Legends from our own lunchtimes

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Opposing Forces
Sunday 27 May - Lagarde

Some days it seems that the only way to settle the battle between procrastination and productivity is to have lunch.  

This is particularly easy thing to do on a Sunday in Lagarde.  The prospect of spending the mid part of the day in happy conviviality on Jacques’ and Maggie’s verandah accompanied by splendid food quickly dissolves any propensity to address any of the items on that list marked “things to do”.  

But the day held a surprising twist.  

Perhaps it was to to assuage the guilt of the past few days’ inactivity, or perhaps it was a subconscious effort to reduce the impact of the volume of food which would inevitably be consumed that caused the boat to receive it’s initial post-winter scrub before morning tea time.  It may have been the acorns in the luncheon pork that caused the shower thermostat to be repaired not just once but three times in a flurry of activity during the sleepiness of late afternoon as well but whatever the reason, we might have to take a day off tomorrow to make up!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mother’s Déjà Vu
26 May 2018 Lunéville

I guess it must be something to do with the time difference between hemispheres that Mother’s Day in Australia was celebrated exactly two weeks earlier than in France.  There, while searching for a convenient bunch of roses on the day before the event, we could not help but notice that prices in our local supermarket had risen overnight by one hundred and fifty percent.  This makes perfect sense from a retail perspective of course; one “goes fishing when the fish are biting” if one wants to eat, but we were appalled in that case that the original price label had been covered with a big red sign that said “Special!”  

Today was Mother’s Day eve in France, and for reasons which are not particularly clear, we decided that we should make an effort to procure “our orchid”.   This orchid on the boat thing is a custom introduced to us by our friend Sunny many years ago.  Flowering orchids can be purchased quite economically, and the flowers are so long lasting that when placed in a prominent position aboard, one can have the pleasure of watching the thing die slowly over a whole summer.  Last year through an accident of timing and supermarket stock, we ended up with a Bromeliad which had more than a passing resemblance to the rough end of a pineapple, and although it did survive the summer completely unscathed, apparently met a nasty end in the clutches of Bill’s cat.

Which brings us to the garden shop in Lunéville where we, a bit overdue for a nap, a bit overcome from mixing it with the Saturday supermarket crowds were shocked discover that the Australian pre Mother’s Day pricing policies have hit hard in France as well.  There’s a principle at stake.  Despite the immutable mathematical reality that a return trip will cost many times the difference in the potential saving, we will not buy today.   Oh no, we might even give the orchid a swerve entirely this year.   

They know what they can do with the rough end of their Bromeliads!

New Season, New List
25 May 2018 Lagarde with a diversion in Toul

There’s no sense in denying it, when there’s tidying to be done the easiest way to ensure nothing is missed is to write a list and cross tasks off as they are completed.

We started our new list today, and it began something like this:
  1.  clean boat inside
  2.  clean boat outside
  3.  get the next week’s worth of groceries
  4.  repair or replace shower thermostat and mixer
  5.  wash and rehang curtains
  6.  check motor and hydraulic systems
  7.  flush water tank and bilge.
  8.  have lunch with Grahame and Aileen.

Since everyone has to eat sometime, it seemed sensible to attempt number eight first.  They are five days away by boat as it happens, which is about an hour by car, and a nice drive in the country to boot, about eighty kilometres away in Toul.  Getting there would easily consume our morning. Naturally the middle part of the day would be spent lingering over lunch, and an even more meandering drive back in the afternoon in reality would leave no time for the other things, except maybe to stop to take the odd photograph and to console ourselves with the thought that some people have longer lists than we do.

So we now have one less item on our list.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fine and Sunny. 24 May 2018

Not having the luxury of owning a boat that could be described as waterproof by even the broadest definition, we do tend to take a lot of time packaging all our belongings and bedding before leaving it for winter, then securely covering it as best we can in green tarps of the agricultural variety.

This has worked perfectly to date in terms of keeping things in a state which is more or less in accordance with our hopes. Occasionally we do suffer a minor loss, such as the tea towel which had been inadvertently hung over a damp towel prior to departure and in our absence had magically transformed into a black crawling mass, but apart from a few signs of insect invasion in early spring all is well aboard.   

The downside of such careful preparation is that it all has to be undone on our return and that does take a day or two of finding things in their zippered bags and restoring them to their proper spots.

Removing the covers is not such a big deal, we just need to wait for a bit of fine and sunny weather to let them dry, take them off, fold them and store them till next year.

Perhaps that can wait till tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

On Romance. 23 May 2018

One of the most frequent questions we are asked about our roving life on the water is the one about how we go about getting our provisions.  The question is most often followed immediately by the questioner making a statement explaining that they suppose we stop each day in a village, pop up to the market for vegetables still smelling of the rich earth from which they had sprung and fresh bread steaming hot from an old lady who bakes it in a wood fired oven, and perhaps wine from a guy with grape skins still stuck to his ankles from last evening’s treading.  

