The Fateful Day
22 August 2010
This was the fateful first day of our barging life. We had seen the Midi Canal several times when Rita and I used to go to Karate Camp at Serignan Plage near Beziers in the late 1990s. We had also seen it a few times when visiting good Aussie friends Kaye and Peter Coates in Talairan, in the South of France. But on this day, it was the first time that I really started thinking about what floats on the canals.
It began innocently enough. From Peter and Kaye’s place in Talairan, Rita and I had decided on a day out cycling along the Canal du Midi. After hiring two bikes from Mellow Velos in Paraza, we headed west along the Midi towpath.
After the swim, we headed back to Homps, and as we were crossing the blue bridge over the canal, I looked to my left and saw a barge for sale. Jokingly, I said to Rita “Now there’s one for us!”. It obviously was a throw-away line, because I didn’t even bother to take a picture of the barge – but I remembered the name – Berendina.
We took some tourist photos as we cycled along the Midi, passing boats coming the other way, but not really thinking very much about them.
We stopped for lunch at a delightful restaurant next to the double-lock just to the east of Homps – we decided that we could probably take more of this (the relaxed lunch, that is).
On the ride back to Paraza, we saw a barge named “Oz” with a Southern Cross on the bow, and I realised that some of these barges were owned by Aussies.
Clearly, these two events had conspired to “put a flea in my ear” (as the Swiss say).
Perhaps it was not surprising that I was receptive to the idea of barges, however, since just a few weeks early we had visited friends Jan and Mareyn in the Netherlands and they had taken us on some cycling trips in which we saw many Dutch barges. Their own town of Amersfoort had a canal running through the centre, with many old and restored barges moored at the banks.
We had cycled to the town of Spakenburg on the shores of the Eemmeer, where a variety of sailing barges were seen.
We also visited their daughters in Haarlem - another canal town.
After lunch we headed to the Etang Jouarres just to the west of Homps, where Rita went for a swim (along with thousands of holidaying French).
24 August 2010
On the drive home from Talairan to Bern (Rita’s parent’s home town), I kept thinking about Berendina and the most important question “I wonder how much it costs?”. I was sure it would be too much, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to find out. At least then, I could salve my conscience by saying that at least I had enquired, but it was out of our league. After all, I was just a boy from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, and while you can take the boy out of the West, you can’t take the West out of the boy.
All these thoughts were kept to myself at this time, because Rita knows that I sometimes hatch grand plans that come to nothing (vale TreeSmart and TreePower). But living with Rita encourages such actions; after all, it wasn’t me who envisaged the formation of a steel pan band in Marysville after the bushfires of 2009, and now two years later she has 50 players, a video and a first CD in production, and is planning for the first Australian Steelpan Festival in Marysville in 2013!
We then went to Amsterdam where we did the touristy thing and explored the canal system on a tourist boat, and saw a wide variety of barges. But, at the time, I just thought "oh, isn't that interesting". I hadn't realised the powerful influence of pre-conditioning!