36. Caterpillar Extermination Squad, Lewis Hamilton and Bottom Bugles in the Sleepout.

I’m just going to have to phone God again to apologise. I am dreamily remembering when I was a kid of 10, or so. I was a kid most definitely and a naughty one at that. My mate Kev and I, having a surplus of Tom Thumb Crackers from Guy Fawkes day, tired of blowing up letterboxes and pushing lit crackers wrapped in newspapers thru ol’ Mrs Days, front door slot, commenced a program of Caterpillar Extermination about Inglewood and Grammar Mothballs backyard. ‘Sorry about the long sentence Mum’. Thats all right sonny boy. Having been married to your father for over forty years, I know well and truly what a sentence is.

Grammar Mothballs lived opposite Perth’s Hyde Park and her backyard was rich to overflowing with weeds. It was spring and caterpillar mating central. E-Harmony was busy in amongst the weeds. The weeds are crowded like Sydneys Mardi Gras Festival or a meeting of the Liberal Party with everybody on heat. Especially the caterpillars as they rushed about at 1cm an hour to mate. Not that ‘mating’ per se, was on a 10 year olds mind. We were a two boy bomb squad. Kev and I would place a single Tom Thumb under Caterpillar Colin or could have been Caterpillar Cynthia, and blow Colin/Cynthia to smithereens. I now regret doing that and consequently, now being at an advanced age where the mind, free of the necessity to concentrate on earning a quid, is playing tricks. It is telling me that God, who I will possibly meet within a few years or so, maybe considering sending me back as a Caterpillar. I will find out when I cark it and get to meet HIM. Or possibly his underling Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates Tavern.

This all comes to mind as my bride Susan and I are hurtling along with Sanjay in the pilots seat of an ageing Toyota Diesel powered sedan. On Englands A24 super highway, and Sanjay’s speedo nudges 85 miles per hour. Thats 136 k’s per hour in metric speak. He’s at the wheel of his sedan, a private taxi that has been worked hard. Like Sanjay, the sedan has had far too many Pork Vindaloo’s. G Forces push us back into our seats and its difficult to breath and tell tubby Sanjay to ******* well slow down. I do not want to die on Englands A24. We are heading from Royal Tunbridge Wells to Heathrow and its far far easier to travel by taxi than any other means in England. The Government encourages this as all other means of transport, especially public, are falling to pieces. Apart from the Royal families horse and carriage operations, Corgi dog carts, and Camilla’s Polo Pony Ranch.

Sanjay considers he is the Indian taxi industries Lewis Hamilton. The A24 we are on is the F1 circuit. He drives with one hand floating in space as he explains the finer points of cooking up a ‘kick arse’ Vindaloo, his life to date, his four old son Ajay’s life and his mother in laws life she having recently taken four old Ajay back to Indian to show him off to the family, visit their Chilli garden and introduce his gut to Indian Bacteria.

Susan and I are nevertheless excited as after 12 weeks wandering willy nilly about the Old World of Ireland, Scotland, England, Holland, Belgian, France and the small country of Bank Balance, we are going back to the comparative sanity and cost effectiveness of the New World. The world of Australia. Ran efficiently for near 60,000 years by a dark skinned peoples who did not find it necessary to fight prolonged wars, steal other tribes riches, nor their buxom women, smoked roo, snake and or possum. Nor knock over their houses and castles as they, fortunately, had none. Sure, a bit of pointing the bone, wife and husband swapping, leg spearing’s, boomerang throwing and trading of foraging areas went on but it was all docile stuff compared to the lunatics in their thousands that inhabited the lands of Europe over millennium. And still do but now they are called Politicians. I love Australia. My heart belongs here, my nose in a whisky bottle. Unfortunately, albeit a first rate country and excellent place to lay down one’s head, its been run since 1788 by third rate people called nincompoops. They refer to themselves as politicians.

I cannot tell Sanjay any of the above because my words are lost in the slipstream. His racing car has carried him some 246,000 miles. Far in excess of what the manufacturer Toyota considered possible. Or safe. Serviced, he proudly tells us, by a cousins second Uncle in a small shed in Little India, a Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells that the City fathers know about but do not acknowledge. We enter F1 finishing line in one piece.

The reception area of the Park Inn Radisson Heathrow Airport. Arguable the cheapest and most apparent luxurious hotel we have stayed in in twelve weeks. We should have spent all that time here in comfort with the occasional foray into the wider world with Sanjay as escort. The Park Inn Radisson is only four storeys in height. This is so that it does not interfere with the flight path of a low flying crashing aircraft at the adjacent City of Heathrow Airport. Due to the height, and to fit in some 500 rooms, the Park Inn settles into the landscape like a giant octopus with four storey high tentacles extending out in all directions. Most of earths races are here. At reception, at the bar, at the eatery, nose bags on. Captains, Co-Pilots, Flight Engineers and Flight Attendants parade about in their finery towing impressive looking leather Gucci suitcases full of contraband or drugs. Possibly both. Its not a world I feel comfortable in. Our room, 3305 on the first floor is superb, comfy, and we settle in for our last night in the Old World.

That’s apart from another night to be spent in a fat slug composite tube flying through the lower stratosphere at 900 KPH at a height of near 12 kilometres. Its a long long way to fall with the other 544 passengers in an Airbus A380. We are told that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling when decompression is caused by Mohammed humming Allah Akbar whilst blowing a hole in the fuselage. Meaning we are going to crash but thankfully, the oxygen mask will give us another thirty seconds of air before we cark it on some foreign mountain side or ocean. If its an ocean, then we are encouraged to struggle into a yellow life jacket which can be inflated by blowing into a black tube alongside which is a red whistle, numerous belts to tug, a mirror to flash and its all bullshit. Trying to remember which is which if you make it in one piece into the ocean wearing by now, dirty undies, inflate, tie numerous belts, blow a whistle and shine a mirror beggars belief. They should include several small 50ml bottles of whisky tucked into the life jacket. I think the life jackets so that your body, or parts of it, float about so some forensic scientist can determine which parts of the aircraft are safest to sit in by tracking the biggest body parts back to a seat. Passengers in First Class get Platinum Bvlgari Monogrammed Life jackets with a Hostess attached to inflate the jacket for them, tie the straps tight, blow the whistle and shine the mirror. The Hostess then reaches into her pocket and stuffs Caviar into the mouth of and pours a glass of Pol Rodger for the ‘First Classer’. Before swimming off with the rest of the flight crew in the direction of Singapore, dragging the Drinks Trolley behind them.

I keep these thoughts at bay as I sip from a plastic container of Red Label whisky. Thats all Singapore Airlines have these days. In ‘peasant class’ at least. Slurped into a plastic cup from a litre bottle by Hostess Suti who smiles as she looks at me to indicate when to stop slurping it in. The bride indicates with a hand drawn across her throat. I’m comfy, well reasonably so as we are in Premium Economy all booked way back before we realised the country of Bank Balance was sadly, haemorrhaging. I try to sleep, drowse off a bit where my mind takes me to having to pilot the A380 into Singapore’s Changi airport as both pilots have been murdered by Mohammed before he flings himself out of the aircraft taking several Halal meals with him. I’m the only one capable enough, the only one cool in a crisis and the only one wearing an oxygen mask and a lifejacket which is why I’m here holding the joystick. Its a grim picture for although Ive flown before, never an A380. My ego is bolstered by Nicole Kidman coming into the cockpit from her First Class flat bed apartment. Just to wish me luck and promises to have me act opposite her in her next movie. Rather than Hugh Jackman as his fingers have pointy steel bits on the end. Its a lovely dream one I continue to return to. I like being a hero and as the only place I can be one, is in my dreams, why not. But then, the memory of those caterpillars, Colin and Cynthia, the one’s mate Kev and I blew up flashes into my mind just as I approach Changi Airstrip. My bride nudges me as my head has fallen into her Premium Economy space and she needs that space to sip her coffee and read her Singapore Airlines On Board Duty Free Book. Is she not aware that our Bank Balance is depleted? Worse. I have spilt some of my Red Label whisky. ‘Cripes Mum, why didn’t you wake me up’. Well sonny boy, with you and your two brothers in bed, it smelt too much in your sleepout for me to go in and wake you all up. ‘Ah Mum, thats just Snake Boots and Daven playing Bottom Bugles. Remember that Daven could fart his way through the first stanza of Silent Night after a meal of your Ox Tongue Roast with dripping pot gravy’. Yes dear, Daven was very clever that way. Took after his father. Would you like a slice of cold tongue?

Singapores Changi Airport was obviously designed by a Senate Committee made up of all Political Parties with Clive Palmer, Barnaby Joyce and Bob Katter in charge. Hence, bits and pieces of of the airport infrastructure were placed in each of their Constituencies all overseen by the snouts of Bureaucrats who were moulded into shape by Lobbyists bearing striking resemblances to George Clooney and Elle McPherson. One needs a compass, water bag, several camels, a determined will and a cast iron constitution to find the departure gate for their next flight from the arrival gate where you fortunately arrived with 543 other people, still wearing an oxygen mask and life jacket. You have to wait your turn patiently to exit the aircraft until Nicole Kidman and her Von Trapp family of children exit, together with other ‘A’ listers, business people in Armani suits and those fortunate enough to be in peasant class seats 444 to 544 who exit via a toilet shute.

