Sunday, April 12, 2009


At the close of our last blog, I reported that we were just underway again after our layover in Beuvry where we had experienced so much wonderful hospitality and assistance with our couple of engineering problems. Loaded up with fresh water and food from the Supermarche, (Supermarket) plus our motor scooter which we had just purchased in Lens, we plodded up some 52 kms on the Grand Gabarit canal and then took the offshoot canal l’Escaut heading towards Cambrai arriving a day ahead of our CEVNI exam plus two day barge handling school run by two salty characters Di and Tam (a wife and husband team) who have had so much experience in this field ranging from working on commercial barges back in the ‘70s to owning many working barges of their own and on to having barges and boats of different sorts and sizes.

Although being English and have their home at Twickenham, (just near the great rugby ground) they have based their school and 23 meter training barge, Friesland, here at Cambrai due to the close proximity to the French coastal ports and easy access for folk taking the course from the UK or elsewhere as trainees come from all over the world to enrol and “do the course”. Access to the canals with lots of locks within a two hour voyage is another draw for them so after a briefing at 9.0am on Tuesday morning, off we set and had hands-on experience with barge handling, rope usage and knots plus plenty of time at the helm going through locks and learning general canal courtesy and laws finishing back at our port at 4.30pm to face an hour and a half of tutorial on the laws of water flow and so on. We were exhausted by the close of “school at 7.0 pm” so it was off up town for a quick meal followed by a deep sleep.

Up and away again at 9.0am on the Wednesday we repeated the previous days voyage but the high winds and rain which came upon us, really made us to be highly alert as the canals were very busy with commercial traffic due to another canal being closed thus forcing the added traffic onto ours so we saw many large loaded and unloaded barges punching their way up and down this great waterway. They sure don’t appreciate any mistakes which may be made by leisure barges as they are so busy getting to their destinations and working to a schedule.

At the locks, it is a case of be ready to slide straight in and get out again without delay or you will have them tooting and yelling to let you know they are surely displeased and as they are so big you sure don’t wish to argue with them. They even get stuck into the eclusiers (lock-masters) if they are there to work the gates if they slip up in any way too.

Well again we arrived back at around 4.30 pm to then have to face our exam which we all passed, thank goodness. What a relief!!!!!!! We can now relax as this was the last timetable event we have listed to follow through on.

Cambrai has a delightful little port just off the canal where the berthage is safe and relatively inexpensive and has a small park alongside which suits Harry as you can imagine, and the city offers all the facilities one requires, apparently which we will verify or otherwise over the next few days. It is now fully spring with the trees in their new foliage and the flower beds making a great display and apart from polyanthus and the like, tulips are looking great and appear to grow almost every where in this district.

This township as it was originally founded was named as the Cathedral City in the 6th Century due to experiencing prodigious urban expansions with all the religious constructions taking place from then and on through to the Middle Ages. The main city was founded in 1543 as a walled city, splitting the then Roman Holy Empire and the Kingdom of France and many of the original buildings exist along with the churches and a cathedral which is quite awesome.

Two notable events which stand Cambrai out in history, one being that it was from here where Louie Bleriot flew the first aircraft across the English Channel – Cambrai to Dover. This was the start of true aviation which led to what we know it as today. Secondly, while this whole area has been a major battlefield in both world wars, it was also here that the first tank was built and employed and became such a major part of warfare of armies across the world.

We will spend time exploring the area now that we have free time to ourselves and have some transport to allow us to do so. As we had unloaded the motor scooter which was a doddle using our derrick on the rear of the barge, a short ride around was interesting as being on the wrong side of the road so to speak (right hand side of the road). Despite having driven a car last year through France, riding the motor scooter is different again so it will take some getting used to.

John and Carol on Plover

Steve on Saffron Spray

Last evening as the weather was so delightful we joined another 6 people who have barges here and went to the local bar which was fun and gave us all an opportunity to share experiences. Two were from Texas and the others were all English and then us two Kiwis who held their own against the banter about rugby etc. The publican could speak a few words of English and was of a friendly nature and eventually bought us all a drink. We were surprised, however, to find that he shut the doors at 8.30pm - very civilised I am sure. It was so pleasant that we were able to sit out in (our park) until well after 9.0pm and to take in the realities of our dream to do just what we were in fact doing at that time. We will stay here for a week or more depending on the weather and then decide where we will toddle off to.

