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

  • April 2020
    M T W T F S S
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Archive for April, 2020

Life under Lockdown–Part 8

Posted by contentedsouls on 22/04/2020

Wednesday 22nd March

The sun continued to shine for us for a few more days after my last blog, and the time passed pleasantly enough as we enjoyed a few games on the roof (thanks to the eventual arrival of two packs of cards, Triominos and Rummikub). The wild man of Borneo (aka G) decided he could no longer handle the mad curls growing on his head and chin, and took the dog clippers to both – having practiced on himself, he turned his attention to Muttley; Muttley then hid in the cupboard!


With the weather turning bad on us again, I turned my attention to Alexa thinking that she might help me learn the words to, ‘Resistiré’ –thank you Kevin Too for telling me how to get the accent. On asking her to play it, she responded with some ghastly dirge (try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean)!

I then asked her to play Viva Espana; she played the English version – the one reminiscent of early day package holidays from back in the 70’s – so I asked her to play the Spanish version; she did, the instrumental version. Even Alexa has turned bloody minded and gone rogue on me; just between you and me, I never liked her much anyway. I’ve always considered her to be the third person in our marriage.

Whilst G was walking Muttley around the block, I stuck my head out of the door to listen to the music and bumped straight into ‘Senor Propane’ – as he’s now referred to, thanks to AndyWindy. El senor (I still can’t get the wiggly thing over the ‘n’) was quite curious about our arrival here and what we were up to. I was in the middle of giving him my best shot at explaining that our home was a boat, currently in the Netherlands, and we would normally be here for 6 months each year, blurdy, blurdy, when G arrived back and joined the conversation in English! Given el senor doesn’t speak a word of English, G received some fairly blank looks whilst I tried to translate – no problem for G; he went into default mode and switched to French! G’s French is pretty good, but mine is very limited and I suddenly found myself in the position where I’m trying to translate G’s French into English, then back into Spanish. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t go on for very much longer!!!! As we bade Senor Propane good night (by then I’d ascertained that his name is Lorenzo), he shot back to his house after asking me to wait and then came back with an armful of oranges as a present for us.

Lorenzo having offered me his (informal) name, now means I can drop the ‘usted’ and use ‘tú’, but it also meant that I had to introduce myself the same way and ‘Jill’ is a pretty hopeless name to say in Spanish (Budd being pretty easy). Given that the ‘J’ is virtually silent and the ‘ll’ sounds more like ‘ya’ – I come out as more of an ilya (as in Ilya Kuriakin (?) in the man from U.N.C.L.E.).

I was so happy with this encounter and felt it was definitely another good step in the right direction for the future.

I don’t know about you guys, but I find that emotions are intensified at the moment. Whilst the smallest things can bring me great pleasure, the smallest things (that I would normally take in my stride) can, equally, be my ‘undoing’ and I sometimes wonder if I’m closer to unravelling than I think.

I went shopping a week last Tuesday and discovered a little shop selling ‘English’ stuff. I found a bar of Cadbury’s fruit & nut, Jammy Dodgers, Fig Rolls, Pukka Pies and steamed syrup puddings – it wasn’t cheap, but it was a real treat given that we’ve not been in England for over a year. The guy who owned the shop was a real barrel of laughs (not!). He was convinced that Coronavirus was a conspiracy theory just used by the Spanish authorities to revert to a military dictatorship.

From there, I went to the supermercado and felt, irrationally, uneasy about leaving my granny trolley (full of expensive goodies) at the check out – i was really worried that someone would steal it!

I’d never been to this supermarket before (let’s face it, I haven’t been anywhere here before) and it was a maze of small rooms – not like the usual ‘up and down’ straight aisles and I quickly lost my bearings, getting more and more agitated about the security of my hoard of UK treats in my trolley – I went back to check and realised that the checkout wasn’t the one I’d entered by; I found another exit and my trolley wasn’t there either, it sounds crazy but I could feel the panic rising in my chest. Eventually I found a third exit and my trolley was still sitting there quite happily but, by then, I was close to a full blown panic attack. I abandoned the rest of my shopping list, checked out what I already had, and headed for home.

