Legends from our own lunchtimes

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thursday 4th July - Samara to Amiens

The signs setting out the mooring rules on the Somme are in two languages.  Whether by accident or design people who can read the French version are allowed to stay for “3 jours” (three days) while those reading the English translation are limited to “48 hours”. 

Naturally there are times when one would like to stay a little longer in one place, and this can be achieved in a number of ways, the most obvious of which is “ask for permission”.  Failing that it’s a bit inconvenient but perfectly acceptable to move away for a day or perhaps in the pedantic English  version, an hour, and start the calendar (in French) or clock (in English) again.

When all else fails, there’s the “blend in with the background and hope no-one notices” option. 

Wednesday 3rd July - Samara

We stood transfixed in the Samara Archaeology Museum yesterday, watching in the semi darkness of a prehistoric hut, as a man patiently explained the ins and outs of making paleo-fire, ostensibly by banging together a couple of rocks.  We were in a group of thirty or so eight year olds.   We are not sure whether it was his absolutely charming manner with the children, their absolute attention to his questions or the thoroughness of his explanation, but after half an hour and a raging fire burning, we left feeling there was little left to learn on the subject.

Then we moved on to watch the blacksmith, who had obviously been to the same charm school as the “fire and rocks” guy, gently coaxing the children around despite their fear of the roar of the fire as he pumped his bellows.  “How will we know when the metal is ready?” he asked, “Will we just wait for the ‘DING’?(of the microwave timer)”.   

Having spent the better part of the day in the company of these expert demonstrators (and hundreds of primary school children of exemplary behaviour), we left confident that despite the language barrier, we could start a fire, make a spear, weave a hat and possible even build a pot.  About the only mystery remaining, which if it was explained was not understood, nor could we find a demonstration, is “how did iron-age man make the rubber bands needed to keep their cute little man-buns in check?”

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Day of Archaeology
Tuesday 2nd July - Picquigny to Samara

Not very far from Picquigny, there is a shady little mooring bathed in green that happens to be adjacent to “Samara”, a museum of History and Archeology, with a nature park thrown in for good measure.  We spent much of the day there, happily crunching through the sands of time, fascinated as always at how the evolution of man has been recorded and interpreted by experts.

Our own archeological endeavours earlier in the morning had almost left the work of those professionals in the shade.  To our astonishment, the cafe which featured in yesterday’s photo, the one that appeared to be boarded up with the eclectic miscellany in its window and left to rot, was alive and well as we wandered past in search of a bakery.  More horrifying than that, the miscellany appeared to be actual current stock!

In complete fascination and perhaps no small amount of awe, we made a complete catalogue of the cracked and faded items in the window with a view to sending a copy to the nice folk at Samara for their professional interpretation. 
  • six fidget spinners, 
  • a few cigarette packets of the kind that automatically eject cigarettes when opened, 
  • two racks of sunfaded batteries, 
  • twelve imitation leather watchbands in three styles, 
  • three packets of charcoal fire starters, 
  • a torch,
  • two leather purses, 
  • two tubes of superglue, 
  • one glossy plastic dog turd.

AND they sell postage stamps too!

Closed today.
Monday 1st July - Picquigny

With many of the shops shuttered, some with signs removed, the last vestiges of stock left sitting faded in the sun, it’s a bit of sport to try to identify the business by it's somewhat eclectic some may say miscellaneous collection of leftovers.  If it is diversity that keeps the remaining small businesses afloat then the funeral parlour which sells a comprehensive range of fishing equipment is likely to survive into the next millennium.

A more conventional pathway to economic survival might be to simply open the doors at a time when the customers were not elsewhere.

Today for instance, the baker had sold out of croissants yesterday but did not bake more because they are going to be closed tomorrow.  We could have tried the little supermarket if they weren’t closed “exceptionally” for stocktake.  Even the castle ruins are only open in the summer holidays (for inspection with burning torches no less) on Fridays by appointment.  We do like this little town though even if it gives us the distinct impression that “we should have been here yesterday”.  


Sunday, July 14, 2019

The never ending story.
Sunday 30th June - Long to Picquigny

Except for the minor and quite reasonable cost of requiring a two Euro coin from time to time to feed the little green boxes which control our water and electricity supply, incredibly there are no other direct costs associated with navigation on the Somme.

Those little boxes are at the cause of a bit of a paradox.  Electricity and water are supplied concurrently, so when we insert a coin with the intention of topping up our water, electricity is also available.  The thought of that connection is enough to send one of us into a washing frenzy as load after load of slightly soiled or maybe even soon to be soiled items are dealt with by our electro-mechanical marvel.  This  is all well and good, but it also ensures that by the time our allotted electricity supply has expired, we are about run out of water.

It’s not easy to understand why it is so difficult to find the required coins, but it is one of our greatest challenges.  For instance in asking in one town, we were directed to a post office in a village six kilometres away as a possible source.  When we arrive somewhere, our first task is to seek out a business that is actually open, the next to find something to buy which is worth preferably a few cents more than five Euros. Then we offer a Ten in payment, ever hopeful that we won’t be handed a fistful of twenty cent pieces in change.  

In Picquigny we hit the jackpot, leaving the bakery at the far end of town clutching FIVE of the elusive coins in addition to our bakery treats, which should be sufficient to allow us to hang up our walking shoes for a few days at least.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sandwiches again.
Saturday 29th June - Long

Several people had recommended or even insisted that we should not miss eating at the little bar in town, the uniquely named “Café Français”.  

We’d turned up yesterday afternoon to see if a reservation was necessary for dinner, but they don’t do dinner so thinking on our feet we said “lunch tomorrow then” and were given to understand that no reservations would be necessary.

One thing led to another and it a little after the beginning of lunch o’clock by the time our act was sufficiently together for us to cross the bridge that leads into town.  By then every one of the chequered table cloths in the place were covered with drinks and food and arms and paraphernalia that did not belong to us.  It seemed that in our absence every cyclist that ever there was had heard about the “Café Français” and had simply turned up from nowhere, getting their luncheon acts together well before ours.

Ahh well, it was an outing, and a lovely walk back to “Café Joyeux”, where every meal is the “plate of the day” and no reservations are necessary at any time.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The big clean
Friday 28th June - Long

Legend has it that the Chateau in Long directed that the canal be diverted during its construction so that its owner could watch the ships passing.   

We are usually quite cautious in our assessment of legends such as these, so ask ourselves if that were the case, why the owner didn’t think while he was at it to orient his chateau to capture the views he had thus created.  Whatever the reason, he certainly had plentiful access to water to ensure his vast gardens and greenhouses were never going to go without.

