Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Roanne (Or, Better Get One Last Entry in for 2017!!)

Christmas in the Port of Roanne
We have now been in Roanne for two months.  Well, that’s not strictly true, Quaintrelle has been in Roanne for two months but we’ve been out and about and probably only spent a few weeks here in total.  Roanne has a fantastic boating community and there is always someone popping in for a cuppa – usually Billy from Lazybones who comes in for a quick cuppa and leaves three hours later……  It’s rather nice to be honest, having plenty of neighbours to socialise with, but Roanne also benefits from good transport links which we have been taking advantage of.  Our first trip was just a couple of short weeks after we arrived and we hired a car for a week and travelled four and a half hours south west to have another house-hunting session around Duras.  We spent a day with each of the two agents we’re registered with and after a second viewing of two properties on Wednesday 8th November, were cracking open champagne that evening as news arrived that our offer on La Ganne had been accepted!!
Apologies for the screen shots but I can't edit pdfs so can't lift the photos out :(

It’s a bit sooner than we’d planned to buy, but the Brexit thing rather forced us to decide to have a house and be resident before March 2019.  The good thing about this house, is that we have bought all the furnishings and fittings as well, so we will rent the house out next summer while we continue our boating taking the boat south to the Canal du Midi late summer, and then onto the Canal du Garonne, where we’ll take a winter mooring and live on the boat for a couple of months while we knock some walls around and then hope to move in in time for Christmas next year!  That’s the plan anyway…..

Back in Roanne for a few days we caught up with friends at the port, unpacked then promptly repacked as on Monday 13th November we were on the train to Paris to catch a flight to Edinburgh to spend a few days with mum, get my hair done, legs waxed, dentist, eye test, repack our summer stuff before heading off to the Maldives for a couple of weeks of winter sun.  Whilst I was attending my various appointments Mike was doing a couple of days work for a client so it felt good when Friday 17th arrived and we boarded our flight to Gatwick where we would pick up our connection to Male.
Arrivals lounge......

Once you've stayed a few times at Komandoo you get your own villa :) (And yes, there should be an apostrophe there......)

Not thinking they would say yes, Mike asked if he could drive the dive boat.  The pilot seemed to enjoy his time off and just flicked his hand now and then to keep Mike on course before letting him try and moor it up, which he did brilliantly and to a round of applause from the crew :)

Have to suck my stomach in these days for such photos..... ;)

Sally does the dive briefing at the Kuredu Caves

We had a great couple of weeks and did more diving than we’d done before as, prior to our holiday, we’d taken the online course to enable us to dive with Nitrox, which gives you a longer bottom time,  and meant we could go on the two-dive boat, which goes a bit further and usually means you see bigger fish!  The Manta Rays had been in abundance right up until the day of our arrival so we were hoping we would have our first sightings of them.  However, that was the last day they were seen at the nearby cleaning station and by half-way through our holiday the ‘How Many Manta Were Spotted Today’ board was put away until the next Manta season…….  We did see lots of turtles, sharks, and some eagle rays, and as always, the reefs provide plenty of small, pretty fish to look at.

All too soon, our time on Komandoo drew to a close and we were packing our damp wetsuits back in the bag for the journey home.  Towards the end of our stay the weather had been somewhat mixed and on the morning of our departure it was windy and rainy to the point of ‘stormy’ and we could barely see the next-door island at times.  All of us that were scheduled to leave hoped and prayed that the seaplane wouldn’t make it and we’d have to stay, but after one false start where we headed out to the ‘airport’ (seaplane pontoon), and had to come back, our plane arrived and we headed to Male International.  There was minor chaos at Male as so many of the seaplanes had been held up with the weather, and it turns out that the main airlines will wait as long as they can for passengers, especially if there is only one flight out, as there was with ours to Gatwick.  At the end of the day, we touched down at Gatwick just under two hours late.  Luckily we’d decided to stay the night at Gatwick and take our connecting flight back to Lyon the next day, as we would’ve missed the last train back to Roanne if we’d gone the same night.  After a minor fall out trying to find the hotel and discovering one of the shower gels we were bringing back to France had shattered and spilled all over the wetsuits, we had a shower and climbed into bed and were sound asleep by 9pm.

