Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, May 31, 2014

It was quite chilly this morning.
Still in Lagarde.

Well there was no point in two of us being up before six, so while one of us was appreciating the bracing freshness of sunrise in nine degree warmth, the other one wasn’t.

As the temperature failed to soar, one more coat of oil found its way onto the bench tops before seven thirty and time to return the car to Luneville.  The prospect of cycling home through almost thirty kilometres of misty valleys was not terribly daunting albeit it may have taken a little while to thaw the extremities when it was over, so when Bob from a couple of boats away offered a lift in his car it would have been rude to have turned hime down.

By the time we returned, the temperature had reached “civilised” and it felt as though half the day had been done and it wasn't even quarter to breakfast time.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the pile of steaming crepes which were waiting for my return, and perhaps what seemed to be an nibble-athon in honour of my attaining the same age as her good self, arranged of course on other people’s boats due to the absence of anything remotely conducive to sitting on in our own, let alone washing up in. 

Thus was any thought of work kept pleasantly at bay for the rest of the afternoon.


Friday, May 30, 2014

My Workshop

Since today was the last day that we would have the car, we wasted no time charging off into the morning to pickup the four wire baskets we needed for the galley.  

And since today was the last day that we would have the car, it stands to reason that when we arrived at the big blue shop, there would be only three wire baskets left in stock, “perhaps you could come back after tomorrow for another one?”

So we had two cups of free coffee, after all we are “family”, and left with three quarters of the items on our list ticked off, stopped off for a car full of groceries, and managed to get three more coats of oil on the bench tops which were complete and awaiting installation, for the time being balancing on top of any surface even approximately level enough to have them.

In the meantime, someone had purloined my table-workshop for the better part of the day and were using it as an office!   How dare they!

I shall have to get up earlier tomorrow.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ahh.. well we've started on the new bench tops.

Today was a public holiday in Germany and parts of France, so when we decided after taking careful measurements that there were one or two things we could use from the large Swedish furniture store in Metz to complete our galley update, prudence suggested that perhaps we should check the opening hours.

Dear prudence, once again was absolutely right.   It seems that every branch of that particular chain would be open today, except the only two that were within driving distance, although we would have needed to take a cut lunch to get to the second in any case.

Undeterred, one of us decided that he should just launch into the bench top project while the going was good. This of course meant adding somewhat to the almost sorted chaos, as the contents of the cupboards were emptied into the few remaining spaces, leaving the other powerless to do much at all but find somewhere under the junk and become small and quiet.

Meanwhile Bill, having begun the dismantling of our steering in good faith or perhaps blind optimism, had left an odd collection of greasy ball bearings and springs which keep attaching themselves to things at random and somewhat mysteriously  moving around the boat. Hopefully most will have been rediscovered by the time the gear arrives.

There is a picnic table in the shade of a near by tree which I use as my workshop each year, and I lay out my meagre collection of tools to mark my possession of it.  By mid afternoon the two metre long future bench tops had been removed from the car and we could sit beside each other once again when our next outing presented itself, but even better,  they were now in smaller pieces that vaguely resembled the shape of our galley.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Playing with Lego

Have we really been here three days?  If we had imposed a deadline on ourselves for moving on, we may even be at the early stages of becoming stressed by now, as the list of tasks that need to be completed seems to grow by the hour.

Most of them are jobs which could be put off if we lay down for a bit and waited for them to go away, but where would the fun be in just cruising off into the sunset?  There is the upgrade to our bed of course, a beautiful Lego-esque system of plastic springs, which after hours of fun assembling will miraculously turn our cheap mattress into a very expensive one, and perfectly good albeit slightly arthritic fingers into aching lumps.  At least now when I have need to curl up sucking my thumb it will be without my hip digging in to the ply wood base, and believe it or not I do occasionally still have that need.

Take for instance this very afternoon.  Having confirmed that the parts for our antique steering system were in stock at the suppliers, every last nut and bolt, we ordered them when we arrived last Monday and this morning dismantled the aged parts in anticipation of their imminent arrival.  This afternoon we received a message which advised that perhaps delivery would not be on Friday as discussed as the parts were no longer manufactured and they did not have any and perhaps it would be wise in future to enquire whether there is stock before we order.