We arrive at Changi’s Terminal 1 located near Dubbo and have to find Terminal 3 located near Rockhampton. We do but not without a few terse words and a brief divorce. For the flight from Changi to Perth we are in peasant class as there is no Premium Economy but there is G & T’s at 10am. Bear in mind that our bodies are at 4am and not the 10am in the plane. Your’e not drinking at 10am are you sonny boy. You’ll turn out like your father. ‘No Mum, it was Sue’. Goodo then dear. Seeing as its 1030, lets both have a little nip of the doings. Hmm.

Ooroo from Sue 😘 and Des 🤪

Wheres all the pictures sonny boy. Your Kodak Box Brownie broken?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35. Yakidy Yak in a Taxi, Ox Tongue Roast and a Cure for Gout.

Leaving Maidstone for Royal Tunbridge Wells, the towns 18 k’s apart. It seemed like 1,800 k’s when trying to arrange transport between the two.

It’s difficult if one wants to travel from point A to point B in the Empire of England. Albeit A and B, in our case the towns of Maidstone and Royal Tunbridge Wells, are a handshake and several stone throws apart. The difficulty compounded by two ageing people, and several heavy suitcases. This heaviness in the little suitcase due to two 700ml bottles of Aberlour 12 year old whisky, a pack of books which were necessary to shut a certain person up. All His. And in the big suitcase, wine bottles, trinkets, chocolates and spakfilla. All Hers.

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The Pantiles at Royal Tunbridge Wells on an overcast day. Gloom all about.

Trains run from A, Maidstone where we are, to London and then back to B, Royal Tunbridge Wells where we want to be. This takes half a day, and a bit of dragging suitcases along rocky uneven pavements. And of grovelling with taxi drivers who in London, are either Asian or Black and sometimes a combo of both and very very difficult to understand. All train lines seem to radiate out from London with very little regular interconnecting trains between those towns London connects to. ‘Did you understand that Mum?’ No dear. Stop talking in riddles and get your Mum a sherry.

Despite the two towns A and B being 18 k apart, there’s no direct train connect. Bus the same. The bus wobbles about using a circuitous route via the south pole. So, we are leaving Maidstone, in the easiest, quickest but not necessarily the most economical way. Squashed into a private taxi with the larger than life Brian. He caught a virus whilst young, called ‘yakidy yak’. He’s 60ish, large man, large head, ditto stomach, ditto arms, balding head, ruddy face, driving us from point A to point B whilst talking and waving his arms about steering the small Skoda car with his knees, willpower and my prayers. Yes, I remember a few prayers as they were drilled into me from Bubs Class at St Peters Bedford Park to year 10 at Saint Patricks Perth. I arrived at St Pats in my 14th year which unfortunately coincided with Dad being short of the readies for things like decent offal, shoes, underpants and school fees albeit there was money for beer, gorgonzola cheese, Quickeze tablets and Kemdex powder for his falsies. So as I turned 15, we had a serious father/son chat which lasted perhaps 20 seconds and I found that I was going off to the workforce. Your Dad and I did our best sonny boy and you havn’t forgotten my ox tongue roast. ‘No Mum, and that marvellous dripping pot gravy you poured over everything’.

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Grand row housing at Royal Tunbridge Wells jolly old England.

We arrived in the carpark of the Royal Wells Hotel. If one was wearing dark Ray-Ban’s, then its a fine looking four storey edifice dating from the first English Civil War. I looked at Sue, she at me, we both looked at our taxi Brian driver. Was this the hotel we booked with the swish tree fringed driveway, concierge, pool where Brad and Jo-Lo reclined whilst Englebert Humperdinck warbled in the background. Apparently. I must write to Mgumbu and his Uncle Botswana in Ethiopia and congratulate them on the excellent job they do in ‘photo shopping’ websites. Inside it’s a bit better. I check they have a lift. Yes sir. You are in our Superior Room 29. Thank you receptionist Jemma. Up in the slow slow lift. Out. A passageway the width of two bowling balls. Clive Palmer would get jammed in this passage way. Either walking sideways or straight ahead. At the end, 2 steps down. A sharp left hand turn and push open a fire door. A sharp turn right. A short walk and up 5 stairs. Here we pause on a landing pad about 1.0 metres long by a width equal to Clive Palmer less 50 kilo’s. To our right is another staircase disappearing up where the Ghoul lives. We leave the landing pad via 3 steps down to find a tad further on another 3 steps down. A sharp turn right, then a sharp turn left and there’s room 29. Its in the adjacent town. We left Royal Tunbridge Wells an hour ago. Cripes. How do we, sorry, I, pick these hotels. My bride is looking at me with that look that says, Why oh why did I marry him. Perhaps I should look up that personal trainer Mario Aurelio.

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Royal Tunbridge Wells. Housing and offices. typical scene in the more up-market areas of town.

On the bright side, the Superior Room is OK apart from no traffic signal so we can pass each other where the bed cramps the space between bed end and wall. We have two windows. Both sealed. With a view of a parapet wall which forms part of a fire escape. Beyond that there’s a peaky glass roof. Beyond that a grumpy sky. And behind that, two ageing partly grumpy people. I need a whisky darling, wine for you?

Royal Tunbridge Wells is the ‘new kid on the block’ in so far as English towns go. It came into being accidentally. In 1606, Dudley, Lord North, a courtier to James 1, was wandering about a friends estate when he came upon a spring set in a shallow valley surrounded by luxurious growth and steep hills. He had a drink of the waters which made him feel marvellous if not spiffing. Taking a bottle and having it analysed, he found it contained compounds that seemed, according to his influential physician, to have the ability to extend life, cure ills and prevent dropsy, gout and brewers droop.

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Royal Tunbridge Wells. A pub on the corner.

Involved in all this, was Beau Nash a ‘celebrated’ Dandy and leader of fashion. At the time. Just like Tony Abbot, Barnaby Joyce and Clive Palmer. Dudley’s and Beau’s waffling on about the now named ‘Chalybeate Spring’, Chalybeate meaning ‘ferruginous’ meaning iron, further enhanced the image of a healthy spring waters that would promote happiness and cure all manner of ills. The Gentry sucked all this up and came in their hundreds like a pack of dills. Which seems to be what the gentry were back then. Dudley’s physician actively promoted the health giving properties of the waters. Cynical Des thinks he had shares in developments there as he claimed the waters cured/fixed, ta dum –

The colic, the melancholy and the vapours; it made the lean fat and the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly; loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.

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Sue and her friends Nigel and Fiona formerly of Oz Land. They, Ni and Fi are still a bit uncertain about Moi!!

Dudley convinced his rich friends to come ‘drink the waters’. And they did such that two houses were built. One Ladies. One gents. Then as it became more and more popular, Lord Muskerry, the Lord of the Manor nearby, built a hall so the rich gentry could dance, sing and drink the waters. In 1684, those dipping their bodies in the spring, drinking its waters and misbehaving in the bushes, decided they needed a church to cleanse their minds as their bodies were cleansed in the spring. So the ‘church’ called ‘King Charles the Martyr’ was built. Just there near the spring which by now was very very popular for a day trip from London. Charles the First, or King Charles the Martyr, King of England, Scotland and Ireland for a time, was executed on 30 January 1649. England’s Protestant’s looked upon him as a ‘martyr’ whereas Irelands Catholics blew their tin whistles, had a Tatty cook-up, and thought it was a marvellous execution. As did the Scots who had a Haggis BBQ and wiggled their Sporrans. However, the Prottos were thick on the ground about the ‘Springs’. Perhaps they were also the rich and famous of the time. So they named the church after Charlie as he was, they considered, a Protestant martyr.

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The Pantiles area of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Inside of Charles the Martyr Church.

Princess Victoria came with her mum and later as Queen with Prince Albert. Albert died aged 42 so the ‘healing waters’ did not do much for him. He married his first cousin Victoria, had 9 children with her and therein lies the reason why some of the earlier royal family looked like polo ponies. Mid 20th century infusion of new blood has certainly helped todays generation. A town developed quickly about the spring spreading outwards and upwards about the four ‘hills’, Mounts Ephraim, Pleasant, Sion and Wells, that surrounded the spring. Grand Georgian Houses were built up and on top of the hills. The area about the spring was fashionably landscaped, sensitively built on with shops that carried goods much loved by the gentry. This area became known as ‘The Pantiles’ due to the first paving ’tiles’ being created from clay in a ‘pan’. Have a look at the website for ‘The Pantiles’. The photographer has done a marvellous job of disguising what it is actually like today. A bit scrappy, vacant shops and those occupied are mainly cafes, restaurants, bric-a-brac, card shops, a fish monger blah blah. The spring apparently still bubbles but its sealed off possibly awaiting more royals to come and spring new life into the area.

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The Royal Wells Hotel Royal Tunbridge Wells. Its ancient inside with passageways twisting, turning, steps, stairs in surprising places. But our room was OK as were the breakfasts.

Eventually the name of Tunbridge Wells was settled on as the name of the new village growing speedily around the spring. Just down the road 11 k’s was the older village of ‘Tonbridge’ with Tunbridge a corruption of that. Tunbridge was hand-balled the right to use the word ‘Royal’ and so it became ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells’ one of only three towns in the UK able to so describe their village. Today Royal Tunbridge Wells has a population of 56,500, thirty percent of whom earn their income from tourism. And if you are not into ‘multiculturalism’, this is the place for you. The white population here is 97.5% versus England as a whole 90.9%.

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Beau Nash Tavern named after the earlier Dandy who helped make the spring at ‘The Pantiles’ popular for ‘Dandies’.

