Tuesday 20 October 2020

Courcy (Buddy’s blog)

One of Paulbot’s poulbots (see further down)

It’s nearly three years ago to the day since I was last allowed to write a blog entry and that was before we came over to France.  Things aren’t really any different for me over here other than I consider my home to be in Châlons-en-Champagne.  I lived there for several months during that strange period that Neil & Karen (N&K) referred to as confinement or lockdown, when people weren’t allowed out unless they had a good reason and a signed form.  As I have lived on a boat for over six years, nearly my whole life, I haven’t stayed anywhere for very long so that’s why Châlons is my home and I’m really glad we’re going back there soon.

Sunday was a long cruise day which meant I would just sit on the back deck looking down the side of the boat for hour after hour.  I don’t know why we were leaving Bour-et-Comin as there was a kitten living in a campervan that was parked up near us.  N & K thought I hadn’t seen it, but I was just pretending so I could take advantage if I could just convince them to let me off the pontoon on my own.

Leaving on Sunday. Left: latéral à l’Aisne.  Centre: Our pontoon: Right: l’Oise á l’Aisne

Thinking about it there are actually a few things that are different about living in France.  Although there are very few pleasure boats over here, there are lots of commercials and they make a horrible sound that I just cannot get used to and I have to have a stroke as they always wake me up (I’m nearly always asleep when indoors).  Then there's the fact that Neil seems to want me to learn French and give commands in that language; he obviously doesn’t realise how daft he sounds.  There is one good thing though and that is I get to stay on proper big boats when N & K go on holiday. People like Nikki & Gorete, Paul & Sue and Bill & Jane know how to treat me properly and keep my tummy full but I don’t understand why I’m made to go on a diet when the holidays are over.

I’ve heard they’re driving down to Barcelona in a few weeks and will leave me with Paul & Sue, so I’ll be in paradise while they’re down there visiting their daughter Catherine.  It won’t be a tourist holiday for them for obvious reasons, but at least they'll be safe travelling in a car and not mixing with other people.  The main thing is that they will have time with Catherine as it doesn’t look like she’ll be able to come back to England for Christmas because of the quarantine rules.  I know they’re stopping with Mike & Aileen in their house in Lot for a socially distanced sleepover on the way down which is probably why I’m not going to Spain – Mike doesn’t like dogs, just cats and chickens.

We passed a few woodpiles during today's cruise where there were probably cats lurking

Talking about food just now has made me think about a few things:

  • Why do N&K try to make me drink horrible clean water from the tap rather than let me drink canal or river water?
  • What difference would it really make if they let me have dinner two hours earlier rather than when I’m ready for bed at five o’clock?
  • Neil seems to be eating all day long so why can’t I?

At least when they’re back from Spain we’re going back to the UK for a while. Paul & Sue (or Flubs as they get called) are coming in the car with us so hopefully I will be able to stay with them in their house and get fed properly.  Flubs also know that sleeping from five in the evening until nine in the morning isn’t long enough for me as I need at least two more hours after breakfast before going out again.

As there was nowhere to moor for lunch on the journey today, N&K had lunch on the move, BLT sandwiches which shed great crumbs.  It did remind me of Mike & Lesley who seem to have bacon butties every day when they’re cruising.  I’m getting braver when we cruise; I’ve never liked standing on the engine bay cover as it has horrible vibrations.  I now realise that if I stand there, I get lots of strokes so I’m getting braver every day.  We stopped and moored up at a long commercial quay below the lock at Berry-au-Bac, but we were the only boat there.  Although by later in the evening three commercials had moored up ready to go up the lock when it opened first thing in the morning.  We are at the end of a 13 mile long pound which means the boats could continue travelling for a couple of hours after the locks closed for the day. 

Moored on our lonesome at Berry-au-Bac

We went for a walk during the afternoon and one part was past the grain silos where we moored on our way here a couple of months ago.  We couldn’t have moored there today as there were three empty commercials there obviously waiting to get loaded with grain on Monday morning.

Two of the commercials – Poulbot and Poulbote

N&K said they recognised the boats, particularly the one called Poulbot which was moored next to its sister Poulbote.  I think they were probably named after the French artist Francisque Poulbot who painted the poor children of Paris, especially Montmartre, in his famous style which you will probably recognise from the picture at the top of my blog.  Poulbot became the term used to describe these poor children.  

