Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Thinking locally.
Sunday 17 June - Pagny-sur-Marne to Eauville

We are trying to limit our travels for the next period of time, to one page of our chart book per day.  This equates to travelling something less than ten kilometres, which can prove quite useful  in the event of discovering when we arrive at our destination that we have left something behind, as we can simply walk back to get it.

There are those we are aware, who do not share our propensity for travelling slowly.  The world is their oyster, why bother with the intricacies of the large scale chart when a globe will do.

Euville is why, and dozens, perhaps hundreds of other little places like it.  They are as far as one can be off the beaten path, when the beaten path is actually a waterway.   None the less, those who don’t take the time will never know what they miss as they storm past us wondering what we see in the tranquility and the quaintness of it all.  The answer is clear, there is nothing to see here (that we want to share at any rate), move along and leave us to it!

Out of the gate
Saturday 16 June -Toul to Pagny-sur-Marne

The farewell hugs and kisses took a while, and a casual observer could all be forgiven for thinking we were heading off on a journey of something more than the twelve locks and thirteen kilometres that the day would bring.  

Popping through the little tunnel at the top of it all we both felt we were going through some sort of a gateway to new adventures. This was a nonsense of course.  It will be weeks or even months before we are beating a path not travelled before, but our minds have now happily farewelled the most familiar of our stomping grounds and we feel that are finally on our way.

Having traversed almost a hundred kilometres in the past two weeks,  perhaps now we can slow down to a less blistering, more cruising kind of pace.


Bio Diversity
Friday 15 June - Toul

Some years ago the local authority in Toul began an experiment on the town’s ramparts.  Some bright spark had decided that for the cost of a few signs proclaiming that they had been declared a nature zone encouraging a bio-diverse range of plant species, they would never have to mow the grassy banks again.   Thus far the experiment seems to be working famously in a rugged wilderness kind of way and it’s curious to see that sheep have now been introduced  to variously trample, eat or ignore bits of vegetation and perhaps to introduce flies and dung beetles adding still more biodiversity to the experiment.

We had a little more bio added to the diversity in our own troupe this morning.  Ele decided that despite waking with no symptoms of his lingering malady, it was time for her Australian friend to visit a French doctor.  There is no argument that can be won when Ele decides something, and in due course we arrived, one of us with an ear just a little reddened from being dragged by it, to a nearby surgery, where the lovely doctor checked all vital signs and a few non vital ones and declared all to be in order.  “Perhaps we must assume it is a veerooce,” she declared to the relief of her reluctant patient.

So it came to pass that in the still of the late evening our ecosystem had had expanded to include a boatload of Australians (some heavily jetlagged), some Germans and an unidentified veerooce singing Irish folk songs in an ancient French city.

A bit of housekeeping
Thursday 14 June - Toul

Curiously while one of us continued to lay progressively less low yet none the less still laying, in the clutches of whatever evil bug lurked within his system.  The other seemed injected with all the energy he did excess energy, cleaning, polishing and washing all within the boat to within an inch of it’s life.  Had there been a chimney stack on board, he would not have been surprised on rising from his morning nap to find a next of twigs being constructed on it, such was the intensity of her on board activity.

Instead, he woke to find Joan and Peter had arrived, looking the way people do when their bodies have arrived that very morning from Australia, and their consciousness is still awaiting air traffic control clearance to land.  Not quite alive enough to start the post-winter clean of their boat, it seemed only logical that they should come aboard with all their news.  

Jürgen and Ele arrived in port not long after from an entirely different direction and the stage was set for a long and happy afternoon, made happier for some with the knowledge that even under overcast skies the washing was dry!


