Ketchup (part I).

Ouch, a whole month has gone by without a single word written here, too long and with so much happened and so little time to write today I am just going to summarise the events and come back to the important parts at a later date (yeah Spike, I can really see that happening).

Work has really taken off,  I thought I was going to be lucky to get three days a week, which would have been fine but I have more than I can deal with and thought I would have to refuse some but managed by doing some work at the weekends, not happy about that but make hay while the sun shines and all that. With Vanessa gone for over three weeks I was getting a bit behind on some commitments to looking after JP and llse’s house. I managed to clear a weekday afternoon to sit, chill and re-aquaint myself with the guitar, but I had an email from Ilse asking if there was a problem with the lawnmower as the lawns looked a little overgrown (they have wifi cameras, more on this later), so that was my afternoon blitzed while I chased a lawnmower over the property. Wait, I may sound a little ungrateful there, we get the mooring and wifi and electricity all in exchange for looking after their cat, house and garden, perfect exchange, but while Vee was away I was increasingly selfish with my free time, once the working day was over I was knackered and still had other things to do, eat, clean and other stuff that every one else seems to do just fine, but after so long being the house husband in Spain I was struggling to keep up with my chores, let alone look after someone else’s house too.

Felix’ sunny snooze spot

The cameras,  I may have mentioned here that JP is a bit of a gadget nut. There are three cameras keeping surveillance on the property which is fine but one is pointed directly at the boat, and another is pointed straight at Fabreze’s house (which used to be part of JP’s property until late last year). I’d forgotten about them during the winter as we lived inside the boat, which was under cover, but now that the sun is shining we are relaxing in the cockpit, and after the email asking about the lawns I realised that we are, to some extent, under surveillance,  it doesn’t make me feel comfortable. I was discussing this with Fabreze during one of our “it’s the weekend!” beers the other Friday night, and he says he felt the same, but he went further and rang JP and said that being as the property is now his he feels this is an invasion of privacy, apparently his camera is now off and ours too. I wasn’t so sure about ours as the Adventurer being on camera is incidental to the view of the front garden, but then two friends came by on JP’s request to see how everything is with the house and garden. The friends (can’t remember their names), were moored here for five years and did mention, it’s a great spot, but you do get called upon frequently for this that and the other in return.

Fabreze et Alix

I’m starting to get my head around the hows of giving the Adventurer’s coach a much needed paint job, (I’m doing lots of painting on other people’s boats and have picked up loads of knowledge, and rehearsing on other people’s boats is so much better). I was planning to start soon but I am fully booked until June now, so it looks like it is going to have to wait a while, and with the speculated bill for the job at around 500 Euros, I need the work, (need I say again how much paint is in France?). Plus it looks like we’re going to have to pull our boat out of the water in June for an insurance survey, bye bye two grand, at least when she’s out of the water I can do some work that I didn’t know about last year, (anti foul the propeller and the sides to half a metre under the water line).

d’Artagnan

I spent three horrible days cleaning up some brand new cast iron window decoration. The cast was about three mil out of alignment, these things were pigs, they should never have left the factory and certainly should never have been accepted on delivery. Horrid, soul-destroying work, but the job came in a bundle of work that will go on for about a year, take the rough with the smooth Spike. Unfortunately the next job… Wait, let me fill in some gaps that’ll make me look stupid but will give you the full story. I have two fears, heights (I’m not very good at being able to see how high I am when I can see directly below me, I’m okay on a mountain top, love it, (I managed the three close by biggies where we lived in Andalucia), but put me on a light weight steel bridge (a la Caminito del Rey) and I freeze up a little (who’re you kidding, A LOT). And tight spaces where I can’t move freely, if my arms and legs are hindered I fall apart a little, (ha ha, yeah yeah). So, you finished laughing yet? This last week and for the next few I’m painting the third storey loft windows on a house, I have to hang out of the window to get to the tops of the outer frame both sides (duh), with eight windows and from start to finish about five coats, (please don’t let it be six), that’s about eighty times too many. Then, on the other job I had to climb into a stern storage locker on a barge to clean and paint the unseen areas that are susceptible to rust.

Caminito del Rey, March 2016

As I write this the first ducklings of the year have just paddled by.

The area of the basin where the hotel barges are kept for the winter became an absolute hive of activity in the second week of March, we’re talking pandemonium, and then over the course of four days one by one they all disappeared off to their first rendezvous of the season. The basin looks positively empty now.

Did you know that the age of a boat is determined from when the first piece of metal/wood is attached to the keel,  when I’m needed or have time I am working on a twelve year old, 26 metre barge that hasn’t been anywhere yet as it is unfinished. It is a one man job (with occasional help).

Fabreze’s cats are still terrorising ours. I asked him very nicely the other day if he would kindly get their balls chopped off to stop this malarkey, but he is of the all things natural school of feline thought.  Even when I pressed the advantages of whipping their ‘nads off to him, he was adamant that no vet is getting near his cats. (“You use bricks to castrate them, doesn’t it hurt?” says the cat owner to the vet, “only when you catch your thumb between them”). Anyway, one of them had the balls to come aboard our boat the other night, I am sorry to say that I terrorised that cat and I don’t think he’ll be coming onboard any time in the forseeable future. I do feel bad, but I only used a pillow and harsh language.

