Here we go – starting the 2018 journey

508FC346-96A9-4F7B-8C52-4B440505CAF3The season began in earnest on Friday April 20th. We left our house and it’s wall of possessions behind the day before, allowing ourselves a night at a Gatwick Premier Inn, surprisingly civilised, before flying out. Everything went smoothly, apart from me leaving my phone at security!

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A plane, bus and train ride later we arrived at Calliope in Castelnaudary, about an hour before we went out to the local cave on the quay to start celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. 

Next day was a day of gradual unpacking, filling up with water, trying out the new boulangerie that had opened up on the quay, saying hello and goodbye to boating friends, and generally preparing to set off. 

4E1A5A81-A873-4646-9DD9-939C86808BA1I managed to include a walk round the Grand Bassin and the port, discovering the beautiful new boardwalk.

A857CC15-C671-461C-AB1C-0A31FC55B667On the Sunday the weather was disappointingly cool and misty, but we cast off by 9 going under the bridge out of the port and hoping to have a clear run at the flight of four St Roche locks out of Castelnaudary eastwards. 

This was not to be. Two holiday boats were just starting their first lock experience, making for some entertainment while we waited. And another boat quickly joined the queue behind us!

Soon we were off, with boats in front and boats following, and the 4, sometimes 5, of us continued through the series of locks that lead East towards Carcassonne.

BE316EC4-7160-4205-8FCE-FDA81CCA25C1We found a peaceful overnight mooring after about 15 kms and tied up for the night.

There was time for a bit of a walk and gathering of local spring flora photos.

17232520-03B9-49EC-A9F6-68571B6AF43CNext day Calliope slipped away into another misty morning, this time at the head of the queue, working our way to one of our favourite places, Villesèquelande.

EAAE3BDA-542C-4739-A3C3-5C1DFF089AA1Another slightly misty morning provided inviting vistas.

Along the way we passed 3 lavoirs – not as interesting as some, but still fascinating in the social community history they hold.

Calliope neatly steered round our first ducklings if the season. Other natural observations were sculptural lines of conifers and cypress and a donkey haven!

Arriving through the bridge at Villesèquelande we found friends aboard Heliox who stepped out to help us moor up. Within a few minutes we had been invited to go that evening aboard the third boat in the row. This led to a walk into the village to discover the new location of the alimentation, and buy some wine and food.

 

The evening was spent a) with friends, b) helping a grand daughter long distance with a Uni essay, and c) trying not to laugh when the captain lost his footing and dignity with a mighty splash into the canal.

B6894068-3D04-4F1A-BFD2-D90A370AB853Tuesday was our day to arrive in Carcassonne. The last few kilometres were uneventful and we arrived right on éclusier lunch hour, meaning that we tied up in the warm sun for an hour to wait; very pleasant.

After lunch we passed through the lock and under the bridge that Captain Stu tells is the most difficult for Calliope on this canal. As always he did well and we moored up below the lock.

Stewart was now stuck here for three days while I whizzed back to the UK for a school reunion. We used our evening together to wander up into town and have a beer in the square before supper.

Stu turned out to be less ‘stuck’ than I expected, with friends on board for lunch and discovereding the delights of the Irish Bar and the best boucherie in town (boeuf en gelée). Meantime I regained my adolescence with friends from 50 years ago.

I also regained my phone, sent by Gatwick lost property to my friend’s house in London. Hooray!

67CB7019-53FF-4568-A450-CBB4A71B57A5While I was away he had to deal with several speeding boat issues, pulling the large wooden bollards out of the ground and bashing Calliope. (Yes, the large pink blob in the corner is my thumb!)

388DBBFD-4E51-4A70-82FE-B1481BD9A332Then I was  back to round off our first week back with a perfect evening on the canal. Looking forward to the next bit of cruising, starting tomorrow!

Calliope crew on Winter leave

 

 

You might think that we could get bored not being aboard through the winter. Not a bit of it! We have plenty of things to do – maintenance things, family things, creative things, friendly things …..

 

87CE0AB5-31FF-4E70-8163-379416AD1674We arrived back at the end of September and immediately managed a couple of days for Grandad with young Sofia before two friends arrived from America. We took them on a sea cruise to the Isle of Wight before we were whisked northwards to Edinburgh and it’s environs, stopping at Holy Island on the way.