Monday, June 25, 2018

Looking forward, looking back.
Wednesday 13June - Toul

I used to go to some trouble to eliminate cars from photos involving otherwise quaint little cobbled streets and ancient buildings.  There was something intrusive about their presence that somehow conflicted with the ambience that the ancient streetscapes conjured in my mind.  Despite rumours to the contrary, the absence in that perfect world of chamber pots of sewage being thrown from upper story windows and mounds of festering horse manure on the streets should provide evidence that beyond this cool hard exterior their lurks just a teensy glimmer of a true romantic  

The reality is that cars are omnipresent, a fact of life in the present and therefore it’s probably just as important to occasionally record their place in our time, just as the inclusion of a horse or a goat or a leper perhaps might have been amusing to future generations had this photo been taken a century ago.  It’s interesting to note the age of the vehicles in question and sobering to reflect on the pace of change.  In one fell swoop of legislation and incentive, vehicles beyond a certain have gone, the battered colour of 2CV’s and Renaults which seemed to add to their surrounds are gone, replaced by shiny dark bubbles which belch far less pollutant.  Except that there are more of them, so they don’t.

In just one more decade the internal combustion engines that power them will no longer be allowed in inner city streets. In two decades they will have disappeared altogether.   When that happens, remember this photo and look back at them fondly, these dinosaurs of transportation waiting to become fossils, as you would those relics from our present past.  


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Watching You.
Tuesday 12 June - Toul

The cathedral in Toul is a ginormous thing completely out of scale with the rest of the town, which by virtue of a curious dichotomy actually makes it completely in scale. 

One would think with streets that are not at all straight yet terribly narrow that it could never be seen from within the town itself, and if one thought that, one would be wrong.  Like Gulliver among the Lilliputians it has an uncanny ability to peek down the smallest of alleyway, no doubt curious about what is going on, as though ready to admonish any doer of evil.  

In other places, just as one thinks one has achieved respite from its steady gaze, one rounds a bend and it sort of leaps out and shouts silently “Aha!”.

It’s quite possibly a thousand year old version of a video surveillance camera, you never know if it’s really watching, or if it is, whether all will be on tape for future review.  Quite possibly the best approach is to do no wrong, just in case.   


Then The Rains Came Again.
Monday 11 June - Toul

While the mystery malady may have been “better” yesterday, it was “worse” today, although “not as bad” as the day before.  There seemed little reason therefore not to malinger.

Then the rains came again, and having no need nor being in any mood to spend any time outside, we simply called a lay day.  

For the second time in three days we confined ourselves to barracks.  Luckily for us there’s a very, very good bakery just across the road and we can have no qualms at all in considering it to be part of our barracks complex!


Monday, June 18, 2018

All Storm, No Teacup
Sunday 10 June - Nancy to Toul

With one of us grateful for feeling “better” when he woke, “better” in its literal sense rather than the colloquial “no longer ill” sense, and with the expectation of rain tomorrow, lots of it, and even more day after as well, we made a simple decision.

We would make haste while the sun shone or at least while the rain held off.  We’d scamper at the speed of sound, for all speed is sound according to Mr Perkins, in direction Toul. With luck we’d be there before a recurrence of yesterday’s storms or yesterday’s illness, in no particular order.  Such was our haste that we even managed a mind blowing eight and a half kilometres per hour occasionally when the wind was from behind and the already negligible current slackened.  At that mighty pace that we’d surely be in Toul high and dry before we knew it.

Anyone who has visited Toul by river will understand that the entry process is delightful in a scenic sense, meandering beside the towns ramparts below postcard-bridges through crystal clear water with all manner of aquatic life quite clearly on display.  From a navigation perspective however there are three reasonably challenging (read brutal if one isn’t careful), locks separated by narrow channels filled with weed ready to render a straying propeller or rudder temporarily useless in the blink of an eye.  The route between these locks is punctuated by even narrower bridge spans and a lifting bridge that appears to be programmed to respond more slowly as wind speed increases.  