Okay so this may seem all new age hippy shit to some readers, but Vanessa and I ask the Universe for things that we need. It works, mostly. I haven’t got the time to go into the ins and outs of how this works here today, but believe me, it works, I don’t think we’d be aboard the Adventurer if it didn’t, (yeah yeah, it doesn’t just work for free stuff, it works for the perfect thing that you need at the time). So, after ten months aboard and really getting a bit miffed at our “tearoom” style curtains, I asked the Universe for a sewing machine as we need some curtains for our boat. I was cleaning a boat for Frank’s widow Jill the other weekend so it’s all shiny for potential buyers, when Jill asked if I have need for a sewing machine, yes please says I, that would be very useful. Then, a couple of days later, Vanessa was wombling the “we don’t need this anymore, maybe you could use it” section of the H2O bins and found enough curtains to cover all but three windows of our boat, they are damn near made to measure, and for an extra bonus, they’re pleated so they tie away snuggly. Now we don’t really have a use for the sewing machine, it just go to show kids, the ‘verse is literal, ask for one or the other, don’t hedge your bets or you’ll get both.

Lara only likes a little sunshine.

That’s it, I’ll have to continue this catch up hopefully next week (or maybe during the week if these reports of incoming rain are true).

Call It What You Will, I Dunno!

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Hmm, I’m not even sure that I wanna share this with as it is a bit embarrassing being as I like to think of my self as a bit of a movie buff, and I know a reasonable bit about music. Last week Chuck Berry passed away (goodnight Chuck), so I decided to watch a movie about him in remembrance (or whatever you wanna call it), I knew I had one somewhere in the depths of the hard drive that I hadn’t seen yet, Get On Up, (for the movie buffs out there, you’ve already have seen the mistake), I watched although it isn’t the best of movies, but all the while I’m wondering why a) he isn’t playing guitar and b) while the music is okay this must be a part of his life thatI don’t know about. Listen, before I give the punchline, I was very tired (in any way you understand that phrase). It got to the end of the film and I was a bit nonplussed when all of a sudden this image comes up on the screen saying “James Brown, the godfather of soul, 1933 – 2006” hmm that’s weird, I thought he died this weekend, still the penny hadn’t dropped (a serious mental block along with being a bit tired, I dunno?), can you believe I actually went online to see if there was a huge error with this movie and they had got the date wrong. Sorry Mr Berry, I totally ballsed that one up!

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The “Muriel”

So, Vanessa has been away for a week now, though it feels like she’s been away a bit longer as I never really saw her for a few days before she left as she had her head (that was endlessly being scratched) behind her laptop trying to book her tickets and stopovers. There is something to be said for the internet, while it was supposed to be a great help in some ways, it bloody isn’t (unless you like funny cat videos and laughing at people, see above paragraph). It took Vanessa two days to get her tickets booked to get from here to there and booking into a couple of AirBnBs so that she could see her dad in Papworth, (hi Alan, big waves and best wishes, you are so in my thoughts dude). Then, a spanner was thrown in the works in that there was an opening for Vee to take her Captain’s licence exam in Cambridge that threw all the plans into disarray, and so another day was spent changing and making new plans. Ya know, I love the internet, but in situations like this it would be so nice to go to someone, say I wanna go there and there, I need a night there and then there, book it Dano, and I know you’re gonna take 100€ from me for your time, but I have seen the alternative, just do it! Any hoo, after a week without Vee and loads of work coming in, the boat was a veritable bachelor pad this morning (and the Universe knows there was so nearly a bottle of Jack to add the finishing touches), so before I could do anything with my day off, I had to clear the wreck of washing up away, take the rubbish out, it had actually reached the ceiling from the kitchen worktops, how does one person generate so much crap? Oh yeah, beer cans and the detritus left over from quick and easy cooking without a freezer, hey ho. So now the boat is spic and span (can I say that?) and after four days away the guitar has been played (sorry, baby had to go in the corner). Am I making sense? Ooh talking of making sense, have you read Time magazine interview with a certain oompa- loompa, go on click the link, it’ll just take a few minutes. Well? How can even the most ardent supporter of fake president read that and not have some serious misgivings about his mental capabilities, there are four year olds, hell there are two year olds out there who can string a sentence together better than that twunt, nuff said.

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All Stop?¿! What!

