Yikes again, it’s been over two months since the last post, (I’m not including last week’s post as that was just filler and photos). I have actually had a post half written for six weeks now, but it was all about Felix the Brave’s passing and every time I thought to finish it, I froze, it is just too sad and will have to wait for another day. We both miss him terribly, he was an amazing feline with heaps of personality.
So what has happened? Loads, mostly work which I will try not to bore you with but it will have to appear here and there. I think that the big news is that we are not going to be cruising this year, yeah I know, that sucks living on a boat and not going anywhere on it. WIth so much work around at the moment and needing to build up our financial reserves, I can’t find a gap when we will be able to go. Also, and this is the big reason why we’re not going anywhere, to get fully comprehensive insurance we need to pull Adventurer out of the water to get a full survey for the upgraded insurance, not a big deal but to spend over two grand for a couple of weeks of cruising seems a bit excessive when, next year we can get it all out of the way early in the year so that we can head out at weekends and the odd week here and there. That may sound a bit tight? Yeah well, living in France has an odd way of throwing expensive bills at you from unexpected places, having to pay rent to live on the canal when we thought we had already done this, and other stuff, basically I need to work as much as I can this year so that we can afford the next unexpected outgoing.
Let me just describe some of the funny quirks of this (slightly weird), country we currently live in.
- I don’t know if this is just locally or nationally but during the school summer holidays, the trains don’t run except a couple before nine in the morning and after five in the afternoon. So when Vanessa was heading off to the UK to see her folks recently we had a small nightmare trying to get her the 25 klicks up to Dijon at midday to connect with her bus (which leaves from the train station). Apparently it is something to do with working parents taking time from work to spend time with their children (that concept alone is difficult for me to grasp), so SNCF (the French train system), clear the timetable except a few trains for the odd people that carry on working, so long as they are nine to five, all is okay but you have to wonder about the other people that start and finish work at “odd” times.
- The fresh fish departments in the local supermarkets close for the summer. This was an obvious thing in the days before high speed transport as opposed to horse and cart. You see we live a long way inland and so it was difficult to get fresh seafood to St-Jean because of the travel time. The thing is now we have trucks and motorways and trains (hmm), but still they close, I have no idea?
- The other thing is the French workers, this is a catch-22 shituation for me. On one hand I am picking up lots of work that the locals don’t want to do, painting and general odd jobs are beneath them, this is good for me as there is an abundance of work, sometimes more than I can manage and I’ve had to let some jobs go. (Someone actually called at the boat t’other day and expected me to work for him the very next day, er no mate, get to the back of the queue). This is all good for me, that is until we want to go out and we (stupidly) expect restaurant service in a restaurant, I know right. We were out the other week, we sat on the terrace but the restaurant proper was empty, Vanessa had to go inside and order our food, and then I had to go inside to get and pay our bill, nobody wants to do anything. I have heard of lock keepers that groan and huff when, wait for it, a boat enters the lock. Whatever. So on one hand I am happy that people don’t want to work, but on the other it is an annoyance, going to a restaurant is, or should be a pleasure, but with the exorbitant prices and the lousy service it’s becoming a distant memory. The thing with workers not wanting to do anything isn’t localised, my mother who also lives in France has called several people to do some work for them, but not one has returned the call yet.
I won a competition last weekend, the first in a long long time. Seven years ago we were living in a house that leaked, no wait, that’s too mild, it was a sponge that soaked the smallest amount of water up and left it running down door frames, through light switches and eventually depositing it onto the bedroom floor (it was an “upside-down” house, living area upstairs, sleeping area downstairs). It was horrible, and guess what, we were living there for some of the most rainfall in recent history, Vanessa was using her welly boots as slippers. On the radio was a music trivia competition for a Christmas break in a local 3* hotel, I entered and won, which was timely and much appreciated. Having a “dry” Christmas was not something I thought I would ever wish for. We had to leave the cats in the house but we left chairs and such in positions so they could play pirates and stay on the high ground. Any hoo, this last competition was not as grand but still wonderful to win. There is a company called Last Exit to Nowhere that makes the best geeky t-shirts, all movie themed but with subtlety. The competition was to wear one of their shirts with a backdrop theme coininciding with the particular shirt you’re wearing, easy, there is a boat in the marina called Orca (Quint’s boat in the awesome Jaws), I put on my “three barrels” t-shirt on, a couple of photos and Bob’s your mother’s brother, a winner 🙂 I won a t-shirt of my choice but with such a large selection I couldn’t decide, so I linked them to my wishlist and let them them decide for me. My wishlist at Last Exit is here by the way, you never know 😉
D’you remember last year we were having fun trash surfing to see what great things people throw away? This year so far we have found a brilliant pair of binoculars, very powerful and free. Not in the trash but in the clubhouse I found a game called Carcassonne, a tactical tile laying game I’ve read a lot about and we gave it a try, wow, addictive and now there’s a couple of expansions on their way to give us something to do during the long winter that seems to be coming at us at a fast rate on knots.
