence, and a mix of lighting types designed to confuse the camera if not the eye.

No, in life it isn't really as vibrant or luminous as the photograph would have us believe, although it has not been retouched, but the colours were none the less quite psychedelic and the trip was quite enjoyable thanks very much, for all of its six hundred and eighty delightful metres.

We were in space, possibly not outer, but space none the less.

Our kind of space is not silent and tranquil though.  It's got a sort of echoing low thumping rumble and the pots and doors rattle, and it's smokey and it smells like old Perkins.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dayo, day-ay-ay-oh!
Montureaux-sur-Baulay to Port-sur-Saone

Determined though we were to abide by our fundamental rule, that we do not leave our bed until something reaches double figures, whether that be time or temperature, by nine-something and with the temperature also reading nine-something, I thought I'd speed up the process by reaching for the heater button.

Not long after, or it may have been sometime approaching ten, we were astonished to hear a sound the likes of which we had not heard for almost exactly a week.   A boat, laden with holiday makers who had clearly been just as stranded as everyone else on the river was burbling it's way past.

The river had once again, unannounced, presumably to keep traffic down to a dull crawl, been opened for business.   The nice man at the lock had assured me that there were no problems downstream, but just be careful at the next lock where the confluence of a second flooded river and the main barrage spillway happen to be on each side of the exit and it was a little messy.

Thus assured we departed, happy to be free again, idling at a rocketing twelve kilometres per hour down the torrent towards Port-sur-Soane, where we discovered a quasi-American gospel group singing in quasi English (to be fair to me, I had not considered Harry Belefonte's "Banana Boat" to be strictly speaking a gospel song until this very night), a quasi chef who looked for all the world like Super Mario, and a quasi-Noah hard at work intent on defeating the next flood should it be the big one.

Just how long was a cubit again?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Still seriously chilly for summer!

We are getting towards the end of our first week of doing absolutely nothing, and we are still not finished, neither has the river.

The  flood peak has now passed our location and the water is receding beneath us, but all that has happened in terms of our future progress is that the flood has moved downstream, causing disruption in the direction in which we are headed, and there is still no estimate of when the flood gates will once again open to allow navigation downstream.   But our batteries are charged and our water tank has been filled and we are ready to get on with the serious business of waiting some more.

The rain has finally abated a little and we are assured by the flood forecasters that while more is expected, it won't add to the problem as the cold will apparently turn it to snow in the mountains and it won't run down to the river any more.   That assurance may well be all very well in terms of a reduction in river heights, but we are reliably informed that it only snows in the mountains when the temperature around them allows it, and "minus two degrees tonight" is not a measurement we would normally associate with summer.

But for an instant the sun did shine today, and we did dare to walk the length of the village without so much as a raincoat, and we could see more of the lock gates than we could see yesterday, and the flowers are do smell quite nice.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

I'm sure they didn't mention ice in the summer brochure!

We wisely keep a generator for times such as these; for the times when we find ourselves stranded, forbidden to move for days on end, when the contradictory tasks of refrigeration and heating take their inevitable toll on the battery banks.

Not quite so wisely perhaps, not having been able to correctly calculate the probability of such a time actually occurring, one of us may have neglected to take action which would have seen "buy petrol for the generator" crossed off our list of things to do while the other was otherwise productively occupied in the supermarkets a few weeks ago.

If fell therefore on that same person to find a means of doing so now.  To that end I assembled one of the bikes and steadied myself to ride the ten kilometres to the village with the fuel station.   With the outside temperature hovering around five I must confess that I there was not a lot of enthusiasm about the prospect of leaving the warmth of the cabin, and I did manage to stall my departure in the hope of the weather warming just a little, until exactly the time that the ice started to drop from the sky accompanied by a good deal of humidity.

Fortunately, the end of this procrastination coincided with Stanley the elderly black labrador's lunchtime walk time, and even more fortunately he never walks alone.

Anita, his guardian having noticed the little clown bike with the fuel can on it, and it's already near-frozen pilot making final preparations prior to departure while dressed in perhaps not quite sufficient clothing to be outdoors let alone to undertake a lengthy cycle ride, (only twenty kilometres and it will be over, I kept telling myself), stepped in and immediately pressed both of us us into accepting her offer of a lift in her car.

