This morning more than half an hour before lock operating hours, we watched bemused and amused as the huge cruiser a few pens away from us, was manhandled silently, no, stealthily out and into the channel before starting its engine thereby notifying the rest of us of its intent to be first into the lock queue. More amusing or amazing really was the angst that showed in the body language of the couple opposite as they were mid casting-off at the time, and would now be relegated to the second lock-load, all of ten minutes later.
One of the highlights of staying in Toul is the fight to leave the harbour at exactly nine each morning. The competition is always fierce, as if there is a prize for being the first in the queue. We’ve even witnessed verbal if not physical clashes as each successive passage of the lock brings more boats jousting to be next down and onto the river. The stupidity of it all is that an hour or so later, they will be held, bunched together at the first large commercial lock which will easily contain them all, waiting for those who left an hour later as well. Unaware of that, the morning air is often filled with the sort of tension one feels before a huge sporting event involving national pride and large sums of money.
Is it therefore a deliberate irony on the part of the harbour management, that the annual round of the national water jousting championships are held in the very approach to that very same lock? Perhaps it is to give those who have just arrived a preview of the morning’s tussle.
Whatever the case, if one had a spare set of jousting sticks for sale, one could probably clean up if one brought them to Toul at this time of year.