Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Choissey to Dole

Even we are surprised at how often we seem to run into friends we have made on the waterways in other pars of the country or even in other countries as we slowly make our way across the face of the planet.

When we arrived in Choissey therefore we should not have been at all taken aback to find the only boat at the little landing provided by the village, was occupied by Jan and Toby who were travelling in the opposite direction. This of course gave us the opportunity to conduct both a reunion and a farewell on successive days, and while our journey to Dole was barely three kilometres, we did manage to drag out our departure to the extent that we barely made it in time for lunch.

We have a soft spot for Dole; it is a beautiful place and the streams of the former tanneries running under the town leave an amazing legacy, as does the historical fact that Louis Pasteur was born and raised in one of its houses.

We got lost here once while driving, which is not a good thing to be in a city whose streets are barely wide enough to fit two people abreast, and form an ever narrowing labyrinth.  A small car with its mirrors folded will fit we discovered, albeit by driving occasionally across someone's front step.  At one point during that adventure we gave passing thought to dismantling the thing and carrying it out piece by piece.

All ended happily of course, but not before Graham had walked ahead doing a reasonable impersonation of a man with a bell and a red flag, moving motorbikes and wheelie bins as he went, and persuading unsuspecting drivers who thought they were minding their own business by simply driving up the street in the correct direction to reverse back for the idiot foreigner.

Thankfully no-one seemed to recognise us from that day, or if they did they weren't admitting it.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's gas Spock, but not as we know it!
Saint-Jean-de-Losne to Choissey

The river Doubs is by all accounts a wonderfully picturesque cruising ground, one that we have been looking forward to returning to it ever since our brief visit with Graham and Iris five years ago.

Its western gateway is something of a contrast to our expectations though.   The guide book talks in wonder at the Solvay chemical plant that turns over billions of Euros per year manufacturing just about everything that is noxious, toxic or generally useful for mankind while at the same time offering a distinct possibility of ending man's reign on earth should there be even the slightest mishap somewhere in the process.

At the first lock we were handed a brochure with a rather attractive coloured photograph of the factory reflecting in the water, although it was somewhat disconcertingly filled with of instructions of exactly what to do in the event of warning sirens sounding while mid enjoyment of our transit.   The gist of this advice is that in the event of a sudden loss of any kind of material from the plant, not breathing any of it would be particularly helpful, as indeed would actually not being anywhere in the vicinity at that time.

In the absence of any alternative route, and presuming that the thousands of others that pass by and live within the surrounding area have continued to do so happily for a couple of centuries, we bravely ventured forth, sensibly ending our journey beyond the danger zone in the village of Choissey where we fed the swans and listened to the frogs and remained oblivious to whatever ecological disasters may have been underway a few kilometres downstream.

We were possibly fortunate that our Mr Perkins's adjustments had gone so well.  As he bore us invisibly through the danger zone, we, not yet quite accustomed to his new smoke-free mode,  couldn't help but wonder at what alarms we may have set off had we ventured here but a few days ago.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's do lunch
Auxonne to Saint-Jean-de-Losne

It probably goes without saying that since were were intent on departure no matter what, the morning didn't actually dawn, it just broke with a sort of a splutter like a big tap with an air bubble in it.

We would get underway immediately we thought, but after a month of lying doing nothing, to the casual observer the boat resembled something not unlike a mound of mud, a side effect of the work happening on the harbour surrounds, and really we should make an attempt to clean it.    Since the use of a hose to wash boats is generally prohibited, it seemed like a good idea to stall this particular task until the last possible moment, to minimise inconvenience in the event of eviction.   As is often the case though, a kindly blind eye was turned, perhaps out of sympathy or a complete lack of understanding as to why anyone would want to be scrubbing their boat in the rain and cold.

As a small compensation, I did have warm water in the bucket, and as added incentive to actually get underway, Robin and Ron had arranged to meet us for lunch in Saint-Jean-des-Losne.  A long afternoon sitting in the warmth of a worker's cafe was a perfect antidote for a cold morning standing in the rain.