I have just remembered, because I’ve not updated this blog for so long, I haven’t written about the fun and games we have had since JP and Ilse returned from their winter break in Spain. Almost the first thing they asked on their return was that if we wanted to adopt their cat, Blackie then that would be fine with them, erm, no! Well that was our answer, but Blackie is still living with us, and eating our food. As I type she is lying on the couch next to me, content as… I did mention the awkward laugh that I let out when asked if I would be able to paint their boat (no chance), and that Fabreze our neighbour was collared to do it in exchange for a sit-on lawn mower. Well F decided that that was way too much work and decided he’d had enough after realising the work was far more than the mower was worth and called it a day. I was watching JP work on his boat a couple of weeks after F had finished and saw JP, (who we have recently found out is 76), struggling with the rust that was forming on the front deck of his boat. I said that I could help with the deck, I would strip the paint off and paint anti-rust to protect it while it waits for a paint job. Truth is I thought that it would be a couple of hours work and all would be good, I didn’t realise that the paint was somewhere in the region of four mil thick and would take three huge wire brush attachments on an angle grinder (which eventually also decided enough was enough and quit), and two days off work to complete the work. Then, I heard a few days later that it was understood that I had changed my mind and said that I would be painting the boat after all, but why was I taking so long to get on with it? Bear in mind this would be a week or more job, and unpaid! Let me just add to this a few things, JP woke up one morning and decided that he would like a new car, within two days a new car is sitting on the drive. Then they decide that they cannot move to Spain to live in their apartment for various reasons but moving a bit closer to the Bezier/Carcassonne region would be the next best thing, so they buy a house there without needing to sell their house here in St Usage. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t envy, (three houses are not something I want, one was enough), my issue was is that they can do these things but expect (wrongly) that I would take time off from a paid job to work for them, all because I felt a little sorry for the old sod and a miscommunication had them rubbing their hands together thinking they were saving money for a complete paint job. I don’t mind doing the odd job in exchange for electric and WiFi, but a week or more of work is too much. We’re now all good again (thank goodness), after me working all hours for a while in the dry dock and other work must have reminded them that I have no time.
And still our boat isn’t painted yet, (yes Vee, I will get to it).
With JP and Ilse’s house up for sale, there are is a slightly uncertain future for us, we are secure in our mooring as that is to do with the VNF, but, well I’ll get to this in a later post as I don’t want to be “writing scripts”.
Elle (the tjalk) was sold, she is out of our reach and yet still I feel that we have a chance that she will be ours. The eternal optimist? Hmm, not really (I try), but I cannot put in words that feeling of homecoming when I stepped aboard her. Watch this space.
The cats are all good, Heidi has become more adorable, I don’t know if this is something to do with Felix passing or simple mellowing on her part, but whereas once she let us share her bed and growled and spat if we dared to move and disturb her in the night, she now shares the pillows with us and has become an agreeable bedtime buddy. Lara was a bit out of sorts for a while, something was missing and it affected her (and us) for a while. She is more than a little do-lally though and looks more for attention from us, which is fine, though can be a pain in the arse for Vanessa at times, while doing a Tarot reading on her laptop she had Blackie and Lara vying for her attention and not taking no for an answer, the other day I came home to find Vee looking exasperated trying to type with two cats fast asleep, one on her arm the other in her lap.
The big arsed boat that was moored in front of us has now left, so we now have our view of the lock at the end of the basin back, rule 32, enjoy the little things.
My guitar playing is going great, though I wish I wasn’t so self conscience about my singing voice, I was invited to bring my guitar to a bbq we went to this last week, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to play and sing, so I rehearsed and practiced for a while before and had four songs off by heart and another two that I would need the lyrics in front of me for. Great, but on the night I bailed and just played with my mouth firmly closed, I was so annoyed at myself for not seizing the day, I was among friends and all would have been good, hey ho. My father recently sent me over a banjo (thanks again 🙂 ), unfortunately I didn’t realise how totally different playing a banjo is to guitar and I’m having a hard time with it, but Vanessa has stepped up and pronounced this coming winter to be the winter of the banjo, with trusty YouTube vids all bookmarked, Vanessa is going to learn the banjo and become musically enlightened.
I was gob-smacked to find out just how expensive this boating lark can be, especially with the higher end plus-all-mod-cons boats. There is a boat here, a huge Piper boat (very expensive manufacturer), and the owners took her out for what was supposed to be an extended cruise, the thing is the boat master thought it was funny/better to use the electric bow thruster instead of turning the wheel to steer, these things are really only there to pulse when mooring or for tight turns, (which I believe there are only a handful on the French waterways). The bow thruster burned out from over use, to replace it the boat needs to be hauled out of the water, so the bill for this is, wait for it…. 16,000 Euros! I bet that guy is kicking himself.
Our small garden (way different from what we are used to) is going well, we were hoping to sun dry the cherry tomatoes for use in the winter, but there isn’t enough at any one time to do that, so they get munched as we get on/off the boat and for salads, next year there will be more.
So life carries on, with no cruising there isn’t going to be much to write about this year, but I will post (or at least try to) once a month. Best wishes and thank you for reading 🙂