Do you want to know what I did on Wednesday? While Vee is now la Capitaine of this vessel, I went out on a wide beam barge called Muriel, and drove (?) her for quite a while, including taking her into the lock and out again, seriously scarey as she is about 20 tonnes heavier than Adventurer and another five metres or so longer. The owners, John and Georgie had come down to St-Jean to have Muriel pulled out of the water for an examination and some therapy and wanted a hand getting her the 20 klicks upstream to her home base. A great opportunity for me to get some needed experience, and blast some cobwebs out of my skull, (see first paragraph). We left at ten, through the lock and onto the Saône going upstream which didn’t seem to have an affect on Muriel, it being the time when the spring thaw should be effecting the current, all was good, (I’m not sure Adventurer’s 55hp engine would fair so well, or have I been listening to too many stories again???). Now, at this point I should say that I have a thing with engines, I have no clue how they work, it’s all magick to me, but I listen. When I had my beloved Mini Clubman I never had a stereo in her as the engine noise, oh how she, hmm, no she didn’t purr, she farted and burped, but it was music to me and on occasion, listening gave me a heads up to potential problems so the local mucky-neck could earn some more money from me. Anyway, I digress, over an hour into our little jaunt, just as I’d handed the wheel back to John, there was this little hitch in the engine noise, my spidey-sense tingled and I asked if he’d altered the throttle (thinking something like, typical, I have to putt along but now the owner takes over we’re gonna zoom zoom zoom). Just as I asked that, the engine died, it was there merrily burping along, and then it wasn’t. Think about this, we’re going upstream in a big boat and suddenly the only source of power ceases and desists all that it is supposed to do (a “you only had one job” moment if there ever was one), John, after a moment of calmness, (full acknowledgement for that mate, by then I would’ve probably been doing my frantic clucking chicken running in a circle impression), wonders aloud if we’ve run out of fuel, hmm, sounds like it I say, so where’s the spare fuel and we’ll fill up, says I. Err, there isn’t, he retorts! (Now the clucking chicken is seriously starting to bubble beneath the surface). Quick as a flash, John bounds to the front of the boat and drops the anchor, something he’s never done before (we’re all novices here), and any motion we have (going backwards was just starting to come into effect), was arrested. Once upon a time, I was stranded in another boat, in Poole harbour, I forget the why now, all I remember was an interminable time sitting in a 16 foot power boat that had got caught on a low tide sand bank, and wasn’t going anywhere until the tide came in, ah memories?¿! Luckily John has some amazing friends in Auxonne that were able to come to our rescue with 40 litres of diesel to get us on our way, say thankee sai. With the three or so added hours the entire trip took about six hours, but I’ve been for the first cruise of the year and gained some lock experience, thank you John and Georgie for that.

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The “Joanne” I think? So many boats, so many names.

The new style (for me) of guitar playing is coming on well, Sweet Child o’ Mine and a brilliant version of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita are going great, don’t knock that last, it does sound brilliant (at least when my YouTube guitar teacher plays it)! One thing I’m having a nightmare with is having nails on my right hand. A long time ago to cure my nail biting, I started cutting my nails down as close as I could get before hurting myself, so now something like thirty five years later I have some nails again, (tip, such a long time does cure one of bad habits). The only thing is playing around scraping and cleaning boat hulls and then painting them leaves a lot of crap where there was never a place for it. Yes yes, I know I can clean them, but this oily thick black paint isn’t made to go anywhere for a very long time?¿! I guess when I’m a more proficient guitarist I could be called the man with the black nails (a la Johnny Cash??? Man in Black, Oh forget it). Any hoo, I’m doing well, hopefully soon I’ll bebale to put another film clip up onto my YouTube channel?¿!

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Anti-fouled prop, must remember this for the future.

I’ve just finished working on a huge 22 metre (I think thereabouts) boat, Joanne in the dry-dock, I had a great time, because the weather was a bit iffy and he has to vacate the dock tomorrow (27/March) we had to work flatout. There wasn’t much cleaning and prep to do so I managed to paint all sides of the hull, (there was another guy painting the under belly), twice in one afternoon. There was a couple of hours this morning (on Sunday?¿!) cleaning and oiling the anchor before rolling it back into it’s housing, I think it’s call anchor management. I got a tip of a six pack too, yay!

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The cats are all good, getting better now that the sun is out, Felix spends his daze on the boat in front of us, and Heidi, Lara and Blackie wherever they may roam, and roam they do, it is so good to see them going for a walk again. While Vanessa is away Heidi is my bed-time buddy, though she has taken to waking me up in the night to say hi, not sure about that as if she doesn’t get attention in a millisecond, she bites my nose.

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Our diesel carrying saviours

Fabreze, our landlubber neighbour fishes around our boat, we exchange the occasional beer and just now as I’m typing, I was offered a pike, unfortunately I couldn’t take it as I have prepped food for a few days and it was really too much fish for just me, gutted but hopefully another will come along on another day?¿!

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Fabreze.

That’s about it, as usual there was a whole raft of stuff to write here, but I’ve either forgotten it, deemed it uninteresting, or I can’t be arsed, it is such a lovely day here that I just want to sit in the sun, drink some beer and play some guitar. Plus my ever faithful little Asus notebook died yesterday (gutted, but it has been expected for a long time), so I’m now on Vee’s super huge laptop that I find very hard to use, having to move my hands around the keyboard to type is far too energetic.