Peering through the bleak in the evening light it was almost impossible to equate this place with the clear blue skies and heat we had experienced here last year.  The trees that has provided such welcome shade were gone, the sunny restaurants now just bare decks washed by the featureless grey sky.

But it matters little, come rain hail or shine, and there is little chance of shine, tomorrow we are cruising again and with Ron and Robin in tow.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

On our skates.

I suppose we should have left first thing.    We should have just got up, and celebrated the anti-climax that was Mr Perkins' apparent rejuvenation by simply getting underway, but for some reason we just didn't feel like moving.

We had after all spent the first month of our summer running headlong into miserable weather for the sole purpose of being exactly here. The idea was that we could spend a month doing other things while Mr P was being attended to in someone's workshop.  It should be no surprise that when that didn't work to plan, the men in black would arrive on the very last day of our window of work rather than the first.   Perhaps it was a little surprising that so little work was done to achieve so much.

Whatever the case, in some madly masochistic mindset, despite the on-water fuel barge waiting for us twenty kilometres downstream, we decided we'd continue with the somewhat labour intensive refuelling process we'd started a few days ago, and despite the rain we'd top up our gas supply as well.

Once fully provisioned, we we would turn a corner in our heads we thought, and then we would decide that we'd definitely move on.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Cure!

Like a scene from a spaghetti western, the men in black did return as they said they would at precisely the appointed hour, except that instead of appearing out of the setting sun with six guns blazing, they came from the car park, carrying a cardboard box the lettering on which read loosely translated, "plum marmalade", with contents which included a few scraps of industrial strength paper towelling and nowhere near enough tools to do the job.

Their manner was no less confident than when they last appeared and I must confess that any quiver of doubt that may have been harboured in the back of my head dissolved instantly when, after a quick assessment of the situation, one of them asked if I could lend him a hammer.

After borrowing a few more tools to supplement the plum marmalade ones, and a rag to supplement the  industrial strength paper towelling scraps, and giving Mr Perkins a few sturdy taps with the hammer, they gave him a tummy tickle and what appeared to be a good old fashioned man-hug, and pronounced him cured.

After further questioning, perhaps he isn't completely cured, but as cured as can be expected without taking him entirely apart, which on further questioning translated to something like, perhaps he's not actually cured at all, but at least now he's not retarded, in fact he's quite advanced.

But they left me with my hammer, so perhaps if I am concerned in the future I too can simply give him a tap on the noggin and see what happens.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The meaning of "perhaps".

It's not easy waiting for something not to happen.

Even though the gang of three were only "perhaps" due to arrive quite late in the afternoon, every vehicle that turned into the carpark from not much later than sunrise attracted our attention.

Perhaps, we thought, they would come early.   They said they'd phone, but no matter how long and hard we stared at the telephone, it refused to ring.

Perhaps they will come and we will leave tomorrow we thought.   Perhaps in that case we will need fuel.

With the fuel supply a relatively near couple of kilometres away, four trips was enough for one day, but it didn't take our minds off the gang of three who would perhaps be visiting us later in the day.   Each time we passed the cathedral we were reminded somehow of them.   Perhaps we came to think, we will need a miracle.

Perhaps they will come tomorrow after all.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Like a scene from a spaghetti western, the three men in black arrived at precisely the appointed hour.

Although it was six and a half hours after high noon they had come for a showdown with our Mr Perkins.  They listened intently like doctors doing their hospital rounds as François kindly relayed my lengthy tale of what had and had not been done in previous attempts to remedy his problems.

They rubbed their chins with greasy fingers and conferred for a time, then took pains to assure me that the oil seeping from his arthritic joints did not need urgent attention, but I should attend to it next time I had him out of the boat, as though that were something that happened each evening.

Then they pronounced him retarded.

Well Perkins are renowned for their simple engines, but retarded?   I must admit I had been canvassing that possibility for some time as all my efforts to potty train the old bloke had been in vain.  Now I had three others who were of like mind.

After enquiring what they may be able to do to resolve this state of being, they shook my hand and said that perhaps they would return at six thirty tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, shook my hand and rode off into the sunset.

