We attend Harrogate hospital nervous and with fingers crossed and are thrilled to be told by Mr. Gill; Charles’ consultant that whilst the tumour was indeed cancerous there is no sign of it spreading so we can carry on with life as normal without any further treatment apart from an x-ray in September and periodic scans over the next few years.
Our first job is to book our ferry back to France and then arrange to meet up with friends and family to say our farewells. Laura is on half term so we spend quite a lot of time with her and entertaining the grand-kids.
We have been delaying tackling our rented storage which over the last few months has been a dumping ground but have no alternative but to buckle down and get on with it the day before we depart. We decide to make two piles – one that will stay in the store and the other which we will take back to France. Charles becomes more and more dismayed as the French pile gets bigger and bigger. Sally blames all the baked beans ordered by Maggie and Nigel but she is clearly full of wind and has taken advantage of Charles being incapacitated to go on solo shopping expeditions. No fear – after a number of re-shuffles and re-packings everything fits in and on Tuesday morning we set off down south.
Our first stop is to ABNB marina to provide a handover of our narrow-boat Ebony No 1 to her new owners Carol and David. It is quite sad saying goodbye but we had six fun years and would like to say she will be in safe hands but Carol informs us neither of them have been on a narrow-boat before so they are certainly going to learn quickly and there is some spare paint for the inevitable touch ups!!! We hope they enjoy her as much as we did. Then its on to London to stay with Daniel and Jonathan where Sally goes for a run around Regents Park before they all bob down to The Washington for a meal and take part in the quiz – less said about that the better. We left before the final results were announced which was probably best for all our egos.
Up at 3 am, we catch the early Dover ferry on Wednesday morning and get into Briare around 3 in the afternoon. Home again and its good to see that Bluegum has been in safe hands and everything is working okay. We move her immediately down the lock and into the basin so that we are near the side to unload all our goodies. Its really lovely meeting up with Nigel and Maggie again and are thankful to Tony and Nicky who also have a Piper boat called Archangel who help us with the lifting and carrying. Feeling slightly overwhelmed we get to work at unpacking the boxes before spending a lovely evening catching up with Nigel and Maggie and very thankful for being invited for a meal as for one our cupboards are bare and secondly we were pretty shattered. We return to Bluegum about 10pm and notice a group of young people drinking and smoking on a bench nearby but think nothing of it until about 1am when Charles suddenly wakes – there’s someone on the boat! He gets to the wheelhouse and shouts to see a a young girl climb down off Bluegum and run onto the quay. A young man gets down a few minutes later and we spend a few uncomfortable minutes – especially when the youth comes back and throws a stone at the wheelhouse window. No damage and they all move off after ten minutes – a bit unnerving but no harm done and we report to Dorothé (the Capitainaire) on the following day who is mortified and lets the police know. Everyone says nothing like it has happened and so far it seems it was a ‘one-off’ incident.
Bluegum really looks like a bomb has hit her and it take all of Thursday and Friday to get things packed away before she meets with Sally’s OCD standards. We get to know Tony and Nicky when they invite us over for early evening drinks and on Saturday night we reciprocate by having both couples over for dinner.
After Charles opened the water valve (which is situated under our bed) on our arrival on Wednesday he noticed that the water tank gauge in the galley stopped displaying the water level. He didn’t think too much about it but on Friday decided to check things out when he found a good few inches of water and discovered there was a leak through the electronic sensor for the water gauge. Fortunately he had a spare part and after mopping out all the water rectified the problem. Then on Saturday morning we realised we had run out of water. Now because its still winter and the French way is to turn all the water taps off we join forces with Nigel and Tony and link all our hose pipes (five in all) to reach the only available water tap stand-pipe 300 metres or so away. Nicky was rather disappointed as she was looking forward to getting into their canoe and taking one of the hose pipes across the canal to the one open water tap – next time……..
Sunday arrives so Charles gets out his bike and Sally dons her running gear and off we go for her long run along the canal to Chatillon sur Loire before heading back to Briare, a mere 10.5 miles phew!!! both exhausted but very pleased with ourselves – and all those calories burnt so without guilt we can look forward to a Sunday dinner with Yorkshire puds and of course some wine.
Maggie tells us about an annual fair in Gien so the three of us drive the short distance and enjoy a morning looking at tractors, old and new cars and the various stalls before finding a restaurant for a spot of lunch. Gien looks very interesting so think we may pay another leisurely visit before we set off later in March.