One of the interesting things is that nearby there is a military airport and some mornings as early as 4.30 am you can hear the jets taking off for training or missions unknown, however, to see the Mirage which is France’s standard fighter jet for many years plus the all new European Jet which is the very latest delta wing fighter ripping through the sky is awesome. You have to be quick to see them as they are going so fast that by the time the sound reaches you, they have almost disappeared over the horizon. I was fortunate enough to witness two of them practising a dog fight and was stunned by the agility of these aircraft as they twisted and turned like pigeons, then would race for the heavens to reappear miles away. Sorry to go on but it is not often one can see such a display. I bet Grahame Smith would enjoy these sights.

Rhonda's Comment: These fishermen sit here from the wee small hours of the morning until sunset!!!!!

As it is Easter Sunday as I write and having been “up town” to the local boulangier (bakery) to get the most fabulous bread sticks and pastries for a treat and noticing the crowds flocking to the cathedral, Rhonda has gone up to witness this special days celebrations and came back reporting how different it was to NZ. What she couldn’t get over was the amount of chatter and walking around of people during the prayers, even people texting one another from pew to pew. There were not a lot of hymns and the main difference was that the whole service was in French!!!!! - but I am sure she got the gist and enjoyed being at a service on Easter Sunday.

Later in the day we mounted our trusty 50cc motor scooter and travelled approx. 5kms from central Cambrai to visit a British War Graves Commission cemetery which was beautifully maintained and recorded the details of some 100 Canadian servicemen, all of whom seemed to have been killed on the last few days of September 1918 which was so close to the end of WW1.

As I mentioned before, it is the Easter break but the French don’t acknowledge Good Friday despite the country being mainly Catholic, however, this Sunday and Monday will be real holidays so the parks and leisure areas will be well attended for sure. All shops apart from the odd food shop and bakery are and will be closed until Tuesday. At our local lock we have three quite large barges tied up for this holiday until Tuesday when it will be all go again.

Wednesday saw us hiring a rental car and setting off for Holland (Netherlands) to carry out some business for our pensions etc. It is amazing when sitting in New Zealand how we view events in European countries and imagine how far it is between countries but after leaving our base in Cambrai where we had breakfast we had morning tea in Belgium and lunch in Holland. It is amazing how near each country is and with the wonderful motorway system which criss-crosses these countries, when you are whizzing along at up to 130 kms per hour the distance is soon gobbled up. Once we joined the motorway we did not experience a set of traffic lights until we left the motorway as we went into a town in Belguim and in Holland.

I guess the most scary part is the huge volumes of heavy duty trucks which also use these networks and as there are literally thousands per day, at one stage Rhonda counted 180 trucks caming towards us in 5 mins so you do the maths then double it for the trucks going in the same direction as us. They have to be seen to be believed really and hence you can imagine how big the truck stop-offs are with some having all the facilities of not only rest areas and food stops but full mechanical service centres right through from tyre changing to fitting new engines and so on. The names on the sides of the trucks give some idea of where they are from and that ranges from almost every European country you could find in your atlas.

We really enjoyed our overnight stay in Holland in the city of Breda (170,000 inhabitants) which comprises of some very old structures from the 12th century through to the very latest commercial and residential layouts which were a delight to view and it seemed as though there was real pride in this area.

Rhonda' Comments: The food was good but the wine was better.

On our return trip, we spent an afternoon and night in Belguim where we stayed in the town of Ypres pronounced Wipers by most of the English speaking countries, however, Yepern by others and the locals call it and spell it as being Ieper so one has to remain somewhat confused, however, the town and area lives on in war history as seeing some of the deadliest infantry fighting ever witnessed in WW1. With the Germans and the Allies, which included so many Australian and New Zealand soldiers facing each other with distances between the front lines as little as 50 meters and the landscape being an endless sea of mud for months on end, in fact from 1914 right through to 1918 this area changed hands so many times that there was not a tree left standing nor a blade of grass to be seen. With the continued explosions of heavy shells the soil which is naturally soft and silty just turned into watery slop up to 2 meters deep and if soldiers slipped off the duckboards that linked the various trenches they could well drown or disappear into this morass only to be found when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission began digging for bodies after the close of this terrible war.

Remains of these poor wretches have been found every year since 1918 right up to today and with the casualties being so horrific (in 1917 alone some 500,000 British and Allied soldiers were killed in 100 days alone, for a gain of only 5 miles and was won back by the Germans in 4 days in a later attack). One must remember that it was necessary for the troops to live below ground in dugouts and trenches which could only be kept dry (if you could call it that) by being pumped out continuously by soldiers using manual operated pumps and as there was nothing but mud above, rats and other vermin ran riot and disease was rife due to the soldiers being continually wet, day after day, week after week. The town is surrounded by some 150 military cemeteries as the authorities gave final rest to some of the 200,000 Allied troops who were killed or lost during that period.