We were in the meantime left in silence, pondering the meaning of "perhaps."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On a promise

 A long walk in the country, a nice lunch, and a long lie down in the afernoon after the carefully chosen wildflowers had been suitably arranged.

Today was a good old-fashioned Sunday, nothing more, nothing less, nothing to add.

Except perhaps that Georges had spoken to the racing-car engineers he thought may be interested in playing doctor to our Mr Perkins and he'd already asked François to interpret for us and that they would come at six-thirty tomorrow evening. It's just as well we slept in the afternoon, because sleep would be near impossible overnight as our anticipation, or perhaps it was excitement, built.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The cost of living

It's not that we normally take much notice of prices of commodities such as the above.  Normally we are just happy to be surprised when a trolley load of groceries adds up to a lot less than we expect it to, but it was shopping day today and the sudden drop in the value of the Australian dollar brought the subject of our cost of living closer to our hearts.

What is clear from our new found interest in the cost of things is that while ever the cost of peanut M&Ms remains the same in France for half a kilogram as it is for just one of those teensy sachets of the things in the roadhouses in Australia, we can probably assume that we won't starve in the short term.

Just how that relates to a photograph of the village, butterflies, hibiscus and a new VW is not quite as clear.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The longest day

It was the longest day of the year, which was lucky for us, because we had a long way to go.  Three trains a quick connection on the Paris Metro, a kilometre or so to walk and five hours after leaving Belgium we were back on the boat.    

But on this day every village has a music festival that runs long into the night and in some places into the next day as well.  On every street corner and at two or three places in between one can usually find a band and a crowd, and downtown Auxonne was no different this evening.

Battling weariness we stood, watching a band called the "Polar Beers", its drummer working with practiced disinterest, a cigarette hanging from his mouth and a passage of what may have been some ancient Asian script tattooed along the length of his forearm.    They were in the middle of some sort of trash-metal din making that turned out to be a barely recognisable rendition of a Tina Turner song, when an elderly lady in a cowboy hat began to line dance solo if that is even possible, somewhere near the drum kit.

We moved away slowly, never losing eye contact until we were at a safe distance, but a few tens of metres later we stumble across friends  at a table in middle of what is normally a road and we joined them until Cinderella's coach turned into a pumpkin,  watching  a chap called Jerry Yell playing covers from every generation past, while bathed in the sort of disconcerting seventies disco lighting that would make even Molly Meldrum go green and blue.

The longest day had been long indeed but there could be no doubt that we were back in France.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beaches Bikes and Blue skies

There's nothing like a nice cycle around Belgium to get the blood pulsing properly through the veins.

The weather radar was quite specific.  There would be big blue clouds all over the country today except for the parts where we would be at the times that we would be there, but Dave and Ria have well practiced eyes for a weather window and quite conveniently, also have twice as many bicycles as people in their family.

Therefore in almost no time at all we found ourselves cycling with picnics in our panniers in any direction that the rain was not, often under clearish blue sky.   Thirty kilometres of rolling countryside, a picnic, coffee and a stop for drinks later  we managed to find ourselves back at the beach.  

The last day of our visit had passed all too quickly, although it must be said that for certain parts of our anatomy, unused to such lengthy spells in a bicycle saddle, it did seem long enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A day at the Beach

The last time we walked along the beach with Dave and Ria, it could possibly go down as the bleakest, coldest and most miserable walk along a beach that we had until that time experienced.

Therefore when the weather radar and for that matter the actual conditions beyond our windows indicated a good deal of rainfall was in the process of being delivered, we were not disappointed that neither of them insisted on taking us outside.

The rain gave us exactly the amount of time we needed to simply sit over breakfast, and morning coffee, and lunch of course while we all discovered the news that we'd missed in the past six months.  When we did eventually grace the outdoors with our presence it was under a rain free, pale grey sky struggling valiantly but it must be said without success, to become blue, and thankfully in temperatures that were more than acceptable to all except the resident seals who failed to grace us with their presence.

