Bourg et Comin

Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Sat 25 Oct 2014 15:56
49 23.326N 3 39.321E
This is the point where I leave the Canal Latéral à l'Aisne, and join the Cana de l'Oise à l'Aisne. A bit nervous because I am relying now on a guide lent to me by the great Bernie Hetherington, and it dates from 1987. Berry au Bac was listed in the previous up to date guide as having fuel, but I couldn't find any, nor did those I ask think there was any. How many days can you go before you need to get fuel, they asked. About two, I think. Oh, mon dieu. Abbécourt, peut-être, mais c'est Dimanche. Yes tomorrow it is Sunday, Bloody Sunday, and everything will be closed. Still if I can make it to Abbécourt by tomorrow night I will be able to buy diesel on Monday morning, if there is anywhere that sells it.

It rained all afternoon, a fine but dense, cold, soaking rain. One of the best things I brought back with me on Tuesday was a lightweight pair of waterproof trousers. They are easy to put on over everything else, and easy to move about in. Those and the thick yellow Spanish fisherman's oilskin which we bought in Carthagena, and I am both dry and warm.

Except my face. There was a wind from the northwest, right into my face, driving the rain into my mouth, down my collar.

It cleared up as I arrived here, and the sight of a good pontoon, with water if not electricity (will I ever have electricity again?) decided me to tie up and walk into the village, hopefully carrying a Jerry can for diesel. None for at least ten km's. Looked for a supermarché. There is one, but it's opening times were a complete mystery. Exhausted, went into the Bar Tabac. Ordered a beer. It went straight to my head. There were four people at the bar, three men, one elderly with a stick wearing trainers, tracksuit bottoms and a baseball cap, one about 35 or 40 in black trousers and blouson jacket, and a young man, barely out of his teens, in black sweatshirt, white and plaid calf length trousers (looked pure Bay City Rollers to me, but what do I know); and a woman of indeterminate age, who talked a lot, sang sometimes, and, like the others or more so, smoked continuously, standing half in and half out the door. If they have a Scottish accent in France, she was using it. We were all watching the horse racing on the TV. Another screen advertised various forms of gaming, and there were lottery forms, football pools, and no doubt other gambling offers on the shelves around us. Nobody else came. Nobody left. I had another beer, fell asleep, and woke just before the bakery was due to open.

The supermarché was very shut, but I left the boulangerie with a few treats to get me through Sunday.

I could have gone further today, but this is a safe, good mooring, and there is nothing marked on Bernie's guide that I could have reached in daylight, even in a time machine that would take me back to 1987.

PS The point about electricity is critical. I can charge the iPad and the mifi from a cigar lighter socket, but I need mains power to charge the phone. This morning I was stuck in a lock. The gate would not open to let me out. The sign said call on VHF channel 22. I tried no answer. But with my emergency aerial so low in the lock I wouldn't have picked up anything. There was a phone number, too. After turning my phone on, I was about to call it, when a man appeared and opened the gates. It was a bad ten minutes. But it showed me how important my phone will be in an emergency.

I had a list in my head during the week of things I hadn't seen: trees, birds mainly. It included field maple, which I saw the day before yesterday, silver birch, which I saw for the first time yesterday and is now quite common, blackbirds, which are now everywhere. What is left? Sweet Chestnut and the Common Coot. The last coots we saw were in Menorca, of all places.