Its a reasonably nice town with two great parks, Calverley and Grove and an extremely large ‘Common’ where most of the trees, bushes and grasses grow wild. Squirrels, hares, hedgehogs and other of England’s marsupials rush around doing marsupial things avoiding cars, feral cats, dogs and people. Its not a place to be at night. Our hotel the Royal Wells Tunbridge, is set high on Mount Ephraim, its a hill really. Walking out of the hotel, we head down a steepish slope to the towns commercial centre where there’s a plateau and every shop and cafe one could wish for. Its crowded. Then another steepish slope down to another mini plateau, more shops, then a final steepish slope down to the church of Charlie the Martyr and The Pantiles.

Sue’s l-o-n-g time friends from Victoria, Nigel and Fiona, English born, have come back here to a small village nearby to work out their lives. Although I consider Nigel is wavering and having lustful thoughts about Australia’s sunshine, cost of living, relatively traffic free roads and ability to play on golf courses year round. Plus, he likes that we have a new Prime Minister every six months. We had lunch together at Mark Cross Inn set in the small hamlet of Mark Cross. Bloody marvellous. Buy a bolt hole close to Mark Cross and shares in the Inn. We rate the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells 7/10 and the hamlet of Mark Cross 8.5/10. Only because of the marvellous Inn.

Ooroo from Sue 😘 and Des 😇

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Royal Tunbridge Wells. This house is known as ‘Gibraltar’ as its against ‘the rock’. And it is the rock looking like a dogs nose.
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Sankeys Fish Cafe Royal Tunbridge Wells. The dins was ‘so so’. The company, wine and G & T excellent.

 

 

34. Another Chat to God, The Stars and Stripes and a G & T.

Its our last morning in Maidstone UK. Yay, yippee, hurrah and thank Christ, oops sorry God. We are in the carpark of the Innkeeper’s Inn awaiting a taxi to transport us somewhere nice. Anywhere nice. Coorow for instance. But first, I have a phone call to make. So excuse me.

‘Hello God, its Earthling Wooly Mammoth here from the small Blue Planet. Just to the left of the Intergalactic Highway that your son Jesus travelled on after Pontius Pilate gave him a bit of biffo and hung him on a cross. That’s if my memory serves me correctly. No. Ah, you don’t recollect aye. Well, it was 2018 years ago God. Remember. Yay you do. Did he make it in one piece? These days God, a soul has to dodge all those fanatical Muslim Tea Towel ISIS Heads out in intergalactic space with AK 47’s looking for the promised 23 Virgins each. Cripes, you had better tell Archangel Gabriel that he has competition for those Vestal Virgins. He he he. Got it. Right, your’e not in the mood for one of my jokes. Aye, whats that about your Son Jesus and his Mum Mary. You are laughing about what. Oh, the Immaculate thing. Really, was it a prototype IVF. By bloody cripes God thats amazing back then. Hey, how do you manage that God to Jesus to Christ bizzo. Teleport yourself about aye. And are you the Boogy Man as well. He he he. OK, your’e busy so I’ll get to the point of this call. Well I just wanted to let you know that Sue, my wife, and I, on our twelve week expedition to Europe, yes yes yes I’m getting to the bloody point, have been very dutiful and visited as many of your churches as possible. Yes, I know, your’e thinking I’m only dutiful when there is no Bethlehem Type Inn open, hmm. Or bottle of Jamesons within arms length. Whats that. Begging your pardon, you occasionally stuff things up in the duty sense as well. Whats that. Getting your nose out of joint. Ha ha Ha. Go laugh with whats his name, ah, Archangel Gabriel. And whats he doing with those Vestal virgins. And just who created Black Holes, Quarks, Red Dwarfs, Quantum Mechanics, Vladimir, Donald, Pauline, Clive and Tony.  Not to mention Jeans with Holes in them. Hmm. And by cripes it makes one giggle and laugh by Christ. Oops sorry God, apologies. I’m telling you this hoping that I get a few millennium off spending time with the Devil when I cark it. My head in a bucket of hot number two’s. No you have it wrong, I visited as many churches as possible, This of course assumes that you really are the real God responsible for the mess our tiny Blue Planet is in. Perhaps you should have diverted that meteorite that wiped out the dinosaur’s. You have competition out there you know. What with the Protestants, Catholics, Rag Heads, Muslims, Falun Gong, Sikhism, Tea Towel Heads, Ku Klux Kan’s, Buddhists, Atheists, and Greenies. Cripes, the lines gone dead. Bloody gPhone. Means a visit to the Granny Smith Apple Franchise.

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All Saints Church Maidstone. A grim gloomy pile made worse by a grim gloomy Maidstone day.

Well anyway, whether you are listening or not, I report in that All Saints Church Maidstone, UK, Borough of Kent, wins the ‘Bestus Church in Europe Competition’. As judged by an ageing excommunicated Catholic. Moi. I judged it the Bestus based on the fact its bloody interesting not just to the religious minded but to church geeks like me.

Ive been through the doors of most of Europes grand churches. I even got inside St Peters when the Pope wasn’t looking and found that its bloated with riches beyond belief. Paintings, statues, fresco’s, tapestry’s, silver and gold jewellery, chalices and ornaments. And men in dresses. One of the Pope’s, Leo X, back centuries ago, had a pet Elephant named ‘Hanno’ who died of Irritable Bowel Syndrome right inside one of the Vatican City courtyards. Leo was so distraught, he had the papal woodcarver, Pinocchio’s Dad Geppetto, carve Hanno’s image in one of its door panels. The only probiotic they had to treat Hanno back then, was a length of lead hose.

Another Pope, several in fact, had wives, girlfriends and children. Check out Pope Clement 1523 – 1534. Thus he and others committing the mortal sin of Hanky Panky. Yay for the Pope’s. It should be allowed today. Move the Popery and the Catholic Boys Dress Up Club into the married/partner 21st century and leave the children alone. Climbing on your high horse there a bit sonny boy. You feel better now. ‘Yes Mum much better. Lets share a sherry and play a game of draughts.

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These old buildings survived all Englands Civil Wars including so far, Brexit. The modern, grr grr, building behind, will fall onto it one day.

I’ve even been inside and climbed up Paris’s Notre Dame windy stone staircase to say gidday to Quasimodo dinging and donging his bells. I’ve seen Irelands, Scotlands, Englands, Hollands, Belgiums, Frances and Australia’s best churches. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to Maidstone’s All Saints Church. Its in the Borough of Kent. Born in the late 14th century, on the site of a Saxon Chapel, Saint Mary’s, which was bowled over. All Saints Maidstone is virtually unchanged from 1396 when it was completed. But by cripes, it looks its age.

In fact it reeks of old age. It contains history, knowledge and secrets in its architecture, its walls, floors, its perpendicularity, (Whats that mean sonny boy. ‘Dunno Mum but it sounds good’), its space, its worn uneven floor where lie numerous engraved slabs marking graves. In its hundreds of wall plaques, statues, carvings, memorials, statements, paintings and frescoes some bearing the marks of Cromwell’s soldiers knives and bayonets as they tried to deface Catholic imagery. As do the heavy timber entry doors bear musket ball indentations during one of Englands Civil Wars. Its like a moth eaten well thumbed stone Encyclopedia of English and Maidstone history.

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Maidstone.the grounds of All Saints Church. I think this is the Holy Fathers ‘Tithe house’ where the faithful deposited 10% of everything they had. Some unlucky children fell into the 1%. But its a cute place to live. ‘K’.

All messily encrypted and set into the lining of its walls and floor. Its not a fancy looking pile of stone in fact it looks like it needs some botox, make-up and tummy tucks. Or a good reliable Laxative followed by a colonoscopy. It was described a few centuries ago as the Grandest Perpendicular Church in England. I have no idea what that means. Perhaps that person had a hog’s head of scrumpy on board. And thats just the inside. Outside its buttressed walls of hard blue grey limestone named ‘Rag Stone’ are partly capped with a crenellated parapet like it’s for bowmen to fire their arrows. The walls and parapets are all grimy, dirty, sooty as the stone has been crying tears as anybody, anything aged does. But in this case, for centuries. Set amidst a gloomy higgly piggly graveyard, where tall tombstones sit leaning drunkenly, shrouded in grime, the details of the skeleton who lies at its feet barely readable. Weeds add to the misty, lumpy moors feel.

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Plaque in All Saints Church Maidstone. and theres the prototype ‘Stars and Stripes’ for America’s flag. Read my script for Christs sake.

Amongst the hundreds of wall decorations, is a plaque dedicated to a Reverend Lawrence Washington 1602-1653. Rev Laurie is buried in the church yard. Hundreds of Yanks come each year to visit his grave and to have a squiz at his wall plaque. For what reason? Well his wall plaque has the prototype for the American Stars and Stripes Flag.  Theres the stripes and theres the stars. You see, the Rev was the g-g-grandfather of George Washington who had a say in the initial Yank Flag. And those modern day Yanks think they thought up the design. It was pinched from the pommies.