Unlike our last visit, it was almost warm enough to be tempted by the offerings of the Australian ice-cream shop, but we kept our steely resolve and managed to pass it without satisfying our curiosity.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

London - Paris - Koksijde

Once again as we bade our hasty farewells to London, we could not help but feel appreciative of the opportunities that having children in residence in the city have afforded us over the last decade or so.  Once again pinching ourselves at the ease with which we move between the world's great cities as though they are simply sidings on the tracks on which we travel.  

"What time is it?  I asked of the other as we sat in the cafe sipping an iced tea.  

"After three." she replied.

"Then this must be Paris."

"Belgium looks nice"

And so it came to be that tonight we are sitting in Dave and Ria's living room, wirelessly connected to one another, unravelling the seven months in which we have been absent friends,.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Tidying up

The younger of us had to go to work today, and if they felt anything like the elder pair, which neither admitted to feeling, they wouldn't have been totally enamoured with the concept of leaving the comfort of their bed.    

After their departure did have a good deal of housekeeping to take care of. There was a week's worth of washing to do and a thousand blurry photographs of smiling people standing erect in front of waterfalls and icebergs and pointing into the distance to view, chuckle at and discard.  There were a thousand more that were good enough to keep but of no foreseeable use, and then a further thousand that were better than the other thousand and need to be kept for the time and noted and tagged in case we forget at some future time that they were taken in Hveragerði, or somewhere else spelled equally improbably.

Fortunately all of that could be achieved, with the possible exception of the washing, from a horizontal position and therefore with the possible exception of the washing the morning was long and relaxing indeed.   

There does come a time after lunch though when one must get out and see what is happening in the City.

For us, that meant taking our customary turn around Hyde Park and back through Paddington, wandering in our shirtsleeves with no intent, a perambulation if one must, while happily wondering how it had come to be that we had spent two days without venturing further afield.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The day after

We are firmly of the view that a holiday isn't a holiday unless one arrives home drained of every last vestige of energy, and I am pleased to note that Iceland appeared to do exactly that, because we slept without stirring, all of us, and even when one by one our eyes began slowly to open some time later than usual the only stirring that happened was in near silence as slowly somewhere in the corner of the room a teaspoon commenced its orbit around the inside of a coffee cup.

It may have been the ever so slight change in time zones that prompted our big sleep, or it may have been the heated pool that had drained our resources the morning before, but whatever it was it left us all quite happy to spend a Sunday hanging around, and chatting about the week that was.   Interrupted only by a short outing to take in some provisions, and while out to marvel at how much as anywhere in the world London feels quite a bit like "home" each time we return

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Time to leave
Reykjavic to London

We thought there may be no better way of showing that we had become acclimatised to summer temperatures of eight degrees than to partake in a morning swim before our departure.   The Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavic is of course a world famous geothermal pool which doubles as a cooling pond for the local power station and is particularly famous for its curative properties.

As swimming experiences go, it was a glorious thing, although it must be noted that it was actually the first time I've moved around a pool in search of the warm patches.  I suspect we could have stayed all day had we not had a plane to catch.

But we did, and in doing so were treated to one final dose of Icelandic hospitality and the politeness of which I am sure no one could tire.

Firstly, there was Shelley's run-in with the security officer after failing the x-ray screening that went like this.

"May I look in your bag please?"

"Oh!  I'm so sorry!  Do you mind if I take your knife?"

Other uniformed persons could learn a lot from that!

Then it was boarding time:

In our experience, larger aircraft are boarded in a well ordered sequence, with batches of seats called, quite logically boarding from the rear of the aircraft first.   We didn't hear a call, yet there was some movement at the gate, and my enquiry was met with a hearty welcome and a direction to please proceed, which we did.   Into the "pre-boarding" chamber we marched, where a third of the aircraft's payload was waiting patiently for further instructions undoubtedly to be barked over the intercom.

After a few moments, a call came from the top of the boarding stairs, echoing somewhere from within the aeroplane cabin in exactly the same cheery tone as the one I've heard on countless occasions while waiting for a daughter or even a succession of them to finish with the bathroom:

"OK, you can come up now!"