Someone must have switched the difficulty switch on this game to “advanced” just for our arrival.  There it was, as the outskirts of Toule came into view from the river.; a raging thunderstorm sitting stationary over that last little bit.  Wind in nasty gusts, frigid rain in bucket-sized drops, generally the sort of experience that makes one glad one’s alive, (as if waking up this morning wasn’t good enough).   As soon as we’d battled our way into a berth and snugged ourselves against further tempest, the storm moved on without further thought as they often do, and suddenly we had arrived.

The day that never was.
Saturday 9 June - Nancy

We hadn’t planned to go far today anyway, just down to Champignuelles where we’d stay the evening near the park and wander up to watch Emmanuel’s AC/DC tribute band in concert.  Perhaps we’d wash the boat first, to get rid of all that tree muck.

Then daylight came after a night of storms and the boat was shining once again without human intervention.  This was just as well as one of us was not particularly fit for intervening anyway.  It’s odd the way nasty illness descends on a weekend, when medical assistance is at it’s most scarce.  In the absence of genuine help or the energy to seek it out, a quick check of Dr Google assured us that he was possibly having a heart attack, a dose of bubonic plague, malaria, brain disease, kidney stones or ingrown toenails, or quite possibly any or all at the same time.  Curiously, one of the symptoms of heart attack is “a sense of doom”, which it seems is also one of the outcomes of consulting Dr Google.

Under the circumstances the only sensible thing to do in the gloom of a cool rainy day, was to stay snugly asleep in a cosy bed.  We figured if he didn’t wake up dead in the morning all would be well with the world once more. (Spoiler - this post may be late, but it has happened after the event, so a little logic applied at this point may give a hint as to the outcome.)  

Let’s do lunch… and dinner.
Friday 8 June - Nancy

It’s not one of our regular haunts, but why wouldn’t it be one of our favourites?  Well there’s the service for a start.  On the one hand it’s impeccable, friendly even, not at all in the great French tradition alluded to in the travel books.  On the other hand well let’s just say there is plenty of time to enjoy the ambience, and thankfully in L’Excelsior there’s no shortage of that.  It's a simply stunning souvenir of a time long past.

It wasn’t really that Maggie had a dose of “missing us already”, when she suggested last week that we meet there for lunch, rather she was showing her friend Kate the town, and wanted to show her us and we, she. Naturally a stonking good time was had by all.  “Stonking” being a quite possibly made-up word that sounds terribly British, and stuck in just for Kate’s benefit.

Such a good time was had, (and so slow the service),  that we barely made it aboard “Miss Ellie” for round two for the day, an equally splendid time in an equally splendid although significantly less complicated ambiance, and with far better service! Was this really our fourth farewell to Jørn and Birgit this week?  It all has to stop - tomorrow we must away!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The curse of disability
Thursday 7 June - Nancy

A Musée de beaux Arts is what we would call an art gallery, and Nancy has a very good one which charges an admission price for those of a certain age which is even more modest than for those who have not yet attained the same lofty heights.  It therefore would have been remiss of us not to have revisited it this morning.

During the course of that visit, one of us accidentally discovered a several adjacent upstairs floorboards that softly squeaked in what to his ears  appeared to be the same key.  Inspired by the “Nightingale Floors” we had trod in Japan last year, it was understandable that he would start to tap out an experimental beat with the three sympathetic yet barely audible notes.  How was he to know that those notes were not particularly inaudible to anyone less audiologically challenged than he?  In fact, it would seem that not only were they more than barely audible, but they echoed through the entire gallery sufficiently loudly to completely mortify the other of us who was busying herself by removing herself as quickly as possible from the source of the distraction, at the same chastising the distractor in hushed tones.  A (smiling and thankfully unarmed) museum attendant arrived at about the same time to find the cause of the cacophony mid-tap, and though she was clearly reminded of Fred Astaire in full flight, the performance was brought to a rather sudden end. 

