Hello and welcome to the latest blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries on April 17th 2022.
Whenever I think of our boat and the precious months we spend on her I associate it with a time of being free from responsibility, free from doing things that begin with ‘I must do…’ and instead indulging myself in ‘I would like to do…’ . For the most part our cruising months allow us to escape into another world but, each year, there is a short period of time between arriving at the boat and actually getting onto the water which can be frustrating.
Boats are complex creatures and many things can go wrong when they’ve been left over a winter. Each year we have a list of things to work through and, after five years, you would have thought that I would have got used to this transition period, able to take it in my stride and accept that things always take longer than you think they will, but it seems that I haven’t.
We have been here for eleven days now and there is still plenty more to do before we can let those ropes go. First of all there was the painting of the hull. We had almost a week of wet weather when we arrived which meant that we couldn’t begin as soon as we had hoped. As always it’s the preparation that takes the time: pressure washing and sanding it down before we can ever think about opening a tin of paint.
It’s a job neither of us look forward to, but once it’s done there is a gratifying sense of satisfaction.
Once the paint had dried we were lifted back into the water. Seeing our pride and joy, all thirteen tonnes of her, swinging high in the air above us always makes me nervous but Mark, owner of the boatyard and our crane driver, has years of experience and lowered her down into the canal with hardly a ripple to disturb the still waters.
After that we begin to put Olivia back together again, or at least that is how I think of it. When we left her last autumn we put her to bed, now it is time to wake her up. Water tanks need to be sterilised, flushed through and filled up again, there are numerous fiddly jobs in the engine and the fuel tanks need to be checked for fuel bug and condensation levels. The solar panels, which have spent the winter with us at Le Shack, need to be reconnected and there is a major job in the shower/loo as we have to put in a new floor. Then comes the moment of turning everything on and looking for the leaks – and there is always a leak somewhere!
We have one additional job to do in the next few weeks, and one that we are looking forward to even less than painting the hull – a French tax return. This process has a fearsome reputation among the French people, who apparently dread it as much as we do. This is our first one, and experience has taught us that the first time of dealing with French bureaucracy is always the hardest.
The on-line portal for filing a return opened a week ago and ran straight into such severe problems that it had to be taken off-line for a few days for them to sort it out. As this is our first return we have to do a paper version but there has been a problem in the supply of the forms. Staff in the local tax office were as bemused as we were at this, but it now looks like we shall be lucky to get them by the end of April, which leaves us just over two weeks to get it done before the deadline.
France never ceases to astonish us, but the frustrations are far outweighed by the pleasure and the privilege of being here. Never have we felt that more keenly than we do at this moment. In just over a week from now we shall know the results of the election between Macron and Le Pen. He is still tipped to win, but it will be a close-run thing. We’ve been looking at what measures Le Pen would introduce if she were to come into power and, although the detail has yet to be confirmed, it is possible we could lose access to health care and even our residency status. Many of her proposals are highly controversial and there would be stiff opposition from within the system but there is no doubt that it would be a worrying and unsettling time for a great many people.
I’ve been lucky enough to get through most of my life without being particularly affected by the schemes and dreams of politicians, but that seems to be changing, first with the fall-out from Brexit and now with the threat of a new party in power in France, one which could dramatically affect this life that we love so much and this wonderful country that was beginning to feel like home. On the plus side, it is making me appreciate what we have even more, if that were possible. Here are a few pictures of what we look at from our windows. As ever, there is great solace to be had from the natural world.
I hope your Easter break is sunny and warm and that you are eating copious amounts of chocolate. Hopefully the next blog will be a cause for celebration on two counts, firstly because we are finally on the move and secondly, because Macron has won the election. Fingers crossed.