Photo Albums
25 September 2014
18 Photos
26 July 2013
11 Photos
SailBlogs Friends
inclusionWinds v2.0
AURA

Birvidik

Vessel Name: Birvidik
Vessel Make/Model: Victory 40
Hailing Port: Jersey C.I.
Crew: Bob Newbury
About: Liz Newbury
Extra: 11 years into a 10 year plan, but we get there in the end.
22 November 2023 | Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
14 August 2023 | A farce in three acts.
14 August 2023 | Sliding Doors
14 August 2023 | The Game Commences
11 March 2023 | Joseph Heller, eat your heart out.
24 December 2022
26 August 2022 | or 'French Leave'
03 August 2022 | or 'Fings ain't the way they seem'
18 June 2022 | or Desolation Row
22 March 2022 | or "Every Form of Refuge Has its Price
28 October 2021 | and repeat after me - "Help Yourself"
23 September 2021 | Warning - Contains strong language and explicit drug references
23 September 2021 | or Everything's Going to Pot
04 September 2021 | or Out of my league
27 August 2021 | or 'The Whine of the Ancient Mariner
16 August 2021 | Found in marina toilet, torn into squares and nailed to door.
06 August 2021 | or 'The Myth of Fingerprints'
30 July 2021 | A morality play in three acts.
Recent Blog Posts
22 November 2023 | Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right

As a fully paid-up Guardianista, I am fully aware that blanket, stereotypic statements along the lines of:

14 August 2023 | A farce in three acts.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - Preface

OK, I admit it.

14 August 2023 | Sliding Doors

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - part 1

It's a funny old world, isn't it.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - part 1

14 August 2023 | Sliding Doors
Bob&Liz Newbury
It's a funny old world, isn't it.

We take our leave of transiting the high seas and head for the inland waterways of France, the yottie equivalent of a nice little bungalow in Surbiton, and people complain that we're hard to get to. Before we made a tactical withdrawal from saltwater cruising, our intrepid friends and followers would, just to see us, fly through three different time zones and land on some primitive airport, perched precariously on an uninhabitable speck of volcanic rock, rising vertiginously from the storm-tossed sea. Once they had negotiated the terminal building, which had been knocked up that very afternoon out of bamboo and duct tape, they would take their lives in their hands by getting in a motorised bathtub masquerading as an inter-island shuttle boat service. Two spray-soaked, emetic hours later, they would issue fate the final challenge and take a local taxi, driven by a sleep-deprived, clinically depressed crackhead along a potholed mountain road with herds of skittish goats on one side and a precipitous drop on the other, to whichever isolated, Godforsaken anchorage we happened to be in.

Now we're right next-bloody-door in France, one of the most civilised and technologically advanced countries on the planet [Come on - you may not like it, but you know in your hearts it's true.], and all they can do is whinge about how difficult it is to get here.

Difficult? Hah!

"Well, you've got to cross the channel for a start.", they bleat.

Oh, Poor Loves. There's a tunnel, for Christ's sake. You can take your car through it. Take a train through it. If you're too claustrophobic to go under it, go across it or over it. There are more ferries and cheap flights than you can shake a government fuel subsidy at.

"But Brexit's made it sooo awkward nowadays. The queue from Dover stretches back to just south of Wolverhampton."

Bugger! OK, I'll give you that one, but no more of the Brexit business, alright? Don't get me started.

"Then we've got to get all the way across France."

Come off it! I know France is big (for Europe), but it doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Russia, China, or the States. Or even Mauritania for that matter. Out of all 195 countries on Earth, France comes a mere 42ndin terms of land area. Even its old colony, Algeria, thrashes it 5:1. As for 'All the way across', we've already established France as one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. The French public transport system, they proudly proclaim with classic French hauteur, is second to none.

Is it bollocks.

Much as it pains me, I have to concede that the wusses, jessies, carpers, snowflakes, and big girls' blouses are right; it is far easier to get from the UK to some insignificant, isolated, rocky, volcanic fleck like Nisiros than it is to get to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, only 40 kilometres from Dijon, the 17th biggest city in France. Hell, it's less than two hundred K from Lyon, France's second biggest city. [There is some debate about this]. What is it, you may justifiably ask, that has managed to coax from my lips (OK, fingertips) such a rare and grudging admission of being in the wrong?

