Saving George and Mildred from diesel infested waters and publishing my first book.

Welcome to the fifth blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries on April 17th 2020.

A couple of days ago we found ourselves sitting in a slick of diesel. It was the smell we noticed first and then, looking down at the water, we could see it all around us, the tell-tale rainbow colours glinting in the sunshine.

At first we thought our fuel tanks must be leaking, but we could find no signs of any problems around filler caps, breather pipes or the tanks themselves. A walk twenty yards along the pontoon soon led us to the culprit, easy to find for the smell of diesel became overpowering. We could see it dripping from the overflow/breather pipe, down the side of the boat and into the water, which was thick and oily as a result.

I looked at it in dismay, thinking of all those fish swimming beneath it and of my swans and cormorants paddling through it.

‘Why is it leaking?’ I turned to Michael. I have the firm belief that he knows the answer to all things of a boating nature. On the odd occasion that he doesn’t he’ll hazard a good guess and we go with that.

‘They’ve filled the fuel tanks too full. The sun has heated the boat, the fuel has expanded and the only place it can go is out of that pipe and into the water.’

‘How do we stop it?’ I looked up into the trees and could see George – or possibly Mildred – the heron, wobbling on a spindly branch and peering down at us. ‘We have to stop it.’

We discussed our options. Before lockdown we would simply have told the capitain who would have notified the boat owner to come and sort it out. That wasn’t going to happen now. Our next option would be to syphon off enough fuel from the tank so that it had room to expand without overflowing. This would be the royal ‘we’ as obviously I had no intention of getting a mouthful of diesel if I sucked too enthusiastically. But we had no hose suitable for the job and the DIY store’s were all shut. In the end Michael butchered a plastic container, and slung it on string so that it hung just under the overflow pipe. This caught some of the drips but not all. I found an old plastic table cloth and we rigged that up so it acted as a blind, hanging down over the side of the boat and preventing the hull from heating up in the first place. The combination worked a treat.

‘Yay!’ I beamed happily at the clear waters and I like to think George/Mildred beamed back at me as he/she flew off.

Out in the wider world Macron extended the lockdown until May 11th, a full month more of strict restrictions. We had expected an extension but a month seemed a big chunk of time to get your head around. Doing it in two blocks of a fortnight would have been easier to cope with. It didn’t help that other countries were beginning to talk of easing the lockdown. It still seems too soon to do that, certainly in France, so I think everyone accepts that the restrictions are still necessary. Picking the right time to come out is not a decision I envy anyone having to make.

Michael is pushing on with his drawing course. He has had to make-do with the one pencil we have on board, an HB. Stationary supplies are limited in our supermarket but I found a 2B on my last trip and it is allowing him to put in more detail, as I am sure you can see from the pictures below. Thank you to all those of you who have offered to send us pencils through the post but access for deliveries is a problem here at the moment as the site is gated and of course the capitainerie is closed most of the time. As an experiment we have ordered a small pack through and hope they will ring us when they get to the gate.

And now to that exciting news I spoke about last week. Well…. it’s exciting to me. I have this week published my first book, available on Amazon. Some of you already know this so apologies for repeating myself. The book is called ‘Just Passing Through’, a travelogue/memoir of our first two years on Olivia. It is a light-hearted tale of beginning a new life, of seeing France from a different perspective and of coping with the fact that I have to do as Michael tells me as he is now my skipper and knows more than I do – about boating at least!

I did wonder whether it was appropriate to publish in such difficult times but, after much soul-searching, I decided it was more appropriate than ever. I have proof-read this manuscript until I can recite it in my sleep, but it still transports me back into happier times, when we could go anywhere we chose to, when we could spend a care-free evening with friends, sharing a meal rather than fearing that we might also be sharing a virus.

Who knows when all this will come to an end. Until then, we can still read and dream. Nobody can take that away from us.

So, if you can cope with yet another book to read, ‘Just Passing Through – a nomadic life afloat in France’ by Mary-Jane Houlton is now available on both Kindle and paperback through Amazon. If you do buy a copy, I hope you enjoy it – if you note any spelling mistakes, please don’t tell me! And if you should like it enough to recommend to a friend or leave a review I would be forever grateful.

Below is the link which should take to directly to the book on Amazon. Or at least I hope it will – I am having a week where the technology is turning against me!

And finally, the answers to last week’s quiz.

1. ‘Ranidaphobia’ is the fear of frogs.

2. A Newfoundland dog has webbed feet.

3.A group of young kittens is also known as a ‘kindle’.

4.A riddle for you – I am the beginning of the end, and the end of time and space. I am essential to creation and I surround every place. What am I? I am the letter ‘e’.

5. The UK’s first chocolate Easter egg was made in 1873 by Fry’s.

We’ll take a break from the quiz this week – back with some more questions for next week.

Best wishes.


8 thoughts on “Saving George and Mildred from diesel infested waters and publishing my first book.

  1. I can sympathise with you over the smell of diesel. It seems to impregnate everything, especially the nose! I only hope the wildlife did not suffer as well.

    I keep hearing of people that have bought your book, but as yet no comments. Can you tell from Amazon how many copies they have sold?


  2. I’ve been really enjoying these blogs M-J, and Michael’s drawings are lovely. Just had a long chat to Trish. Hope you both keep well,


  3. I am half way through your book, wonderful, well done Mary-Jane, you have a great talent, I love your descriptive powers, humour & it is now an added bonus that Michaels artistic talents are coming to the fore…..lots of love from down under xxxx


  4. Congrats on your book– very exciting. I hope it does well for you.
    Your spouse is a very talented artist. The two of you are quite the creative team. 🙂
    And such a good save fixing the diesel leak – ingenuity in a time of crisis! Nature thanks you!


  5. Lovely to catch up on what is happening your end. That diesel situation is horrid, especially on those beautiful waters with all the wildlife, the smell is bad enough but you know what it does to the poor fish etc. Well, we must firstly congratulate Michael on his drawings – his Peregrine is outstanding. If this (bizarre, horrid) time hadn’t come along, we wonder whether he would have realised he had artistic leaning – so well done Michael, keep up the good work, and we hope those pencils arrive in time for you!! Now Mary-Jane, I bought your book on Kindle and have already read it, finished it this morning, only took me two days. It certainly brings back all the lovely memories and enjoyable times we had out on the waterways of France (and obviously cannot wait to get back there). Let us all hope this lockdown doesn’t persist for too long and that you can continue your journey. Well done Mary-Jane, thoroughly enjoyed the read, and await your next one!! Take care both and stay well and safe. We send our love to you both. Ann and Gareth xx


    1. Hi Ann and Gareth. I think you’re right about this situation giving Michael the time to draw – every cloud has a silver lining! So glad the book brought back happy memories for you. I can’t wait to start the next one either. At the moment the title will be Just Going Nowhere…..not so interesting! Take care.


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