Crisis averted, optional shopping and a bit of sight seeing done to boot, a long night aboard with Anita and Jasper and at the end of the evening, there was still no sign of the flood abating downstream.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

.Still waiting

The river is closed to navigation for several hundred kilometres.  So closed is it that the lock a few kilometres downstream doesn't even have the requisite two red lights showing.  The lights are out, and everyone has gone home, presumably in disgust, to have another try next summer.   (The water looks calm because it is in a little dead end as the river roars by.)

There is a school of thought aboard which subscribes to the view that had we not simply raced past Epinal, or had we spent time wandering through Bains-les-Bains, or not stopped only for long enough to sample the delights of the bakery in Fontenoy les Chateau, we may well have not quite made it to Corre yet and would therefore not be trapped here on our little landing.

The other school of thought is that had we taken advantage of all those things, we would actually have been just as house-bound due to the constraints of weather and holidays, and we would certainly not have become the village experts on how much change there has been in the height of the river this hour.

We have our regular visitors from the village now, walking their dogs, stopping to stare at the level of the water and ask if it's gone up or down.   I tell them that since last night that it's dropped only a centimetre and then they remind us that they've never seen it stay flooded like this and this isn't summer and want to be reassured that we are warm enough.  

It's as if they associate boats as barbecue accessories, like beach balls and beer and we have just landed on their little picnic area from outer space at exactly the time there is no picnic happening, but they point out their houses and tell us to knock if we find we need something.

If we stay much longer we might be forced to adopt them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We think we'll stay here today.

I must admit it is a little disconcerting to wake in the middle of the night to find that one's boat is floating half of a metre higher against the landing than it was when one retired.

After ensuring the lines were slack enough to avoid mishap in the event of a further rise, one then needs to decide if one should actually remain on watch lest further rises occurred.   In continuos rain and temperatures getting very close to freezing point, it seemed a lot easier to set the alarm and go back to sleep.  After all, we were in a boat, it worked for Noah didn't it?

In the daylight we resumed a careful monitoring of the water level, after first doubling the lines and rigging them to ensure the boat would not float across the top of the landing if it were inundated, we settled to watch the river, which continued to rise but at a much more sedentary rate.   Sedentary is not a word to be used to describe the current though, although it is by no means a rapid and we could certainly make headway against it if we were forced to move.

Amazingly, through a quirk in the river's hydrology, throughout the day and night the logs and powerpoles and flood debris continue to whizz by on the other side of the river, leaving us alone in what appears to be a protected eddy.

So here we sit, safe and comfortable as the flood peaks, fending off offers from passers-by who stop to watch and chat, to buy us bread or bring us heaters or to drive us for groceries or to help us get to a better mooring downstream.  What a lovely bunch of neighbours we have!

Monday, May 20, 2013

So this is fun?
Corre to Montureaux-lès-Baulay

For a fleeting moment, or perhaps it was a whole morning, within the confines of the boat, our little heater gave us a deceptive impression of how pleasant things might be outside.

Lulled by this false sense of security, what appeared to be a clearing sky, and a forecast that gave promise of improvement in the afternoon, we dragged ourselves away from our electricity and the stillness of the marina and lurched out onto the Saone for a few hours.

The forecast and the sky as it turned out, had been a trap, as had the nice man from the lock who assured us that the river flooding had receded and was going away all was well with the world.
Out there it was a different story.

Visibility or a total lack thereof, made travelling on the river less than interesting although the still swollen waters did assist with forward progress somewhat.

We had not planned to travel far, and after a few hours we had had enough.   We had a choice of staying at a quiet landing in a little village that we had marked last year as worth investigating, or moving onwards for perhaps another hour to the warmth of a marina with all services just a few kilometres downstream.

Naturally we chose the former, both because it was an hour less we had to endure, and because of it's location.   But in doing so, we were unaware that the rainfall was about to increase to the sort of thing we are accustomed to on the other side of the planet, and that the temperature was about to plummet to levels that we certainly are not.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The weather returns!
Bains-les-Bains to Corre

We were congratulating ourselves on a having wrung every last drop out of a wonderful day last evening when we heard the sound of a high speed express train nearby.  This was surprising because the closest express train line was not at all within earshot, and then we saw the weather front roaring down the forest where we had been walking barely in the evening calm just minutes earlier.

There is nothing like experiencing the violence of a lashing gale arriving at the end of a glorious day to bring one back to earth, and to not make too may plans for further exploration of one's surrounds in the morning. Bains-les-Bains and the village of Manufacture will once again have to wait for some future time.