The thought of cleaning all those greenhouse windows did inspire us to look around a bit closer to home, and we realised that perhaps one of us had been more diligent than usual in avoiding his exterior duties.   Suffice to say that after a morning with pressure washer and microfibre towels,  the dazzle of our ship moored so close to chateau will be sufficiently great that the owner will need to keep his blinds drawn for the time being at least, to avoid possible damage to his eyes.

While Rome burns (or the rest of France in this case).
Thursday 27th June - Pont Remy to Long

“It’s going to be hot” they said, and they were right apparently, as people baked and roads fried across Europe this week, everywhere but here it would seem. This time we have our timing exactly right, finding ourselves where the worst of the weather is not.

It’s warm, perhaps on the edge of uncomfortably so and the sun has a real bite to it, but we are well away from the horrifying heat being felt in most of the rest of Europe. 

We’re back in our little boghole too, with nothing to see that isn’t green, no breeze that hasn’t come from the sea, and no reason to do anything that involves working up a sweat.   Even if we wanted to (raise a sweat) that would be difficult because we have these high-tech sporty scarf things that make one feel cool even when one shouldn’t be. We just have to add water, which isn't too terribly hard to find.

The case for the cabriolet.
Wednesday 26th June - Abbeville to Pont Remy

 Our roof is often the topic of curious and sometimes animated conversation.  In every crowd, whether we are in port or moving along a river somewhere, there is a person who has it nutted out, and stands to gather the attention of his mates, waving his arms in a particular arc in a manner that is clearly descriptive of how our entire roof is capable of sliding, to the endless fascination of all. 

We are not given to moving with it open, our years of indoctrination forcing us instinctively to hide from the sun, but on evenings such as the present after afternoon temperatures have hit "far from pleasant”, and the interiors of many of the more traditional style cruisers constructed of steel are doing fair imitations of slow cookers, it comes into its own.

Without wishing to gloat, let it just be said that it’s quite pleasant spending the evening cold drinks in hand, in the cool shade of a chateau or a ruin or in their absence a clump of trees, roof rolled back, the heat from the interior instantly dissipated while the the evening’s cool descends, taking the sting from the day in the nicest possible way.  

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A day at the seaside.
Tuesday 25th June - St Valery and Le Tréport

Armed with friends with a car and a roadmap, that sense of unfinished business that we had felt of our departure from St Valery quickly began to fade as we scampered through its lanes and up its hilly bits and through its historical quarters and along the esplanade.  We intent on showing Jürgen and Ele all our favourite bits in just one morning.  That sense disappeared entirely over lunch and yet another monster bowl of Mussels all round.

Less energetic folk than we might have sensibly called it a day at that point, but no, “let’s go to Tréport” they said,  and so we did.  It turns out that this pretty little town is a curious mirror image of Dover, where one can walk in the gravel that passes for a beach, toss pebbles into the sea, eat ice creams and be dumped upon by giant seagulls to one’s hearts’ content.  

This is the part where were this a fairy tale we would arrive home tired but happy, as indeed we did, albeit in the fairy tales as far as we are aware, no-one arrives in shirts inordinately starched white and smelling vaguely of fish, nor with white spiky hair.  

Monday, July 08, 2019

Back in Abbeville
Monday 24th June - Abbeville

Jürgen and Ele sent us a message yesterday, casually mentioning that the gearbox of their boat is somewhere where the boat is not, which has slowed up their cruising plans for summer somewhat.   Since they were only a country or two away, with time on their hands and had their car with them, it seemed only natural that they should pop over and join us for a few days.

“Panic” does not truthfully describe the reaction aboard our little ship, but it is suffice to say that the slothful habits of the past few days were tucked away in some haste, to be replaced by a flurry of activity.  Spring cleaning was instantly upon us, guest beds made ready, groceries fetched, gas bottles replaced with full ones, fuel ferried from supermarket to boat.  Such was the intensity of it all that the next week or even two’s worth of housekeeping was completed in a morning.

They arrived with impeccable timing too, just as the vase of freshly cut wildflowers was being placed on the table and the last few litres of diesel were being syphoned in.   We would like to report that they were tired from their drive, and we were tired as a result of our flurry, so like sensible folk we all slipped quietly off to bed.   Alas, this may be difficult for anyone who knows them or us to believe, so in the interests of credible deniability, a photograph of a sunset we prepared earlier will illustrate just how quiet the evening might have been. 

Saturday, July 06, 2019

The riddle of life.
Sunday 23rd June - Petit Port to Abbeville

We got out of bed, (late-ish) looked at the clear blue sky and thought it would be a perfect day for doing not much at all.  Perhaps we’d hang around and read for a bit, go for a stroll, and mosey up to the cafe at drink o’clock to watch the world go by.   A perfect plan one would have thought, but there’s a tiny speck of a grey cloud hanging over it.  Perhaps it’s because the boat is actually where we live, that the fact that we have done nothing by days end, perhaps leaves us tinged with just the tiniest glimmer of something akin to guilt.  It's barely perceptible admittedly, but it's definitely there.

If instead we had turned up in the morning in our car with our paddle boards and umbrella, laid our towels on the dock, hung around and read for a bit, gone for a short paddle in lieu of a stroll and then moseyed up to the cafe at drink o’clock to watch the world go by, why would we have returned home in the evening happy and well satisfied that we’d had a wonderfully productive day out?

It’s the curse of the cruising boatman.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Uphill without a paddle.
Saturday 22nd June - St-Valery-sur-Somme to Petit Port

We sort of kind of didn’t want to leave St Valery just yet, but the fact that we were tied on the outside of another boat with no prospect of a dock-side berth combined with the prospect of sharing the town with another eight thousand people for the weekend, helped to convince us otherwise.

The apprehension that we had felt on the way downstream with facing the current on the way back had been exacerbated a little when we discovered that the sea lock restricts the flow of water on the incoming tide, so if we got our timing right we could leave with the flow slowed just a bit.   The absence of rain for a week had also done its bit, so it was with only the teensiest of tummy butterflies that we (a little reluctantly) set off into the great uphill.

Dear old Mr Perkins who now of course is in e-cigarette mode, completely smoke free but with just a hint of vapour as his warm exhaust excretions hit the cool river stream, seemed to relish the task and we covered the nine kilometres that we had set ourselves to travel in the day in less than two hours.  With the journey over and completely confident that we could actually make progress upstream, we settled in to get a bit of practice in the art of doing not much at all.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Not music to our ears
Friday 21st June - Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

The weather forecast for the rest of the country looks quite grim, with what may well be a spectacularly hot few days coming up, but here we are grateful to be zigzagging between the sunny bits, avoiding the shadows where the full impact of the wind’s chill could be discovered. 