Direct experience, that's what.

We had to get ourselves the two thousand-odd kilometres from Praia da Luz to Saint-Jean-de-Losne. This involved a taxi to Faro airport, a Queasyjet flight to Lyon St. Exupery, a taxi to where Lyon really is , [As opposed to where GreasySweat claim it to be, which is in a field halfway to Dusseldorf], a train to Dijon, and finally a taxi to Saint-Jean-de-Losne.

Those resilient few of you who have stuck with it thus far may well comment on the unexpected preponderance of taxis in this itinerary.

Well spotted.

There was a reason for this, and it came in the form of 58kg of luggage comprising four computers, a set of speakers and other random electronics, along with enough charging power to refill a Tesla in 45 seconds. That was just for starters. On top of that, we had books, boots, kitchen appliances, navigational equipment, and footwear I didn't even know I owned, let alone wore.

Wait - there's more.

I was just drawing breath...

...three months' supply of drugs for our many varied and interesting medical peculiarities, four pairs of glasses each, a hair dryer (Don't ask), a set of Wahl super taper professional hairdressers' clippers, a sphygmomanometer, three corkscrews, four concertina files of assorted paperwork, and a socket set. Oh - and a toothbrush. (each).

All this paraphernalia had been stuffed into a total of four cases, with dimensions and weights straining at the limits of SleazyBet's byzantine luggage regulations. Hence the taxis. We weren't going to make arses of ourselves, puce-complexioned, grunting and stumbling on and off crowded buses and trams, dragging and heaving hernia-inducing dead-weights up and down stairs. Oh no. 'Have pension, will taxi' that's our motto. That way, all we had to do was get ourselves and our luggage to the Gare Part Dieu and on to the TGV. Then we could lay back, relax, and snooze or play on our phones all the way to Dijon.

Ah, the TGV - Le Train de Grande Vitesse, the pinnacle of France's technological and organisational savoir faire. It operates at up to 320 km/hour , [Or 200mph for the blue passport brigade and our American cousins. Or 16000 rods, poles, or perches per puncta for Jacob Rees-Mogg et al.],and has a safety record that puts Network Rail to shame. According to the SNCF puff-piece: "In almost three decades of high-speed operation, the TGV has not recorded a single passenger fatality due to accidents while running at high speed on normal passenger service." Mind you, with that many qualifiers in the sentence there can't be that much competition. You might as well add "On a Thursday, while heading magnetic North and with a driver called Reg."

However, despite all this technical exhibitionism, the TGV still has its faults. Consider the innocent-looking statement '...get ourselves and our luggage... onto the TGV.' Sounds a piece of piss, doesn't it. This illusion continued when we arrived at the platform, towing our sum worldly possessions behind us in our co-ordinated luggage set that, somewhat unnervingly, strongly resembled a family of dead hippos.

The TGV sells itself on speed, and the biggest obstacles to achieving this speed are the self-loading freight, or 'passengers' as they self-identify. They will persist in getting on and off. What's more, they have the effrontery to demand that the train remain stationary while this exercise takes place. Personally, I'd instigate a system based on the old no-stop, mailbag pick-up hooks from the steam-powered glory days of British Rail - a bit bumpy, but little more crowded than cattle class on Ryanair.

SNCF, however, are more Old-School in the field of customer service, and devised a procedure that minimised the time passengers took to board and exit without playing whac-a-mole with them. This is based on allocating a specific seat to each passenger and then throwing phenomenal amounts of computing power and a slack handful of dodgy algorithms at the task. That's guaranteed to turn out well, N'est-ce-pas?

Of course, for this to work, the freight need to know where their allocated seats are. First signs were promising. Having lugged our dead hippos up the three flights of stairs to platform H, we were pleased to see TV monitors strategically placed along the platform at 20 metre intervals, all of them in unFrench agreement that the next train, in 12 minutes, would be the 2442 TGV to Paris, stopping at Dijon on the way.