The day got worse. G took Muttley out for his pre-dinner wee (Muttley’s wee, not G’s; it takes all of 3 minutes) and when he was nearly home, 50 meters away, he was subjected to a racist attack by a young Spanish man shouting abuse and trying to kick Muttley before going for G with his fists – G protected Muttley and blocked the bloke; I heard the commotion and had the door open. G and Muttley shot in and we slammed the door; the bloke was still following and started trying to kick down our door. We phoned the police who asked if we needed medical assistance – we didn’t, ‘ring us again if he returns’ they replied.

I can’t tell a lie, I was seriously rattled. We’ve never experienced anything like this in all of our travels. For the next two days I didn’t want to go out with Muttley and I didn’t want G going out with him on his own either, but we’re not allowed to go out together, so ………

I’m over it now; I guess it was just one of those things – the bloke was high and probably getting as stir crazy as the rest of us, in a way I have some empathy because it’s all getting a bit too much now.

I popped round to Senora Propane, Lorenzo’s wife, with our last jar of Gezina’s courgette and onion chutney and lied –saying that I had made it myself. Only a small porky as I had made some with Gezina – just not that particular batch. The gesture seemed to go down really well; but, somehow, I doubt that they’ll try it – is it polite to ask if they’re going to eat it and, if not, can we have it back please because we love it?

Not far from home, I discovered some new alleyways and so, unusually these days, I have some pretty pictures; it was quite a steep climb – let’s face it, everywhere here is a steep climb; it’s extremely good for us after 3 years in the flatlands.


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Life under lockdown – part 7

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/04/2020

Friday 10th April (I think!)

Today’s news is that a vote has been taken and that the current restraints will remain until at least the 10th May – it has to be ratified, but that is just a formality.

How do I feel about that? Well, OK really – the earliest I really hoped for any kind of easing of restrictions was the end of June if I’m honest, so it came as no surprise, shock, or disappointment. I have realised that underneath the skin of this person that is always doing, moving, exploring and bustling about, is an inherently lazy person that was waiting to come to the surface! Massively encouraged by the return to lovely Spanish weather after the first two weeks of incessant rain.

It makes me smile now when I remember how hard done by I felt, PTL (Prior To Lockdown), that I had to stay in for one day waiting for an Amazon delivery!

In order to avoid any recurrence of future, ‘rainy day blues’ we ordered some basic stuff from and yesterday we were, excitedly, waiting for a delivery of a pack of cards. It was scheduled to be delivered by 8pm. I get particularly excited because it gives me an opportunity to launch my dodgy Spanish at some poor, unsuspecting, delivery person – and G gets excited by the arrival of a new ‘toy’. You can imagine our disappointment when the church bells rang out 8pm and the cockerel crowed thrice (no, sorry it didn’t – I just thought I’d throw that in for a bit of added drama) and no delivery. All was not lost, however, as a new notification popped up saying it had been re-scheduled for delivery between 8 and 10pm; we could track the delivery person’s progress around the village – he was at the bottom of the hill, heading our way …… but, then he turned away again, then back towards us, then he turned away again. There was more excitement and tension in this little house than at a Houston pre-launch!

Then he headed away back to town. 5 minutes later a new notification pops up, ‘we tried to make your delivery today at 09.46, but nobody was available,’ – 4 bloody weeks we’ve stayed in waiting for this delivery and it didn’t come, we were in – WE’RE ALWAYS BLOODY IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every night there continues to be singing and dancing and applause for the front line workers – most of it down in the town, but someone in the village here has been playing ‘the last post’ at 8 every night. Last night someone down in the town beat him to it so ‘our’ man, up here, played a kind of harmony to it – I think it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard and brought tears to my eyes.