It’s the longest day of the year today, “Music Festival” through all of France, the evening where everyone who has ever held an instrument comes into a park or street or restaurant near you with said instrument and plays until tomorrow. While poking through the back streets of the village we failed entirely to find a venue that looked promising which had both a place for us, and which was not too far from home.   We did however stumble upon a wonderful bakery with some amazing glossy dark brown balls simply labelled “Terriblément Chocolat”, which of course is French for “Eat Me”.

There was a cafe barely half a kilometre from the boat we thought we’d try.  There, it appeared that the owner had been blackmailed into allowing a performance from perhaps the loudest and least talented band we have ever heard.   Even after returning to our boat, a distance most would have considered safe, the ill-timed cacophony with its entirely flat vocal accompaniment sounded something akin to what one might hear were one to put a car crash in a blender.

All was not lost. Once we were safe in the confines of our dinette, relaxing over a coffee and a book, we discovered that “Terribly Chocolate” can among other things, completely remove the pain of “Terrible Music”.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Thursday 20th June - St-Valery-sur-Somme to Le Crotoy

In a few days time, seven thousand people will descend on this place to take part in the annual Transbaie event, a race across the tidal flats from the village of Le Crotoy to St Valery.   It looks easy from where we sit, but we know that the surface of the bay comprises soft sand, silt, salt marshes, muddy hills to be climbed and strong currents in the little rivulets along the way.  

Finishers arrive muddied, bloodied and generally dishevelled, while non-finishers presumably get swept out to sea, never to be seen again.  Presumably in the interests of better television, no-one has told them that for one-tenth of the price of the running shoes they are about to ruin, they could buy return tickets for two on the cute little steam train that runs between the same two villages.

Le Crotoy by population and attraction is the lesser of the two, seeming only to exist for fishermen to sell mussels to the restaurants who in turn sell them freshly prepared for lunch, which occurs no doubt coincidentally between the mid-day arrival of the train and its two-thirty departure.  In any other country, this would leave plenty of time to have lunch and take a leisurely stroll through the tourist shops which dot the main street, but here of course the shop keepers have an aversion to crowds, and no doubt not coincidentally close for lunch from twelve to three just to be sure.   It’s enough to make a person run across the bay screaming.   

No, it’s not.


Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Down to the sea in our ship.
Wednesday 19th June - Abbeville to St-Valery-sur-Somme

We’d been looking forward to spending some time at St Valery, even if it was with a little trepidation that it may well be the point of no return.  With the river still swollen from the rains of late, when the lock gently lowered us into the fury, we even began to wonder if we’d be able to stop at the bottom, or simply spat out into the English Channel. 

Well may they laugh, they who don’t understand that reaching double figures in our little ship, is a feat that comes along every half decade or so, therefore for us each time we attempted to coax Mr Perkins to full speed astern while lifting bridges were lifted, actual white(ish) knuckles appeared on the hand grasping the control.

All was well of course, the drama mostly imagined, but whether it was those complimentary colour after-images working overtime or not,  the joy of our new pastel coloured surroundings quickly restored our senses, calmed further by an afternoon spent simply drinking the view, and of course a restorative lemonade or two.

No disrespect intended
Tuesday 18th June - Abbeville

Complementary colour after-images can be simply explained in terms of the neuronal processing in the retina; they are caused by fatigued cells responding to light so that for instance, when you stare at a white surface after looking at a red image, your eyes subtract the red and you see its complementary colour green.

Perhaps that’s what we are experiencing here after our overdose of bright this month.  In this town the greenest spot is the blinking sign on the pharmacy, and our neurones seem to be rewarding us with after-images of post-war reconstruction drab.

Just outside our window there’s a gruesome monument depicting the young Chevalier de la Barre being tortured then burnt to death.  His mistake apparently, was singing a song that was “disrespectful to morality”.  Admittedly he should have known better in a town which once housed fifteen churches, fifteen convents and eleven religious orders, but still it all seems a bit harsh in the cold light of seven centuries later.  We couldn’t help but wonder just how many anti-depressants must be sold here in the bleak of winter, but we’ll try to love it again in a week or so, all the while trying not to hum along to any disrespectful song which may be burbling in our earpods.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Monday 17th June - Long to Abbeville

There may well have been two or three places we could have stayed on our way this morning, but the urgency of our voyage took hold and we scooted down the river past them all, until post lunchtime listlessness overcame us as we approached Abbeville and what was to be a quick lunch stop turned into time for a nap.

Our slumber suffered a rude intervention when, at its most intense, a message arrived from Dave and Ria enclosing a photograph of our boat taken from the bridge a dozen metres away.  Being not quite conscious, it slowly dawned that it was a little unlikely that the photo had been prepared earlier, yet not quite awake and unconvinced that we were not dreaming, we wondered if we’d slept until tomorrow.

There they stood, having apparently materialised on the bridge not thirty metres away, waving.  From our puzzled expressions  they could see they had absolutely no need to shout “surprise!” and it took a few hugs and kisses to convince us they really were there.  Faced with the prospect of continuing downstream, or spending the afternoon sitting in the shade with mates, perhaps with an idle stroll down town for a glimpse of what it has to offer, we could see the shadows of a new plan forming.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Life in a Gunkhole
Sunday 16th June - Long

The dictionary defines gunkhole, a term used in the language of cruising yachts, as “a shallow inlet or cove that is dangerous or difficult to navigate”.   The attraction of such places should be obvious, they afford some measure of tranquility shall we say,  and the silted-up little branch off the river that has been our home for the past few nights meets all of those criteria. It is so shallow that it’s barely deeper than wet grass, which is exactly how much water we need to float, although even for us, progress across it was impeded by the soft mud and weed.

One would think that when one finds said gunkhole, one would tend to enjoy it in solitude, but the opposite always seems to be the case.  The first boat in acts as a decoy to others who appear to lose all caution at the site of another boat all snug calm, and come charging in oblivious to the differences in their hull shapes.  Some listened to our warning shouts and went on, but one gave it a try, running out of momentum before they could reach the dock.  We caught their ropes to pull them through the ooze  as best we could  to somewhere approaching proximity to shore.