We visited the New Zealand memorial which was dedicated to them by the British at a cemetery called Polygon Wood where some 1100 soldiers lay at rest. It is a serene position nestled in among the trees and beautifully kept in honour of those brave young men who gave up so much for our freedom. We moved on to Tyne Cot cemetery which is the biggest collection of commonwealth graves in the world. It is awesome to say the least and is so sad to see the thousands of headstones standing with brief mention of the soldiers name (if known) rank and country marking the spot. So many hundreds are simply marked “A soldier of the great war, Known unto god”. Imagine the families back home whose only news was that their loved one was missing believed killed in action, never to really know where or when he was killed, let alone where he was buried.

With 35,000 headstones in this cemetery you can only imagine the feeling of terrible waste of life which seems to hang over the grounds as beautifully kept as they are.
While we were greatly saddened by the views and readings of some of the names and countries of origin, we were pleased to at least be able to pay tribute to them. Both Rhonda and I had relatives who fought in this terrible arena of battle so it was a small tribute that we could make to them and their lost soldier mates by taking a few hours to visit the area.

This is the area also made famous by the red poppy which once grew wild right across the region and was adopted by the ANZAC’s as their emblem. The beautiful poem “In Flanders Fields” which was written by Major John McCrae has stood the test of time is surely remembered by thousands of Kiwis and Aussies and is to be found printed and displayed in so many shops and public buildings in Ypres and is still worth adding to this blog so that you too can reflect on this terrible waste of life through war which was almost unbelievably repeated some 20 years later with the outbreak of WW2.

In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.

The remaining motorway trip home to the boat was quite sombre but safe so on this note I will close for now and rest up ready for cast off from Cambrai in the next few days and get on with our great adventure.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


CALAIS - 29/03/09

I am delighted to be able to report that at last we have broken free of the shackles of the Yacht Basin at Calais as today the weather dawned fine and only breezy so we loaded up with as much water as we could carry including several 5l plastic containers and then moved down to the fuel dock to take on 250 litres of diesel at E 1.06 a litre and after a wait of what seemed an eternity the lockmaster opened the bridge on the top of the tide to allow us out onto the port proper. No wonder they had prevented us going at anytime over the past week as there was still a sloppy swell coming across the harbour which would not have been navigatable in the stormy winds etc we have endured for the past 8 days.

As nervous as we were with having to manoeuvre around the yachts to get to the fuel dock which involved backing in then turning the boat around to get to the tank on the opposite side of “Somewhere”, we managed to get by ok. This plus making contact with the French authorities on our marine VHF radio to ask permission to have two bridges turned to open and one lock opened for our passage through, and at last entered the Canal du la Calais which will allow us to make our way to L’Aa Canal which in turn will head us towards Cambrai some 163 kms south east of Calais where we will meet up with the group who are doing there CEVNI marine navigation exams etc.

After being tossed around in the basin over the past week, it is a delight to lie alongside a small jetty on the side of the canal after clearing our first proper lock which meant we dropped some 2.5 meters down to the new level and to experience smooth waters which should be the case from here on.

While in the lock it gives the feeling as though you are being trapped in some great sub terrainian box and it is necessary to keep firm along side using fore and aft ropes running around bollards or through eyes on the dock while sliding down to the new depths. Thank goodness for the 4 inflatable fenders along each side of the boat. I know Harry and Rhonda will be so pleased to be able to relax and where we are tied up tonight there is a small park alongside which Harry has claimed as his own as you can well imagine.

While we are still on the outskirts of Calais it is like breaking the shackles of bondage to get out of that yacht basin at E 39.00 per night so the road ahead should be interesting, challenging but within our capabilities we trust. I should add that yesterday we walked to the city square where the weekly market was taking place and it was amazing to see the huge varieties of vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses, olives, breads, fruit, many of which we had never seen or heard of before plus many, many miscellaneous items for sale. We did our shop, however, I do wonder what some of the items we purchased are but we will see when we go to cook them I am sure. One of the items we did buy was the Cassoulet which was a favourite of Rick Stein in his series about canal barging. Rhonda says it looks like baked beans which she hates and salami but to me it looks great so look forward to having it all for myself. (I have since eaten it and it was OK only)
Just fresh was the order of the day so all should be well we hope.