I always listen to the nightly music as it makes me feel less isolated. The song, ‘Resistire’ (needs an accent over last ‘e’, but i don’t know how to do that on this keyboard), ‘I will Resist’ is sung every night to a very catchy tune and has become, almost, a new National Anthem. I have been learning the words and, tonight, I was on the doorstep poised with my song sheet prompt ready to burst into song – the neighbour, senor gas bottle provider, came out for his daily excercise (10 meters down the hill and back) and stopped to chat. His social distancing wasn’t great – each time he took a step forward, I took a step back. We ended up having our first ‘proper’ (I use the term loosely) conversation which ended with him saying we would be friends and we must go to his house (I think) and I responded that we would when this was over (I think).

Before I registered what was happening, he patted me on my (clothed) arm and bade me goodnight. Although this shouldn’t have happened, it was the most wonderful affirmation of some kind of local acceptance and future potential integration and such a natural gesture amongst the current frigidity of external relationships.

There is no need to worry about my being contaminated, as G watched this interaction through the window and stuffed me straight into the washing machine.

Another very good day.


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Life under lockdown–Part 6

Posted by contentedsouls on 02/04/2020

Thursday 2nd April

I get very few opportunities these days – for obvious reasons – to excercise my Spanish in the ‘real’ world (I use the term loosely) and when I do, I always seem to screw it up – even the most basic stuff. My most memorable cock up to date was to tell Maria that her daughter had 10 arseholes instead of being 10 years old.

This week I added to the list when I ventured down to the local, non-English speaking, shop. I couldn’t understand why the gentleman looked so shocked when all I’d asked for was the dog food – it was only on my way home that I realised that I had used the verb, ‘to eat’ instead of the noun, ‘food’. What I had actually asked him was, ‘where eat dog?’ – no wonder he’d looked worried.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to ‘meet’ some of our neighbours. Our terrace looks down onto their’s and I spotted what looked like a spare gas bottle on their roof, which we were in desperate need of. No problems getting an existing bottle swapped out for a full one; but getting an additional bottle is not possible at the moment. My mission (which I chose to accept) was to ascertain if it was surplus to requirements and try to purchase it. It was 2 days before I found an opportunity to approach them without knocking on their door. In those 2 days I mentally rehearsed the conversation and realised that I had the vocabulary to cover this, but would be unlikely to understand any return questions. My solution to that potential problem was to blast them with so much information that they would lose the will to live and not bother asking me any questions. I told them that I had seen the bottle on their roof and, if they weren’t using it, I would like to buy it and was willing to pay 10 euros for it. I probably also told them why I needed it, how old the dog was and what colour knickers my Granny used to wear on her birthday.

What I hadn’t factored in was the novelty value of a crazy new English neighbour arriving to ‘visit’ a large family that had been in self isolation for nearly 3 weeks! I successfully negotiated for the bottle and popped home to fetch money and Graham to carry it. I ostentatiously cleaned my hands, the money and the gas bottle handles, which gave the whole family ample time to gather and ‘interact’ with their novelty neighbours. The other factor that I hadn’t counted on was their basic honesty; they wanted to be sure that we knew there was no gas in it, how we could exchange it, and that there was no regulator with it. All of this, in typical local gender bias, was addressed directly to Graham! We, eventually, escaped and scuttled home with our prize. We have a spare regulator, so all we need now is to exchange it.

It is amazing how such triumphs brighten the day. Another such moment was when I found a T-towel lurking in the van.

I have discovered that the best time to walk the dog is mid-afternoon as there are very few, if any, people about – siesta still seems to be observed even though it’s not hot and (most) people aren’t working. About once a week (when both Muttley and I have reached desperation point) I push the, ‘max of 500 meters from home’ limit and stay out for about 45 minutes. This week’s jaunt took me up the other side of the Old Town to the castle – I chickened out before I reached the top though because, if I was spotted, there were no houses within 500 mts that I could have come from.

Here’s some pictures


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