But wait there’s more. For back in time again, on 1 June 1648, during England’s second official civil war, there’s one going on at the moment over Brexit, a rag tag bunch of some 2,000 ‘Royalist’, the ‘Cavaliers’, soldiers made up of mainly cavaliers with citizens, seamen and watermen, faced off against and fought 4,000 battle hardened veterans on the Parliamentarian, ‘Roundhead’ side. They all fought to the death, at night, in heavy rain. Silly buggers. The hill on which squats the church of All Saints Maidstone, ran red with blood as hundreds fell dead. The smarter scaredy-cat Royalist soldiers, with horses, as the Cavaliers were essentially horse mounted, hid inside the church behind its solid doors as the Parliamentarians tried to batter the doors down. Their lives were saved by a catholic God and a kindly protestant Parliamentarian General. Not to mention solid oak doors. This was another English Civil War lasting from 1642 to 1652 and was about the right of the ‘people’ or Parliamentarians to govern the country rather than the ‘Royalist’ monarchy. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell whose nickname was ‘Old Ironsides’, took over and he was a real bastard particularly to the Irish. Being known as a ‘Puritan Moses’, a Protestant, and as the Irish were Catholic, and as he had better ‘Toys’ at his disposal, he defeated but never subjugated the Irish. Yay for Guinness and ‘blight’ free Tatties.

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Maidstone our accommodation at Miller & Carters ‘Innkeepers Inn’ – grr grr. Thats our window to the left with curtain drawn. Its above where they conduct Boot Scooting Classes of a late evening.

Maidstone where we were ensconced in the former First Light Dragoons timber framed three story barracks, now the Innkeepers Inn, grr grr, just a stone’s throw from All Saints World’s Best Church, had a population of 113,137 in year 2011. The town got its name, apparently, from stones set in the Medway River just down there. Where the Maids would come and wash, rinse and chat standing on the stones. Viola – Maidstone. The River Medway, is itself suffering from a bout of dysentery. Far too many people washing their clothes and themselves in its water.

I do not know what all those 113,137 people do all day apart from mope about, slowly stroll along the malls, ginking at the shops, each other, smoke, drag children, shopping trolleys, dogs and their Mum hoping to lose her. And their kids.

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Was a private residence of a posh peron with money but now its the Maidstone Museum. Inside, theres a statue of Lady Godiva, stark naked on her G G.

Don’t bother coming here. Its town centre projects a grim, grimy setting for a grim, grimy movie starring Boris Karloff, Vladimir, Kim Jong-un, Donald and Bronwyn Bishop. The retail centre generally, sad looking with a mix of ancient, old and recent buildings. Many cafes, restaurants, English, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, McDonalds, KFC, Salmonella, you name it. A few  quaint pubs but lonely inside. Many ragged down and outers strolling wearily about dragging on a ciggy. Some lay, coffee cup in front hoping for a penny. Older people, Onslow and Daisy’s parents, the life seemingly sucked from them, haul their shopping trolley along as this is their daily outing. Right in the city centre is the gaol built in the late 18th century possibly to provide employment as promised by a successful Mayoral candidate. Its now an eyesore particularly to the over 419 inmates. Mind you, the rest of what we saw in our wanderings, pushes closely for second place. Over a G & T, Susan and I rated what we saw 5/10. Sorry Maidstone. The G & T rated 8/10.

Bye bye Maidstone, all Saints Church and Innkeepers Inn. We will not be back. Au revoir Mon Cherie.

Have a ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ day from She, Susan 😘 and He, Des 😇 XX

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See. Thats Lady Godiva on her G G Jumbuck. She’s cold, frozen in fact. But whats she doing in Maidstone?

33. Floofy the Koala, a Wooly Mammoth and a Chat to God.

The good wife’s last day at school in Sancerre France. 

Off she trots to school on her last day. Skipping gaily up the hill. Books and play lunch in her satchel. Apple for Marionette her head teacher. Hope and cheery love in her heart. I’m off saying ta ta to the tenuous friends I have made in Sancerre over three weeks. We leave Sancerre and France on the morrow. At the crack. My ‘friends’, well nodding acquaintances, all placed here in Sancerre by Aliens as they are a tad eccentric. I seem to attract that type.

Romaine the Waiter at Cafe des Arts a thin wiry youngish man, number two haircut, a sparkling effervescent smile and manner, runs rather than jogs from the cafe to the outside tables balancing a tray of bottles, glasses, food, money and humour. He has time, a bonjour and a smile for all. Blessed with a mind to remember finicky multiple orders. I presented him with a tiny made in China Koala Bear named Floofy. The Order of the Koala Bear a rarely imposed honour. He carried Floofy about on his tray showing Floofy his new country and living quarters with nary a Eucalyptus tree in sight. Then there’s Grinning Man. Tall ageing, well built, shabbily attired, going to seed, few teeth, permanent five o’clock shadow, a wide toothy grin for all, smoking smelly ciggies as he sits pensively on a wall trading grins. Cat Man walks about with his Pussy on a leash and stops whilst Pussy exchanges sniffs and meow’s with other cats and snarls with dogs. Pussy’s owner is popular, a dapper well dressed man, thin combed grey hair, a pleasant soft manner and he seems to know everybody in Sancerre as does his Pussy. Book Man is not only eccentric but odd as well. His long hair combed down each side over his ears to his shoulders, thin, worried look, walks with head partly down looks neither left nor right, east nor west. He seems always to be on a mission with books or magazines under his arm. He has a habit of charging to the head of the ‘line’ whether that be in the Boucherie, Boulangerie, the Poste, Cafe, wherever. Momentarily, people get offended but seeing who he is, let it go. And Singing Man, tall mid thirtyish, spiky haired, a notch above eccentric. He spends the day roaming about the village singing grabs from Opera’s, or so I’m told as we never had Opera’s in our lives. We had a few Begorra’s when Dad came home with his mates all partly full of wobbla. He, Singing Man, does his arias with a bit of class throwing his arms wide as he stretches his voice into an Aria with an imaginary Maria Callas in his arms. Then there’s me.

And then there’s my schoolgirls ‘girlfriends’. Hence mine, though they no doubt wonder what a lovely lady like Sue is doing with a Wooly Mammoth named Des. Aussies, Canadians, Alaskans, Yanks, New Zealanders, South African all middle aged to aged women. I wonder why no men want to learn to speak Froggy. I don’t. I have enough difficulty with Ozzy speak. Some attend for a week, some two, some three, some one on one with a ‘teacher’, others like the companionship of a class. As does my Susie.

At the end of Sue’s class on the Friday at 1pm, the very last one, finito Madame, there’s no graduation ceremony, no mortar boards flung high, no confetti, no drinking champers from bottles after spraying the head mistress then tying her up as an offering to any lonely Huguenots. Its, ta ta Sue, thanks for coming. Au revoir Madame. 

We have lunch in our Garrett. Canned sardines with tomato on Baguette toast. Luxury. My bride found it a well spent three weeks. But she struggled with Grammar. When I was a young person, school age, I never learnt Grammar. Did not know it existed as a subject. Grammar? That was mums mum who smelt of moth balls. We sometimes visited Mothball Grammar once a month if Mum could get the car. Less frequently as Dad usually left the keys and the crank handle in the Plymouth parked outside the Inglewood Hotel. Now be fair sonny boy, your Dad was on business. ‘Yes Mum, monkey business’.

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At Cosne France an austere train station. Chilly as well at 0645 am.

Saturday morn early, its chilly, pitch black. We are standing outside Sancerre’s Coeur de France Language school at six am. Taxi to Cosne 12 k’s away. Train due at 0703. We huddle there in the chill at 0630. The stationmaster, a youngish tired looking, bedraggled man arrives at 0640. Into an office. Kettle on. Mama Cass his assistant arrives 5 minutes later. Lights go on, action, camera. Train arrives on time and we lift our heavy bags up 75 cms through a narrow train carriage door. Like we are weightlifters in the Olympics ‘Snatch and Pull’ division. Grr grr. Its a classless train and we sit opposite Large Lady and Thin Lady. Large Lady chews her way through two croissants and a bun with blackheads. We all grin and tolerate each other on the near two hour journey to Paris. Another taxi from train station Paris Bercy to train station Paris Gare du Nord. Long journey in traffic albeit a Saturday. We get ready to board the Eurostar choo choo from Paris to London. Yay. Security check is thorough. Passports, bags, backpacks, suitcases, bodies.

On board the Eurostar Chunnel train, sitting in our personal seats facing each other, its all very posh. I’m not used to posh having only experienced it three or four times in my 75 years. Never in my first 40. I’m not comfortable with posh. Small doses OK so long as I know theres an end to it and I can revert back to being a Wooly Mammoth. I wonder what they will call the train when the UK and Europe get divorced.

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Susan relaxing on the Chunnel Train with the deleterious matter of a Posh train ride.

Just over there are two ageing Yanks. He’s Chip and she’s Splinter and its obvious that Splinter holds the key to the Chainsaw Cupboard. Poor Chip looks worn out as Splinter rattles on in Yank speak Chip nodding his wrinkly face. He sparks up when our all inclusive lunch of cold chicken and/or cold salmon arrives with wine and/or beer. This causes Splinter to fill her mouth with food so she cannot issue instructions. The Bride has a white and I two cans of Heineken 250ml cans. I’m thirsty after the Olympics ‘Snatch and Pull’. The train speeds up to 334.7 kph or so our overhead screen says. Cripes, I start wondering about the ball bearings in the train wheels. Were they greased at last service by Gaspard and Marcel. Did they drop ash from their Gitane’s onto the bearings?.

Its a two hour fifteen minute journey. Paris to London. Chip and Splinter doze off, heads slumped. The Chunnel itself is 50.45 k’s long from Coquelles near Calais France to Folkestone UK. On the French side, the tunnel starts 3.3 km’s from the sea. On the UK side, it extends 9.3 km’s from the sea. There’s three tunnels, the smaller centre one the ‘service tunnel’. At its deepest point, the tunnels are 75 metres below the sea bed. Amazing. And in bygone days, years, centuries, all those Roman Galleons, Viking Longships, Barques, Cutters, Warships all powered by wind, sometimes oars, floating by above in choppy seas and here we are with Chip and Splinter, down in the English Channels subterranean dirt choofing along in Luxury at 160kph for that’s the maximum speed allowed in the actually tunnel bit of the trip.

