(58) Winter in Cambrai, Alderney and England.

Unusually for us, we travelled back to England on the same day; me in the Micra and Peter on the motorcycle. Both vehicles were due their MOTs. Driving in England always comes as a bit of a shock, as we are spoilt on the French autoroutes – although we do have to pay for using them. I was grateful for Peter’s timely text warning about an accident on the M25 and took a circuitous route back to Shepperton.

After a couple of days at Dad’s and enjoying fish and chips and a Chinese takeaway, we left for a fortnight in Alderney, complete with two heated airers, one which we dropped at our flat in Winchester and one for Peter’s mum.

We had a lovely time on the island, catching up with various friends and family. Adam joined us for a week and we played a couple of rounds of golf and even gave the tennis racquets a bashing. As ‘Hurricane St Jude’ approached we flew my kite (or rather it flew me!) and then walked down to the breakwater to take photos of the waves crashing along it.

Telegraph Bay Alderney.

Some fish from the Breakwater.

 Bad hair day.

The wind picks up.

The Breakwater is 80ft high !

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Nicci and her Mary Poppins moment !

As it turned out we escaped the strongest winds and had reasonably good weather during our stay, which gave me the opportunity to do some scenic walks. Peter also had a unique opportunity to ride one of his old SEG motor bikes round the island. It had been bought at an auction and transported there by Trevor, an ex member of the group who lives on Alderney.

A nostalgic ride round the island.

My first ever rod caught squid, 2-3lb.

Back in England, Peter and Adam drove to Devon to look at a motor cycle that Adam was interested in and he was soon the proud owner of a Honda CBS 500 which Peter rode back to the flat.

Peter and I drove to the Historic Dockyard at Chatham to find out about ordering some new ropes for ‘Aurigny’ and we eventually chose 140metres of 28mm synthetic hemp in the form of four 20metre and two 30metre ropes complete with 1metre eyes. I was to collect them ‘en route’ to Dover at the end of my stay.

Some of the new rope for Aurigny.

Peter returned to France while I began a couple of months of socialising, walking and singing, culminating in the Treble Clef Christmas Concert the day before I returned to the barge in time for Christmas.

I enjoyed a long weekend with my sister Kate and her family in Devon, fitting in trips to Bideford, Lynmouth and the Valley of the Rocks plus a couple of hour’s tennis. A beach walk, tasty tapas meal and rugby match (in which Robert scored a try) completed a lovely visit.

The new ropes were ready at the start of my final week in England and I drove down to collect them with Dad, having decided that packing the trusty Micra for the return trip would be easier if I knew how much space they would take up. With relief, on my penultimate day, I packed up the car, leaving one 30m rope, the recently serviced outboard motor and numerous Christmas presents to be brought out the following day by Adam and Dad. This enabled me to fit in yet another heated airer for the barge – rather a tight fit in the Micra.

In spite of heavy winds and rain in the Channel, my ferry was only delayed by an hour and the easy drive to Cambrai took just 90 minutes.

We’d just about packed everything away by the next day when Adam and Dad arrived. Peter had decorated the saloon and the exterior was festooned with lights, so we looked very festive.

 Festive lights.

 Festive food.

While I was away, back in the port at Cambrai, Peter enjoyed the company of Carol and John (‘Plover’) and Lynn and Stewart (‘Matariki’) and Tam and Di (‘Friesland’). It really does make a difference having some company during the winter months and meals and aperros together are always fun. Once Adam and Dad had left Lynn and I were soon taking long walks and I began swimming in the nearby pool.

January is normally a very quiet and rather dull month on board, so I was looking forward to Linda’s visit in the middle of the month. Just prior to her arrival, Elaine and Vic (old friends with children the same age as Laura and Adam,) stopped overnight ‘en route’ from a break in Alsace. We spent a convivial evening together before they drove to Calais the following day.

Linda arrived having travelled by Eurostar to Lille and train to Cambrai. We had a fun week walking, sightseeing and chilling out and also did an evening tour of the underground passages of the Citadelle with Peter. This required us to don hairnets and helmets and it was so cold that Linda and I both kept our berets on as well.

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A trip to the Resistance Museum at Denain proved futile as it was closed, but we enjoyed a short walk in the town and a welcome coffee. In fact we had several coffees on our various walks and soon learnt to request ‘un Cafe Longo’ and not an ‘Americano’ after Linda was presented with a ‘Campari Americano’ in the first cafe………….. Very tasty but somewhat unexpected and of course much more expensive………and cold!

During Linda’s stay we had an overnight visit from Simon and Jenny who were driving back to their barge in Castelnaudary. Simon (an avid carp fisherman) was selling his old bite alarms to Peter (an opportunist angler) and they spent a couple of hours setting them up while we girls had a natter down below.

Our usually rather ‘dull’ January had become unexpectedly busy and I was very pleased to have electrics, water, washing machine and the new heated airer to get the extra washing done.

An overnighter on ‘Aurigny’ with Louise and Alex (‘Riccall’) gave us the usual laughs and exchange of news, although my disastrous slow-cooked Coq au Vin and Hot Citrus Pudding will take a lot of beating in the ‘Aurigny Awful Meals Awards.’ They left the next day for Calais and England before heading off to New Zealand for a few weeks.

Our last visitors in January were Ian and Liz ( Ian, retired SEG) We had a great couple of days with them despite the rather dreary weather, including a lunchtime ‘session’ in our local bar with the other Bargees.

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