There seemed little point given the weather in not continuing on our journey: to peel yet another day from the calendar to put us a further day ahead of our pan.

We had promised that we'd spend more time in Fonteny le Chateau this time too, but how were we to know we'd arrive in the rain on a Sunday.   Thankfully the bakery is one of those who remains open on that day, and we managed to replenish our completely exhausted supplies of hot baguettes, mirabelle tarts and mille feulle which I suspect due to their complete unpronouncability, are known ever so romantically as "Vanilla Slices" in our seaside bakery, although the one's there have a shocking pink icing, presumably to emphasise their exotic origins.

But we trundled on to Corre where we stayed warm and snug in the marina as the wind whipped up and the rain lashed down and our dear little washing machine chugged away tidying up all our underwear and the electric heater did its heating and life remained happy perhaps on the memory of yesterday!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

The forecast was WRONG!
Void de Girancourt to Bains-les-Bains

We could sense something wrong the moment the first of our eyes half opened to greet the new day.   

There was a disconcerting amount of light entering the cabin even though the curtains were still drawn.

When we looked out, the sky was disconcertingly blue, the water disconcertingly still.   All of this was disconcerting, because we had seen the forecast, and moved beyond Epinal in the face of another week of bleak.   Today was supposed to be five degrees and miserable.  

What we had unmistakeably beaming from the strangely clear sky, was a thing called (in other parts of the world) sunshine. 

As soon as we ventured outside though, we discovered that sunny and happy and beautiful and clear does not necessarily mean that all of the forecast is wrong.  

We assumed the colour brought with it a promise of warmth, but if that is the case then it will arrive at some future date. Never the less, like the rest of the population of France, we meandered off into the day gently, but with a spring in our hearts and smiles on our faces, enjoying every moment while it lasted.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Nomexy to Void de Girancourt

I suspect that I have written of locks before.  They are probably the greatest variable in our chosen means of travel apart from the weather, not that the weather has varied much this past month. The locks though are the one thing that prevents planning with an accuracy as each successful encounter only serves to increase the risk of delay at the next, through some sort of mechanical failure either as twentieth century technology struggles to sit comfortably in eighteenth century infrastructure, or simply because it's somebody's lunch time. 

They have us bluffed when it comes to making plans to get from point A to B in a given time.  We just know better than to do that, and as we know those on the Vosges Canal to be particularly susceptible to mishap, and because it's raining and there's not much to do if we do stop, we have just continued to travel, further and greater distances in shorter times than we thought we would ever allow ourselves to do.   We had planned to stop in Epinal for a few days, but it will be closed for the duration of the long weekend ahead, and there's not much point really, so we just kept on plugging up the hill in the rain.

Once or perhaps twice in previous years, when conditions have suited, we have been through thirty in a day, and we have come close to that number a few other times, but we've always stayed somewhere for a few days or even a week at the end. 

With shorter operating hours on this canal we can't possibly go that far, but astonishingly perhaps, some time about lunchtime tomorrow we will be entering our on hundredth lock since setting out on Monday, and by Sunday evening we will have been through getting on for half that number again.   

A hundred locks is no big deal really, it's a bit like saying we've been through a hundred sets of traffic lights, but at more or less ten minutes per lock, not counting the couple of mornings she spent walking beside the two long chains, amazingly if one does the arithmetic, it appears that the good Captain will have spent two and a half days of this week, standing in the icy rain!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crévéchamps to Nomexy

Waking in the middle of a forest, with the day dawning even colder than the one before and the water looking even blacker and the horizon obscured by mist is not a bad way to begin a journey as it turns out.

A Swedish friend is fond of telling us that there's there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, and I must admit as I pulled my damp woollen socks on again and put them in my damp walking shoes I am inclined to think that some of my "boating in wet cold conditions" kit is tending towards the bad side.   The other of us, or what I could see of her buried under what I think is every garment she owns, is taking no chances.  Even the most penetrating damp will only make it through the first fifteen or so layers.

We are of course planning a summer break in Iceland next month, and strange though this may sound, I have only today checked the average June temperatures for that country.   Twelve degrees maximums, five degrees minimum, which as it happens is about the same as France at the present time.   We should be well acclimatised by then.

Andrew and Trish managed to track us down at exactly lunch o'clock, which provided a few hours of respite to say nothing of drying in a warm restaurant, and a lift to our spirits (not that any lift was necessary), but their appearance did serve to emphasise the delightful pointlessness of the manner in which we have chosen to travel.