They seemed embarrassed, perhaps wondering how they will get out in the morning, then no doubt deciding that problem can wait till tomorrow, quietly disappeared on their bicycles into the green, and things returned to the way they were.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Saturday 15th June - Long

Inspired by what we think is perhaps the smallest boat we have ever seen manned by a large person and his dog, and perhaps the shortest voyage we have ever seen as well: approximately one metre from the place their boat is kept to the fishing grounds we thought we’d stay on for another day, or perhaps two.

We could quite rightly be accused of being confused about our plan, but with just two days of travel left till we reach our notional half-way point, and with the sun shining brightly we figured that a bit more time out from relentless journeying would do us no harm at all. 

With bright sunshine in abundance we couldn’t have ordered a better day to wet a line, so in no time flat we had the line out and a couple of loads of washing and even some sheets hanging over it, while we sat in the shade quietly watching it all dry.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Swanning around.
Friday 14th June - Ailly-sur-Somme to Long

On the face of it, swans have a lovely time of it, floating around doing not much at all except making the place look pretty.  In that respect they are a bit like us really.  The only problem with their life as far as we can tell, is that they have to hold their breath to eat.

Well we have to hold our breath too, every morning as we turn the “start” key waiting to see what Mr Perkins’ attitude will be to the coming day.  It’s not as if he’s misbehaved for a long, long time but old habits do die hard.

It was hardly his fault this morning as he once again instantly burst into life, but none the less it was apparent that all was not well with the world.   Perhaps the gear cable had broken, the control lever was impotent, unable to select reverse or even neutral.  Our first emotion was actually one of relief that it had happened while we were still safely tethered to the shore.   While the while the lock keeper stood happily by, things aboard were being dismantled at a rate of knots, the cause of the problem a deepening mystery until at about the time a nice collection of cotter pins, screws, ball bearings and springs had been assembled and the culprit found.  A loose screw deep in the works, was quickly tightened, things put back into place, bandaids applied and in no time flat we were swanning around once more, breathing normally again, enjoying another perfect day.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Or we could just stay here for a bit.
Thursday 13th June - Ailly-sur-Somme

It’s been five days now since we decided that we’d move downstream every day.  We’d go straight down to the river’s mouth we thought, and then make our way back upstream at our leisure.    

Having failed to do that for the first three days of the plan, we left yesterday refreshed,  bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager to get on with it.  That resolve stayed with us overnight as well, and we woke this morning determined to move on "first thing".

Then we looked outside at the rain swollen water and at the lashing rain and the wind, and looked back at our small heater and the coffee pot, and thought….. nooo.

A rip in the fabric of the universe.
Wednesday 12th June - Amiens to Ailly-sur-Somme

There’s a disconcerting thread lying beneath the story of our travels so far this year.  

For reasons that are completely unclear we always seem to be in a place where a bakery is not.   This situation that goes far far beyond the usual “well of course we are closed today”, they are either completely closed or in the case of most of the villages we have scoured, in hiding.  What makes it even more disturbing is that we are going to be returning along the same famine-strewn path.

Amiens is not a small place and it was with some determination that we set out to find some proper sustenance to see us through a long day of travel even if that mean delaying our departure.  Determination breeds success it would seem and while we did resist the temptation to gorge, a simple “Paris-Brest” for him, and some kind of custard on a bit of cardboard for her, reinforced our energy levels with an adequate sufficiency.  We were so well fortified that our nine and a half kilometre voyage for the day seemed like nothing.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tuesday 11th June - Amiens

Language is a curious thing, body language is curiouser.  A simple nod of the head for instance as one is passing another person, in our culture means something like: “Hello my friend, how are you going, I hope you are having a great time”.   It took quite some time for us to realise that those same sentiments are expressed here by a quick upwards jerk of the chin, the sort of movement that in our custom would tend in be saying something very impolite indeed.

We have become students of late of the body language of novice rowers, as they complete their evening laps beside our mooring.  Their concentration is intense.  They, none of them, appear to be having a good time.   We do our best to lift their spirits by giving them a cheery wave as they splash and wobble by.  On their first circuit, they instinctively want to reciprocate in kind.  Confusion reigns for a moment as they smile back, simulaneously realising that waving with an oar in the hand is not such a practical idea while powerless to overcome the urge.  A sea of conflicting emotions overwhelms them, muscle memories not yet set.  On subsequent circuits they tend to avoid a recurrence by studiously averting our gaze.    

Experienced rowers simply glide by, happy to lift that chin and nose high in the air as they pass which, while we like to think that we understand the intended sentiment, still leaves us with that lingering doubt that they just might be signalling in our own language, perhaps expressing certain sentiments their less experienced colleagues have thus far left unsaid.

Prone to exaggeration.
Monday 10th June - Amiens

From time to time I will admit, I have been quite fairly accused of, if not making things up, then perhaps taking liberties with the actual statistics in order to effect a certain emphasis, as though that is some sort of bad thing.  When other people do that they are sometimes hailed as visionaries, indeed some of them are.

Take Jules Verne’s for instance.  If he had actually been twenty thousand leagues under the sea technically he’d be through the other side of the planet and a third of the way to the moon. Presumably he persevered with that number because a league is a curious measure of distance over time, a curious indeterminate.  He is of course best known in the English speaking world at least for making up lots of unbelievable stuff which over the course of the following century would become part of our lives.  If you had read his novels a century or so ago you would not have been aware that electric submarines, skywriting, helicopters, stun guns, news broadcasts, solar sails and much more were already on their way as indeed were helicopters and even floating cities, although we now call them cruise ships.  Truth has become stranger than science fiction.

We dropped in to his house today but he wasn’t home.  Presumably he’s off time travelling at the moment, so we poked around among some of his things for a bit, and promised ourselves we’d reacquaint ourselves with his tales next time we have a rainy day.  Tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A taste of what’s to come.
Sunday 8th June - Corbie to Amiens

It looks very much as though June is going to turn out to be one of those May kind of months, where if it doesn’t look as though it’s going to be raining shortly, it’s because it already is.   That is not a bad thing although it does add a certain air of determination for want of a better word, to the process of moving, as we try to time our arrival at the locks between showers.

We had glimpses of what might be as we drifted more quickly than usual on the now rain-swollen current today.  When the sunny patches appeared they were like sparkling little advertisements for places crying out for further exploration, and explore them we will.  In due course.

For now though we’ve decided we’ll move every day while the weather is indifferent, making miles until we reach the river’s mouth.  Then we’ll cruise back at our leisure, playing the odds that the sun has to come out eventually, stopping and poking around in every hidy-hole we can find all the way back, sunny or not.   The logic of that is inarguable, so that’s definitely what we’ll do.  Starting in a day or two, because we like it here.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Scattered Sunshine.
Saturday 7th June - Corbie

 On the one hand, the prospect of perhaps having a big enough window of sunshine to get to the shops and back was a tempting one.  On the other, if we weren’t quick enough there was a fair chance that we’d arrive back at the boat looking as though we’d swum across the river dragging our groceries, or worse, we’d be blown far, far away perhaps never to find our way back at all in the gloom.

