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.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig