Jean and Paul left for their long drive back to Dinard and we had a couple of pleasant evenings in the company of Jim and Diane (Brave Bart) and John and Martha before they all returned to the UK.
We also enjoyed walking along the ramparts surrounding Toul one fine autumn day.
Quite impressive in their day (the ramparts !)
I returned by car to England on Armistice Day and was driving through the Somme at 11 am. on the way to Calais- a rather sobering experience. Peter followed a week later on the motor cycle and we arranged for both vehicles to be MOT’d while we were there. We also attended Adam’s Graduation Ceremony which was held in St Alban’s Cathedral.
First Class Honours for Adam.
Shortly afterwards Peter returned to France on the motorcycle to meet up with Alex and Louise (Riccall). They had borrowed a large van and were transporting the new batteries for both barges, plus our new cooker and fridge.
Back in France, Peter and Alex spent several days removing the old and fitting the new batteries into Riccall and Aurigny. At sixty one kilos per battery they took a bit of lifting. Peter then spent the next few weeks removing the old and fitting the new cooker as well as doing various other winter maintenance tasks.
Back in England, I enjoyed meeting up with friends and family and was pleased to be able to join Treble Clef Choir for their Christmas concert once again. In London I went to the Winter Market on the South Bank, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and a couple of Art Galleries. Laura and I enjoyed seeing Les Miserables (stage version) once again and I added her and Jon’s flat to my list of temporary homes.
Adam drove me back to the barge for Christmas and we arrived to find it beautifully lit up outside and festively decorated inside. Laura spent her first one away from us in London with Jon and his family. After a very enjoyable festive break Adam returned to England and Karen joined us for New Year, travelling by train to Toul. We took several walks into town and tried out a number of the cafes. We also took a train into Nancy on New Year’s Eve and had fun exploring the city.
Christmas lights in Toul.
New Years in Nancy.
Karen left and as the temperatures plummeted, we experienced snow and ice and a frozen canal. Laura, Jon, and his parents Mandy and Stephen joined us for an overnight stop on their way back from a ski trip in the Alps and we all enjoyed meeting up again.
Our local Ice Breaker.
January continued to be cold and snowy and I made some more progress with my counted cross-stitch of the River Thames. Peter practised his chess on the computer and we gave our new chess and scrabble boards an airing. Louise and Alex returned briefly and we spent several convivial evenings together on one or other barges.
We moved as planned temporarily into the front cabin, having decided to save on diesel by using the wood burner as our main source of heat.
Peter continued with the DIY, painting two walls in the back cabin which we had finally decided would improve its appearance, making it look a little less like a sauna. He also removed the behemoth of a wardrobe in the front cabin, which took a whole day and provided us with a mountain of kindling for the wood burner.
We had a visit from Michael and Jackie Newbold, lunching at ‘Brasseri K’ (an unusual restaurant situated in a factory building,) to celebrate her birthday. We also drove to Nancy where I acted as tour guide on a rather damp, chilly day.
Jackie’s birthday lunch.
A chilly stroll around Toul.
Marge Simpson takes a picture in Nancy !
One of the early entrances into the city.
A visit to the indoor markets.
I then hitched a lift back to England with them so that I could collect the trusty Micra – once again in our possession. Whilst there I enjoyed my first birthday with the family in three years and saw the film of ‘Les Miserables’ with Laura and Jon and ‘A Song for Marion’ with Karen. It was also nice to meet up with Kate, Peter, Megan and Robert and of course to stay with Dad in Shepperton.
Adam and I managed to load the antique chest of drawers from our flat into the Micra; we had decided that it would fit nicely where the ‘behemoth’ wardrobe had been. I then drove back to the barge and we were very pleased to see that it fitted so well.
Within a couple of days of my return, we had booked accommodation in Le Grand Bornand for our ski trip – and despite our lack of pre-ski preparation, we had a lovely week in the Alps.
Ready for action.
Back in Toul, we had several pleasant evenings in the company of Sally and Mike (Chouette) and Louise and Alex and with April 2nd rapidly approaching, (our usual departure date from our winter mooring) our thoughts turned towards next season’s cruising.