This time there was no romance in the forecast as a great storm lashed the coast further south, fishing boats and even parts of buildings were swept away.  Even on our own short leash the buffeting was sufficient to make life aboard tea-spilling jerky from time to time.

We did set out for a bit of a forage, barely making it back into the building gale as the first signs of precipitation were upon us, thinking perhaps we should make up a new plan that did not involve a visit to the outdoor folk festival after lunch.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

During wind and rain.
Friday 6th June - Corbie

We knew the weather forecast meant “best not go outside today”, but we didn’t quite understand the nuances in the way it was written so we asked that great translation oracle in the sky to expand if it would, and we are so glad we did:

“In the morning for the weather in Corbie, the sun will try rare appearances under a sky yet overcast. In the afternoon the cloudy sky may generate some rain. The wind speed should oscillate around thirty-eight km/h.”

It’s possible that we’ve never seen a more accurate, nor more beautifully written weather forecast, although while the sun may well have been trying rare appearances it was not until late afternoon that it actually managed to squeeze out the merest hint of a rainbow, and certainly as the cloudy sky had been generating some rain pretty much all day, it behove us to stay aboard, except for one tiny excursion when one of us managed to tip toe in attempt to keep his slippers dry, over to the power box to put a coin in the machine.

It does get worse before it gets better.
Thursday 5th June - Cappy to Corbie

Most of the way today was a proper delight.  As we drifted past nesting aquatic birds, musk rats, floating duck enclosures and caught glimpses of flowering market gardens we felt a bit sorry for those who’d turned back too soon.  For the first hour though, we may have considered joining them.

“Just 200 metres more” said the friendly lock keeper, “and then the weed is no longer a problem.”   Well the friendly lock keeper quite possibly has never owned a measuring tape and if he did he must have failed elementary surveying, although technically he may have been correct.  After his “few hundred metres” lay a minefield, for there, all the stray bits of weed uprooted in the eradication process had collected for a kilometre or so, floating thirty centimetres deep with vast swathes of string algae growing amongst it.

Ten metres into the quagmire our propellor was doing a fair impersonation of a rotating stick of green fairy floss, and progress was negligible.   For a time one of us was seriously contemplating carrying out a reenactment of the good old days, when proper canal boats were pulled along the tow path by women in harness.  The other of us it has to be said was less enthusiastic regarding that particular solution, so we persevered, eventually popping out into the wonderland previously described, hoping that in the few months until our return, the council will have completed its cleanup or at worse, a few more boats will have passed, creating a clearer path!

The Demon Weed.
Wednesday 4th June - Peronne to Cappy

Barely three kilometres into the Canal du Somme we were in the thick of it.   We’d heard about it from various folk we’d met who’d heard about it too and decided to go somewhere else, some had started out and turned around defeated, but we are made of sterner stuff.  Besides, others who had told us of the delights of the Somme and had only casually mentioned the problem in passing.

So we ploughed on.   Here and in many other French waterways the water is now too clean for its own good, and for ours too.  The absence of commercial ships stirring up the silt has resulted in crystal clear water which in turn allows enormous amounts of light below the surface which encourages escaped exotic aquarium plants to thrive.   The local authority is doing its best, working to clear the channels, and one can but hope that it wins the battle before the pest infests the vast areas of lake and bog beside the river.   

As we battled through it at crawling pace with our tiny propellor almost completely clogged, there were still some very bright spots in our day.  Thanks to the modifications we made over winter, we can now clear the propellor a little without having to stop the motor, at least sufficiently well to resume some forward progress.  Even better,  the water is so clear that it’s like travelling over a enormous aquarium filled with huge lumbering fish and tiny flitting ones as well as all manner of other aquatic life.  Our lack of speed helps us enjoy the show all the more and we are assured it's just for a few more kilometres.


Friday, June 07, 2019

The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.
Tuesday 3rd June - Marquion to Peronne

It was seven before the gap in traffic was sufficient to fit in two small boats (behind a larger one none the less) and at first René and Elsbeth in the boat ahead were concerned that a loose ship in a lock can be a dangerous thing, and while they had a ladder they could tie to, in our position there was little in the way of bollards for us to use as the water level rose.  We assured them we would just throw a rope over the recessed bollards and René looked at us as if we were crazy.

Not everyone, which is code for “almost no-one” is adept at the throwing technique we use, so when we cast the first loop over the recessed bollard (degree of difficulty 6.5) somewhat to our bemusement they went nuts in a polite Dutch way.   The bollard above was on the quay, perhaps set back a metre and out of our view, but there’s a paint mark on the edge to indicate its presence.  When the next throw of the line secured that one, they thought there was some sort of evil sorcery at play.

In the next lock and indeed for the six after that, they watched our every move as we repeated the process, gradually breaking down into fits of near hysterical laughter, in the absence of any other emotion which help them deal with what they were watching.  Thankfully, most of our “misses” happened when they were distracted, so perhaps our performance looked better than it was.  None the less, René has promised to send a copy of his video recording (shaking with a constant background of laughter) convinced that we were raised in a circus.

We cannot be sure which of us was having the most fun watching the other, but it did give rise to a very pleasant evening together after what might otherwise have been a very long day.


There’s room in our lock for two.
Monday 3rd June -Douai to Marquion

A deafening silence descended just before lunch time as we left Penny and Bob at the station.  As we finished our goodbye hugs, they asked if we would move on today, and at that point we really had no answer.

As we walked almost aimlessly back to the boat into the echoes of the past two days, we decided we would not, which is why three hours later, we did.

Progress was steady bordering on rapid for the first few hours, as we travelled in company with a “baby” ninety metre ship with a bare five metre width in the ten metre wide locks, but as the evening began to close in we arrived at the first of the narrower gauge locks, and could no longer share.  Even though pleasure boats quite rightly have an obligation to give way to commercial craft, perhaps not all do, judging by the heartfelt thanks we received from both skippers and lock keeper each time we moved to the back of the queue as a new monster arrived.   Almost two hours later and not long before our bedtime, the lock was ours, and we wasted no time in snugging down for the night, ready to start again first thing in the morning (the real first thing, not Joyeux time!).

