Hello everyone and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on July 22nd 2022.
The last two weeks have been a testing time for us here on Olivia Rose, in stark contrast to the euphoria of our trip to Paris. Succumbing to Covid whilst living a nomadic life brings its own particular set of challenges. Many people living a more settled life will have family or friends who can help with things like cooking or buying food. They will have the sense of security that comes from being in your own home – a quiet and familiar place in which to recuperate.
When we first realised that we were not feeling well we were moored up on a disused commercial quay outside a small town. The area had been prettied up, with some attractive flats and gardens close to the boat and so we thought it would be a reasonable place to stop. The local kids started to appear in groups from 4pm. Wherever there is water and hot summer evenings there are kids who want to throw themselves off the quay, accompanied with as much noise as they can possibly make. They kept throwing themselves into the river until 10pm that night. Just as they left a couple of guys came and sat down on the quay, literally a few feet from our open bedroom window, their legs dangling down so close we could have reached out and touched them. These were just normal guys who wanted to spend the evening talking, thankfully without any loud music or drama, but my lord how the French can talk, and talk, and talk…. And they genuinely seem to have no concept of personal space, of the fact that we were on the boat and that perhaps they could have chosen a different spot to sit and talk the night away. The final straw was a disco starting up on the other side of the river, hidden in the trees at a leisure complex on the lakes and playing something that had no relation to music.
This is all part of boating life and you learn to live with it. However, it can be wearing even when you are feeling fit and healthy. When you’re feeling rough, it can all seem too much to bear. We dragged ourselves away the next morning, made it to a marina where we hoped children and noise would be under control and collapsed in our little isolation bubble of Olivia Rose. We had little appetite for food, or energy to cook it for the first few days, but as we slowly began to feel better we knew we could rely on good stocks of food in the cupboards and had no immediate need to go anywhere or interact with anyone.
What a strange and insidious illness. The coughing fits, the feeling of daggers in your throat making swallowing difficult, the breathlessness, the sweats and feeling so hot that you could fry an egg on your skin are all familiar from colds and flu in the past. But I have never known such weariness, such a bone-deep exhaustion. As children my brother and I were brought up on the mantra of ‘mind over matter’, to the point where it is practically in our DNA, but the mind doesn’t stand a chance in this contest. Having had several days in bed I graduated up onto top deck, sat in a chair and promptly fell asleep. I never meant to. I was woken up by my snoring, in full view of the well-heeled and fashionable Parisians enjoying lunch at the restaurant opposite the marina. I had this mortifying image of me sitting there like some dribbling, snuffling old dear and scuttled in shame back down below to bed. Within seconds I was asleep again, hidden from sight and able to snore to my heart’s content. Some things you can’t fight.
Michael thankfully came out of it quicker than I did and so was able to keep us stocked up on food and do more of the cooking – always a good result. And then just as I began to think I too was coming through it, we ran into the latest heatwave and what a corker this one was. Temperatures of 41 degrees on a boat are simply awful, completely debilitating, but I guess we had to be grateful we weren’t in Portugal where they were enduring 47 degrees. Down in the south west of France the forest fires burned close to the Dune of Pilat and residents and holiday makers around Bordeaux were evacuated amongst scenes that looked nothing short of apocalyptic. Fires were wreaking havoc in Spain and Portugal and parts of the UK were on red heat alert.
As if that weren’t enough the shortage of water is now also beginning to be felt. The Canal de Bourgogne closed on the 16th July due to insufficient water. The Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne will be closing from the 28th July, giving just ten days notice for those boats currently on it to get off or risk being marooned there for several months, maybe longer. This will be just the start of it and we are thankful that we are already so far north and might, if we are lucky, escape the worst of it. We will be spending most of our time now on commercial rivers and, whilst they are often not particularly pretty, at least things keep moving.
We have today left the River Oise and are on the Canal lateral à l’Aisne, hopefully a less busy waterway and one that is, as far as we know, not about to run out of water. The heatwave has passed, we have grey skies and it is actually raining, a miracle indeed.
I hope wherever you are that life is not too hot, or too wet or too fraught. Apologies for the lack of photos – should be back to normal next week.
All the best.