3 May 2011

From the Sambre we found ourselves back on the Oise, with bigger locks, and a lot busier with commercial traffic – push-tows & dredgers as well as the occasional cruiser. We passed the confluence with the Aisne and then tied up in Compiegne where my bike had been stolen. This time the weather was a lot better, very warm and sunny. After a morning spent around the town & market, and dealing with the wearying mobile phone company yet again, the four of us spent a cultural afternoon up at the Palace, a favourite holiday hunting spot of French royalty & rulers. On a guided tour around some of the state apartments, furnished with much dating from Napoleon 1st and Josephine’s time, including their beds, complete with OTT gilt and plush testers and dusty, rather tired looking hangings & ostrich plumes, Mike became more and more republican and revolutionary the more we saw. I was happily burbling on about history, N.’s treatment of J. etc and trying to translate what the not very good guide was saying, while Mike was muttering away about what he thought of positions of wealth and power gained on the work and the backs of the poor and the down-trodden! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so steamed up about it. We then had a brief interlude in the pleasant gardens, before having a lovely tour, with only one other couple, of some of the huge collection of coaches, carriages, sledges, sedan chairs and bicycles of all sorts, and no, I didn’t see mine! There were many more vehicles not on display that we were only allowed look at through a door, or from a window above, mainly due to lack of funds, as there is no lack of space, the palace being vast. The advantage of being practically on our own was that we had lots more time to look at everything, the patient, and very good guide was plagued with technical questions, and my translation collapsed. On returning to the boat, we found that we had company, 3 other boats, one of which was Irish, and registered in Skibbereen! We got quite excited and went to investigate, but there was nobody aboard. Later, we thought we would check out the Irish boat, but it had vanished – most peculiar, as the locks were closed for the night and there was nowhere for the boat to go to. Early next morning we bade a regretful ‘au revoir’ to the Killeens, great folk to have around whom always see fun in everything. To David’s wary relief, bus and taxi drivers this time, though kind & helpful, didn’t seem to be into embracing foreign men with gusto! Some little time after getting back on board Mike was washing down the deck when two folk on bikes stopped for a chat. They turned out to be Tim Severin and companion, and so the mystery of the ‘disappearing’ Irish boat was solved; they had moored just around the corner outside a barge, for safety, as they were going away for a few days.


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