It looks as though there may well be time to replace the galley bench tops before we leave after all.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014


There seemed to be no escape.   If the cleaning wasn’t bad enough, trying to find a way to write about it that isn’t even more tortuous to read is producing even more pain.

Jacques, having realised that under what appeared to be a land reclamation project in his port, suggested I use his “little” pressure washer once I had finsihed with the excavator.  That helped, and after a very long morning and some of the afternoon the blue and white we have come to love began to re-emerge.

Inside, the task was of no less magnitude, and while a large dent has been made, it will take several days more of juggling things between tools and projects until we are ready to move on.   

Move on that is, once we have finished the reinstallation of the now gorgeous looking Mr Perkins.

Monday, May 26, 2014

In the pink.

When the day dawned it seemed a bit silly to leave the warmth of the quilts just to get up and scrub the boat and tidy up, besides we had been invited to breakfast at nine, and there was little point in raising a sweat before then.

Breakfast naturally turned into a late-ish morning tea, and since we had a car and Grahame and Aileen didn’t, we decided they should accompany us on a brief provisioning soujourn.   “Brief” is probably not a word that comes readily to mind in relation to shopping trips, particularly when multiple not-males persons are in the throng, and I must admit that perhaps arriving in town at one minute to lunchtime was strategically ill advised, given that it would be two hours until the hardware shop reopened and until then some vital supplies would be unattainable.

We did our best to fill in time, by sitting down between supermarkets, for a quick bite to eat, sympathising all the while with the local service people and the great distraction that lunch time must be for them.

By the time we arrived back in Lagarde, looked at the mess for a bit and pondered whether to start work, we thought better of it and retired to Grahame and Aileen’s boat where at least we had a place to sit, to watch the sun go down.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Six days on the road and we made it home tonight.
to Lagarde

Why is it that when we get to bed late we always seem to wake early to compensate?   At least it gave us time to pack all our stuff, lose one or two important items and then find them again several times, and give the place a bit of a once-over before setting off to bid our fond farewells.

It was actually a very civilised ten-thirty before we finally found ourselves full of coffee and barrelling down the motorway in direction Lagarde, cruise control set at one-three-zero, and barely another car on the road.  While motorway tolls are said to be relatively expensive we console ourselves with the thought that on a per kilometre basis if the same toll were to be applied to the Gateway Bridge, it would cost about thirty cents to cross.   

I have marvelled at the efficiency of the system before, and hadn’t finished marvelling this time after five and a bit hours on the road counting a couple of rest stops, when we arrived to begin our trail of fond helloes.

First there were snacks with Jacques and Maggie, then dinner with Grahame and Aileen, after all it was still “eat with your neighbour weekend” so it would have been rude to avoid them.

The boat looked as though it had spent a hard winter under some sort of animal pen, and the inside still packed for winter but with our travel gear half unpacked resembled a small recycling transfer station, so we cleared the corner of it which had our bed in it, and decided that tomorrow we would be up with the sun and into sorting out the mess.

None of it mattered though, we are home.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A patch of blue -
La Ferté-Saint-Aubin and the Castle Chambord

Thankfully the whinging about jet lag stops today.  We, having risen from a good deal of slumber overnight officially pronounced ourselves back to normal this morning.

Apparently making our apologies for not attending the concert last night turned out to be something of a masterstroke as well, with many of the audience members sleeping just as soundly as we were, but they were not in comfortable warm beds.  

We felt so normal on rising that we began to make plans to move on.  After one more day of complete idleness we thought, and another long sleep, we would be in perfect shape for road trip to Lagarde, our other “home” village conveniently located on the opposite side of the country.   In the process of forming that plan we had not been aware that this weekend is an officially festive one, loosely translated as “Eat with your neighbour weekend”, nor thatsome time ago our hosts had happily agreed that we should attend a dinner this evening with Annick and Jean-Jacques, our neighbours at our “official” address.    

From previous experience we can say that being invited to dinner is something akin to being invited to a wake-athon.  While looking forward to enjoying the company, with a little trepidation we could see our bank of sleep hours rapidly disappearing, so made plans for a long afternoon nap to steel ourselves for the evening event.

But Monique and her friend Pascal turned up, having decided that instead, we needed a tour of perhaps the second most famous castle in the history of France: Chambord,  “There is plenty of time to sleep tonight!”  

