Sunday, 11 August 2013

August - the beginning

Well, the last one worked so I thought I'd try again.  This will be short as it's late.  We left our second haven of Serracourt le Grand (if there's a petit, it's invisible) reluctantly and unexpectedly and luckily found a good mooring at Chauny, where we made some new friends, an English couple, and through them a French couple. So we stayed two days, and visited the town.  France likes making roundabouts a feature, here was no exception:
Those are apes of some sort, one at each corner.  We've seen all sorts of themes, it's really fun.  Bollinger is trying to make up for Burdock's absence, and thinks he has his own place at table:
But eventually we had to go, and our friends took and then sent us some pix of the departure, which we rarely have, so here we are leaving on the 4th August.  Not sure who's at the helm, oh, it's Bollinger ('79).

Friday, 9 August 2013

Catching up on end of June and July

I sometimes despair, when I look at the blogs of others, they look so professional, day by day accounts of all the key details, a real tour de force of wonderful photo's and useful data.  Whereas mine is chaotic, not current, lacks data or anything useful, and is just my idiosynchratic type of jottings. 

You know what, I can't change now.  Maybe if Marius puts me onto a more user-friendly and fancier blog, one with headings and indexes and all that, well, maybe, I'll make more of an effort.  But for now, I'm just amazed when I finish an entry without it crashing or my losing it totally with how slow the process is!!  For example, after a warning triangle just to the bottom left it always says, Error on page.  So why carry on?

So, what happened to us before and after we lost Burdock.  There are a lot of pictures here, but that's what I do.  They should be in chronological order, starting with 28th June, the 'carrieres' or quarries (underground tunnels in chalk to you and me) in Arras.  These are amazing, where 200,000 allied troops were housed for over a week just prior to 'popping up' and generally being popped by the Germans.  They lived in relative luxury, loos, beds, mess, then one day, they queue up to go up a staircase, for goodness sake, it says on one of them "No Exit", it's a Brit joke, the No is against the staircase number, but the meaning is clear.  Wow.  The picture is of the rail wagons they pushed around by hand to join the various quarries together and make the 15 km of man-made (well strictly speaking New Zealander tunnelers!) tunnels.