 Iceland, we're missing you already.

Click here to visit our Flickr Iceland Gallery


Friday, June 14, 2013

One last gasp
Akureyri to Reykjavic

This was to be it, the last day on the road in Iceland for some time at least, and a slightly anticlimactic not quite melancholic pall descended on the occupants of the vehicle.

Half of us had not slept particularly well, having not discovered the well disguised black-out feature of the curtains in our room until after breakfast.  In a country where the sun rises around two in the morning without actually disappearing entirely before or after that time, sleeping in a room wihtout blackout curtains is a distinct disadvantage.

But we soldiered on happily, stopping only to visit a tiny cafe in what would otherwise have been the living room of our host and later of course for lunch a little further south, before launching once more onto a detour across another desert to farewell the last glacier of the week.   Perhaps it's the unfamiliarity we have with these landscapes that burns them into our inner selves, or perhaps there is something in the water but whatever the reason, our week has been full of wonderful surprises even at times when conditions have been less than perfect for being outdoors.

At journey's end in Reykjavic late in the evening we felt to a person that we'd given the island a fair old shake, but it was the younger among us who saw the menu item and ordered it on our behalf.

It simply read: "Surprise".

Note: I have finally posted some more photos on Flickr and am slowly working my way through captions.   They can be found here.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just another day on the road.
Lake Mývatn to Akureyri

Shelley summed up one of the villages we visited today, when she said the only reason anyone would live there was that it was impossibly beautiful.

According to the brochures we have run out of "good bits", and after the spectacles of the past few days our expectations for stumbling across the extraordinary were not high and we were almost in commuting mode as we left Lake Mývatn, late morning after sneaking back to the Dairy which had hosted our dinner last night to ensure their waffle mixture was put to good use.

This was perhaps a mistake.   I am referring to "commuting mode", not the waffles, which were definitely not a mistake, as once again kilometre after kilometre of picture postcard unfolded before us as the day rolled on.

I suspect the only reason anyone would visit this country is that it is impossibly beautiful or perhaps because its populace is impossibly friendly, but we have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow so perhaps there is still time to find some tiny fault.

Note: It is not possible to describe our stay in in Iceland in one photograph or even a few paragraphs, so as soon as internet availability and time allow, further pictures will be uploaded to our flickr gallery.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nothing to see here - move along!
Hallormsstaður to Lake Mývatn

Today may well have been the day our senses were finally overloaded, although we have thought as much for the past week.

In just this one day there were more waterfalls than one could poke a stick at, more steaming geothermal basins than one could imagine, deserts that reminded us of home and others that didn't, craters and pseudo craters by the score, but it was walking through the steaming magma fields that held us captivated until late in the evening.

There is something about walking through patches of snow in dark lava fields still warm in parts from that last eruption thirty years ago that has a strangely cathartic effect on one's emotions.

Dining in a cafe on a dairy farm, separated from the evening's milking by a sheet of plate glass has a different, but no less significant impact effect.

Note: It is not possible to describe our stay in in Iceland in one photograph or even a few paragraphs, so as soon as internet availability and time allow, further pictures will be uploaded to our flickr gallery.  Watch this space!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pining for the Fjords
Höfn to Hallormsstaður

By this morning we were used to beginning our day in fog and we were not at all disappointed to see it in its customary position.  The day had promised to be a spectacular one driving along endless fiords along winding mountain roads with mountains on one side and nothing on the other.   We could only see the bit where the mountain met the water which to be fair may well have diminished the spectacle a little, so we decided to change our plan.  Instead, we would take the short cut over the mountain through the heart of the fog above the melting snow line.

This meant that we were forced to visit enormous waterfalls and walk around snow drifts and to drive along winding mountain roads that sometimes had nothing on one side and nothing on the other either, which didn't at the time appear to be much of an improvement in terms of view than the route we had initially chosen.

But then we reached the plateau where the melting snow banks had begun to crack, showing an iridescent blue glow magnifying the sunlight even through the heavy fog, and for a few hours we were travelling through yet another wonderland.

Surely now we have seen it all?

