One of these days…

Felix the braver than me!

Felix the brave isn’t in a very good space at the moment, poor little thing had a poor paw, we took him to the vets to get that sorted but after three days of not eating (something he normally excels at), we took him back to the vets and after a blood test found that his kidneys were failing. So the poor boy has been locked in a cage with a drip hanging from his front leg for the last four days. We go to visit him twice a day, Vanessa mostly, anything to do with an animal in distress and I turn into a blubbering wreck, but with the vets being closed on Sunday we wondered how/if we would be able to visit him. Luckily he has been allowed to come home for 24 hours, (without the drip), which will be good. We’ve been told that he has an uphill struggle to overcome this, especially with the amount of poison his kidneys dumped into his system, but he is a strong cat with a lust for finding new and improved ways for getting the most out of his life, (a nice way of saying getting into trouble). We’re sure that he’ll be fine, all things considered.

Well that’s not something you see everyday!

There has been some moving of goalposts from the VNF (the French canal and river authority). We now have to pay rent to live on the water, this in itself isn’t a big deal, actually it is but it’s been a few weeks since we found out this new ruling and we have had time to assimilate the information. The new ruling is that if you want to live on a stretch of water you have to pay rent, (price is decided on the size of the boat, we guesstimate about 750 for us). If you are continuously cruising then you get away with it, but we’re not so we can’t. The thing that ticks me off a little is that we paid our vignette for the year which at the time allowed us complete usage of the waterways, (or so we were led to believe), then we find out the new info which would have stopped us from buying the full vignette and instead we’d have just bought a month one for when we (finally) get to do some cruising. So this year, unless we can get the price of the vignette discounted off of the rent, we’re paying twice, hey ho. There are ways and means around this in the summer but not so in the winter with the locks being closed and being iced in. Fingers crossed with the discount I guess.

Ella, she will be ours?¿!

JP and Ilse are back from their extended holiday in Spain. So much to say about this that I’m probably going to get lost in my words here, bear with me. After the initial hi hi and all is good, they asked what we are going to do with the stuff that we have stored in their huge shed (winter carpets, spare insulation etc), this caught us by surprise as it felt like a -thanks for looking after our place for the last eight months, now you can go away- type thing. It didn’t help that during a catchup aperitif, I made a faux pas. I laughed. At the time of this sudden outburst two thoughts ran through my mind, this is very, very rude and also that this is quite uncharacteristic, (honest). In the few weeks before JP and Ilse returned I was in danger of having to refuse some work as there are only so many hours in the day and I am desperately trying to keep the weekends free as, well, life is too short to work all the time. I managed to not turn any work down but for the next few weeks, at least until mid June I am fully booked, in amongst all this work I am desperately trying to find some time to actually do some work on our boat. So when JP said that he has work for me painting HIS boat, I laughed, honest it was involuntary and felt so wrong but I couldn’t help myself. I explained that I am fully booked at the time, and then the next day apologised and said that I didn’t mean to appear rude, I was just laughing at the irony. Well this little episode didn’t put us in the good books and I thought that I’d blown our cushty little mooring. We did really want to go upstream when they returned to spend some time on the cut, but with Vee going back to the UK soon, I don’t like the idea of leaving the boat for over eight hours a day in the middle of nowhere while I’m working, so now we  want to stay here, at least for a bit longer. Slight confusion and more than a little paranoia on my part, what did we do, how could we have done more? There were  few other things that made us feel a little uncomfortable, (Felix struggling to get over the gate with his poor paw, so that he can go to his morning spot for a snooze, only to have the dog let out at just the moment he clears the gate, a “well, you’ll be going soon” when we were finding out about the new VNF ruling, you’re using too much electricity, even though nothing was plugged in at the time). In hindsight, my laugh saved us from a whole heap of aggro, the work was passed onto our neighbour, Fabreze and consequently we are learning lots of new ways of swearing in French. Long story short, what was going to be a quick paint job is going to take a long time, and I can’t help but feel that my outburst saved us from this as, normally I can’t say no, I dunno, cue the woo woo moment, I’m inclined to believe that some higher power hit me in the funny bone right there and then with the intent to save me from a world of pain??? Whatever, I was passed over for the work and bloody glad I am too, Fabreze is going nuts, there was some sort of deal between them which involves a sit-on lawnmower, but I think that Fabreze may be thinking the whole deal isn’t worth it considering the time and effort involved in the paint job. But back to the first few days of their arrival, things were tense and then, all of a sudden their entire attitude towards us changed for the better, more than that, we were great friends again like we were at the end of last summer?? I have no idea, as I said, paranoia on our part that we didn’t do all that was expected? Whatever, all is good now and no mention of the storage space, or moving on. I have mowed the lawns and done some other stuff in the garden, which was part of our agreement for our space here.

So, now that JP and Ilse are back, we topped off our water tank, and so the boat is all balanced again, and as expected the first few days we were all over the place trying to get our balance back, it is amazing what a few months with a few degrees of list will do to your balance.

Our Sickly Tarot arrived, su-bloody-perb! I will write about this in a later post.

In January someone booked me for the first week in May to help out with insulation and replace the walls and ceiling on their boat. I told my regulars that I wouldn’t be working that week and all was tickety-boo. The work needed to be done while moored on a quay so that we had room to maneuver, and because the job was booked so far in advance I kinda assumed that this was all booked up too, well you know what they say about assume making an ass of u and me. Bearing in mind that Monday was the first of May (supposedly the first day of the job), the boat couldn’t get to the mooring until the Friday (because the basin is full on at the moment in prep for the summer season, because he hadn’t booked a place!!!) and I wasted a complete week waiting for this …. person to get his act together, by then of course his time was up and I had to get back to my regulars, the guys that I’m going to be working with for the next year and so can’t really piss about. Some people!

I am going to get back to talking about the boat soon, these are our adventures in France though, work and genereality(?). You will be pleased to read that in this post I am NOT going to complain about the price of food in France, rather, I am applauding something. The price of beef is at an incredible low, and so beef is the new mushrooms, indeed it is so cheap that mushrooms can be included too. Proper chili-con-carne with lumps, great lumps of meat instead of minced. Vee isn’t a great meat eater, especially red meat but after so long chili made with lashings of red wine (hey, when in Rome) is a welcome addition to the menu.

Did you ever hear something, some word or phrase, but hear it wrong and then wonder how you could get it so wrong/and or not hear it right no matter how much people say that you have it wrong??? Hmm, let me explain. There is a Pink Floyd track called One Of These Days, there is one line of lyric and for years I thought that line was “One of these days I’m going to dance with the devil”, even when pointed out to me, (and there has been many discussions about this, sometimes heated, hi Paul 🙂 ). The real lyric is “One of these days I am going to cut you into little pieces”, I listen to this track a lot, it’s brilliant but rarely do I hear the real lyric, it’s one of those lines that (to me) can be heard one way or another, but rarely what they’re actually saying. So what? Well Fabreze has a dog that we both thought was called Nathaniel, when we got to know Fabreze we realised that the dog is actually called D’artagnan, but whenever he calls the dog, we hear Nathaniel??  No matter, move along, there’s nothing to see hear???

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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).