Then while we were at St Laurent Blangy with our friends Chris and Paul looking out for our boat and caring for Bollinger (he hates to travel!), we returned to UK for many appointments between Friday 28th June returning Friday 5th July, and visited Francis in Birmingham that first Saturday.  I insisted on demonstrating how to remove a form of perpetual borage that we had at Melita:
My head doesn't look as bald here does it? It's a trick of the light.  We spent the night and did a really long walk around Brum and had a super lunch, but this just shows the walk.
Who's that old man, oh God it's me.
This blasted blog site is playing up something rotten!  I have to add each pic twice, then go back and delete the failed bits it leaves there.  Give me strength!  Anyway, then on 6th July we went back and visited the Canadian War Memorial, where there's a significant and moving tribute, as well as an incredible landmark.  The craters and shell holes are still very impressive nearly 100 years later!! The pic doesn't do them justice.
 On 7th Jyly we also drove out to a ruin of an Abbey in a lovely village on a ridge, and here's a picture:
Quite a ruin I'm sure you'll agree.  Standing oddly in the midst of a pretty, small village.  I liked it.
Then there was a thing I was sure was a space museum, as this was clearly a largish model of the space shuttle, and then we chased it and found: 
Then a windmill in Achicourt, in the middle of a public playground, which turned out to be fully restored and working, as the volunteer enthusiasts explained in great detail and length - we now know enough about it to write a book!  I even have a bag of their finest breadmaking flour.
The 8th July we had to take our bikes back to Europcar in Arras so decided to take our bikes and spend the morning seeing the city, tho' it was very hot indeed.  It has lots of arcades
That was Monday, and we'd planned to leave on Tuesday, and delayed because it was so hot, well, it was all very mysterious why we stayed in that lovely spot so long, clearly fate was helping us, and while we were enjoying a meal on board with out friends it became clear Burdock had become very restless and increasingly unhappy, well, I'll not detail but about 1am on Wednesday morning we had no choice but to relieve him of his incurable twisted stomach.  That day we were pretty down, visited where we'd walked with him the day before, then Thursday which meant deciding where to be for Bastille Day, 14th July, so we stayed and on the morning of 14th our friends took us to a local car boot come street sale come garage clearance, where we bought 3 things for our crowded boat!!
Nik went out in the canoe next day, took some pix of the weed from upstream in the water, and on the boat
Then for reasons best known to Loci, I decided on Tuesday, that's the second Tuesday we were supposed to be leaving, to dismantle the faulty boiler, pump out the seawater taken into it on the crossing.  This became a saga that took most of the week, with a whole new burner unit being sent off to our friends (helping again!) who later brought it to us in Cambrai - the stars!  So it was that we left our haven on Thursday 18th July, being worried about running out of time to beat the lock closures.  The canal is lovely
and the locks are still leaky 
So we made it to Cambrai in just two hops.  It would have been one if Bollinger hadn't decided to go walk-about for 3 hours at our lunch spot on the canal from Arras!  So lots of pictures of Cambrai, which we really like too.  We stayed there from Friday 19th July and left Sunday 28th July. First our mooring
Then the shade on our lawn beside the mooring
View of the lovely town with the cathedral tower in the background, and one of several towers from the old wall prominent with just some tourist in the way
Tuesday 23rd was taken up largely by saving a pair of lost moorhen chicks, Nicola's mission, which involved lots of cycling to find any mother hens who seemed distressed!  I mean hours of time.  Here they are, oh and yes we did re-unite them, after Nik fed them all sorts of stuff, really into their mouths!
On Friday 26th our friends from St. Laurent Blangy came with the new boiler burner unit, and we had a lovely meal, and then a walk, so here's another remainder of the Cambrai defences with us in it:
Then we had an invite to dine with friends in Cambrai, which was lovely, so it was on a Sunday morning 28th July that we left Cambrai;  we were late leaving, locks wouldn't open, or close, or react to our signal, so we wound up stuck between two locks.  Lucky in fact.  It was a lovely spot called Les Rues des Vignes, and we spend two lovely days there.  Bollinger liked it!
We went to a wonderful restaurant on the way back from a long, quite tough cycle ride to the amazing Vaucelles Abbey.  The restaurant is called Relais d'Echaugette.  The Echaugette is just the particular name for a watchtower, used as a local symbol and landmark, and looks like this:
Later it got a bit damp, but every raincloud has a pretty lining
What pretty flowers I hear you say, yes I do!  Nik has scoured the rather modest offerings from the best of France's garden centres, mainly Gamme Vert, so Archangel looks more like a floating flower shop.  So the next day, Tuesday 30th we set off towards the dreaded and feared tunnel, the Riqueval (sounds like the Eiger doesn't it?).  Many a tale of woe, but there were more locks that wouldn't work, here's one
But eventually we got out and turned up at 3.30 pm for the 5pm tunnel tow.  The tug is electric, overhead cable the whole 5.7 km of it, sparks come off rather spectacularly, and we'd been preparing two 30 metre ropes for the tow, loads of paperwork on insurance documents etc. as we were told to, and ready to debate where to send the E 25 bill, and he just says, bring the boat up, heres my rope, let's go!  So we did:
The journey was nearly 3 hours of tension, verging on hypnotic trance at the flashing lights and regular rhythm of the chain going up and over the back of the tow boat.  Lucky that we were the only boat, there can be long series of them, each pulling the other about!  On the other side we passed under an odd bridge, which it seems was where a very famous First World War picture was taken, with just endless troops all over the side of the then bare ravine and hills behind.  Look it up.

There's another tunnel after this, shorter and one you motor yourself thru, easy by comparison.  Then any mooring will do, a stiff drink, and I did a bit of cycling to find, nothing, dead village.  Next day, 31st July, we aim to stay at St. Quentin.  We did stop, the marina had no room for us, so we moored here for an explore:
The town was fine, nice in ways, and I was able to post off the boiler burner I'd now replaced.  Heavy it was all the way to the post office, and very expensive to send, but the boiler worked first time!  But we didn't like St. Quentin half enough to tolerate this rubbish mooring, so we left already, and struck lucky:
And where is this wonderul place.  Well, send me a small cheque, unless you're a really good friend!  We stayed two nights, would have been longer but time presses.
That takes us to the nights of 31st July and 1st August.  Too much already, so the rest of August to date will be the next episode.  Lots to tell!  It's midnight.  This kind of organised chaos takes ages to prepare you know!