Not wanting to burst any delusional bubbles we usually agree that that is indeed how we provision our little craft, and in reality when the opportunity presents itself, from time to time we do take great  pleasure in doing so.   

The harsh reality though is that not every village has a market, and not every market vendor supplies the finer necessities of life, like garbage bags or haemorrhoid cream, and when we are visiting a village that might, invariably we arrive the day after market day.  Therefore, when any opportunity presents, the best kind of market is the “super” kind, particularly when we have access to a vehicle to carry bulk stores.  Some may be disappointed that this particular exposé of the seamier side of our lives falls short of their romantic vision for us.  To them we say "do not fret on our behalves."  

In the spirit of keeping up with the times, just think of it as “New Romantic”.

The Homecoming. 22 May 2018
Paris to Lagarde

After boasting a week or two ago about the joy of train travel in Europe we suffered a disappointingly slow trip today.  The speed of the train barely touched two hundred and ninety-eight kilometres per hour for most of the distance and never made three hundred at least while we were watching.  Despite that, it arrived on time to the second of course and as is always the case for us, at least on the five days out of seven when there is not a transport strike, the perfect confluence of train, bus and train timetables had us arriving in Lunéville at exactly midday.   

Exactly midday is exactly the wrong time to arrive anywhere in France, as it marks the beginning of the two hour lunch break for all, including the nice folk at the rent-a-car place and the taxi drivers who we would very much have liked to take us to that same rent-a-car place.  This is not the first time we have experienced the “closed for lunch” phenomena, and we have learned that when one can’t beat ‘em, one is very well advised to join ‘em.  In this case joining ‘em under a shady tree with fresh baguettes filled with chicken and cheese and toasted walnuts accompanied by even fresher strawberry tarts  proved to be a splendid way of filling in the requisite time.

Eventually we did make it “home” again to our little postcard village, feeling quite out of sync with our new time zone, if not a little worse for wear.  We kept our reunions brief, retiring just as the rains came, happily oblivious under the grey sky to the fact that at least several hours remained before the day was scheduled to end.

That Blur. 21 May 2018
Brisbane to Hong Kong to Paris

There’s not a lot to like about long distance flights.  

fSome of our friends pretend that they are not a big deal, but it’s difficult not to think that when they wax lyrical about the amount of sleep they have had and how fresh they felt on arrival, that the delusory effects of the jet lag have had a rather large part in the composition of those remarks.  

Admittedly one of us always fares better than the other in the sleep and comfort stakes.  Without naming names, she’s the one with sleeping skills honed from years of slumber in the front seat of the car on any journey that is longer than the one to the supermarket.  Therefore, before the seat belt lights go out, and in some cases before the safety demonstration has commenced, she becomes happily oblivious to the whinging from the seat beside her, waking only to eat or perhaps watch part of a movie until she nods blissfully off once more.

By the half way mark and that interminable wait for the connecting flight, it’s difficult to focus on anything much beyond one’s immediate surrounds.  The simple act of reading signs and following them to the next departure point becomes something that requires extremes of concentration, but the air conditioning and carpet and the cross word puzzles remind us that we aren’t being particularly intrepid after all. So like our friends, we pretend we aren’t affected at all and eventually we arrive in Paris after almost twenty-four hours in the air, yet mid afternoon on the same day we left Brisbane, in the knowledge that after a hot shower and a good night's sleep, we probably won't feel any better at all.   


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Here we go!

Nothing says we’re underway more than parking the rental car under the freeway near midnight in a dark airport carpark.

Well maybe a week of partying and family time and frenetically catching up with friends (or not, despite our best endeavours) and having actually left the house half a week ago should have been a broad hint.     Now we have nothing to do but put our feet up and settle in for what will surely be the longest day of the year, or at least one of them.

But first we have an hour or two to while away in slightly brighter surroundings than those we left  our car to suffer.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Conversations with Miss Eight.

With the big “garden gate” on her birthday cake perhaps one should have expected that conversation would rise to a whole new level, but how could one expect this on the morning before her birthday?

Me (in enthusiastic description of the proposed new car): “And it’s got a gadget that will make it impossible to hit anything in reverse.  Even if we don’t see it, the car will and it will stop before it hits.”

Miss Eight, (with a somewhat quizzical countenance):  “Well that’s no good.  What if we want to rob a jewellery store?”

Any hope of she and I becoming a modern day Bonnie and Clyde lies dashed, apparently. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I may not be cheap but at least I'm slow.

It was Brisbane by train actually, or trial by train to be more precise.   On weekends for people of a certain age, public transport is a hideously slow but quite economical means of getting about. In our now carriage-less state it seemed like the only way of getting about really if we wanted to be present at our Miss Eight’s birthday bash more than a hundred kilometres away.