Things started to look even better. Seat allocations comprised a carriage (voiture) and a specific seat (si├Ęge) within that carriage. We scanned the platform. Behold! All along the platform were markers 'Voiture 1', Voiture 2', etc. We swooned with wonder and admiration at this manifestation of French organisational genius. As Florence was to Stendhal so was the Gare Port Dieu to us. We consulted our tickets: Voiture 08. We found the sign for Voiture 08, parked our deceased pachyderms and sat on them. [OK, pedants. The order pachydermia is obsolete. Hippos are actually in the order Artiodacyla, which includes pigs, goats and sheep.
But probably not for long. Whales and dolphins are starting to stir things up in this little taxonomical backwater.]


Bang on time, in came the train. We stood expectantly as the carriages flashed by and gradually slowed, then stopped with the doors directly in line with the 'Voiture 08' sign. What a brilliant system. Well, it would have been, had the doors been attached to voiture 08. Although we had been unable to find any identifying numbers on the carriages themselves, we were pretty sure that our seats weren't in the restaurant car. Nor were they likely to be in the first-class carriages either side of the restaurant car.

Frantically, I rushed up and down the platform, fruitlessly searching for some Romany-type code giving the carriage number to the initiated. When that failed, I made the mistake of applying logic and maths to the problem and tried counting eight carriages from each end. One outcome was first class and the other consisted of luggage bays, toilets, and cleaning supplies.

We were not alone in our confusion. A sizeable contingent of bewildered, panic-stricken tourists, befuddled visiting academics, and disorientated hen parties reprised my performance of Marcel Marceau in the role of Buster Keaton. They, however, did not have a bloat of deceased, semi-aquatic herbivores to increase their bargaining power.

Liz, meantime, was guarding the baggage and, unwittingly, threatening to cause chaos on a pan-European scale. Even SneezyPet's miserly baggage allowance makes a very effective chicane if carefully placed. Boarding slowed to a trickle through the doors to not-carriage-8, and a crowd of voluble French stereotypes formed, swelled, and gesticulated upstream.


The TGV 2442 was at serious risk of running late, putting a sodding great blot on the French family escutcheon. Things were starting to look ugly. Liz, faced with an angry Gallic wall of shrugs, moues, arms thrown skywards and nasalised diphthongs, steadfastly held her ground.

Just as it looked as if the gilets jaunes were about to come out, our saviours appeared in the form of a petite, unstereotypical, unFrench Madame in an exquisitely stylish business suit, and Moussa, a train cleaner of, I suspect, Senegalese heritage, who wore a somewhat less stylish reflective tabard and matching comfy-fit trousers. Moussa spoke Wolof, French and some German, while Madame seemed to speak every European language fluently except, possibly, Basque, in which she could 'get by'. I reckon that her definition of 'getting by' in Basque involved idly writing haikus in it on the napkin over coffee.




Hizkuntza bat bakarrik.
A language alone

Egungo aitzindaririk gabe.
With no extant forerunners.

Aupa! (Lau etenaldiren ondoren.)
Bum! (followed by four pauses)



They expressed sympathy for our plight but insisted that it was essential that the 2442 left on time. Failure to do so would do incalculable harm, economic, social and reputational, to most of western Europe. You're an intelligent, erudite, sophisticated bunch, so I'll precis their argument for you in the next, unedifying, episode of Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Once you've gathered your strength, click on 'Older'.