A Sunny Day in Douai
Sunday 2nd June - Douai

Penny and Bob always seem to bring the weather with them.  Admittedly last time they stayed with us gales lashed the boat mercilessly for four days, making venturing outside folly, but never the less the sunshine that accompanies them kept us all rosy cheeked and toasty warm inside the boat while the storm raged beyond.   This despite the fact that we’d all intended to cruise a for a bit, but not for the first time in their company had our plans thwarted.

Therefore, when they enquired as to our whereabouts in the hope of spending the last hours of their European adventure with us, it didn’t take very long at all for us to decide that travelling later in the week with the big ships might be fun after all, rather than leaving today when there were none, and we should once again delay our departure.

This time when we met them at the station the weather was already matching their dispositions, and while we did our best to catch up on all of the news as we made our way back from the station, even taking the more circuitous scenic route, we couldn’t help but get the feeling that the one night they could spare was not going to be enough to say all that had to be said, let alone to hear all that had to be heard. 

Avoiding traffic
Saturday 1st June -Douai

The Canal du Nord is famous or perhaps notorious for being busy.  It’s a motorway on which large ships travel for twelve hours or more per day, interrupted only by large locks and an even larger tunnel.  Even if we were capable of travelling at the speed of the ships, and if there was room in the locks for us, which we mostly are not and there sometimes is not, it would take us a couple or at worst several days to travel from here to where we want to be.

We therefore timed our stay in Douai terribly carefully, so that we could leave today, Saturday, travelling over the weekend when the number of ships would be reduced and perhaps our progress and  our overnight stay on the canal might be as smooth as it possibly could.    

Then we heard that Mike and Jude were arriving today from the opposite direction and it was not a difficult decision to trade a day of commuting for one of late night, food, laughter and the sort of rapid fire conversation that only people who haven’t spoken with others of the same accent  for a time can know.  Anyway, it’s going to be sunny and warm tomorrow, apparently.


Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Our last day in the sun?
Friday 31st May -Douai

Summer is heading our way very much in the same manner that Mr Perkins bursts into life on a cold morning.   

It too seems to cough and splutter and belch out a bit of fog as though someone has been trying to start it for just a bit too long, and then it chugs along for a bit not knowing if its going to run for the rest of the day or not, a bit of sunshine here, a bit of chilly cloud and wind there, as though trying to make its mind up whether it just wants to call the whole thing off or not.  

By morning tea, had we been out of bed in time, we’d have noted that the temperature had begun to race towards the twenties.  It was doing so with such alacrity that by almost lunch time as we were walking towards the centre of the town, we had to shed our outer layer an by the time we were on our way home we found ourselves seeking out the shady side of the street for the first time this year.

We had better see if we can find our short pants, just in case summer has begun.

Making our own fun.
Thursday 30th May - Douai

Ascension Day is one of those surprise holidays for those of us from another land and culture.   We sort of knew it was going to happen but it didn’t really sink in that it’s an actual proper holiday until we were out of bed and had stuck our head out for a bit.  Even then, in the middle of the morning, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.    

The silence was almost deafening.  Despite repeatedly checking our calendars to reassure ourselves that wasn’t Sunday, we decided we’d better get into the spirit of things and take the day off as well.  As responsible travellers we do try to respect local customs as best we can.

Well after lunchtime, with the added warmth provided by the merest trickle of sunlight finally filtering through the dense cloud cover, it seemed as though the world had started waking from its slumber, so we thought there’d be no harm in discovering a little more of our surroundings.   In the mood for undertaking a little riparian discovery game we set out along the river for a bit of an amble,  There we saw a couple of ducks (1 point for each), some fish (2 points) and a turtle (10 points), and we stumbled across a Kiwi (bonus - game over), who kindly invited us onto his boat for coffee, (Thanks Craig).

Monday, June 03, 2019

Wanted Man.
Wednesday 29th May -Douai

To be perfectly frank, there is a certain time that should elapse between flying half way around the world and hopping behind the wheel of a car and twelve hours is probably not it. We have managed to do that a dozen or more times without incident of any kind other than suffering from inordinate fatigue as a result of the total concentration required.

The French government, no doubt aware that we were getting pretty good at this game, decided last year to take it up a level.  It dropped the blanket speed limit outside of towns by ten kilometres per hour, which in itself is easy enough to understand, except that it also decreed in its own inimitable fashion, that if they hadn’t gotten around to changing the “90” signs, the speed limit would still be 80 unless the signs said otherwise(!).

Therefore, on that fateful day on a piece of road clearly marked “90” but which really meant “80”, with a radar trap a hundred metres before an overtaking lane (which maybe should have been a clue) also signed “90” but which meant “90” and with the cruise control locked on “86” we were photographed while carrying out an act in contravention of the law.   

The government told the hire car company, which kindly provided it with our address.  An infringement notice was duly posted to Australia, which was then redirected to the keeper of our mail, who scanned it and sent it via e-message to us.  Quite logically tobacconists are agents for the speeding fines people, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to finalise our due.  The tobacconist (who had a neat little bar at the back of his shop) wanted to see the original, apparently to ensure we hadn’t forged the ticket.  After a little argument about the logic of that accompanied by the sound of the late payment fee ticking over, he agreed to scan the barcode and accept our credit card with moments  to spare before the “wanted” posters went up.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tuesday 28th May - Douai

There’s nothing quite like seeing the expression on a lock keeper’s face, after he has not unreasonably asked, pad in hand, what our destination for the day may be, only to receive our shouted reply which sounds to his ears something like “ I AM THE CHEESE!”    

When last we looked, our online language course had adjudged one of us to be fifty-five percent fluent in French.   That is all very well, but as he is fond of reminding himself, it means that he is forty-five percent effluent, and it’s the missing forty-five percent that seems to be at the root of those rare lapses in communication. 

Today therefore, snug in the quiet of our leafy inner suburban home, with the rain offering no incentive to venture out, we did nought but quietly work on reducing the effluence in our language shortcomings.

Running before the storm.
Monday 27th May - Bethune to Douai

The canals in this part of the world are monstrous big things like rivers designed for ships with payloads measured in thousands of tons.  Unlike the smaller more ancient canals which ambled through the centre of towns to facilitate unloading, these are like motorways, skirting the fringes and the industrial areas where they will cause the least disruption to residents.

It’s not unpleasant travelling along them by any means, but they don’t offer many convenient opportunities to simply stop and poke around for a day or two.  This was no bad thing in our current mood, as we could pretty much smell Douai in the distance and our Mr Perkins was on the charge.