In our other life are very used to commuting by train.  One of our simple pleasures is derived from monitoring our GPS when we do, watching in awe and fascination as the speed drops to two hundred kilometres per hour as we slow through stations, always arriving to millisecond perfect time.  It came as something of a shock therefore that not only was the train more than ten minutes late when it arrived, but at no time during our several hours aboard did the speed exceed a thrilling maximum of forty-six kilometres per hour.   To rub salt into the already weeping wound, as soon as we boarded there was an announcement to the effect that the toilets were out of action, so if we could all please hold on, we’d have a toilet stop in Caboolture.

Astonishingly, that we did.   All those who felt the need to go, went.  This was of course with a polite warning to get a bit of a wiggle on as they did, in consideration of those left waiting on the train.   Who knows whether heads were counted on and off, but eventually we did get going again and no one seemed to have been left behind.  Miraculously, our connections must have been similarly delayed and we were able to join each leg of the journey without further obvious hold up.

Four hours later, having travelled about one third of the distance that we will be travelling next week in France in a little over one hour, we arrived relaxed and happy, in the knowledge that public transport in Queensland may not be efficient, but at least it can be had for less than a dollar per hour.


Well perhaps just one last road trip then. (Wednesday 2nd May)
Aratula, Allora, Clifton, Toowoomba, Crows Nest, Toogoolawah, Beerwah

Well perhaps just one last road trip, Wednesday 2nd May

Aratula, Allora, Clifton, Toowoomba, Crows Nest, Toogoolawah, Beerwah

The car has been sold and booked for it’s safety check on Thursday, and by carefully cancelling all our commitments, we discovered we had more than enough time to join our mates on one last (very brief) road trip before becoming carless.

Still hampered by the post-op lift limit, there didn’t seem to be any point in making our life more difficult than it needed to be by camping for one night, so while the others slept in the grounds of O’Shanley’s pub in Clifton, in motorhome and caravan respectively, we oversaw the whole process from our not entirely salubrious first floor window in said establishment.  The vague excuse for this trip was to visit an exhibition of models of da Vinci’s machines and other inventions on display in the Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba, and we had just enough time to do that and to complete our little circuit before the sun went down on the second day.  The others, without as many places to go, people to see and things to do as we did at the time, stayed out in the wilds for just one more night.

Of course we had a wonderful time, the trip evoking memories of many just like it in days gone by.  

Perhaps it was a fitting farewell to our little car, the company of good friends and the wonders of da Vinci and the National Carriage Museum made the effort well worth it.

Now though we have an even greater wonder: 

How will our friends from other parts of the world pronounce the names of the towns on our itinerary?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Farewell old friend (Monday 1st May)

When it happened it seemed as though it was a spur of the moment decision, although one can hardly call eleven years of thinking about what our next car might be “spur of the moment”, but we advertised it for sale over the weekend on the off chance that someone may see the potential we did, and by Monday someone did.

If it had been a horse perhaps we’d say it was off to spend its retirement in greener pastures, for it has many years of life left before any thought of having to put it down, but it’s a car in which we have shared 180,000 kilometres of good times.   That’s technically enough for a dozen or so circumnavigations of Australia although we haven’t actually done that yet, the drive “around the block”.   We have been through and across and up and down this continent though, far enough from the beaten track to have bits of every coloured dust imaginable secreted in its inner-most workings, and a bit of mud and sand to boot despite, concerted efforts over the years to get to them.

It will soon be gone, but the memories have been excluded from the sale.  

Perhaps the next one will be the vessel in which we complete that circumnavigation, but at the moment it is hard to imagine life in the outback without our little silver beast.


A chap to call our own. (A Friday in early May)

In a few weeks we will be gone.

Our time at the place we call “home” seems to have flown, consumed almost entirely it seems by taking care of the sorts of business that once we thought was solely in the domain of those we considered to be old.  A never ending round of repairs involving teeth, and eyes and ears and actual re-arrangement of body parts has been mashed into the slots we have left in our lives after chasing our little ones, who are just far enough away so that some weeks we wonder whether we actually live on that six lane highway. 

It’s not that there hasn’t been progress on the house, there has, but the crescendo happened last year, now it’s down to something less than a dull roar, an endless list headed “things to do” not unlike the one on the boat, where the invisible sub-title happily reads “but probably not just yet.”   The garden of course did suffer from neglect while all this otherwise occupied-ness was taking place, and the consequences of all that body rearranging made their presence felt.

Rather than “bust a gut, to use a euphemism that in a manner of speaking had already been done, through a small miracle we found our John, who seems just as happy to cut and snip and chainsaw his way through our tiny jungle as we are to watch him happily doing it.  

What a joy it will be to return in six months to a garden in better shape than it was when we left!

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