We, having seen all we intended to see, (and one of us having heard enough as well) tootled off to find a bus to the Museum of History of Iron which has a permanent display of the work of Jean Prouvé the chap who designed our dining room table among other possibly more notable structures.  That’s not all it offers however. Many will not know nor probably care that the Eiffel Tower had been fabricated in Lorraine from iron mined and shaped from and in the surrounding regions. Much of the museum’s display is devoted to exactly how that occurred and while that visit seemed like a logical way to round off our afternoon, by late afternoon, we were just a little  museum overdosed.   With our minds saturated by a surfeit of facts and colour and a preponderance of Eiffel Tower images we set off for home into the face of a tropical downpour, managing in the process to just as effectively saturate our bodies too. 


The Road Well Travelled (now with pikelets!)
Wednesday 6 June - Sommerviller to Nancy

As we drifted happily down the waterway this morning it was not without a strong sense of nostalgia as we thought about the good times we’ve had on this little wet highway over the past nine years. 

For instance, how many times we wondered, had we walked to a bakery only to find it closed on a Monday or a Tuesday, or for the rest of summer for that matter?   We were pretty sure we’d never found one closed on Wednesday AND Thursday before today, and as a result of this new experience, our walk into Sommerviller in search of something nice for morning tea yielded nought.  

Happily by the time Birgit and Jørn caught up with us for a third farewell in as many days, a fresh batch of pikelets had miraculously appeared in our galley replete with lashings of red jam, tea and coffee. It is suffice to say that none of this was in under supply, therefore by the time we once again went our separate ways, there a further stop for lunch was removed from our agenda.   

Delayed though we had been on our morning’s journey, we still found time to settle into our berth and then to stomp over our usual stomping grounds, breathing the familiarity and the brewing storm in equal quantities.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Good Day Sunshine
Tuesday 5 June - Parroy to Sommerviller

We woke this morning to find the boat covered in leaves and twigs and sticky stuff, pretty much giving a fair impersonation of a case moth in hibernation. This was a little disconcerting since it had taken almost two weeks of procrastination to have it looking all shiny and bright, and now there is nothing for it, but to start the whole process again.

Jørn and Birgit, had suffered no such fate.   Partly because by the time they arrived yesterday evening, their mates had taken the shadiest spot under the biggest trees, which turned out to be where the sticky bugs ply their trade, and partly because they, coming from a place where sunshine is more of a novelty than something to be feared, were as usual happy to soak up all the vitamin D that was on offer.

Today in Sommerviller while some wallowed near naked, basking in the glorious sunshine, the rest lazed just as happily, reading in the shade ignoring the monster cleanup, wondering if some magic fairy would appear intent on restoring the boat to its former glory.


Monday, June 04, 2018

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish!.
Monday 4 June - Lagarde to Parroy

If breaking up is hard to do, so was leaving Lagarde today.   The usual healthy procrastination quickly gave way to reticence when it came to completing the necessary tasks to get underway but by lunchtime we did it, severing the metaphorical umbilical cord.  Perhaps.

Mr Perkins, anxious that we don’t do anything too hasty, immediately began oozing black snot from that pesky injector.  We could hear the tick tick tick of the leak, but ignored it in the hope that it would go away.   We aren’t turning back Mr P.   We just hope the ticking isn’t the timer on a bomb!

But we’ve done it.  It’s five hours and eighteen minutes by car to Diksmuide, but who can say how long by boat?

We are off now, to find the other end of the rainbow. 


The Elephant in the Room.
Sunday 3 June - Lagarde

Last week, we studiously avoided mentioning that it may well have been our last Sunday spent lazily on Jacques and Maggie’s verandah, and that was so until Maggie decided we should remain in port for “just one more” Sunday and who were we to argue.    Perhaps it’s superstition that has prevented us thus far from hinting that this may well be our last visit to Lagarde for some time as we plan to head off to the other side of another country to make a new home base for a while.   After nine years that is a much more difficult thing to come to terms with than we would have imagined.