I had almost forgotten to tell you about the arrival on the boat by customs and immigration officers after 5 days of being in the basin. Three armed officers came aboard to inspect our papers and to ask questions as to why we were there etc. Once it was all checked out and I have to say they were really nice people as have the majority of folks who we have had to deal with here so far, I asked them why had it taken so long for someone to come and check on us and they just shrugged and said that the port was so busy that only a few vessels actually get checked and only when they have time. They sure aren’t too bothered about all the illegals around the place either and they say that they don’t cause any real trouble as all they want is to get out of France to England. I don’t know why as it seems that they would be better off here in France. There are hundreds and hundreds of them hanging around the transport terminals hoping they get the opportunity to sneak aboard a truck or railway wagon to get across the channel to England and there are a number of welfare goodwill missions here who give them food and provide hot showers and baths etc which is probably more than they got in their own countries. The United Nations has laid down laws to protect them from being hounded out of France so they are pretty fortunate in many ways.

We spent our first night in pretty restful sleep and in fact didn’t awake until after 8.00 am this morning. By the time we walked to the Bounglier for fresh bread and croissants and back it was time to get under way and to deal with another four lifting bridges which meant we had to contact the authority by radio but as no one answered our calls we rang the fellow at home and he eventually came down and worked his way along through the outskirts of Calais stopping the traffic then raising the bridge which allowed us through then followed us on to the next one. At times we had to sit awaiting him to get the bridge raised (they call this lurking) as we worked the boat back and forth in the confined space of the canal before the light would go green and we could proceed again. I know we will get used to this but to be honest it is all a bit stressful to start with.

We travelled about 15kms before tying to the bank in rural France so to speak. We saw some lovely homes and the country looks in good order, however, it is later than England with its spring flush of growth of plants and flowers but the temps are getting up to around 15 degrees so it is pretty good I guess.

Just after tying up to our “ground anchors” spikes which we drove about 40cms into the side of the canal, a huge barge came by and the sucking and pulling of its mass just lifted our ground spikes clean out of the ground, no sooner had we redone them than another big barge came by and did the same so we reset the spikes again further from the bank edge and fingers are now crossed to see how we go during the night. These barges are huge as you will witness from the pictures which accompany this blog.

A good night sleep was had with no bouncing due to barges passing and we awoke to a beautiful fine clear morning so set off and enjoyed the viewing of the rural landscape and country homes. We passed through only 1 lock and 1 lifting bridge and passed and overtook a number of barges, some of them are so huge that when empty they block out the sun as they go past and yet when fully loaded barely seem to be above sinking level. Most of them seem to be operated by husband and wife teams and the living accommodation looks to have a female touch to it with lace curtains (the area is famous for their lace making which is exported all around the world and adorns some of the great wedding dresses of the rich and famous) and flowers showing in the port holes and windows. Often, the barges are carrying cars or wagons with great lifting devices mounted on the rear ready to get the vehicle off at the overnights stopover or finish of journey.

It would seem the types of loads carried in this area range from scrap metal, to fine silica sand to bottles to coal and general tonnage as well of course. It is obviously a most economic way to move bulk supplies due to the huge tonnage they can carry and when you consider that some of them are around 100 meters long and may be pushing a dumb barge ahead of them then you can imagine the low costs per tonne. Tare weight of these push tows can be as high as 3,000 tonnes so as you will understand they don’t stop readily.

As we have moved onto the main canals, we sure have noticed the wider and deeper the canals are obviously to accommodate these “super barges”. You sure have to keep a wary eye out for them and to make sure you don’t allow them to bully you so the method is to hold course in the middle of the canal when facing them and to only move a side as they move as well. If you move over too early, they will just keep coming and squeeze you against the bank or into the shallow waters. You can imagine that as they pass you there displacement really pushes a lot of water from around you then sucks it back as they go past upsetting your steerage etc. All good stuff to get used to and no doubt by the end of our adventures it will be second nature to just pass by.

For our overnight stop, we pulled off the main canal into a tiny canal where a small marina charged us E 15.00 to tie up to another barge, no water, no power but we at least had a very quiet overnight stay.