Note: It is not possible to describe our stay in in Iceland in one photograph or even a few paragraphs, so as soon as internet availability and time allow, further pictures will be uploaded to our flickr gallery.  Watch this space!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some days are diamonds.
Vic to Höfn

If you haven't seen ice washed ashore on a perfectly black beach, then there is a chance you've never taken a small boat between icebergs at the edge of a glacier either.   In which case you probably haven't driven through eerie deserts of lava fields overgrown with moss, or beneath a fog which gave one the distinct impression that the world was stuck in wide-screen mode.

Yesterday we thought we´d seen it all, that it couldn't get better, so we weren´t too disappointed to wake to the heavy fog, lashing rain and the single digit temperatures which had been forecast for the entire week.   Last night's fog had turned into a low cloud, completely hiding anything more than a few dozen metres above the ground, which could have been an impediment since we were to travel beside great mountains and glaciers for much of the day.

As we drove through the lava deserts and through the glaciers however we started to become grateful for the artificial limits on what we could see, any more could well have overwhelmed us, such was the impact of what was visible.

Undoubtedly the glaciers stole the show this day, and while the ancient lava fields  were literally the stuff of which legends were made, it was the boat ride among the icebergs that was the icing on the cake, or perhaps more colloquially, the jam on the waffle.

We had not seen Puffin admittedly, but the reindeer burgers were a small consolation.

Note: It is not possible to describe our stay in in Iceland in one photograph or even a few paragraphs, so as soon as internet availability and time allow, further pictures will be uploaded to our flickr gallery.  Watch this space!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Iceland, Day 1: We've seen it all, we can go home now!
Reykjavic to Vic via Geysir

Iceland, the brochures state clearly in full glossy colour, is despite it's proximity to the northern most part of this world, surprisingly warm.  We can now confirm that indeed is the case if one is driving in a heated car towards  glaciers, ash beaches, deserts, thermal springs, waterfalls and volcanoes, however it is unsurprisingly not at all warm at the times when one is actually out of the vehicle observing those very same things.

We travelled several hundred kilometres, hopping between at least one of each of the above things, gasping as every bend in the road unveiled some sort of spectacle even more remarkable than the last.

By the time we arrived at our evening destination we had seen so much that we began to wonder if we could keep this up for a whole week without suffering from some sort of sensory overload.  It was therefore with some relief that the rain and fog began to roll in with more purpose than it had earlier in the day as we sat over dinner, but we hadn't accounted for the determination of the youngest of our offspring.

After all, this was puffin territory and she had determined that we should all see one.

By the time we finished our meal the fog had thickened, but quite bizarrely had completely disappeared up to a level that would have been not much above the tree tops, had there been trees.  The puffins we were assured, were safely in their roosts well above the treetops (had there been trees), and therefore well hidden from these desperate tourists who contented themselves with a stroll along the jet black pebbles on the beach, while starting up from time to time, trying to imagine what the basalt cliffs above may actually look like.

Note: It is not possible to describe our stay in in Iceland in one photograph or even a few paragraphs, so as soon as internet availability and time allow, further pictures will be uploaded to our flickr gallery.  Watch this space for details when that happens!


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Another day in the office.
London to Reykjavik -8 June

We spent a day in the office today, which is to say that it was time to move on once again so we did.  In this case our day comprised a short train journey followed by a wait at one end for security checks and immigration, a few hours on an aeroplane,  more waiting for immigration and baggage collection and at the car hire counter.

"We have arranged a larger car for you sir" smiled Helgur at the counter, which lead us to wonder if it was possible to hire a car without being upgraded, but admittedly we had not been advised to insure against volcanic ash and sand damage before.

When all that was done we popped outside in temperatures not quite up to ten, and a heavy haze which quickly turned into all enveloping fog with rain to boot.

"Welcome", they said, "to Iceland."

By the time we had done all of that of course it was getting on in the day, despite us "saving" an hour in the journey.  But since the sun barely sets at all this month, we had plenty of time to stroll down the city streets trying unsuccessfully to track down some Minke Whale fillets or perhaps some Puffin stew for dinner, and to think about how we might spend the coming week.