The next morning we were up sharp and enjoyed a full English breakfast before boarding our Easyjet flight to Lyon.  As we came into Lyon we could see snow on the surrounding hills and when we disembarked it was absolutely freezing!!  No hanging around for trains though, as Dave and Mel were joining us for the weekend and having arrived a couple of hours before us, had picked up their hire car and were there to meet us.  Driving back to Roanne through snow capped hills made me feel as if we were going on our skiing holiday – very strange……

Back on board we quickly got the fire on but couldn’t get the cooker to come on to put the kettle on.  Oh well, not to worry, we just cracked open a bottle of bubbly instead and as we chilled out, with the fire and the central heating on the boat soon warmed up as did the Heritage stove and it miraculously sprang back to life and boiled the kettle for a cuppa.

We were still a bit jet-lagged and Dave and Mel had had an early start, so we made arrangements to meet them at 7pm after they’d got settled into their digs for the night, and go for something to eat.  Unsuccessful at the first restaurant we tried, the second had plenty of space and HUGE steaks, which we enjoyed with a couple of bottles of wine and then headed to our respective homes for a  good night’s sleep.  

We slept well but woke early, but poor Dave and Mel had a terrible night in their bizarre accommodation, which was like a room in an apartment, but they only had access to their room and bathroom and someone else was in the room across the landing……..  The room had been to hot and the only way to cool it was to open the window which allowed the noise of the late-night revellers in, so they arrived slightly groggy just before 10am and we had a lazy morning, then a walk round the port, then a late lunch/early tea on board Quaintrelle.  Dave and Mel had cancelled their second night in Roanne and given the weather conditions and an early flight on Sunday morning, headed off to Lyon to spend the night at the airport just to be on the safe side.

Whilst we were away we had expected to receive the Diagnostic report on the house from the Notaire and the Compris du Vente, which is the pre-sale agreement you have to sign initially.  As neither of these had arrived we did a bit of chasing with the estate agent, started preparing for Christmas and thinking about our next trip in a week’s time to York.

The documents (154 pages worth) arrived electronically on Friday 10th December, all in French, which meant we needed to go through them with our English estate agent and he wouldn’t be around now until after the weekend.  I used google translate to try and get the gist of some of the stuff in bold, which I assumed was things we should take note of and it appeared there was an issue with the electrics and the septic tank (which we’d been told to expect as they seem to change the compliance rules of these every year, so even brand new ones often no longer comply!).

We were sitting at the station at Lyon airport having just arrived to catch our flight to Birmingham when Jerry rang on Tuesday 12th.  He hadn’t seen the report, so after a chat with him about various things we sent him the link to the files and he promised to read it through and ring us back.

Meanwhile, we waited at the quietest airport in the world for our flights to Birmingham, arrived at Birmingham, picked up our hire car, checked in and had dinner at Fawkesley Hall (our work’s night out for MPQ Safety Leadership Ltd) and headed to bed with no phone call from Jerry.  France time is similar to Canal time apparently.
Waiting at the strangely quiet Lyon airport

Anyone there...?????

Our stunning digs for the night at Fawkesley Hall

Elizabeth I and John Merrick have stayed here.  Not at the same time clearly....

We had tasks to do the next day so were up sharp (for us), breakfasted and heading to Northampton by 9.45am.  Mike wanted a new pair of Tricker boots so we were heading to the shoe-making district of Northampton where Trickers still have their factory and a little outlet shop.  Whilst he tried on a couple of options I (obviously!!) looked at the ladies ones and ended up with a lovely pair of red brogues for my Christmas.  Then it was on to Majestic Wine for some supplies and then onto our old stomping ground at Weedon to catch up with Jim, Steve and Keith.  It was good to see them all and have a guided tour of Jim’s latest creation, ‘Joy Louise’ – very nice – and beautiful paint job by Steve.  Not too keen on the green Heritage though…..

After a cuppa there it was into Braunston to the marina to stock up on various filters, and then as the rain washed away the last of the snow, we headed up the M1 to York.  About an hour into the journey Jerry rang with good news.  He’d actually gone up to the house as he didn’t understand what the problem was with the electrics and wanted to see it for himself.   It turns out a little bit of the plastic white cover has come off a bit of trunking, that you can’t reach without a ladder, but will cost a couple of euros to get a new bit and click it back on.  And then new compliance legislation in France states you must have a little removable cover in your shower in case you need to access the electrics there.  We don’t have one.  But we also don’t have any electrics under there so why would we put a removable cover in that could cause leaks, to look at nothing……. Good old France………. ;)

The problem ‘Majeur malfunction’ with the sceptic tank is because the surveyor doesn’t know where the drainage field is, which renders the whole system as not complying.  But it works, doesn’t leak and if we really want a digger in to dig up and destroy the garden to find the drainage field, then we can, but we don’t really need to.  Unless at some point the Marie insists we do, but as long as we’re not spilling sewage anywhere, he’s unlikely to bother, so it’s another of these French things; officially it doesn’t comply, but you don’t get fined or anything for not complying and you don’t really have to do anything to make it comply unless your Marie tells you to……….