Kilometre markers whooshed by even faster than birthdays do these days, with our little boat travelling at such a rate since Mr P’s latest touch up that we have given serious thought to changing the boat’s name to “Bluebird”.   The fact that we are cruising at approximately one-sixtieth of the speed which that brought that particular vessel to grief is probably indicative that we have substantial margins of safety built in.   In no time flat, or six hours later depending on who is doing the measuring, the uninterrupted green lining the canal changed quite suddenly into rows of neat red brick houses.  We had arrived before the storm.

Counting our Blessings
Sunday 26th May - Aarques to Bethune

It was almost too windy for comfort when we left, and while the forecast was for more of the same, with the operative word in this instance being “more”, we knew we had only the two giant locks at the beginning of the day to overcome, and then more or less forty kilometres with nothing to run into until we reached Bethune and all day to worry about what we might run into when we got there.  Not that Bethune was too concerned about the impact of one tiny polyester boat against its quay, having been completely destroyed in 1918 by far greater.

When we did get there, the conditions had reached the “not all that pleasant” stage, but thankfully the owner of the only other boat on the visitor’s pontoon, (the aptly named “Bumper”), was there to catch us as the gusts swept us ashore.  Before we could even tie off he very enthusiastically issued an invitation for us to stay until Thursday, the Ascension Day Holiday, when all the ships both commercial and private would be gathering for a procession and a “blessing ceremony”.   There would be food and fireworks as well, he promised.

We have a rule aboard, that when we are invited to attend, visit or participate in something, we accept.  Today however, we divided the distance we have yet to travel by the time it will take and multiplied that by the wind forecast for the next week, and in the face of a worsening weather window after tomorrow, reluctantly declined.  We are indeed grateful for the blessings we continually receive though and hope our absence from the ceremony will leave just a few more to share out among those who did take part.   

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nowhere to hide.
Saturday 25th May - Watten to Arques

Arques is one of those kinds of towns where the night tennis courts and council depot are marked on the map as tourist features, as is the twenty-four hour video library.  Further investigation of that particular enterprise yielded disappointment, its windows shuttered, its signs in tatters.

We are here because it has a very nice pleasure boat port, with lovely people running it and is almost twelve kilometres from Watten, a very civilised distance to travel in one day.  We could have stayed on another day of course, perhaps cycling as our Belgian friends had planned, to the German Blockhouse Museum, but we shivered at that thought, still a little overwrought by last year’s immersion in the realities of the great conflicts, bracing ourselves for more when we reach the Somme. 

The Australia of our youth so far removed from the scene, had a memorial in every town; the statue of a “Digger” resting on “arms reversed”, head bowed, in remembrance.   In this part of the world, the tragic message is considerably less introspective.  While enjoying a leisurely walk under threatening skies we stumbled quite accidentally into the town’s main square, and its memorial, jarring us back into the impact of that grisly history. The message here was pretty clear, made more so by the weather, as angel descended, wreath in hand, to guide another of the chosen ones heavenward.  Another impossibly youthful victim caught in a moment of time that one hopes the world will spend the rest of time regretting. 

We had other regrets as well, in particular there was one about setting out on a lengthy exploration without carrying rain gear.

Our life in ruins.
Friday 24th May - Bourbourg to Watten

It’s not as though Watten promised much, but most of the things it did promise according to our chart book; a marina with electricity, water and protection from the wash of the river giants as they swept past, were almost entirely missing.   The little inlet did provide quiet respite from the river, where we could clear the plastic bag entwined in our propellor and rudder, and enough of the quay was still there to afford secure, even secluded mooring, but clearly this was a place which had it been a building would have been covered in warning signs and marked “closed until further notice”.

The morning’s run up the canal (apart from collecting said debris en route) had been delightful, through quiet farmland with the odd tiny village to  break the otherwise featureless terrain, in company with a pair of Belgians whose expressions on reaching our destination was almost as priceless as theirs of yesterday, when they returned to their boat in Bourboug twenty minutes after leaving it, having found all there was to find there in that time, and deciding immediately that they would take advantage of our “bridge reservation” rather than staying the few days they had planned.

All was not lost though, the bakery had a truly splendid array of earthly delights, and we did find a delightful path to the summit of the highest land around, where we discovered an ancient mill preserved for our edification, and an even more ancient castle, in complete ruins of course.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A watched lock.
Thursday 23rd May - Bourbourg

The little visitor’s dock is a quiet, pleasant place to spend a few days  close to the heart of town  but it’s interesting to observe the lack of freedom one experiences when navigation is blocked by a lifting bridge on one side and a lock on the other, both requiring more than a day’s notice to arrange for the necessary operation to let one pass.

We weren’t exactly anxious to find something to do, which is just as well as we’d visited the church yesterday and have possibly seen the inside of enough fifteenth century jails to last a lifetime, so apart from a supermarket  we’d pretty much checked off the “things to see in town” list.  In the absence of anything more compelling which didn’t involve the expenditure of significant energy, we settled in for an afternoon of drinking coffee and lying in the sun reading, while keeping half an eye on the bridge lest an opportunity to escape before our appointed time tomorrow should arise.  

This lack of activity was accompanied all the while by the town’s carillon which broke our concentration hourly with a rendition of something that sounded suspiciously like “I’m a little teapot short and stout” played by a three year old.   When that bridge goes up at nine in the morning, we’ll be waiting to make our escape, but strangely we know that when we do, we’ll leave with the feeling that we should have stayed longer, and if it all happens exactly on time, we'll have that rotten tune in our heads for the rest of the day.

Saint Lucky’s
Wednesday 22nd May - Bergues to Bourbourg

There’s a joke that’s probably older than Bourbourg which goes something like:“Lost dog—brown fur, some missing due to mange, blind in one eye, deaf, lame leg due to recent traffic accident. Answers to the name of ‘Lucky’”.  That poor dog can’t hold a candle to the history of the church in Bourbourg.

If we thought that history had dealt the Abbey in Bergues a tough time, it hasn’t got a patch on the stories that this church of Saint Jean-Baptiste could tell.   Built some time in the twelfth century, it had survived being sacked and raided and banged about every few hundred years, and the shelling of the First World War gave it a bit of “what for”, yet still it survived.  Then with the advent of the subsequent war, it was hit by a bomb, set alight by a plane which failed to land safely on its roof, and subsequently had its flagstone floor pulled up by occupying forces no doubt to be repurposed in someone’s ensuite. 