Under other circumstances we know we would be welcome to return to that verandah at any time, but they too have plans that do not involve staying here for much longer.   Our chat for the last few weeks has therefore been filled with tales of good times had, excitement for the future, of new adventures, new houses, new countries, new beginnings in a sense.  Perhaps all the while this has been tempered by the ever so slightly grey clouds in the backs of our minds, the salmons of doubt possibly, and thoughts of all that we’ll miss about our little village family here.

Things like being bailed up by Jørn and Birgit as we waddled our way home late afternoon, filled with way too much lunch, and being press-ganged into dining with them in the evening with barely time for a very intense hibernation between dates. Perhaps that’s where the expression “let the good times roll” comes from.  If one eats as much as we have in one day, rolling is about the only mobility option available.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Mr Perkins Unravelled (Again!).!
Saturday 2 June - Lagarde

We’ve been avoiding making eye contact with Mr Perkins since our return, but after two weeks it was probably time to lift the lid on his box and give him a bit of a tickle.

Even Bill has almost given up in the fight to keep Mr P’s injectors IN-jecting rather than OUT-jecting as they seem to want to do.   How many years has it been?  We have truthfully lost count of the number of times they’ve been out and in again, and each time we’ve managed to stop a leak in one only to have it bob up again in another at some later time in the season.  Work on a Perkins Diesel is about as far from Rocket Science as it is possible to actually be, yet a permanent solution to the filthy problem eludes us.

So we sighed and shrugged our shoulders and rolled up our sleeves one more time, or at least Bill did, and once more set off unto the breach.

We are hopeful that we’ve got it this time, but “hope” is not a word that’s laced with confidence and just as there’s no logical reason why these leaks recur, there’s no logical reason to believe they have gone either.  Even when we threaten to pension him off if he doesn’t start behaving soon, Mr P just sort of sits there silently, staring defiantly into space as if to say “well all you buggers are”,.

He has a point.  

The Most Photographed Chicken in All of France
Friday 1 June - Lagarde

So many years have passed since we first failed to cross paths with Don and Cathy Jo that what they believe to be the most photographed chicken in France or possibly the world is now a full-fledged hen.  

Being the gracious international travellers that we are, respectful of the cultural nuances of our fellow man, we didn’t point that out to them of course.  If they want to think it's still a chicken well that's fine by us.   If they were somehow to avoid reading this they would go on happily never needing to know that in the language of my people, a chicken is a little yellow ball of fluff. Once that yellow fluff has gone, the chicken within departs and it becomes a chook.

But again I digress, which is easy to do in enjoyable company and there was quite a bit of digressing going on in the too few hours available this morning and last evening for a catch-up.   For almost a decade in our respective travels we’ve each made something of a point of being exactly where the other isn’t.  We’ve corresponded on and off over that time, sometimes missing each other by days, sometimes by years, but yesterday apparently there was something of a happy miscalculation aboard “Oldtimer” which resulted in us all being in the same place at the same time.  Technically it should not be possible for people who have never met to be “reunited”, but thanks to that rent in the fabric of the universe we can confirm that it is!

Here’s hoping we find them again, or since they seem to better at it than we are, that they find us, long before their chook, err... chicken goes rusty! 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Storm Before the Storm
Thursday 31 May - Lagarde

It’s surprising how one little job can consume an entire day if one puts one’s mind to it.

There’s a little hood over our aft door which was hastily repaired using double sided tape about nine years ago, and not to make too fine a point of it, has not been performing as expected during recent inclement weather.   It should have been a ten minute job to repair the thing, but as in the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly, things did not go entirely as planned.

The sealant was very black and sticky, but having spent the winter in hibernation needed some persuasion to exit the cartridge in which it slumbered. It took a good deal of careful work with a sharp screwdriver, an allen key, a knife, another knife, a bit of stick, several paper towels and not a few rude words before any of it could be coaxed out of the thing.   Just how, while not appearing from anywhere near the nozzle of the tube, some of the nasty goo found its way onto my best tee shirt will forever remain unexplained.  In the process of rapidly searching for the dry cleaning fluid to mitigate that damage, more goo ended up on the galley sink, the cupboard door and on at least seven fingers  and a thumb as well.    After frantic scrubbing and soaking of the shirt, much of the stain departed, however left to its own devices while we were distracted, the goo had decided to ooze from the cartridge of its own accord.

