A Winter on board. Rants, raves and totally irrelevant things.

All blog this month! Hope you enjoy it.

Our lives like many in the tourist industry splits into 2 halves. A busy summer working 7 days a week looking after guests. Then there are the winter months when the canal is closed and we revert to maintainence and improvements to the barge along with visiting new potential excursion places.

We have recently had a new carved wooden handrail made by our woodworker neighbour. It’s a gorgeous job and the carvings reflect river wildlife. He has also made us a couple of super new chairs in elm. Both have added to the overall feel of Libje and it  has been nice to support a local craftsman and add something totally unique to Libje.

I am currently in mourning. Not for a person or an animal but my favourite screwdriver. I bought it in Hamburg when we went to pick up Libje from her former owner. The centre of Hamburg is a bit odd as you can buy expensive clothes, Rolex watches and top quality goods of all sorts. However if you want to buy some simple cooking pots and tools then you are out of luck. I have no doubt that the city is the same as so many others in that the ‘useful’ shops have all migrated to out of town shopping centres where the rates are cheaper and where people can park.

I finally found a small ships chandler located under a railway arch. They had most of what I needed but at what a price! However needs must and I bought a few essential spanners and other tools incuding a large screwdriver. It was always known as “my expensive German screwdriver”  The cost was soon forgotten and over the last 12 years years it has proved to be the perfect tool. Always sharp, always square with a good handle. In short, everything you want from one. Now I have gone and dropped it over the side and it lies unused and rusting in the mud beneath the weeds. Hours of dangling a magnet on a string did no good. Eventually I will have to get out my diving gear and have a search!

On our long voyage through Europe to get to Brittany we eventually found that the most useful tool we ever bought was a wheelbarrow as we could walk from town centres by the river or canal  to distant shops and bring our stores back. We got a few odd looks though when we padlocked it to the shopping trolley storage spot, or were seen crossing the bridges of Namur in Belgium with a barrow full of groceries and excellent Belgian beer! It finally bit the dust (or rather the water) when it blew away one night and sank in the canal du Midi.

We heard today from one of our agents that enquiries for cruises are slowing down after the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.

However terrible the aftermath I think it is essential to keep things in perspective. If one plane crashes then sadly around 200 people go with it. Does that stop people travelling by one of the safest methods of travel ever invented? No.  Do they stop driving their cars, which are many times more dangerous ? No.  Do Americans move from a countrywhere in 2013 around 33,000 ** people were killed in gun crime?   No.  If you were going to visit Florida would you cancel the trip because of a gun attack on a school in Oregon?

I feel that we are overly influenced by the media circus who can bring the gory details of every catastrophe into our homes.

So why give in to terrorists who killed but a minute fraction of that number? This sort of blind hysteria is exactly the effect that they want to create.  I remember when we had a B&B in Scotland and a few people in the UK died of the so called “mad cow disease” which was passed on to about a dozen people who ate cheap, poor quality burgers made from infected animals. Every single American who was booked with us cancelled their reservations as ignorance and panic ruled and they thought it was a disease that you could catch like flu.

Let’s prove that we are stronger than the fanatics.  Let’s take care but keep on ‘slow travelling’ and enjoying this marvellous world.

Anyway, back to more mudane things. A couple of weeks ago the nice guys from the canal authority arrived to strim the grass next to Libje. Unfortunately we discovered that a big clump of grass contained the nest of a robin complete with 5 tiny eggs. The nest and eggs were intact but lying open to the air. I set to and using some small logs and bark from our firewood I created a small replacement cover for her. I really didn’t expect her to continue with hatching the eggs but my makeshift arrangement seemed just the job and she now has chicks in the nest.  Even better, the day before yesterday we noticed that they had stopped flying in with food. Had they abandoned their offspring; had I made too much noise with the pressure washer? No, they had fledged and added to the bird population at LaTertraie. A job well done !

Other jobs have included making a nice little decked area beneath the trees to provide a sheltered area in the summer where we can sit and enjoy a cold beer. Sadly all my plans for catching up on painting and varnishing have come to nothing as April was stuck in a pattern of cool northerly winds. It was dry and bright and thus great for walking but not for painting. Our next guests will just have to forgive the less than pristine paintwork!

1st of May and another glorious day with a frosty start. This was the day for the annual festival for old motorcycles at a village near Redon. What a day! A great 50km rideout round the glorious countryside in full sunshine on my old Triumph, then back to the village square where huge barbeques were under way and everyone enjoyed a beer before all the public roads  to the village were blocked off and straw bales used to create a track around the town. Then in turn the tiddlers, bigger bikes, pre-war , side cars and racing bikes took it in turns to do a few circuits each, Only in France would you get away with this. A great spectacle and a joy to join in with. For those petrol heads among you my current bikes include a 1927 Triumph model W and a 1958 (650cc) Thunderbird.

Today the 8th of May sees us heading down to St.Martin to pick up our first guests of the year. It’s great to be on the move again and meeting lots of old friends as we go along. Truly this is a wondeful way to travel slowly!

**(source Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States


Ian and Jane SladeIan & Jane Slade run Libje Cruises and offer week long informal cruises through the heart of Brittany, France on their Dutch barge Libje. They live in Brittany on the barge all year round and enjoy showing visitors this ‘celtic corner’ of France that is well known to the French but less so elsewhere.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

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3 Responses to A Winter on board. Rants, raves and totally irrelevant things.

  1. Mary Ann Pape says:

    Love the blog Ian!!! Past guest of 2015!!!

  2. Body & Soul says:

    Loved reading your interesting well written blog about an exceptional lifestyle so far from the increasingly maddening crowd who would benefit so much from a taste of slow travel. Good luck with your forthcoming season, wishing you many happy contented happy travelling friends. Look forward to seeing you both in between cruises.

    Happy sailing!
    Barge Body&Soul

  3. Barbara Weir says:

    Great blog Ian! Sorry about your sad loss (Screwdriver!) and thank you for saving the robins!! Have a great season and love to you both! B and J

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