We "Chamorded" all day, then dined and listened perhaps less intently to what we could make of conversation as the night wore on and our concentration at first lapsed before failing completely and the fog of fatigue began to descend upon us once again in the wee small hours of the morn.  Of course we wouldn’t have it any other way, and at any rate that fog which was once grey has a growing  patch of blue appearing in its corner.

And it’s a very bright blue indeed!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Doing the Time Warp Again
La Ferté-Saint-Aubin

The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if it actually existed, would say something like this on Jet Travel:  
The first rule of jet travel is not to succumb to what your body is telling you.   No matter how hard it screams and how disoriented you become, NEVER think you will just shut your eyes for a few seconds.

Sage advice indeed and a code that until yesterday we have scrupulously observed.   Yesterday however, we were feeling a bit seedy in the early afternoon, and we had an appointment at Monique’s place in the evening that from experience would last until tomorrow, so perhaps it would be sensible to have just a little rest.   A few moments of shuteye can't hurt can they?

Today we can say without fear of contradiction, that was a mistake.   When we were awoken by the telephone in a fog of disorientation it was six hours later, almost eight, about the time we were due at Monique’s for dinner, having slept through  our alarm and everything else.

It took till midnight to shake off the hangover, and by the time we were once again in bed early this morning our body clocks had set themselves back to Australian time, ready for us to start again.  This we did, all day surviving on the four hours of sleep that we had managed in the “proper” night, all the while feeling as though we had just landed.  The whole of today has disappeared in a blur of indecision.

Wisely, in one of those moments when we both had our faculties at the same time, we decided that attending the evening’s concert offering would not be smart, so we retired back to our nest in Jackie’s time-warp house to read, and be sensible and become proper people by the morrow.

Living in a house in which every piece of decor has remained untouched since the seventies is “interesting” though and possibly not assisting our cause.  Every time we wake we have to question the whether time travel is real and whether somewhere along the way we haven't pressed a wrong button.  

Perhaps we need to look it up in the “Guide”.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Feeling like a frog in a blender.

It was C.S Lewis who once wrote something to the effect that “The happiness now is the price we pay for the pain that is to come” and while he wasn’t talking about the experience of boarding a large airliner, he may as well have been.

A midnight departure is never terrific, because it means a two a.m. dinner and then ten or twelve hours of fitful dozing interspersed by leg cramps, back ache and perhaps a movie and the odd trip to the loo.  I only write about it because I am aware that it’s not exactly riveting stuff to read, and that is exactly my point.

Eventually we emerged after what felt like a day in a tumble dryer with the heat turned off, found our bags and wandered to the car hire counter, seamlessly getting sucked into the upgrade vortex for only another twelve Euros a day, and headed out into peak hour Paris, concentrating too hard on being alert enough to drive to notice that the GPS had been left on the “shortest route” alternative.    

Having stretched a two hour drive into a three and a half hour one on wet roads that were as miserable as we were tired, it should have come as no surprise to find that none of our credit cards would be acceptable to the automatic lane in the motorway toll booth machine when came time to bid it farewell.   

To signal our journey’s end, the sky cleared dramatically within a few kilometres of Celine and Dume’s house and arrived to be welcomed by the sun giving us a fair impression of summer.

As we sat basking in it, hatless and without UV block like true Europeans, eating baguette and tomato from Jackie’s garden with a little goat’s cheese washed down by some rich black coffee it was as if we had left all the pain of the journey behind somewhere in the motorway fog.

We were simply at home, feeling quite disconcerted that we felt no novelty about our being here, once again it is as though we haven't left.

Now if only we could remember our names and a little about ourselves, I’d deem us to have escaped the journey entirely unscathed!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The first plan.

“Whiling away” is not one of the things we do very well, sadly.  Within minutes of checking out of our hotel, despite swearing that we would do nothing to get hot and sweaty all afternoon, we found ourselves poking around in the ‘burbs, dropping in on the odd food centre ("No!" poking me on the shoulder; "You must stir the noodles FIRST sir!") and just meandering through the streets and shopping centres watching the time entirely fail to pass.