I don’t want you to think I’m moaning all the time as I have a great life living outside and having lots of walks and I do like it when they make me wear my coat as it keeps me warm; however, I do have some questions for N&K:

  • I keep thinking you’ve got rid of the car which makes me very happy but why does it keep appearing every six months or so?
  • What is this obsession with walnutting?  At least with VR boxing or lavoir-ing we are walking.  I’d rather be walking in the pouring rain than hanging around while you’re looking for walnuts.
  • Why do you sometimes walk in different directions to each other?  It just confuses me; I don’t want to show my true loyalty just because one of you is off shopping and the other just out for a walk.
  • Why do you put my bed on its side every day to air – sometimes I have to stare at it for 45 minutes before you notice I want you to put it down

On Sunday we cruised 13 miles through no locks, and I was on the boat the whole time as there wasn’t a path to walk along.

We didn’t set off straight away on Monday morning because N&K said it was foggy.  I’m not sure what that means but it doesn’t seem to stop the commercials coming through from early in the morning to wake me up.  When we did leave, I walked with Karen while Neil took the boat up the first six locks.  We met him at each lock, so he didn’t have to climb up the ladders to set the lock operation in motion.  We were straight into a lock as soon as we left, and I saw Neil hand back the télécommande to the éclusiere as soon as the boat rose up to the top.  He then left the lock and turned right onto the 33-mile long Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne where all the locks are operated by a twisty pole hanging over the cut a hundred metres or so before each lock, rather than using the remote control télécommande.

Turning off the Canal latéral à l’Aisne

Opening hours and days of closure on the Canal de l’Aisne à la Marne

It was good to be back on this canal as it means when we get to the end we will be in the Marne valley which is where my ‘home town’ of Châlons-en-Champagne is.  As we walked past the bottom of the third lock of the day, I recognised it as somewhere we were going to moor when we were on our way down.  It was perfect for me as I would have had a great view of things to chase across the fields for miles around.  N&K had said it was too hot and that there would be no shelter from the heat, so we had to carry on to find some shade.

Where we were going to moor below lock 3 back in August

Now I’m getting a bit older I don’t always want to walk too far every day, so every so often I stood and stared at Neil as he went past imploring him to pick me up but no such luck.

Please pick me up

I suddenly realised we were back on the Reims Champagne plain and thought it’s not going to be long before N&K start boring everyone by raving about the autumnal colours of the Champagne vineyards.

The first vineyards can be seen just below the woods of the Montagne de Reims

Although all three of us have walked up through the vineyards on the steep hillsides of the Montagne de Reims we’ve always stopped short of visiting the woods themselves.  N&K keep saying they want to go as the site is world renowned for its stunted beech trees with twisted trunks and branches.  Experts are still undecided as to the origin of these strange trees.

We stopped for lunch at a place called Loivre (I still don’t understand why I can’t have lunch too) and I sat outside as it was so sunny and warm.  Loivre marked the change from the Aisne département to the Marne département, another sign we were nearing Châlons.  Last year we visited a WWI cemetery for German soldiers near Loivre, and I remember we had a good walk that day.

Me laying in the sun while they have their lunch at Loivre

We only had a couple of miles and four locks to go after lunch, so Karen and I continued walking.  It was between the last two locks that Karen had found super-large walnuts last year and Neil was banking on the same happening this year.  Unfortunately, the only nuts to be found there today were normal sized which was very disappointing.  I heard Karen say to Neil, ‘see, it was worth me picking up all those other nuts over the last two weeks!’.  There were quite a few people out searching and we realised that it was the French two-week autumnal holiday, so they’d probably cleaned up before we arrived.

The little and large from this year's harvest

We got on the boat at the last lock and then moored at Courcy for the rest of the day.  I had noticed that there were still quite a few butterflies flying around during my walk but I still don't understand the fascination N&K hold for them and why they chase after them with their phones.

Monday night mooring at Courcy

On Monday we cruised eight miles up ten locks and I walked all the way except for the last ½ mile.

If you’re interested, you can click below to see my previous blog entries:

No comments: