Having bought the barge in September 2009, Peter took most of our worldly goods out to France in a large van with a friend (Paul) in October. I stayed in England at my Dad’s and spent a surreal three months working out my notice at School and wondering what we had let ourselves in for. A brief visit to the barge at half -term on the BMW (Peter having returned for Laura’s graduation) confirmed that it probably was the right thing for us to do. Peter was happy and the barge very comfortable.
‘Captains Lady’ St. Leger des Vignes 2009.
During this visit I had my first taste of ‘aperros’- supposedly pre-dinner drinks, with fellow bargees! Our last guests left at 11.30pm and the next day I had the mother of all hangovers. We have since learnt to either make sure the dinner is cooking before the ‘aperros’ or to have a large lunch at midday prior to them.
In December 2009, I reluctantly said farewell to England and accompanied by Laura and Adam, set out with the remainder of our belongings in the Micra and Yaris. Each was filled to the gunnels with among other things two flat screen tvs and a ton of cheddar cheese, bacon and tea. Despite icy road conditions and Eurotunnel’s best efforts to impede our journey (remember those trains breaking down in the tunnels because of the electrics?) we reached the barge only a day late. We had a lovely Christmas together, only marred by having to say goodbye to Laura and Adam when they left for the long drive back to Calais.
Renaming ceremony after our Boxing Day lunch.
The rest of our winter at St Leger des Vignes was spent socilaising (more aperros), playing boules, familiarising ourselves with the barge, rope throwing practise (for me- lassoing an eye of rope over a bollard!) and dismantling the wheelhouse. The reason for this last occupation was to ensure that we had access to as much of the canal system as possible – there being several very low bridges. It became quite a spectator sport in the port, especially when we discovered on the first attempt that a design fault made it impossible to lower one side. With some expert advice from Frank a fellow bargee we managed to sort it out. Replacing the normal hinges with sliding ones so that we could remove the frames and put them on the decks rather than having them flapped down at the sides(reminiscent of Chittybangbang).
Three heads better than one.
We also fitted in a trip to England and a ski trip to Megeve in the Alps. Finally, a week before we were due to leave, we discovered that the engine alternator had packed up. Several trips to nearby Nevers and 250 euro poorer, we were finally ready for the off on April 2nd as planned. We had decided that 1st April might just be tempting fate.
As anyone in the boating fraternity will tell you, having been in a place for several months, parting is ‘such sweet sorrow’. However, we had bought a barge not a house boat and leave we must. Our friends waved us off and watched as we nervously approached our first bridge, Peter having only spent about an hour at the helm and me insecure in my rope throwing ability…………………………………