We left Lagarde on  Sunday, arriving in Charmes after six days of more or less non-stop travel, a little after noon on Thursday.

They too arrived a little after noon on Thursday, but travelling by rented station wagon, and taking all the windy backroads, their journey took close to an hour.

They were warm and dry and listening to music, we were cold and damp and listening to birds, but we wouldn't swap!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Still Cold, Still Wet
Nancy to Crévéchamps

When we travelled on the Canal de Vosges with Ria and Dave last year in the heat of summer, we marked the cool shady spots on the charts for future reference without thought for what use those notes would be if we returned at a time when the rain was unceasing and the temperature uncivlilised.    With new leaves barely visible in the trees, and so little sunlight penetrating the clouds that we were in a perpetual state of wondering what time it was, it was hard to believe we were in the same place.   It retained it's magic though, in a cold, wet, misty sort of way.

Speaking of magic, one day, we'll find out what it's like when a plan comes together, and I wonder when we do, if we'll like it at all.

We did manage to leave exactly on time this morning after first attempting to remedy yet another newly acquired leak in Mr P's injection system, the result of which had cast such a pall over the harbour that even though the sun was barely visible, or in truth not visible at all through the smog we had created, that Remy the duty Harbour Master got himself into such a tizz he may well have evicted us had he not liked us so much, or perhaps had we not already been underway.

How could we have known that our departure was the closest we were going to get to being on time, and the closest we were going to get to seeing the sun for the entire day?   We entered the first lock exactly in accordance with our shedule, to be trapped within it's confines for an hour waiting for it's faulty gate to be opened.   An hour is not a long time in one's lifetime, but it is a very long proportion of a lunchtime, and a quick calculation after our release confirmed that we would be wise to postpone our previously arranged appointment.

Besides, we were having so much fun climbing a long flight of locks in the icy drizzle, why would we want to share our day with anyone?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Good times ahead!
Crévic to Nancy

We didn't realise how much we count Nancy as yet another home home till we arrived and Stephane came out to greet us as though we'd been gone all winter, and the guy on the boat next to him whom we'd met in a lock sometime last year filled us in on everything he'd done, and then John turned up to make sure we were OK, and we suddenly felt that we'd cheated ourselves by deciding to stay but one night.

But we have a plan now.  Experience tells us that having a plan is a very very bad thing, although I suspect it makes for entertaining reading as one day after another we exactly fail to make successive destinations.

Georges will be waiting for us in Auxonne if we get there by month's end, and he's got a mate who knows someone who has a cousin who may be interested in peering into Mr Perkins inner most workings while we absent ourselves for a few weeks if we get there on time.  We didn't tell Mr P this, but somehow, call it engine's intuition, he already knows.   He's taken to smoking more than usual and spitting diesel all over his newly replaced injectors.

Hopefully I can stay ahead of him in the bolt tightening stakes, but it will be a race of attrition.

To make things worse, the sun came out this evening to taunt us all before the weather turns seriously terrible for the next week or so, or so the forecast would have it.

We are yet to meet anyone who has stayed in Europe over winter who isn't seriously despondent about the weather following an endless cold, wet winter, and now a spring which has thus far failed to materialise has done nothing to lift anyone's spirits.   But we can soldier on I'm sure, only one of us needs to be outside in the rain and the wind when we are working the locks, and with all the windows closed I'll hardly be able to hear her complaints.

Monday, May 13, 2013

They're Back!
Bauzecourt - Lagarde - Crévic

I am not normally given to premonition, but I did voice on a few occasions over the past few days a nagging doubt about the readiness of Mr Perkins to transport us to far and away places.   

Unhappily perhaps my discomfort at his unpreparedness bore fruit this morning when I could not help but notice an alarming amount of water below the engine in a place where water should not be, and a much smaller but equally alarming amount of diesel fuel spreading itself all over Mr Perkins posterior. 

Happily perhaps once again the symptoms of his ills were plain to see and were able to be rectified without major catastrophe, although this did involve retracing our steps of yesterday, borrowing tools, coolant, Bill, and having to farewell everyone once again.

This time we were away almost two hours earlier so this evening we find ourselves amid the Colza fields a very satisfying fifteen kilometres from home, having spent nine hours today getting here.

