Hello and welcome to the latest blog of The Olivia Rose Diaries on May 14th 2022.
On May 6th we left Chitry-les-Mines with a distinct sense of déjà-vu. Michael keeps a detailed log book when we are cruising and as he looked back through the entries he saw that we had been at exactly this same spot on this same day three years ago, albeit travelling in the opposite direction. I wrote about it in ‘Just Passing Through’ and I have pulled out the relevant paragraph below.
‘We left Clamecy on a sharp, frosty, sunny morning, the sort of morning where it feels good to be alive, and found the canal full of dead crows, dozens of them, floating in the water like crumpled black handkerchiefs. We were passing by a substantial sawmill, the trees surrounding it home to one of the biggest rookeries we had ever seen. The limp corpses being pushed gently aside by Olivia’s bow wave had been shot, either for sport or because they had become too numerous and were regarded as a pest. The sparkle went out of the day and we pushed on through as fast as we could.’
To our relief there were no dead crows in the water this year and no frost either as France was experiencing an unusually warm spring. I was on foot, walking between the lifting bridges which needed to be manually operated by the boater rather than the lock-keeper, and I looked nervously skyward as I passed below the rookery. At this close proximity the noise was deafening, the crowns of the trees were packed with nests and I could hear the fluttering of wings as birds came and went. The cycle track under my feet was spattered white with bird droppings, delivered with velocity from on high and, just as I had the thought that I would be lucky to get through here without being pooped on, the inevitable happened and a streak of runny white and grey matter hit me, expertly timed so that it landed both in my hair and on my fleece. I guess it was some measure of revenge against humans, even those who were innocent of any crime.
We had six lifting bridges to negotiate along this stretch of the canal and soon got into a rhythm. Michael would put me ashore just before each bridge, I would lift it, he would pass through, I would close it after him and then get back on board.
We soon realised that putting me ashore and getting me back on was not going to be as simple as it should be. The Canal du Nivernais is very shallow in parts, particularly close to the banks, and we had to be careful not to run aground. It didn’t help that Olivia was right on the limit for being able to traverse this canal. We had already ‘sniffed the bottom’ on several occasions and so we always approached the side of the canal cautiously, ready to reverse if we needed to. Some of the bridges had proper concrete waiting quays, some had bollards hidden in the grass and occasionally it was a scramble through the brambles to get back on.
It doesn’t require brawn or brain power to operate these bridges, just a finger so you can press the right button and remembering to take a pair of glasses so that you can read the instructions.
All was going smoothly until one bridge got halfway down again after Michael had driven through – and then it stopped. The instructions suggested that if this happened the operator should tap the red button to reset the mechanism. I gave it a gentle tap. Nothing happened. I tapped it again, with more conviction, and then gave it a good thump, but still nothing happened. The bridge remained stubbornly at the half-way point, which was annoying as the pick-up point was on the other side of the canal. I needed to get across it or have a long walk to the next lock.
‘What’s wrong’ yelled Michael.
‘It’s got stuck. It won’t move.’
‘How did you manage that? It’s just a simple push button.’
Speaking solely to the female readers of this blog, why is it that men always assume that it’s your fault when mechanical things go wrong? I have learnt not to fall into the trap of getting defensive when this happens and instead just glared at him by way of answer, a facial expression he has become well-used to over fifteen years of a blissful marriage.
‘Can you go to the end of it and jump across to the bank?’ he suggested.
I looked at it, and him, in utter disbelief. I have no doubt that Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig would have crawled their way up like spiders and then launched themselves over the gap with daredevil nonchalance. Those last two words have never really applied to me, even in my youth, and certainly not now that I am a woman of a certain age.
‘That’s not one of your better ideas,’ I replied, with admirable restraint. ‘It doesn’t matter, I’ll walk along the cycle trail and meet you at the next lock.’
And that is how I ended up being pooped upon by crows. It’s a good job we never know what our day is going to hold. Apart from that we have had a week where the sun has shone and the sky has been a perfect blue. The song of the nightingales has faded away. We don’t know why, but can only guess that perhaps they favour a particular habitat. Now that the competition is not so fierce, the other birds are making up for it, not just in the morning and evening but throughout the day. With the advent of warm and settled weather the Charolais cattle are out in the pastures in force, knee high in buttercups, our constant companions as we cruise or cycle past them. I am sure that they, like us, couldn’t ask for more.
See you next week.