Eurostar arrives into London’s Saint Pancras Station but we need London’s Victoria Station to continue our journey. Another taxi as its just too bloody hard to descend with heavy suitcases into the bowels and sewers of London to get the tube. There’s no escalators or lifts to some of them. Cripes sonny boy, all that spinach and giblets I fed you and you can’t lift suitcases. 

Another hour and a bit, we arrive at Maidstone East train station in the Borough of Kent. A six minute walk to our pre-booked accommodation at Innkeepers Lodge Maidstone. Approaching the Inn, I got this sinking feeling. Is this another of those Hotels photo shopped by Mgumbu and his Uncle Botswana in Nigeria. Well partly, as we find there are no lifts and we are assigned a room on the third floor of an old timber framed building. Built in 1797 to house Officers of the 7th Light Dragoons from Invicta Barracks which was just over there. Apparently still is. Only 12 rooms and we are up in the Crows Nest where the least popular Officer, Percy, was ensconced. The cheery staff carry our bags up. Thank you. I inspect the room, several flights of stairs to negotiate. Where’s the fire escape. Grr grr. The Wooly Mammoth goes back down to chat to Linda the manager. No prob sir, as you say your wife has a ‘dicky knee’ and you are obviously a Girlyman afraid of heights and getting burned at the stake. Right on the Ball the Wooly Mammoth agrees. We are re-located to the first floor. A big main room, with an ante room where one’s Batman kept the sherry, cigars, brasso tins, swords, boot polish and a stiff upper lip.  This is more like it. No doubt Kitcheners Great Grandfather Hubert stayed in this very room. Although later that night, we discovered that our U Bewt room was directly over the Hotels famous ‘Miller & Carter’ Steakhouse. Pommy speak Cowboys and Cowgirls were having a hoedown just below us which judging by the noise, included lassoing the cows and/or stray girls, slaughtering them, then delivering the off cuts to the chuck wagon. John Wayne had a starring role leading the 7th Light Dragoons in Boot Scooting Classes until 2am. I slept with deaf ear up. The Bride, poor Sue, slept not so well. Then again, her dicky knee was OK.

We had spent the day getting into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Onto a train. Off a train. Into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Into a train. Off of a train. Into a taxi. Out of a taxi. Onto a train. Off a train. Then finally a walkies to where the 7th Light Dragoons used to live. It was a tough day. ‘And don’t forget God, we lugged two heavy suitcases, two backpacks, Sues handbag and my secret manbag. What did I do wrong in life God’.

Dear Wooly Mammoth. This is God. You have been naughty at times and there’s a price to pay for that. I’ll have a word to the Devil to see if we can agree as to how long you have to spend in Hell with your head in a bucket of hot number two’s. He he he. Sorry Wooly Mammoth. God rarely gets a laugh these days. On the good side, you will be next to your Dad, Uncles and brother Daven. There seems to be a long ancestral streak of ‘naughtiness’ running thru your family. Oh, I just love the diversity Archangel Gabriel inserted into some earthlings DNA. Laugh, Gab and I rarely get chuckles these days with all the mess you lot have made of that once upon a time cute Blue Planet. ‘Sorry God. So, all those Plenary Indulgences I saved up and all those Cathedrals and Churches I’ve been in don’t help’. No my Son. That’s all a fairytale to keep you lot in line. Ho ho ho. Cripes, where is that Gabriel when I want to share a giggle. Always nicking off to check on the Vestal Virgins. ‘OK God, thanks for the chat. But before you go, um, any chance of getting the winning Lotto numbers for this weekend?’

Ooroo from Des 😇 and Sue  😘.

PS The usual blog channel will be back on line, with photographs, next missive. Where we are staying has a wi-fi signal only when the 7th Light Dragoons are in residence.

 

32. Stinky Cheese, a ‘Geant Bebe Wisky’ and Warm Giblets.

Still in our Garret at the delightful French hilltop village, Sancerre.

There’s this wedge of Roquefort Cheese moving about our village of Sancerre. From Garret to Garret. Its currently lodged in a small smell proof container in the back of our fridge. It started life, was born, nurtured, moulded in the Froggy village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Then, discarded by its Roquefort family, orphaned, it found its way to Thursday mornings market at Saint-Satur. That’s the somewhat scruffy spreadeagled village at the foot of the hill pimple that finds Sancerre perched on top. Roquefort is the BIG CHEESE of stinky cheeses together with Stilton and Gorgonzola.

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This IS the wedge of Roquefort cheese that travelled about Sancerre Garrets. It is shortly going overseas to England to have a fight with a wedge of Stilton.

One needs a bank loan to buy into the Roquefort Club and obtain a slice of stink. Its Linda the Canadian schoolgirls fault. She wizzed her way thru a weeks course of learn to speak Froggy at Sancerre’s Coeur De France Language School. Then she, Linda, please pay attention, try and concentrate for ******* sake, started all this off by purchasing ‘the’ slice of Roquefort at the aforesaid market. A smelly pressy for her son in England. Then finding she needed to decamp from her first floor Sancerre Garret, with the cheese, to Bronwens/Jans Sancerre Garret where she inadvertently, left it behind the next day. This change in Garret due to Ghengis Khan’s Brewery workers posing as festival musicians, setting up outside her Garret last Friday week, to serenade her and the wider village until 2am. Linda was no Rapunzel. Her hair was too short.

I tried a slice or two of the Roquefort having never been able to before due to financial pressures and not wanting to sell the Mini Cooper. My taste buds liked the Roquefort but as the cheese slid down my internal gravity operated elevators, from ‘Mouth/Tongue’ floor, to where my gut Orchestra had been playing for over a week, Peer Gynts soft melodious harmonic ‘Morning’, the Attila the Hun bacteria in the Roquefort turned nasty. They commenced to rape, pillage and put to the sword all Peer Gynts good bacteria orchestra members. I had a new Petri dish down there. My gut orchestra started playing ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’ combined at times with ‘Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture’. It took three days for that orchestra to be dislodged and Peer Gynt to return.

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Hamlet of Chavignol about 3.5 k’s from Sancerre. All downhill. See the red tap protruding from the wall. Why?

Later, realising that we had an active slice of Plutonium in the back of our fridge, we tried to handball the Roquefort onto Alex aka Alexandra, another of Sancerre’s Language School ‘schoolgirls’. She refused to accept as being an Ozy from Victorian, had heard of Roquefort, Petri Dishes and the damage that Vladimir of the Russian Politburo, had caused with Plutonium in Salisbury England.

Way back in time, this many many centuries ago before we had nasties in the world like Plutonium, Donalds, Kim Jong-Uns, Vladimir’s, MacDonalds and Australian Politicians, French legend has it that there was a young sheep herder Pierre. He eking out a very basic living with his Mama and Papa in the French alps, Alpes Cote D’Azur. One day, just before lunch, he’s wearing his new Spec Saver’s, he spots in the distance a beautiful girl. He immediately abandoned his sheep, his lunch of a Baguette and Ewes Cheese into a cave, it was just there, and he ran smickedy dick in his worn leather jodhpurs to meet the beautiful girl Sophie. Isn’t that typical of Froggy workers downing tools and not coming back. For Pierre did not return for near a year as he had to sit with his new baby. When he did return, he found that his very ordinary sheep’s cheese had morphed, due to the cave bacterium, ta dum, Penicillium Roquefort, into a tasty, but stinky gut orchestra upsetting cheese. The legend does not include what happened to his sheep nor whether his Mama and Papa were pleased that he had lost their SSF. Sheep Superannuation Fund.

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Hamlet of Chavignol. On eof the few ‘not repaired’ buildings along the main Rue.

It was such a different cheese that on 4 June 1411, Frances Charles VI gave monopoly rights to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon and even today, that monopoly still applies with strict regulations as to how the bacterium is produced. The sheep’s milk used must be from the Lacoune breed of sheep. Its Frances’ second most popular cheese after Comte. Comte is a solid, tasty, not overbearing cheese from cows milk which does not feel the need to establish a Petri dish in your gut. Don’t overindulge thow!!

Alex, the new French Language Schoolgirl on the block, wasn’t offended by us offering her a wedge of Plutonium masked as Roquefort cheese, apparently, because she invited She, my Bride, and Moi, to travel with her the 3.5 K’s to another French village, Chavignol. Alex has a U Bewt hire car. A Toyota Hybrid with the rear door handles set up on the cars roof as the designer’s pencil slipped. Or its cheaper to put them there. Or kids cannot reach them and cry. Pick one. Thus, on a foggy morn, our first at Sancerre although when I was living at a Construction Camp at North West Cape, Gascoyne area of West Oz, I had many Foggy Morns. You are running off the rails again sonny boy. Concentrate. ‘Sorry Mum’.  So, there we are at 1130am off to Chavignol having to be back by 1330 hours as the two schoolgirls, Alex and Sue, have to be back for their afternoon class. A short but extremely pleasant drive. Down Sancerre’s pimple, left turn, west, and onto a fairly narrow road twisting and weaving its way down into and along a narrow valley with high hills each side like huge ocean waves. Covered tip to toe in vines all so steep that no mechanical grape harvesting could possibly take place. Again, as we find near Sancerre, the vines look scrappy, not having reached adulthood and the white, creamy soil shows thru the vines as though they, the vines, are starving. With the mist it seems somehow surreal like a Monet watercolour in the mist. This is the Valley of the Stream of the Colette. A magical name for a magical valley even though I looked for the stream, but no see.