Another day's work well done!


Friday, June 07, 2013

The pie or the fish?

By this morning, my eyes had begun to focus in the manner I had become accustomed to before the flogging they received at the hands of the Ophthalmologist yesterday, and although the sky was nowhere near as blue as it was while we were sitting in the crowded hospital waiting room, the sun did it's best to smile on us as we bounced down towards the City itself.

It was a combination of drop-addled vision and relief yesterday that caused us to exit the hospital's care without giving a thought as to whether there was any actual procedure to let them know we were on our way, and when we returned today to confess and to thank the A&E staff for their help we were greeted with bemusement.   Friendly, grateful bemusement, but bemusement none the less.

Bemusement is also the best way of describing our shopping experience at Primark, the monster chain of clothing discounters that is being blamed for single handedly bringing down all sorts of leading clothing brands in Australia.   The wait in this monster store to enter a changing room to try on a three pound pair of swimmers was barely a few hours less than the wait to see a specialist in the free hospital system, yet people seem to do that quite happily and then queue for almost as long again for the privilege of handing over money to one of dozens of cashiers who themselves had the demeanour of those disgruntled with waiting for hours to see a doctor.  

We had to do it though, buy some togs, in case we feel like having a swim in Icleand.    We didn't in Siberia, and have never regretted that, but we had the choice there and chose not to.   

Tomorrow evening we will have to make that choice I suppose, but today, the only one we had to make was whether to have the fish or the pie at lunch.   


Thursday, June 06, 2013

It's nice

It's nice to be able to just sit and look out of the window sometimes.

It was the slight roll of the eyes as the optometrist shook her head that was most disconcerting, even more than her suggestion that we head off to the Eye Hospital Accident and Emergency "just to be safe".

When the flashes started to appear in the corner of my eye a few weeks ago along with a series of other disconcerting symptoms, we were about to become stranded on a flooded river, unable to heed Dr Google's suggestion that in all probability my retina wasn't detaching, but if the symptoms persist it would possibly be wise to have it checked.   Thus it was that when the optometrist in question suggested the same thing, we thought it might be equally wise to heed that counsel.

It took just four hours of waiting to see a specialist, who was quick to confirm Doctor Google's advice with regard to the urgency of checking the situation, and reassuringly to add that in this case the symptoms would disappear in time and my sight would not, both of which were quite useful pieces of information.

We were left quite grateful that our experience of the much maligned national health service was a pleasant one indeed, except perhaps for the aggression of impatient patients, and the food in the cafeteria which probably went a long way towards explaining the constant wailing of ambulance sirens down Marylebone Road.

Tomorrow, when my eyes have returned to their normal, post examination state I suspect the gratitude will extend to the fact that I can in fact just sit and look out, no matter what the view.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Auxonne to London via Paris

The Austrian confectioner Antoine Rumpelmayer established Angelina named after his daughter-in-law, in 1903.  For over a century, the Angelina tearoom has established itself as a high point of Parisian gourmet pleasures, Angelina became a must-not-miss venue for the Parisian aristocracy.

There, Proust, Coco Chanel and the greatest French fashion designers were to be found, as indeed was our dear friend Raymonde who, depending on whose version is to be believed is either escorting or being escorted by daughters Gabrielle and Elliane on their tour.  Once again we bounce into a surreal zone, in the company of the familiar, in unfamiliar surrounds.

It is quite disconcerting, the way the world shrinks in the presence of friends, to a dimension no greater than the distance between the backs of chairs.  There in our little space-warped bubble of familiarity we could have been anywhere, the Swiss Cake Shop in Buderim perhaps, or on the footpath outside Van Weegans' in Mooloolaba, or in one of our own living rooms, oblivious to our actual surroundings as we caught up on our respective comings and goings since our last catch-up.

The only clue that we were not at home came from the occasional interruption of the waiter taking orders for more of the richest hot chocolate and the finest pastries as we passed our time in transit in the most splendid manner imaginable, although of course perhaps the occasional glance over our shoulders at the decor beyond did provide a teensy hint.