Out the next morning onto the Canal Neufosse where we immediately faced our largest lock so far (Flandres Lock 3.94 m deep) and even though we had walked down to look at it from our overnight stop point we still had a big rise in adrenalin level as we approached wondering what being down in this concrete looking coffin would be like, however, we managed just fine and when we lifted up for release, there were some English people standing watching the proceeding who said they marvelled at our skills and calmness and congratulated Rhonda on her abilities. Little did they know. We were only underway again for 10 mins when we came upon an even bigger lock (les Fontinettes) which has a depth of 13.13m deep and had a capacity of 25000sq meters. What a sight when the gates eventually opened to allow us in. No hope of reaching to the parapet to hook on a rope of course but after a moments panic we saw set into the wall what they call floating bollards which you hook onto at midships and leave the boat in gear to keep her against the wall and up you go with the bollard keeping pace as the water rises. You will see from the photos what it was like to be at the bottom. We were lucky that we didn’t have to share the lock with any other barges or boats. It takes about 40 mins to go through the whole exercise so we were sure relieved when we were out and knew we were to have free going for the next day.

After 6 hours of plodding along at around 6 kph we pulled off the main canal again into another little canal with berthage, however, we didn’t realise how narrow it was so we had to do a lot of boat walking backwards and forwards to turn around. The canal was only 30m wide for “Somewhere” at 21m. Once hooked up we sat down to relax only to be visited by the president of the local boat club who own the berths. He spoke great English and welcomed us as being the first stopover craft of the new season and said we could stay as long as we liked at no charge. No power or water however but great security and friendliness. We asked where there might be a café as the Navigator was itching for a Cappucino so off we walked with Harry to find this little corner bar with an old lady (83 years old) running it whose only claim to English was that she could count to 10 in English. After much gestulating, we settled for a whisky and cola and whisky and ice for me as we couldn’t get her to understand “water”.

We had just settled into our “encore” drink and about 6 or 7 locals arrived we guessed for their happy hour. Each one when entering shook everyone else’s hands including ours before all drinking wine poured from the same bottle. It must have been good as they stayed on as we left but Rhonda and I compared the hotel and the characters to the wonderful TV series “Allo , Allo”.

The area where we are travelling through is the countryside called Flanders Fields where so many thousands of soldiers lost their lives or were wounded during that terrible period of the so called Great War, WW1. We have not seen the amazing sights of the fields of poppies as yet but fingers crossed. The land is so flat and most of it below our canal level so we get to see the country in a very slow but relaxed way and as this is just the start, Rhonda and I commented last night that surely there can be no better way to view and absorb the sights and sounds of this great country.
More in the next few days. 02/04/09

Northern France:

We have spent the last 3 days in the town of Beuvry in the little marina I talked about in our last blog. This township turns out to be near the worlds most well known city called Lens. Yep that is right and of course the name is on every camera and spectacle set.

We have only travelled about 60 kms in the past few days but boy has it been interesting and an experience. I also mentioned the ex-English teacher John-Pierre who is president of this little boating club on the off shoot of the main canal and who made us feel so welcome. Well, his kindliness and friendship grew the next morning as we attempted to walk into town to find a supermarket, he stopped us for a chat and invited us in to view his home which is also right on the edge of the canal. To say that his home was a wonder is not an understatement as he houses a Cadillac, a Rolls Royce, a Volvo and two Peugeots plus a motor home and a van. On top of this he has been a painter (mainly landscapes) since he was 15 years old so the studio, lounge, halls and every room is full of paintings and of a very good standard too. His wife, Simone, who has had her own stationary business until a few years ago, is also highly skilled in cross stitch and furniture restoration so the home is full of their treasures.

Rhonda's Comments: A housewife's job is never finished!!!

As he advised that the shops would be closed for their 1 ½ hour lunch break he said we should join them and his mate Emile and his wife Therese who had their boat is moored just outside John Pierre’s side gate on the canal. We sat down to whisky, champagne with cherry liquor added plus good old French wines. After 3 drinks Rhonda and I said to hell with the shopping, we were off back to the boat for a snooze as John-Pierre said he would take us into Lens the following day to do the shopping in his car which we gladly accepted. As a return of the hospitality they had extended to us, they all came to our boat for a look at the layout etc and for drinks at 6.00 pm. Needless to say, I felt no pain by bed time.

Up for the car journey next morning we were taken to Lens to a great Super Marche where we shopped for the greatest fresh fruit and vegetables one could hope for. At a counter halfway round the shop there was a table set up with fresh croissants and pure orange juice for shoppers to help themselves to. We shopped well including French wines and champagnes starting at E 1.50 per bottle and it tastes just fine I might add.