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Hamlet of Chavignol ‘street’ scene. Thats the Hamlet fountain to the right.

The Hamlet of Chavignol is not large enough to be a village nor a commune. Its far too small. Therefore, under French law it’s a Hamlet of currently 130 people whereas in 1891, it had 499. But by crikey, this place is ALIVE. It’s a ‘working village’ of vignerons and goats cheese makers. People are bustling about, they are not tourists, I can tell. Youngish locals sit between shifts, having ciggies outside the 3 star Hotel-Restaurant, ‘The Hill of Dammed Mountains’. There’s a hill come aspiring mountain just over there called Damm. All about, the Hamlet is neat, tidy, new road paving, kerbing, a fountain, houses lining the roadside are all tizzied up, fresh paint on the rendered walls, window and door surrounds, many wide timber cellar doors, stonework not wobbly, brisk business premises and as the Rue rises up to the church of Saint Andrew, there on the right is a swish looking wine room. The Wine ‘Cave’ of Henri Bourgeois, its design equal to or surpassing many of those of Margaret River, Barossa and the Hunter Valley. It’s a compact layout, auto entry sliding glass doors, inside to the left, that way, four glass fronted cabinets full of the areas differing soil, stories about the nuances in the wine that soil produces, tasting tables, wine racks, floor in large cream slate slabs, walls painted in a Pinot Noir come muted Ruby Red, the ceiling beams close together leading one’s eye to a narrow skylight the length of the smallish space. Its bloody marvellous.

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Hamlet of Chavignol – interior of Henri Bourgeois’s wine cave. Sue’s in there somewhere having and making ‘tasting notes’.

Forget what I said about buying a Maison in Sancerre, come buy here. Drink wine, eat goat’s cheese, chew on a Baguette, smoke Gauloises. Learn to cough and speak Froggy with a lilting rhapsodic hurried voice. And if you are not too worn out with all that, have an affair’e with Maybelle the goat. Sorry, forgot about the LBTYxxzzz crowd and so, with Marcel the goat. PIck one.

I exited the ‘wine cave’ as Alex and Sue set about tasting, sniffing, getting crushed ants, fresh mown hay and cherry blossom on the front of the palate whereas at the back, its plonk. It was all too much for me as I escaped outside and uphill to Saint Andrews Church where the bells are dinging noon. A side door is open, the dinging man is inside, and I’m in for a shooftee. Built in 1859 it’s a moody, dark, sombre church with at the far end some colourful stained glass. These, apparently, are a set of ten Hagiographic Windows which tell the story in glass form, of Saints live’s. An autobiography if you like, and if you don’t, tough. Sorry XX.

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Chavignol – Saint Andrews Church where the noon bells were dinging.

We motored back to Sancerre via Amigny another smaller village, not a Commune, not a Village nor Hamlet but a Lilliputian. Alex, our host and driver got lost as she meant to drive us up to the top of Mount Damm to have a squiz. Must have been the Perrier water at our Au P’tit Gouter Chavignol restaurant lunch, where I played safe with my Peer Gynt Orchestra and had an omelette. With a glis of ‘Bebe Wisky’ spelt just like that but waiter Gasparde, got confused, or I did as I’m certifiable, and he brought me the ‘Geant Bebe Wisky’. Cripes, a near full tall ‘Giant’ glass of 40% pure ‘Wisky’ of doubtful parentage. Dear me sonny boy, thats a bit much whisky. ‘Yes I know Mum, I could have effin well, sorry Mum, left it, but I am a piggy. Just like Dad. Would you like to share a bowl of warm Giblets?’

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Chavignol France. Au P’Tit Gouter Restaurant/Cafe where they serve innocent males tall glasses of Geant Bebe Wisky. Sue left, Alex right.

Back in our Garret, the bride eagerly trots off uphill to be swallowed by the doors of language school, Couer de France. I have a sorta sooky nanny nap to relieve the pressure of retired life, to unburden in dreams my misguided exuberance of age and the effects of a ‘Geant Bebe Wisky’.

Arriving home to our Garret about 5.15pm after school lessons, my bride informs me that the prisoner in our fridge, Roquefort, encapsulated in a small sealed container, is to travel on with us from France to England. It’s to be a pressie for my Brides long ago and still friends, Nigel and Fiona formerly of Victoria Oz, who now live near Tunbridge Wells south of London. She, my lovely Susan, met and bonded with them from her days spent in a previous manifestation of her life. Judging by the stink of Roquefort, that friendship may be put to the test. As will they, Nigel and Fiona, trying to reconcile why somebody nice and lovely like Sue, would have a reprobate like Moi tagging along. He he he.

Au revoir un A bientot – La Susan 😘 and her cheese Diz 🧀. 

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Sancerre Cafe ‘characters’ Gaspard and Marius. In Froggy speak, ‘Des’ translates as ‘Of’ ???? Marius has one of those ‘piggy foot’ end Baguettes in his bag.

 

 

31. Heritage Parts, A Piggy Foot ended Baguette and Ivan Milat’s French Cousin.

 Ahhh, SANCERRE, into our last week 😢,

Crikey, there’s lots going on in ‘our’ small French village of Sancerre. Most of it I guess, organised by the movers and shakers amongst the 19 councillors in Sancerre’s Municipal Office. That includes the 45 year old mayor, Laurent Pabiot. And there needs to be action as according to census figures, there’s been a decline in Sancerre’s population of over 35% since 1982 to the present 1500 souls. Down on Sancerre’s Rue Saint Andre, there are many empty shops. Fading paint indicates a Boulangerie, a Boucherie, an Ironmonger and others who sank under the no business banner. If the owners were treated by their banks as they are in Oz, then they are paying off a mountain of debt. After several thousand years of armies crawling and scrambling up the hillside trying to breach the ramparts, decimate the populace, eat its goats, then do a spot of pillage, it’s happening naturally without anybody storming the remaining ramparts.

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Typical Sancerre Rue leading to another squiggly narrow Rue then another.

Many ageing people still live here holding the fort until a Huguenot in the guise of the Grim Reaper comes for them. But until then, they waddle up, down and about the Rues, Floofy on a lead, chasing a beam of sunshine, a spark of remembered youth, to partake of gossip, check out others heritage and artificial parts, a morning aperitif, an espresso, drag on a solitary Gitane, cough, remember affairs, loves and wonder what is happening to their hilltop village. They perhaps mourn the death of friends, the exodus of their children and young adults, and frown on the purchase of a house, garret, maison, or maisonette to Parisienne or overseas buyers who help stem the flow. They, The Outsiders, renovate, come in great joy, spend a few weeks then bugger off until next year. So, the empty houses remain. Sue’s Coeur de France Language school is one of the bigger employers in the village and provides a much needed sparkle and flow of euros into the shops, cafes, bars and wine cellars. Come stay, live, buy in Sancerre. The ‘housing’ is relatively cheap. Forget Provence, forget the Cote d’Azur, forget Saint Tropez especially as Brigette Bardots no longer there and if she is, her Bikini no longer fits. Hey, Brigettes still going strong aged 84 so there’s something about wearing a Bikini, having four husbands, 6 partners and several hundred thousand Australian boys as their evening muse.

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Looking out from Cafe des Arts Sancerre. Old folk of town gather here to reminisce and plan affaire’s!!

Friday night in Sancerre and there’s a ‘Festival’ over the weekend. Partly headlined by an assortment of bandana wearing, ear ringed musicians dressed like Genghis Khans brewers. Their instruments required tuning, tweeters, woofers and jet decibel speakers, toned down and judging by the practice sessions raucous, jarring, cacaphonous ‘Boom Boom Bebe’ noise, passed off as ‘music’, the participants need running through with a pike. Then their equipment plundered, pillaged, burnt, and their bandanas and body rings melted down to make exhaust pipe mufflers. Set up on a large stage in the relatively small ‘Place de Connetable Louis de Sancerre’, a bar and food stall is being set up in a Rue leading off with about, a splay of benches and chairs. There’s an Italian Restaurant 30 metres from the stage on the ‘Place’ corner, and above that a small Garret where one of Sue’s schoolgirl friends, Linda from Canada, is staying with her large slice of Roquefort Cheese. Hearing the tuning up, music noise scheduled till 2am, she demobilised for the night, with the cheese, down near us at Jan/Bronwen’s Garrett to a spare bunk. The stinky Roquefort was banished to the back of the fridge. Friday arvo, we could hear them, that’s ‘Boom Boom Bebe’, revving up and we are a ‘K’ away downhill with a hundred 2/3 storey houses between us. It was like an A380 had landed piloted by hearing impaired Huguenots.

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Sancerre – the ‘mobile cinema’. A one night stand showing three movies one after the other. Seats for 80.

Part of the ‘Festival’ included movies. A portable movie theatre was set up near the Hotel du Ramparts down on the Ramparts des Dames. Close off part of ‘des Dames’ and ‘Bobs yer Uncle’. A huge semi-trailer arrives, large pantech with pull out sides. Hey presto, a picture theatre with a box office, snack bar and seats to sit 80. A kid’s movie at 5pm, in between movie at 6.45pm then a movie for the older about three elderly disreputable French Rascals. As all our friends back in Oz are like that, we decided to not attend. Next day in the main town square, there were stilt walkers, clowns, donkey rides for the kids and a large crowd.