With that we were able to send the 154 initialled pages back to the Notaire in France, which would take 3-5 days, but two of these were the weekend, when they’re not at work anyway, so when I posted them on Thursday morning, we knew they’d be there by Tuesday at the latest.

Meanwhile, we’d arrived at our digs at Norfolk Towers and were delighted to see the Robertsons again – it’d been a while.  Whilst they were in the throes of work and Christmas activities Mike went to see his accountant and financial adviser and I busied myself doing Christmas cards and calendars and various other tasks around the town.  Friday night was a curry out with Vicki and Stuart and Debbie and a couple of drinks in the Phoenix and on Saturday we crossed the cold but gloriously clear North Yorkshire moors to see the rellies in Whitby.  Uncle Ronnie was on good form for his 89 and 10/12ths despite being recently widowed and having terrible pain in his knees from arthritis, and there was the usual chaos up at Becca and Lees as they kept the kids entertained while Becca baked a mountain of goodies for Lees parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party the next day.  Becca’s dad John was there too which saved us a trip up to his house, and it was lovely to catch up with all their news.

Back in York for Saturday evening we took Caitlin and Ollie out to Wagamamas for tea, trying to console Ollie as he’d been at York’s away game in Kidderminster which proved to be a very long journey for no return – they lost – again…….. 
After breakfast on Sunday, a quick coffee at Nicola and Dan’s and we were back on the road to Birmingham where Mike had a day’s work on Monday at the other site of his Edinburgh client.  I had a shopping list of things to take back to France for Christmas and spent the day doing various trips between the shops and the hotel as I could only carry so much.  Halfords for filler was our last port of call on Tuesday morning before heading to the airport to return the hire car, have a full english breakfast and then return to Lyon.  Back at Roanne Christmas preparations were in full swing and over the next couple of days whilst Mike finished off some documentation for his client, I stocked up the fridge for the next few days.
Looks like Santa has been!!!

And he wants me to look like him!!!  Bringing a lovely red duffle coat to go with my red tricker shoes :)

We had a lovely Christmas day spent on Pete and Jan’s boat with Bill and Jane and Nicky, Gorette and Chris with us all taking along a contribution.  We got off lightly with responsibility for dessert and availed ourselves of the stack of M&S Mincemeat pies we’d brought back with us, along with a Christmas pudding, brandy sauce and a bottle of toffee vodka.  Good cheer, food and wine was a-plenty and we really enjoyed the day, staggering back to Quaintrelle and into bed just before midnight.

Boxing day was a quiet affair and we stayed glued to the settee, watched both series of SPACED back to back and ate sweets.  By 6pm my body was reneging and in need of a bit of exercise so I went out for a walk around the port while Mike took the shortcut and his Christmas present and we met up at Lazybones for a half hour chat.  Our running around the port has been somewhat sporadic since we left for the Maldives – well, our being here has been somewhat sporadic – but that will change in the New Year.  Won’t it Mike?!

That will be if I can tear him away from this:
Looking very pleased with himself for having already mastered Twinkle, Twinkle and Frere Jaques :)
So, with lots of new adventures planned for 2018, I will leave you with our boating stats for 2017 and best wishes for the New Year.  We hope it brings you peace, joy and happiness, wherever you may be.

Stats for Our First Season in France:

We travelled 1971kms
Passed through 748 locks
Spent 1147 euros on prop diesel
Spent 507 euros on domestic diesel
Spent 1854 euros on boat maintenance (incl painting, engine servicing and repair to bowthruster)
Spent 2238 euros on moorings (of which 1068 were winter moorings, 400 when going back to UK, 230 in Paris!, leaving 540 for other ad hoc moorings whilst cruising.)
And most importantly, we spent 2200 euros on booze – a mammoth 570 of which was spent in August on Champagne!!

Changed times from the daily grog ration..........

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