Eventually, having meandered, eaten, drunk, eaten, walked, browsed, walked some more and observed for what seemed like days but were barely hours, cooling off between meanders by either riding the overly air-conditioned MRT, or hanging about in overly air-conditioned shopping malls, sufficient time had passed for us to return to pick up our bags and head to the airport.  A quick check of our pedometers (bought after Singapore last year - thanks Phil and Serene!) showed that we had walked for nearly fifteen kilometres.  Perhaps this was not quite the sort of whiling we had intended.

The whole purpose of stopping over for two nights en route to France is to try to minimise the impact of the time differences on our bodies and more particularly our brains.   We always imagine ourselves just sort of hanging around, resting, preparing ourselves for the big event which is the overnight flight to France and once again we have failed entirely to fulfil our imaginings.

Where the plan always falls down a bit is that once we are here, we tend to run around a lot, filling in our day as tourists rather than as the sensible travellers we fancy ourselves to be, while at the same time sleeping at night in fits and starts on harder beds or softer pillows than those to which we would aspire.

One night perhaps we will check into the airport bright eyed and bushy tailed, but I fear this won’t be it.

Tomorrow when we alight, we know that we will have failed and life will be a little like viewing the world through a reflection.

But who cares, it’s been a brilliant couple of days!


Shangri La

The Shangri La is a Singapore landmark.   A hotel with more stars than a constellation and hot and cold running helpers, a glorious pool set in superb landscaping and it's probably the perfect place to spend a night or two relaxing during a stopover, and a day or two wallowing in its surrounds.

While we were enjoying our authentic Singapore experience, from a hotel room which had no need for a sign banning the swinging of cats, and a front entrance in which our taxi had to do a three point turn, walking far too far in the steamy humidity, bathing in sweat and eating meals from vendors for less than the price of a coffee at a large international franchise, Frank and Carol were wallowing.

We even paid them a visit to make sure they were OK, but they had difficulty talking through the big grins etched on their faces.

We were delighted to see them in those surrounds, and while we weren't envious of them, even taking into account my particular facial impairment we couldn't help but notice that their smiles were perhaps the teensiest bit wider than even ours, it was something to do with chocolates and rose petals on their bed we think.

We didn't want to spoil their moment, but our hotel has maids to clean up stuff like that.


Monday, May 19, 2014

View from a Hotel Room

The first step of the journey ends for us in Singapore, peering from our hotel window into the night, pondering why we feel so absolutely exhausted after simply sitting still in front of a screen for an eight hour shift.

Feeling absolutely grateful for our lot as well I should say, and pinching ourselves to make sure that the people here in our clothes are actually us, a quarter of the world's circumference from where we were when the sun rose this morning.

Surely it can't be jetlag, this overwhelming desire to sleep at seven in the evening?

I suspect it's the feeling one gets when one's world starts to grind to a slower pace.  It's time to shift to another gear.

It will be different tomorrow though, waking up with nothing to shovel.......

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hanging up the Boots.

A lot of time has passed since we were sitting in Heathrow waiting for that flight to Canada.

We made it well enough, and had the time of our lives.  Such a rollicking good time that this blog may well have omitted to publish any information concerning those far from lost weeks in the wilds.  Since the sole purpose of this document is to record our comings and goings for our own benefit, this could be a glaring omission and it would appear from the number of messages I've received of late that others think so too.  It is true that our gratitude to Sunny and Al for those last two weeks on the road last year knows no bounds, but more of that later (backdated of course.) 

Thanks to the miracle of technology however, those with a passing interest may backtrack a page or two over coming days and discover a little of the past.

For now, I shall say that the intervening period has been something of a physical challenge, leaving scant time for anything but the renovation of the exterior of DickyWorld, the current home of the Biting Midge mixed of course with healthy doses of grandchildren and unhealthy doses of whatever bug it is they bring home from kindy at the time.

Those boots were brand spanking circus yellow when I bought them in November.  They have taken something of a beating since, along with the wheelbarrow and a few fingernails which failed the hammer and “jammed in the sawfence tests” respectively, but apart from that we are all present and accounted for and looking forward to picking our peripatetic habits at the point we left them.

Now it’s over. Now we are in the midst of birthday celebrations for half the family, and tomorrow before the darkness leaves us in the morning we will be once again on the road.

Welcome back!
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