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Sancerre – Saturday morn, town square. Stilt Walkers.

Many with headache’s. Some from alcohol others from lack of sleep due to the unremitting revving of the A380 engines. Complaints started rolling into the 19 councillors as they would have done over the centuries as invaders came making just as much blood curling noises. The following weekend, a Bibliotheque. Not a bible bashing exercise but a market where first edition and antique books were set up for browsing, sale. We had a squiz, offered a Bonjour here, there, thumbed books, all in Froggy speak, prices through the ancient roof beams overhead. Sue led her husband outside for an espresso, no Gitane, no cough. I sit and wonder what is going to happen to this gracious old lady of a village.

Saturday, my inquisitive Bride was in a ‘Let’s go exploring mode’. So, at 10am, down to ‘Ponte de Cesar’ and on the 19 seater bus. The driver Bruno, a solid individual, squashed nose, fine crew cut, ears pinned to his head, several five o’clock shadows, fills in the 44 digits on each of our tickets and of the other three passengers. Several hours go by then Bruno takes off down the ‘Rue du Ramparts’.

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Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire’s main Boulevard lined with countryfied shops each side. No pretentious shops.

Technology in large parts of France is back in the 19th century. Like this filling in of bus tickets when ticketing machines are available. The train drivers are objecting to having their retirement age of 52 lifted incrementally to the same as other Froggies. The currency still includes 1, and 2 Euro coins which are practically useless. Traffic lights everywhere are set to a timer, not to the traffic or pedestrian flow. Some 22% of the workforce are on the government teat v 15% in the wider OECD. Most farmers are subsidised. And on top of all that, many men shun Eau de Cologne and prefer to emit the aromas of garlic mixed with stale ciggies. They walk lazily about with a long piggy foot ended Baguette with one piggy toe missing. It’s in their mouth absorbing garlic.

Poor Froggy le President’e Emmanuel Macron, after near two years in office, some of it spent sticking it up the Poms over Brexit but mainly trying to rein in the Froggy workforce’s ‘Entitlement Mentality,’ is the most unpopular President’e ever. Well, at least since the Froggies led by Hugh Jackman, stormed the Bastille singing Liberty, Fraternity and Free Drinkees.

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Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire and our lunch possie overlooking the Loire River.

We are headed for the village of Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire a long-winded name nobody uses apart from demented bureaucrats and the government printer. Others refer to the town as simply ‘Cos’ with emphasis on the ‘C’ as though you are chewing the piggy foot end of a Baguette. Once upon a time there were two close by Communes one named Cosne-sur-Loire and one named simply Cours. They had an affair’e together and married in 1973 thus becoming that long winded name.  Cos is 13 k’s from Sancerre. Too far for a brisk walkies one of us with a dicky knee and the other, Moi, with a dicky all parts. My schoolgirl Sue tells me that all Froggy words, all of them, are either ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. I do not know how that works as I never had a chance to pass English nor French. And what about all those LGBTXZzzzz words out there. How do they fit in – ‘Oui’. I once, this whilst in Bubs Grade 2, thought I had an ‘A’ for religion from Sister Mary Redpants of the Bedford Park Parish. But on Mum checking, it was actually an ‘A’ in ‘horsing about’. Are you still horsing about sonny boy? ‘Yes Mum’.

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Cheerful street scene, Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire.

Bruno drops us off in Cos after we cross the wide, shallow, weary looking River Loire on a suspension bridge of the style that recently collapsed on Itie Land. He drives on to take writing bus tickets quickly lessons. The place about looks fairly scrappy with to our left on the river bank, shabby fairground equipment, a few rusting shipping containers, wobbly fencing, paper, coffee cups, and to our right, old buildings, render holding them up, same steep slate tiled roofs as Sancerre. Narrow squiggly Rue’s leading off up a slight incline, and scruffy looking motorcyclists eye us off. Well eyeing Sue off and wondering what she is doing with a Hunchback. In its prime, year 1982, Cos had a population of 12,463 but at latest census in 2015, its down to 10,388. Where are all the Froggy people going to after leaving their Froggy villages. Paris is where, as its population has grown, albeit slowly. In its ‘city’ area there’s 2,241,346 souls with a further 10,500,000 in the surrounding urban area. As one is not allowed by Froggy Law to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, fair enuff too, then I can only tell you that near 23% of the population were born outside France led by Algerians, Portugese, Moroccans, Tunisians and included amongst those, 1.7 million Muslims. Paris ‘city’ is divided into ‘Arrondissements’ some 20 of them going about from the centre in clockwise direction like an engorged gastronomic snail. Arrondissement 1 is the posh place to live. Avoid Arrondissement 11 with 41,598 people per square ‘K’ which means that there’s more Doggy Doos per metre of pavement than elsewhere in Paree. Melbourne, Australia’s most densely populace city, has 17,500 people per square ‘K’. Avoid Melbourne if ever Collingwood win a Grand Final. The great land mass of Oz has 3.1 people per square ‘K’ which I think must include kangaroos. Tasmania has a pop density of 7.6 and the Northern Territory 0.2 people per square ‘K’. Do we really need to know all that sonny boy. Now be a good boy and get your old Mum another glass of sherry.

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Eden Cinema Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire. Seats near 400 people and was built about 1934. That dark patch at bottom right is the Nohain River flowing to the right about a hundred metres where it has its Confluence with the Loire River.

My bride Susan, turns on her Google iPhone device to see if we can escape the fairground and the bikey group. Ms Daisy Google leads us up a wobbly Rue with sidewalks half a metre wide, and into the towns shopping precinct which is not too bad. Many adequate ancient buildings that survived the ‘Gallic Wars’, the ‘Protestant v Catholic Wars’, the ‘Viking Wars” and a multitude of wars involving lunatics led by people like Vladimir, Donald and Kim Jung-Un that roamed Europe in various guises, tribes and religious fanaticism for 2,000 years.

There’s a wide tree lined Boulevard, shops each side many of the rustic kind. Boulangerie’s (Bakers), Boucherie’s (Butchers), Chatuceries (small meat goodies), Tabac (Tobacco, ciggies, newspapers), sidewalk cafes with awnings out as its warmish. No pretentious shops it’s all a very countryfied and pleasant scene helped along by the wide paved area, trees, pots of colourful shrubbery, small and large squares, people chatting holding bags of bread, sitting with espressos and we join in. Later down by the wide Loire banks adjacent the confluence of the Rivers Nohain and Loire, the Nohain very much a junior partner, it’s a pleasant scene for our lunch of half a salad baguette each. The River Loire is no longer navigable this far upstream whereas back in the 18th century, barges and river boats carried Cos’s goods up and down especially iron and steel anchors and cannons from Cos’s Chaussade Forges. That was once upon a time but now the River Loire has had the life sucked out of it by humans and partly by climate change. Sandbanks are dotted here and there, small weedy islands rise from the shallows and there are no birds resting nor diving in for lunch. Like elsewhere on our tiny Blue Planet, rain fall is declining. Ask Vincent or Adelaide Grall, Sancerre Vignerons who have accurate records going back 25 years.

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Sancerre Maison For Sale for 89,000 euro. Thats about 144,420 Aussie dollars. You get 163 metres square and I figure, a few headaches!!

We like Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire despite its unwieldy name. Cos’s Notable Residents Section, ta dum – A Roger Marie Bricoux born in 1891, was the cellist in the Titanic’s Orchestra on its maiden voyage. He went down with the ship in 1912 playing, reputedly, with others of the 8 piece ships orchestra, till the ship slid under old briny. The next notable is a Miss France 2005, Cindy Fabre. Hmm. I think it’s time Des, to go get that sherry for Mum.

Ooroo from here to there, Sue 😘 and Des 🍷. 

PS Sue’s Language School ‘schoolgirl’ friends, Bronwen and Janice from Victoria, Oz, here in Sancerre for two weeks French Language learning, left us Saturday morning in Ivan Milats Froggy cousins Citroen for the north west of the country. Travelling thru several forests. We hope they make it. They were quality Ozzies with that unique Oz outlook and humorous view of life. A bientot, ravi d’avoir fait ta connaissance. Lightly built Janice had a backpack with a 40kg bag of cement inside. She does repair work to ancient stone walls as she walks. Bronwen’s backpack contained the trowels, mud board and miniature solar powered cement mixer.

 

30. Chuck Norris, Smoking Rocks and Maple Syrup with Bacon for Brekky.

The hilltop town of Sancerre France. But we are down below in the Loire valley.

There’s fourteen of us standing in a sloping vineyard. One vigneron, one Des and 12 Froggy Language Schoolgirls. Its Vincent and Adelaide Gralls vineyard and it seems they make a reasonable living off 4 hectares of vines. I’m standing apart from the group as I’m the accidental invitee and as everybody else is jibbering on in Froggy speak. This is another of Sue’s Language School outings. Its compulsory to speak Froggy otherwise you have to write a hundred lines, or spend time in the naughty corner. The outing, fifteen euro each thank you. I’m invited, as they, Sue’s girly classmates either A. feel sorry for me or B. feel sorry for Sue having me about or C. see me as the Sancerre mule that can carry things or D. the girls can try out their Froggy swear words on me. The one’s they are practising for when they get back home to use on their partner of the moment, when he/she gets snaky.

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Loire Valley – Vincent Gralls vineyard. Our temporary hilltop home, Sancerre, in the background. Twelve Language School ‘schoolgirls’ bookended by two blokes. I don’t know where the other bloke came from. His names Mike.