With the nearly clean shirt half hanging out of a soup bowl filled with volatile liquid and black ooze heading toward it, something akin to panic ensued.  The bowl was quickly swept from sink to benchtop, using hands which by now had themselves been entirely coated in a partially dissolved version of the sticky stuff.  That was when we discovered that dry cleaning fluid dissolves benchtop finishes much more efficiently than it does black goo from tee shirts.   Despite all of this, the job was eventually completed  Perhaps by the end of next month the cleanup will be finished as well, or perhaps the things left to do will languish for an indeterminate time on a list made in their honour.

Eventually the storm came, the door didn’t leak and all was once again well with the world.

Boat for Rent, Bring Your Own Blanket
Wednesday 30 May - Lagarde

One of the most commonly asked questions we are asked by those curious to learn more of out floating lifestyle, is: “Do we rent the boat out when we aren’t there”.

Well no, not normally but we are open to offers.  May we suggest that in our absence there may be other more comfortable places to stay however, particularly as the snow starts to build and the ice-boat effect starts to take hold.

What we can’t figure is how all that pretty white stuff (this photo was taken very early in winter before the next few feet arrived - thanks Bill!), can in the period of our absence turn the decks into a very much not white mess of slippery brown and green, and how what appears to be greasy soot can work its way under the covers and embed itself so successfully in our white fibreglass roof that it takes a few hours of scrubbing, some pressure washing and a week or two of talking about it before it’s all looking presentable again each spring.

Having said that, the scrubbing, pressure washing and coat of easy wax happened today, and in the process some of the windows even managed to end up with a bit of sparkle in the process, which probably means there will be nothing to talk about tomorrow.


The Sky is Falling!
Tuesday 29 May - Lagarde

Taking the car back to the hire place is a bit like starting the engine to warm it up a bit before leaving.  It’s a deliberate cutting of all that ties us to the shore, except for perhaps our mooring lines.  

And our electrical cable.

And maybe the jobs that really need electricity and water in order to do them.

We took the car back to Lunéville and returned with Jørn’s assistance with yet another load of supermarket goodies (our fourth in five days) ensuring that in the event of an accidental overdose of procrastination delaying our departure, we probably won’t starve in the short term.   On our return to the boat we felt completely ready to start cruising proper.

Then we decided we like it here, and there was no reason why we shouldn’t fill the first few days of our cruise itinerary with the words “In Port in Lagarde”.  Besides, there are storms on the way and we haven’t worked out where our raincoats are.

Monday 28 May - Azoudange

Usually when we don’t actually feel like being productive during the first week of being on the boat.  When the prospect of working to remove the smear of winter mildew and the unpacking of our earthly goods (or at least those that we keep in the northern hemisphere) starts to feel like a chore, a feeling which normally coincides almost exactly with the time we arrive at the boat, we head off on a road trip to run away from it all.   This makes for a nice transition between what ever our life may have been when before we arrived and the cruising one that it will become and we return refreshed and full of enthusiasm for the tasks in hand. 

This year however, things have been different.  We have lapsed so quickly into the cruising life that even the prospect of making a journey of a few hours by road seemed to be too much like hard work.
Not for us the tulips in flower this year (well fair enough, we are a few months late for that), and while we had thought about a little diversion to Ronchamps in the end the option of making just one more trip to the supermarket won out.  We did spend a little time in Azoudange  on the way, to watch the nesting storks for a bit, taking no small inspiration is must be said from their diligent home making.

So inspired were we that we resolved on our return, to put a bit of effort into completing all of our outstanding jobs.


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