We stayed at the Landmark Trusts iconic Pineapple!

and took a trip into Edinburgh to see the Royal Yacht (no photo!) and the Botanical Gardens.

Once home again family fun began with two birthdays – Keeva’s 19th followed by the special 18th for Kathryn.

Stewart spent plenty of time in his man-cave, aka the garage. He constructed models of some the late summer’s drawings ….

…. before large lumps of wood began to arrive and models became full size installations.

Meantime I was enjoying the skies that English autumns have to offer.

the colours were frequently amazing – unreal!

2957BADD-604D-433D-8F87-5FD367C91076And I started a slight get fit regime with an express 30 minute walk most days, usually along the old railway track close by. (That’s not me running!)

it wasn’t long before we were preparing for Christmas and two or three good family sessions – always made easier when you have help in the kitchen!

Stu and I now officially have a dynasty!  That’s them above – three children, six grandchildren and various ;partners, + us.

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Other family visited, including Stu’s neice Jo and son Olly. They came when Hollie and Sofia were also with us, allowing cousins to get to know each other in the company of Pooh sticks.

 

 

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We required help with various bits of maintenance – ah thats what grand children are good at!

My share of maintenance is shown below

 

 

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February had its customary celebration.

 

 

 

Then we had to wait until March for snow and ice, but a good excuse for another bonfire, snowballs and icicles.

1EC40746-2227-45D3-A1A6-C3749B4BE453I think my grandson on goalkeeper duty could have done with a bonfire too!

And any excuse to get cousins together was used to the full.

 

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Mother’s Day was a floral treat ….

 

… and Easter included the usual, rather wet, Easter Egg Hunt. Something Sofia said certainly amused the family!

As we got closer to April and time to return to the boat we had to make space in the garage for our car – as well as all our personal possessions!  Turning things out was fun, including moving all the items I have stored for Wickham Festival to a new home, find someone to take on our shell collection, and sort through a mass of music memorabilia.

Sofia kept Grandad on track, helping him drink beer and coffee, freezing him at play grounds and sea side, and whizzing him through Hampton Court Palace gardens.

The lure of boats and water was never far below the surface; we managed two trips back to Haslar Marina, our home two winters before, and fell in love again with the view across Portsmouth Harbour. (Note the new leaning millennium tower of Portsmouth!)

We met up with mariner friends from the past, and two current barge friends from France who happen to come from Gosport!

9B5A554E-0348-4770-B88D-79B4964F96A0I also met up with some school friends from over 50 years ago – surely not!  Yes, its true, we went our separate ways back in 1966, but still keep in touch and meet up whenever we can – usually in a pub!j

Eventually we decided that we could make an excuse for spending a few days on the boat in March, before the final de-camp in late April. So we flew out to Toulouse, were met with an old friend, and whisked back to Castelnaudary and the boat …….

…… via a fine French lunch.

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Maintenance again – this time boat maintenance, so more fun. I got to give the deck and roof a good clean on a sunny day – something I almost always enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Not long after our return it was celebration week – a new septuagenarian age for me and ‘clickety-click’ for the young captain.

B55AF1A4-578C-4148-9533-F7F067B92464I began my celebration a few days beforehand by playing out a long held dream – to play the kettledrums. The BSO principle timpanist was exceedingly kind and after some basic instruction he let me loose! So shiny!

I planned my day – starting with scrambled egg, asparagus and Buck’s Fizz for breakfast followed by smoked salmon and cream cheese for lunch! As a signature to the day I asked everyone who came round to put some colour in my hair, sign my T shirt and join my chocolate feast of cake (made by Hollie and Sofia), eclairs and Florentines. Thank you everyone who made that day such fun.

 

Stu’s birthday was a quieter affair, with lunch at Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth, a special supper at a lakeside pub near Farnborough and a new Captain’s summer uniform.

 

 

 

Throughout the winter we fed the birds, and unintentionally the squirrels and deer! Just before we left Stu designed a new bird table, which was met with great approval by Mr Pheasant who had been bringing his lady love to eat off the previous bench for some time.

The last week was a mad rush preparing the house for our new tenants, but still allowed time for some photos of our April garden – very neat after Stewart’s grass cutting events.

508FC346-96A9-4F7B-8C52-4B440505CAF3Then, finally, with all our personal possessions creating a mad mosaic wall in the garage, we said good bye to Bishopswood and prepared for Bonjour to Calliope.