I wonder how long it would take us to get to the moon. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

They're off!
Lagarde - Bauzemont

We really should be off we thought, and while those around the port have seen our getting off "first thing" performance before, by the time three in the afternoon arrived, few of them thought we were serious.

We were.  Deadly so.  The cloud cleared just briefly enough to snap a photograph of the first lock through the windshield to mark the occasion and we were off, into what was in the blink of an eye to become a bleak, windy cold apparently atypical spring day.

It felt terrific to be on the move, just as terrific as it had staying in one place in fact or maybe just  ever so slightly more.   We hadn't left ourselves enough time to go terribly far, but we spent the night a respectable thirteen kilometres away in the quiet of the Moselle countryside.

Quiet except for one miserable cat, which, if thoughts could kill would have expended all nine of its lives as it tromped around our decks because it could wearing what we took to be some sort of feline version of working boots.  But it was bitterly unpleasant out, with a wind and single digit temperatures, so we stayed snug inside content to let it do whatever it wished, taking consolation that it was not as warm as we.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Open all hours

When Jacques had suggested last week that we pay a visit to an artisanal cheese maker in a nearby village, and in the same village a new cafe which was run by several artists that looked quite promising, and that Saturday lunch time would be a good time if we wanted a lift, we thought it would be rude of us to do anything but accept.

Jacques and Maggie's car is too small for six but fortunately Aileen and Grahame had the use of their rental car for just a few more days so they tagged along, intent on sharing one of our much boasted of quintessential travel experiences.

As we turned off the road to enter the main street of the village it became apparent that something was quintessentially wrong in the way it usually is when we are involved with anything that is required to be open for business.  The first hint of this was the sign which said "road closed 200m".  The second hint we received two hundred metres later when we discovered that the road was indeed closed.

After much zigging and zagging, an alternative route was discovered, as was the cheese farm and the sign on it's gate which quite unequivocally noted that said farm was indeed closed today  and could we please go somewhere else.  This we duly did in direction cafe.    Unfortunately direction cafe involved turning into the other end of the road that we had previously been advised was closed, and the cafe apparently out of sympathy for the road (open seven days) was quite clearly not at all open for this Saturday lunch.  

A neighbour advised that the cafe would actually open later in the evening if we'd like to come back then for lunch, and by then the village fete would be in full swing a rollicking good time could be ensured.   This did explain the closure of the road, and the filling of it with all sorts of carnival rides and stalls, seemingly abandoned and appearing for all the world as though it were some sort of surreal movie set.

But we didn't linger.  We found another town, had a stunning lunch and for far too long into the evening had a rollicking good time of our own without having to close a road.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Finding excuses not to go

Perhaps we could have left today, but that would have entailed bolting everything back together in a hurry, or going out in miserable weather, or worse still, it would have entailed missing lunch tomorrow.

Bill did appear with the tools to connect the gizwitch in the gear selection setup, but almost as suddenly as he appeared wandered off carrying a blue metal part and shaking his head and muttering something.

While he was off beating something into submission with a shifting spanner, I set about trying to find the source of the air entering the water pump with equal lack of success.   We may have both been on the verge of actual swearing for a time, particularly after  Mr Perkins made it quite clear that his is very happy indeed to be still spitting as much smoke as he was before we gave him his new injectors, but in the end he seemed to sulk into submission, and after a good deal of sputtering and banging on his part as well as perhaps some actual cursing in an old engine kind of way, he began to turn the actual propellor.

With very little confidence that he will remain his happy self for the duration of our summer, he was none the less pronounced "ready to go".

Meanwhile in an apparent attempt to avoid witnessing any fracas involving, two grown men and an old engine the other of us had taken the kind offer of a ride to a place called "Ikea" and was apparently completely occupied for the day, deep in women's business and oblivious to the goings on back at the ranch.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


Whoever it was that wrote "age shall not weary them" should perhaps have added the post script - "But staying up late playing cards with a pair of Kiwis night after night may well leave them a little tired."

It's a public holiday again today, this time to celebrate Ascencion Day and we thought for a time we may well complete the housekeeping and get underway tomorrow, but that was before we failed to wake up bright and early and decided we needed to relax for perhaps just one more day.

Somehow we knew at the time we thought about leaving this week, that it was a thought wasted.  We have been waiting for a few days for Bill to finish a few rush jobs for others and get back to complete some definitely not rush jobs on dear old Mr Perkins and he has thus far failed to appear for long enough to do them.  Thankfully he has the knack of appearing "just in time" so we are certain that all will be well at exactly the time we make up our minds to depart.