After leaving there we called into a motor cycle shop as I had mentioned that we were interested in getting a scooter or similar, so to cut a long story short, we bought a second hand two person Peugeot scooter with two crash helmets and again thanks to John- Pierre’s ability to translate, we feel we got a good buy and it was delivered that afternoon so we are really wheeled idiots I guess.
Well, I was only back on the boat 15 mins when my good luck sort of changed, as when I opened the engine bay to do my daily check I was greeted by the sight of 300mm of dirty brown canal water floating my containers of oil, battery water etc, etc. While I began to hand pump this water out using my little pump Rhonda went off to John-Pierre’s house to ask if he knew where we could find a mechanic and his reply was “leave it to me?” and in minutes he and Emile appeared with big pump and tools to get the boat pumped out. We eventually got this done and thanks to Emile who spotted that the deck pump hose to the main filter was loose and that the water had entered when I was sluicing down the decks etc the previous afternoon. Emile, it turns out was a senior engineer before retiring from one of France’s largest car engine builders (10,000 engines a day) for many of the major brands of Europe, so what he didn’t know about engineering and mechanics was not worth knowing and while he couldn’t speak English and I sure couldn’t speak French we got on really well and had a lot of laughs thanks to John-Pierre’s translating services.

At the end of the pump-out, he said Rhonda and I should join him, his wife and John- Pierre and Simone for a drink at 6pm. He would supply the drink and crackers but it would need to be held in Simone’s home. It started off just fine but us three men drank a whole bottle of whisky (I had water with mine for which I was truly needled about) while Rhonda and the ladies managed a few champagnes with cherry liqueur. I have to admit to a headache this morning but as we wanted to get away at 9.00 am we needed to get up, get things stowed and under way. John-Pierre and Emile came along the canal top see us off and it was with sorry hearts that we left these very kind folks, however, half an hour later we were back as our steering faded as we went out onto the main canal so with careful use of the bow-thruster we made it back into the berth we had left.

Again Emile and John-Pierre were soon on the scene and after checking hydraulic fluid levels, Emile spotted that one of the supply taps to the main steering cylinder had been knocked by us at sometime pushing it out of line, hence, preventing a full flow of fluid to give us proper steerage. We were so lucky that these events occurred near such capable willing folk. We can’t believe how just a simple action on our part of firstly inviting them on board to look over “Somewhere” could result in such a willingness to help us. We sure hope to keep contact with them over the weeks and months ahead as they can and do travel the country so hopefully they will call on us again.

After getting away at 10.30 am we headed along the Canal de la Deule towards Arleux and eventually to Cambrai. We had 4 quite large locks to negotiate and faced a number of huge barges although being a Saturday traffic was fairly minimal. We arrived at our intended destination Arleux at 5.30 pm to berth up among some of the biggest barges I have seen or could imagine could fit down these canals. One very happy puppy dog got off to have a run and to water almost every bush in the area.

We saw some amazing scenes like France’s biggest tyre factory which is unbelievable in size and has a wharf right out to the canal side where they can load direct in bulk into these super sized barges. We passed through so many towns where the church spires dominate the sky line. It would seem that the church plays a very important role in French living. It is great to see all the wild life that lives along the canal banks and the bird life which is abundant, so despite all vessels dumping their sewage into the canals (no pump-out stations) it is really sad to see all the rubbish floating along. Plastic, bottles, boxes, cartons and all sorted packaging and scraps floats along and of course ends up in our oceans. We saw many dead swans and other water fowl as well so wonder how many die due to swallowing plastic or choking on plastic rings and ties. Most of the rubbish according to the locals is the commercial barge operators who just bag up their trash then throw it overboard to be chopped up by the props of other barges or boats. There does not seem to be any policing and it is a great shame. The main larger canals do not show this problem up so much but the small ones seem to collect it from the wash as barges etc go by.
Well I think this is enough reading for you. Sorry it is so long but we are experiencing so much that at times Rhonda and I pinch ourselves as we almost can't believe that we are in France and almost at Cambrai where we will be doing our CEVNI exams later this week so will let you know how our last day of travel went before we lay up for a week.
Cheers to you all. Aurevoir. Rhonda and Ken.
P.S Try these few rhyming cockney slangs.
Lah di dah = Car. Lions lair = Chair. Jerry O Gorman = Morman. Kate and Sydney = Steak and Kidney. Bucket and pail = Jail. Bread and cheese = Sneeze. Bob squash = Wash.
Keep on smiling.

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