Go on - you can do it.
Comments
Current Position
Birvidik's Photos - Birvidik (Main)
15 Photos
Created 31 January 2017
3 Photos
Created 16 October 2015
The move from seagoing to rivers and canals
29 Photos
Created 11 October 2015
10 Photos
Created 6 January 2015
18 Photos
Created 25 September 2014
14 Photos
Created 17 February 2014
21 Photos
Created 2 September 2013
4 Photos
Created 2 September 2013
10 Photos
Created 8 August 2013
16 Photos
Created 26 July 2013
4 Photos
Created 26 July 2013
11 Photos
Created 26 July 2013
12 Photos
Created 26 July 2013
and wintering in Lefkas
19 Photos
Created 6 February 2013
14 Photos
Created 18 August 2012
19 Photos
Created 26 June 2012
5 Photos
Created 18 January 2012
14 Photos
Created 18 December 2011
5 Photos
Created 18 December 2011
9 Photos
Created 18 December 2011
8 Photos
Created 16 October 2011
9 Photos
Created 10 October 2011
10 Photos
Created 11 July 2011
23 Photos
Created 21 June 2011
10 Photos
Created 15 May 2011
44 Photos
Created 21 April 2011
9 Photos
Created 29 March 2011
24 Photos
Created 26 March 2011
12 Photos
Created 25 December 2010
13 Photos
Created 23 December 2010
7 Photos
Created 28 September 2010
10 Photos
Created 21 September 2010
15 Photos
Created 8 August 2010
9 Photos
Created 6 July 2010
12 Photos
Created 28 June 2010
9 Photos
Created 30 May 2010
21 Photos
Created 4 May 2010
20 Photos
Created 7 February 2010
7 Photos
Created 7 February 2010
13 Photos
Created 20 December 2009
11 Photos
Created 20 December 2009
15 Photos
Created 8 September 2009
11 Photos
Created 20 August 2009
13 Photos
Created 30 July 2009
10 Photos
Created 30 July 2009
6 Photos
Created 30 July 2009
12 Photos
Created 19 July 2009
15 Photos
Created 19 June 2009
8 Photos
Created 8 June 2009
8 Photos
Created 2 June 2009
7 Photos
Created 2 June 2009
10 Photos
Created 1 June 2009
8 Photos
Created 23 May 2009
27 Photos
Created 20 May 2009
24 Photos
Created 20 May 2009
9 Photos
Created 10 February 2009
15 Photos
Created 25 December 2008
9 Photos
Created 25 December 2008
22 Photos
Created 25 December 2008
8 Photos
Created 25 December 2008
8 Photos
Created 25 December 2008
15 Photos
Created 13 August 2008
10 Photos
Created 13 August 2008
13 Photos
Created 4 August 2008
5 Photos
Created 4 August 2008
10 Photos
Created 4 August 2008
9 Photos
Created 4 July 2008
12 Photos
Created 6 June 2008
10 Photos
Created 17 May 2008
14 Photos
Created 14 May 2008
17 Photos
Created 20 April 2008
7 Photos
Created 20 April 2008
22 Photos
Created 5 March 2008
6 Photos
Created 4 March 2008
10 Photos
Created 4 March 2008
8 Photos
Created 4 March 2008
7 Photos
Created 30 December 2007
16 Photos
Created 11 December 2007
8 Photos
Created 11 December 2007
8 Photos
Created 11 December 2007
11 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 11 December 2007
24 Photos
Created 11 November 2007
7 Photos
Created 12 September 2007
12 Photos
Created 11 September 2007
3 Photos
Created 11 September 2007
9 Photos
Created 11 September 2007
4 Photos
Created 11 September 2007
4 Photos
Created 3 August 2007
12 Photos
Created 3 August 2007
13 Photos
Created 25 July 2007
7 Photos
Created 25 July 2007
8 Photos | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 17 July 2007
3 Photos
Created 17 July 2007
21 Photos
Created 7 July 2007
22 Photos
Created 16 June 2007
16 Photos
Created 16 June 2007
4 Photos
Created 28 May 2007
16 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
24 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
The trip up the river Guardiana between Spain & Portugal
16 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
2 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
A selection of the myriad photographs taken over the 6 months in Lagos
37 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
Dia de Cidade festivities & torrential rains
21 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
4 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
3 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
12 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
11 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
8 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
16 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
18 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
10 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
18 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
2 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
6 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
11 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
7 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
22 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 22 May 2007
9 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
10 Photos
Created 22 May 2007
13 Photos
Created 22 May 2007

About & Links

Photo Albums
25 September 2014
18 Photos
26 July 2013
11 Photos
SailBlogs Friends
inclusionWinds v2.0
AURA