Besides we have an invitation to explore a particular cafe in a village nearby at about lunchtime on Saturday, and it would be remiss of us to waste such an opportunity, so perhaps we shall leave come Sunday, and just do a little tidying up in the mean time.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lest We Forget
Killing Fields

Somewhere during the course of the morning it occurred to us that we might have at one point a few days ago, have made a decision to get underway yesterday.   If indeed we had done so, which neither of us could recall clearly, that must have been before Grahame and Aileen suggested accompanying them on a small road trip to Verdun, and before we realised that the next two days would be public holidays and it would therefore be remiss of us not to take advantage of them by doing not much.

Today in France is set aside more or less to commemorate the fallen of World War II and while the ground around Verdun holds the bodies of hundreds of thousands of young men who failed to return to their homes from the first Great War, and Verdun is a short drive away, it seemed like an appropriate time to pay a visit.

It's not a cheery place, with fortresses and trenches and foxholes pretty much as they were at the end of the war a century ago, where the bodies of young men who in todays society would not have been old enough to leave school are interred, depending on the circumstances of their falling, within neat rows of graves or simply behind walls of rubble.

Having been raised up in country Australia with a monument to those who gave their lives on the corner of every main street, and a portrait of a lost soldier hanging in what seemed like every elderly person's hallway, the spectre of war in far away places is not new, but somehow standing where it all happened, in one of those far away places, and where they lie, seems to emphasise the frustrating stupidity of it all, and the madness and sadness of young lives lost, for a cause that was not of their making.

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tip toe through the tulips

Through sheer happenstance when booking the rental car, I arranged to return it today, not tomorrow or the day after that.   I just sort of stabbed at a date at random and today was the date that bobbed up on my computer screen.

Today would be the day we returned the car, and commenced our voyage.

This turned out to be quite fortuitous really, as tomorrow and the day after that turned out to be public holidays and the chances of being able to return a car on those days were somewhere between slim and non-existent.  To add to this good fortune, Grahame and Aileen arrived yesterday with a car of their own, and a list of things that needed doing in Luneville, which as it happens was exactly where we needed to be to return the car.

After wandering around with them for the latter part of the morning,  we thought perhaps we could delay the start of our cruising year for a bit.   It would have been remiss of us not to join them for lunch, after all, one has to take time to smell the tulips.


Monday, May 06, 2013

On the sunny side of the street.

It has been two days since our last supermarket episode, so an almost unanimous decision was made that since the day was fine and sunny (and our last one with the rental car) we should once again visit the shops.   There were after all, supermarkets in Sarrebourg that we hadn't graced with our presence in almost a year, and if we do get underway tomorrow we could be two days before we get to the next shopping opportunity, and besides there were a couple of carless people in the port who could benefit from a lift.

While walking around today, we noticed that it hasn't taken long for us to acclimatise ourselves to life in the northern hemisphere.

Barely three weeks ago in Hyde Park in temperatures almost not in double digits, our old habits kept us looking for patches of shade, hiding from the sun's rays no matter how feeble, lest we should surely fry.   

Now, we must confess, it is the other more brightly lit side of the street that we find ourselves loitering on, soaking up whatever warmth we can find, and this in temperatures approaching twenty.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Art of Living

"It is not a car, it's the art of living" said the sticker in the back window of the 2CV, but I had eyes elsewhere.

I used to dream of owning a Renault 8 Gordini back when Renault Gordinis were new, and had I had the means and been old enough to drive I may well have.

I think the owner of the one I saw today understood the tear in the corner of my eye as I attempted to tell him that of all the few dozen classic cars that gathered around our port this morning, his was my  favourite.  Or maybe he didn't understand a thing I was saying.  I can't be sure either way, but he seemed attentive enough.

There were plenty of others though, some German sports cars, one from England, Renaults, Peugeots (a beautiful 203 Cabriolet), Citroens including a fleet of Tractions-Avant and even an SM, at one time the fastest production car in the world, but none of them could match the mid 60's Cooper-S-beating Gordini in my eye.  Wandering around a collection of vehicles from one's youth tends to trigger all sorts of nostalgic memories which is perhaps why the photo above is not a Gordini, but could have been taken in our neighbour's back yard in West End in the seventies.

