Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • March 2020
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for March 18th, 2020

Life under lockdown

Posted by contentedsouls on 18/03/2020

Monday 16th March

Due to a cancellation at the Notary’s Office, on Friday 13th March at 1300 hours, we found ourselves sat around a table with the ‘headmistress’ and two solicitors to finalise our commitment to bricks and mortar in Spain, and take possession of the keys.

Little did we suspect what was about to happen over the next 48 hours.

We returned to the rental and collected Muttley and a load of our ‘stuff’ before driving over to the little house. We can drive passed the end of our road, can’t turn into it with the van, but there isn’t any parking. One little town house there has a little slipway big enough to take the van without blocking the road.

“Quick,” said G, “Go and knock on their door and ask if we can park here for 30 minutes whilst we unload the van.”

A very elderly Spanish lady answered the door and between her Valencian, my bad Catalonian, and a bit of miming and pointing, I made the situation clear and she agreed. I was so grateful that I shook her hand (forgetting that we’re not meant to touch each other anymore).

I staggered back to the house with a pile of clothes and bedding that I couldn’t see over (or round), nearly tripping over a motorbike en route. G then did a number of runs until the van was empty, and then parked the van down the bottom of the hill whilst we unpacked. During the unloading process a man, spotting the TV, stopped and said,

“You’re going to need that,”

“Why?” I responded.

“They are closing all the bars and cafes here for a week, so you’ll need to get some food in – the little shop here hasn’t got a lot in it.”

For some reason, both of us got the impression that he just meant Oliva Old Town; our minds were elsewhere I guess. As we drove back to the rental, G suggested we stopped at the MasyMas to get some food for the weekend – it’s a very good job we did.

We moved into the little house with the last of our stuff on Saturday – this time using the Spanish parking system; parking the van at the end of the street, totally blocking it, sticking on the flashers, and making everyone wait whilst we unloaded our stuff onto the side of the road. It’s not a very busy road and the Spanish are extremely patient about people temporarily blocking roads however, being Brits, we got uncomfortable as a small queue slowly formed so G drove round the block whilst I shifted the first pile along to the door. A second repeat performance completed the job.


It was late in the evening before we had the time or energy to poke the local Facebook group, so by the time we found out the extent of what was happening, all the non food shops were closed. Not the end of the world, but we have no wood for the fire, and I am shivering as I’m typing this at mid day. We spent yesterday sunbathing on the terrace, but today there are signs of the forecast storm approaching and it’s quite cold. The ground floor of this old stone house is always chilly – a real bonus in the summer, no doubt – but a bit uncomfortable at this time of the year.

Life feels very surreal at the moment

When you move into a new house, in a new area, of a new country, you would normally be trying out your local restaurants and pubs, hoping to meet the neighbours, finding dog walks, and buying furniture, rugs, glass and china, etc.

These are not normal times.

Everywhere is closed except chemists, supermarkets (currently stocking levels are unknown) and garages. Only one person is allowed out at a time to visit these ‘essential’ establishments, walk the dog, or walk rubbish to the collection points. Police are stopping vehicles with more than one person in. These ‘essentials’ don’t cover the means to purchase sources of heating, apparently. Gas bottles are going to be re-filled twice a week; which is good news if you already own a bottle – we don’t, and there seems to be no means of purchasing one.

Spain and it’s populace are renowned for being noisy, and our location is no exception – one dog barks and every dog in the area starts barking. We (or rather Muttley) also contribute to this cacophony. After eating his dinner he insists on playing with G and his ‘wack wack’; this daily ritual includes a lot of barking which, inevitably, starts all the other dogs off in the area – well we do like to let others know that we’ve arrived. The, ‘I bark, you bark, we all bark,’ theme is well known amongst dogs but, what I’ve not encountered before, is identical behaviour amongst cockerels and chickens! The crowing and clucking echoes around town as soon as the first cockerel wakes up; strangely, they seem to be trained to stop during siesta, thus restoring their energy to continue the noise throughout the evening with renewed vigour.

The lockdown has had the effect of intensifying the noise levels due to the fact that social interaction is, in effect banned. No problem to the gregarious Spaniards; everybody gets on their roof terraces and shouts to their neighbours – if your neighbour lives on the opposite hill; just shout louder! The closure of dancing establishments is no obstacle either; just get your boogie box, guitar, drums, or whatever, up on the roof and boogie, Flamenco, sing; whatever floats your boat.

Those of you who know me well know that I hate loud noises but, strangely, the noise here doesn’t bother me – it seems to be part and parcel of the rhythm of village life and undulates around you rather than rudely intruding. It was one of the reasons for picking this particular location. We spend the majority of our year in splendid isolation and I like this contrast – it’s a sort of affirmation of life continuing, and people just getting on with living.

This morning was the first week day of the lockdown and I overslept a bit (not that it matters), partially because it was slow to get light (due to cloud cover), but mostly because it was QUIET, OH SO QUIET.

It still is.

It is surreal and more than a little scary. It feels like we’ve involuntarily stepped into the opening chapter of a sci-fi novel.

It’s siesta time now; so bound to be a bit quieter – I do hope the noise starts up again later, because this feels horrible.




Just before all of this, we had a visit from the ‘Pirates’ as we have affectionately labelled them. They flew out and hired a Fiat 500; an eminently well suited vehicle for the twisty mountainous terrain and tiny narrow streets of the old towns. Andy, Muttley and I just about fitted in the back, with Sarah driving and G as front seat passenger. In order to keep Sarah’s Mother from feeling that she was missing out on a jolly, they had told a little fib (that’s how Sarah described it – I would call it a whopper of a lie!) and said that they were visiting us on the boat in Belgium! The weather remained glorious and we put the Fiat to good use for most of each and everyday – touring lots of little restaurants up in the Sierra Nevada (our soon to be, ‘new back yard’) and all sorts of remote locations.

I don’t know why, but Sarah wouldn’t let me buy a present for her mother that said, “Bienvenida a Espana” and, instead, went off in search of Belgian chocolates. Sarah was confident that she could pass her newly acquired sun tan off as windburn.

A good job they didn’t stay any longer – although I’d love to have been a fly on the wall whilst she tried to explain to her poor Mother how they managed to get stuck in Spain for a few weeks/months!!!!!


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