It still quite bravely, perhaps proudly shows many of those scars, and at the turn of the current millennium its choir was treated to a makeover by eminent British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro.  In the accompanying literature, much was made of his enthusiasm, his importance even, and even more effort was put into an almost desperate explanation of each piece.   It may be churlish to criticise the work, which was well crafted, well presented and well…”interesting”, but it seemed to us to be an opportunity lost.   Despite the enthusiasm of the guide, the publicity, and the town, it failed to invoke our emotions and we were left wondering whether we should shout out “the king has no clothes on”.

To Keep the Ducks Out.
Tuesday 21st May - Bergues

It’s not the first time that we have found ourselves moored in a moat, tied to massive fortifications, right beside the entrance to a township, nor is it the first time that it’s quite evident that the hand of one Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban has been involved in their construction.  While much of the five kilometre or so perimeter of Bergues has been fortified since the middle, but it was Vauban who added the extra moats and those distinctive signature pointy bits of rampart, and the holes for a zillion people to stick their guns or whatever instrument of death was fashionable in the seventeenth century, through.  

It’s hard to imagine how he managed to do all he did in just one lifetime, spreading his franchise to all corners of the country without the aid of so much as a fax machine or even a fine felt pen.  One can only imagine all those business lunches and all those table napkins ruined by hasty sketches, as he sought to convince one nobleman after another that his fortifications were exactly right for the times, which they certainly were.

As we walked around and over and through the ramparts and moats today, we couldn’t help but reflect how markedly times have changed.  With the advent of drones and bombs and guided missiles, they would be impotent in the event of any attack today, yet they still serve the town magnificently, keeping the waterfowl at bay, steadfastly unmoved by the by the evening parades and trumpet calls.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

In Bergues
Monday 20th May - Bergues

Not terribly many kilometres from the beach at Dunkirk at the end of an ancient canal, we found the ancient fortified township of Bergues, exactly where it was supposed to be.  

Perhaps we could be forgiven for presuming that this would be a town with a lot of stories to tell, but not much in the way of structure that’s been around long enough to tell them. As it turns out, since eighty percent of the town was flattened in the second World War, and rebuilding after the First hadn’t actually been finished when that happened, we were pretty much on point.  To the untrained eye it’s a bit difficult to discern which bits of it are old and which bits are Disneyland, but the neat little tour map did a great job of filling in the patches, as we followed its trail through the town.

The destruction of Winroc Abbey, or what’s left of it took place a little earlier though.  Having survived being “burned in 1083 and 1123, in 1566 the beggars ransacked it”, it was the angry mob during the Revolution which finally did for it.   This turned out to be a bit of a mistake though, as the Abbey and the imaginatively named “Pointed Tower” served as navigation markers to allow vessels to stay in the correct channel through the marshlands from Dunkirk, so presumably the revolutionaries went hungry for a time until they could rebuild the important bits.  They’ve been rebuilt a few times since too thankfully, or we might never have found the place.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sunday 19th May - Veurne to Bergues

It turns out that the Kayak-Polo championships of Belgium are indeed a two day event, and that either the club didn’t read its permit, or the waterways people didn’t read the application.   Whatever the case, when we rounded the second corner this morning after being smartly waved through the opening bridge, the barge leading our little convoy of three found itself in one of those “full speed astern Mr Bosun” moments.

This led to a bit of consternation ashore as well, as visions of a pair of polo courts wrapping themselves around the propeller of a large barge flashed before the eyes of the officials.  A shouting match followed, one of those where gesticulation and calling into question the quality of the other chap’s mother’s breeding seemed to come into play.   A small conference between the two following boats concluded that we’d rather be snugged up for the day, warm in the port we’d just left anyway, but by then it was too late.  Some sort of war had been declared between them and us apparently, and we’d been victorious.

It took no more than a few minutes for half a dozen fit young men in kayaks to move their apparatus, and a few minutes more for us to pass the honour guard of disgruntled officials, but both our worlds soon returned to some sort of equilibrium.  The next bridge-keeper seemed to take the news that “perhaps half an hour later would be better after all” square on the chin, and it was probably just coincidence that this turned out to be exactly half the time the lock keeper at the following obstruction delayed us.  Yes it was wet and it was windy and it was cold, but here we are once again in France in the shadow of some ancient fortress wall, or we think we are, it will take slightly more sunshine than we have seen today to tell.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

It’s complicated.
Saturday 18th May - Veurne

With our dues paid, and the card we use to access water and power safely tucked into the harbour masters wallet, we settled down over a coffee to await Dr Jacob’s arrival.   He must have smelled the brew, because he arrived well before the expected time and in due course was delighted to pronounce our Mr Perkins to be in a fine bill of health.

We were delighted of course, and immediately set about things from where we left off yesterday.   First, we thought we’d make an appointment with the bridge-keeper to get us out of the port.   “Not today”, he said, “There is a kayak competition on the canal so no boats are allowed, you can come at nine tomorrow”.   Armed with that information, we thought we’d stay a little longer, but we would arrange an appointment with the next bridge (in France) some eleven kilometres away.    

That conversation went reasonably well, until the nice man on the telephone decided we should be there at ten.  We did try to explain that the speed limit is seven kilometres per hour, and that if seven was to go into eleven and the answer was to be one, quite possibly some physics involving anti-matter and black holes would be necessary for that to occur.  Either the bridge chap didn’t know too much about physics, or couldn’t understand my halting French, so ten it is.   

Perhaps we will be leaving tomorrow after all, but perhaps there is a possibility that we won’t be arriving.  Only time will tell.


A Photo from Tomorrow.
Friday 17th May - Veurne

In the cold hard light of dawn, the grey sky promised change.  At least that’s what we imagine it would have promised had we been up to see it, but somewhat later when we did peer out, the wind had disappeared, the blue sky replaced by a slightly cooler grey and the pollen was being laid gently to rest under a blanket of the lightest rain we’ve seen since the last time we’ve seen very light rain.

It looked like a perfect day to get underway in fact, so we disconnected our shore power, and generally began to make things ship-shape.  At precisely the moment we were thinking about  maybe possibly casting off, we received a message from Jacob, Mr Perkins’ Witch Doctor, suggesting that if we’d like to stay put for a day he could come to check on how the dear old thing was reacting to his winter medications.

This had the happily deflating effect of requiring us to cancel all previous engagements and sending us back to bed for the day, metaphorically speaking at least.  I am sure that were we living in a cell of the same size, a day spent locked inside would send us nuts. On a boat though, there are always things to pull apart, pumps to fix, charts to pore over, books to read and not to mention snoozes to be had.   With our brains engaged firmly in “we’re moving on” mode, at no time during the day did it occur to either of us that we might go ashore.  Thus, with the benefit of hindsight, today’s photo will be taken tomorrow.
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