So Paris was nice, and by day's end we were once again in London, and we had lived another dream.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

In a whirl

I think about now it's finally safe to describe the weather as "spring".   Already more than half the boats have left the harbour now, off on their summer adventuring.  The remainder are being subjected to heavy scrubbing and general getting ready-ness by smiling crews, dancing to the beat of their own reflections in the water, and we should be doing the same.

But I woke with an amazing bout of dizziness and even more confusion that usual, and my view of the world was constantly changing not unlike living in one of those reflections.

I therefore just sort of hung around all day as has been my custom of late, although feeling a little sorrier for myself than is the norm, while my beloved washed every item of clothing she could find and some things that weren't clothing as well, to get them dry in case the sun should fail to rise ever again.

"We" also had to think about packing, because tomorrow before a civilised breakfast time, we will also be departing, but on the train in direction London, heading off in search of cooler, wetter more overcast weather.  The kind to which we have now become accustomed.

In the end, we occupied herself all all day, bustling and working away, while I quite sensibly lay about, holding on to things to stop them swaying, hoping that the world would just stand still before the morrow.

Monday, June 03, 2013


Not wanting to be left out of the the rustle and bustle of doing things in the new found sunshine, we wandered off to the shops to organise the next few weeks of our life.   Of course after our long period of inactivity and not taking too much notice of the calendar, we had forgotten that it was Monday, the day when most shops are closed to sensibly to allow their staff to recover from the weekend, and our morning wanderings therefore while quite enjoyable went unrewarded.

So we wandered back to the port, in time to farewell Joel and Cindy, and to cadge a ride to the station to arrange our travels.  Having waited till a time after which we were confident that railway staff would have completed a sensibly long lunch break, on our arrival we were not overly surprised to discover that we were entirely wrong, as station staff don't actually return after lunch until Friday in Auxonne, and for the second time in one day we found ourselves walking in direction home without reward.

We don't of course have a mortgage on being entirely wrong, take for instance the boat hirers we watched being rescued as we made our way home.  They had made a fairly good fist of not actually taking the preferred course.  When the companies that hire these craft advertise no experience necessary, they really do need some fine print that says that perhaps a teensy bit of the stuff could be put to good use from time to time.  

I guess the short cut seemed like a good idea, and fortunately no actual injuries were sustained in the event.

On a happier note, the accompanying rescue circus did give the shopkeepers and railway staff something to keep them entertained on their afternoon off.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Better and better

In another life and another country, had the day presented itself with as little sunshine as this one did, we may have even presumed to call it gloomy.

In this country though, the clarity of the light when it did poke through was enough to have everyone out and about cleaning, drying, smiling until late in the evening when the sun finally deigned to make and appearance, and the cleaning and smiling turned into barbecues and laughter. 

All around the harbour the levels of activity have gone up another notch.   

The floods have gone, the sun is out, the waiting is over.

Some managed to tear themselves away today, but tomorrow it seems, the summer exodus will begin.


Saturday, June 01, 2013


Last night we were convinced we'd eaten enough to keep us in hibernation for an entire winter, but when my first eye opened this morning it was earlier than I'd hoped.  I do believe it had stirred no doubt due to to an unfamiliar sensation reaching its still unopened lid.

The barest glimmer of reflected sunlight was dancing on the curtain above our bunk.

It was faint at first, but it was definitely sunlight, I remember seeing pictures of it on the internet.

I sat up and looked outside, and was greeted by a sea of heads doing exactly the same thing.  Staring in disbelief.

Every boat in the harbour, and there were many which until now we had thought were unoccupied, had at least one, mostly several human forms visible, each slowly stirring as though the impact of their own party nights sometime last October were at last starting to wear off.

In the village the same thing was happening, the entire town had come to life.  People were simply standing outside in silent disbelief, as though  in awe of the enormous switch which had just been flicked to allow summer to finally show through the clouds.

It didn't last of course, but it seems that everyone, having glimpsed the possibility, has been filled with a new energy and optimism.
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