I spent part of a delightful morning buried in those memories, poking at them, the memories and the cars that triggered them, nodding and grunting approvingly to their owners, and then just as suddenly as they arrived, someone gave an invisible signal, the engines spluttered into life and the cars were gone, leaving me once again with only the memories.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, a girl on a mission, left alone and unwilling to be distracted, and finding little romance in things mechanical for that matter,  had single handedly brought the lack of tidiness inside the boat under control.

I suppose in a day or two while she rests on her well deserved laurels, I too shall have to sort out my bits necessary to get our season underway.

It's not the boat, it's the art of living.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

To the shops!

Since we didn't get any actual work done around the boat yesterday, as soon as we woke we set about searching for distractions to ensure that we would get nothing done today as well.  Staying in bed for quite some time was a great start and we didn't really have to look too far to find other things to do.

To begin with while we could take advantage of our rented car, we did need to commence our providoring, stocking up on the sorts of things that may be difficult to come by during our summer cruising when we may be further away from supermarkets.  Despite the contents of the boat beginning to resemble something akin to a floating tip, we struck out for the supermarkets in Luneville.

For one of us, this activity appears to be something approaching actual fun, the other is yet to discover any pleasure at all in walking up and down endless aisles imploring me to "like" them on facebook.  I confess I do have complete admiration for the other's ability to meander for hours amid the shelves, reading labels and squeezing rhubarb until at some completely random time in the process the shopping is declared "complete".

But "complete" is code for "let's go to the supermarket across the road now..." so we do that and repeat the process.

When we return to the boat and unpack it all a miracle unfolds: the trolleys full of unrelated items transforms into "food for a month".

That I do "like".

Friday, May 03, 2013

A nice cup of tea

We really should have set about unpacking all the contents of the boat that we had so carefully stored safe from the ravages of winter's humidity, and we really should have busying ourselves settling in and perhaps provisioning ready for the year ahead.  Really that's what we should have been doing.

But the weather wasn't all that friendly, and I managed to get the covers off between icy showers, and bed was snug and a great place to read at least until the onset of something more like summer.

Besides, Maggie has the best teapot on earth.  I'm sure there is a commandment forbidding us to covet our neighbour's tea-pot, but there's nothing to prevent us sitting in her parlour and consuming it's contents along with vast quantities of fresh carrot cake until it's far too late to do any work.

Why should we hurry we wondered?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Home again home again, jiggety jig.
Paris - Lagarde

Zooming towards Luneville on the train at more than three hundred kilometres an hour, it was impossible to ignore the feeling slowly building in the pit of our stomachs.    It's not quite excitement and not quite anxiety, but whatever the emotion it gets stronger as we pick up the rental car and right on cue it evaporates half an hour later as we drive over the hill and catch the first sight of Lagarde.

We see the church steeple first, across the yellow Colza fields, then it disappears as we round the bend and cross the bridge over the lock, wind our way past Jacques and Maggie's house and finally to the harbour where our home awaits.  There's always a minor sense of relief when we discover she's still floating, and even more as we slip under those covers and a thin layer of winter mud to find that inside is pretty much as we left it.

Then comes the excitement at being home, the unpacking can wait, it's just nice to be here even if we can't see out through the covers.

It's nice to be afloat again, but better than that, we are home.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Day

Apart from stalls selling diadem studded replicas of the Eiffel Tower there is precious little sign of commerce in Paris on this Public Holiday.   

A hundred metres from our berth, at the Place Bastille there are numbers of ethnic groups holding rowdy demonstrations involving drums and shouting and hawking petitions to be signed, and they are almost outnumbered by riot police who in turn are outnumbered by silent spectators.  

Around the Arsenal itself almost two kilometres of marquee has been erected which will house the spring Antique Fair for much of the month, presuming of course that spring eventually arrives, but for this week it gives an opportunity to what we suspect are mostly not highly ranked artisans, to display their works.   "Works" in this case seem to comprise either random splotches of paint or representations of naked females in often in improbable poses (or perhaps with broken limbs?), but the hint of something truly inspirational bobs up every now and then, just often enough to give one enough strength to make it through to the next tent. 

A few hundred metres beyond, not a soul is stirring.

We did make an effort to explore, but there are only so many deserted streets full of shuttered buildings one can wander through, braced against the chill before one sees the error in one's way.

Eventually the siren call of the warm saloon of Ozzie Crawl became irresistible, and we settled down to watch re-runs of "A Place in the Sun" and to heck with the sleet and riots and outside.
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