Adelaide picked up six of the ‘girls’ in her seven seater U bewt green black borderline aubergine Pajero. I waited behind forlornly with several ‘girls’ until her hubby Vincent, a well built muscly man looking a tad ‘under the pump’, arrived in his aubergine coloured one and a half cab ute. Vincent stops, looks at us, grunts a Bonjour, haul’s bits of cigarette packets, butts, corks, lunch wrappers, coffee cups, all the flotsam and jetsam of a busy vigneron’s life, out of the cab tossing it into the back of the ute where theres a micro waste digesting plant named ‘Les Bacteries’. I’m crammed into the dusty, squishy, narrow back seat behind Vincent. He puts his seat belt on, I try mine. It no work. Try again. It no work. Vincent takes off morphing into Chuck Norris as though he’s in a rush to meet James Dean taking us along as well. I’m not ready to meet James, but if Elle McPherson or Nicole Kidman is down harvesting his vines, goodo. After a hair raising Formula One ride with Vincent down the hill, across several fields, autobahns, goat tracks, a left turn at the Champs de Elysee, we arrive at his sloping vineyard having used up all my Plenary Indulgences. And any vacancies in my undies.

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Rolling hills, vines, the village of Saint Satur, cloudy skies, perfect. Time for a cuppa tea and a biccy. Oh, er, make that a glass of wine please Mum.

Vincent, spins the wheels, and disappears in a cloud of fine dust as he goes off to litter his ute again. Adelaide, his wife takes charge. She’s a full bottle of Sparkling Vigneron vintage about 1978, standing with a background of her metre high vines marching row upon row up the hillside. Two small square tables, one with bottles of wine, glasses, the other, local Chavignol goats cheese, chunks of bread, meat and olives. Its great. Especially the vino. The ground in which the vines have their many fine tootsies, looks like a hard limestone with chips and pieces up to 10cm all laying about as they were ripped from they earth in bygone days. Perhaps by one of those 12th century Huguenots who ploughed the field with Juliette the Ox. She doubled at nighttime as his wife. The vines seem to be growing in very rocky ground. Where’s the sand, the clay, the dirt. Actually, as the experienced Adelaide explains cheerfully, Its ‘Chalky Limestone and gives the wine a smoky flavour. Sure enough, when two of the rocks are rubbed together, you can smell smoke. Hows that work? Other of their vines grow in Silex soil, a mixture of limestone and clay. Theres 6,000 vines per hectare. Each vine provides a bottle. They average 24,000 bottles per year. And from that they make a Bien Vivant. A good living in Oz speak.

Some entrepreneurial person should market small pieces of Adelaide’s rocks. Two pieces in cute little cardboard boxes marketed as, ‘Smoking Rocks’. Rub them together and sniff smoke. Get high on rock smoke. Jeese, I’m on a roll. I get all these excellent ideas and then they slip from my mind. ‘Mum, how does one take out a patent on Smoking Rocks’. Cripes sonny boy, are you off your rocker. Never heard the likes of it. Now be a good boy and get your old Mum a glass of sherry. And, one of those ciggy smoke things your Dad always has hanging from his bottom lip.

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Grall vines Sancerre. They look nice and healthy but in fact they are losing their summer coat.

I only catch a bit of what Adelaide is saying, as its in Froggy speak, but now and then, realising she has an interloper in the back stalls who coughed up his fifteen euro, she smiles beguilingly and breaks into Aussie speak. The schoolgirls all look at me, sympathise with Sue, possibly wonder why my lower false teeth plate isn’t in, its there in my pocket, and attack their wine glasses, pieces of cheese, meat and olives. We take a group photo. I’m the photographer as I’m not officially a schoolgirl nor a ‘Girlyman’. Then, as the wine sampling come plonk degustation soiree seeps into the schoolgirls hippocampus it causes a feeling of friendship towards their fellow man. As I’m the only man readily available, I’m reluctantly dragged into a group photo. Perhaps I am a ‘Girlyman’. It was an excellent introduction to Sancerre wine and the presentation by Adelaide, first class. Have a shooftee at vincent.grall@wanadoo.fr – un vair de vin? wee

Later, some of the schoolgirls, including mine, decide that a Saturday bus trip to Bourges 46 K away, would help relax their minds from never ending homework. Goodness me, did they have to study Nuclear Physiology like I did. Mob of wozzies. Bourges is where we got off the train from Paris nearly two weeks ago and joined other schoolgirls for the taxi trip to Sancerre. Its a two euro bus ride and this bus driver has a ticket machine. Technology by cripes, thank you Emmanuel Macron, Froggy la Presidente.  A pleasant bus ride through rolling countryside, vines, fields of khaki corn awaiting ploughing, small villages, roadside lined with trees, then finally past crass commercial come retail box stores, we enter Bourges.

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Bourges Cathedral – two of the five entry doors. The important one, of course, is the largest.

Clambering out, theres four schoolgirls and Moi, we set foot on a broad Boulevard, with fountains, trees, people and vehicles. In 2 minutes walk with a left, a right and there we are looking at Bourges ‘not to be missed’ Gothic Cathedral. All Cathedrals, Churches, Mosques, Temples, Synagogues, Bahai Houses and Bars should be ‘not missed’ just in case God is not who you were raised to believe he was. As a child, I saw Him as a white man, long hair like a hippy, always had his right hand raised as though he was an Indian Traffic Policeman, wore a long frock and had a mum who was a virgin. Thats before he fell foul of Sheriff Pontius Pilate a Collingwood Football supporter.

Bourges is reasonably Big Smoke hereabouts. In 1975 it had a population of 77,300 but since then, 11.2% of its population have knicked off to ‘greener’ pastures, i.e. Gay Paree, leaving the town bereft at 66,786 souls. Or the Black Plague has come back and the Froggy Health Authorities are staying tight lipped.

The ‘commune’ of Bourges nestles alongside and above a large marshy area at the river junction where the Auron bumps into the Yevre and they both continue on together as bigger puddles to meet the Cher River at Vierzon which then flows as an even larger puddle into France’s longest River, the Loire. We can see the Loire River from Sancerre and it looks tired, sluggish, sandbanks showing. Its been abused like rivers worldwide.

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Samples of Bourges ‘Half Timbered Houses’ Retail at Rue level, offices, accommodation above.

Theres a tourist train with three 20 person carriages in the Cathedral forecourt. Cough up seven euro fifty each and we are off weaving our way about the ‘not to be missed’ Cathedral, and down hill into the 65 hectares of what all tourists come here to see, the Old Town of Half Timbered Houses. Opps, sorry God, and the Gothic ‘Not To Be Missed’ Cathedral. The Rue’s in the ‘Old Town’ are narrow but the layout seems more orderly than Sancerre’s. Crammed with tourists, locals, cafes, shops, something for everybody, our tourist train weaves its way about with Hugo, the engine driver and coal stoker, doing a good job in not swiping pieces off the ancient Half Timbered Houses, pedestrians, cars or ancient us. And he does this whilst carrying on an enthusiastic travelogue in Froggy speak. We have English speak earphones, one ear plug for Moi thank you as I’m stone deaf in the left. But wait, thats not all. Ive got false teeth as well. Top and Bottom. Can I mention my Irritable Bowel Syndrome, no, well better not. The spines L2 jumps out of place occasionally to go visit its mates and it does this without filling in a leave slip. My hair is falling out, knees are wobbly, I get Charley Horse cramps as the Hamstrings descending from that Roman, Gluteus Maximus, who morphs into the Calf Muscles, objects to all the walking up and down steep Rue’s. In the morning, it takes a good half an hour to warm up my engine, engage the brain who does not know where it is for a while especially when mis-firing. I once looked at my lovely Bride whilst the brain was mis-firing and uttered, ‘Who Are You’.

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Bourges. Half Timbered House with abutting stone building. Possibly holding up its mate.

The half-timbered houses are just that, built up off lower floor stone walls. Many of them are now due sadly, for retirement to the aged Half Timbered Houses home at the local Waste Management Plant. Many lean sideways, forward, backwards, upper floors are out of alignment with the one below, are propped, and held together by that attractive haphazard weave of adzed timber boards infilled with plaster or cement render on horse hair. Like ‘wattle and daub’ in Oz. Its worth a shooftee but not too much else about Bourges grabbed me. Modernistic dark ‘goth’ designed shopping malls with burger bars, tavernettes, cafes, frock, shoe and jeans shops in those malls are creeping into the magic that is the enclave of the Half Timbered Houses. Mind you, to be fair, I’m only in Bourges for 3 hours. Your’e just like your father sonny boy. All rush rush rush, making your mind up in a jiffy. ‘Yes Mum’.

OK, we do visit the Cathedral. I’m actually ‘over’ Cathedrals, God as well. Sorry God, but I’m overloaded and await the Second Coming for proof. Whether that turns out to be You, Kubla Khan, Jabba the Hutt, Obi-Wan-Kenobi, Jar Jar Binks, Tinkerbell or Barnaby Joyce, if you can turn my Bottle of Jamesons Irish Whisky into a carton, I’ll barrack for you.

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Hugo our train driver, drove his engine plus three 20 seater carriages up here.

Its awesome in the Bourges Gothic Saint Etienne Cathedral and they are supposed to strike the fear of God and awesome into one’s soul. According to UNESCO, its a Gothic Masterpiece, We collectively pay these people from UNESCO to record those things despite us knowing all the backhanders, snouts in the trough bizzo that undoubtably goes on. At one  of my home towns, Exmouth West Oz, theres a prawning industry. When as a young man, with most of my faculties apart from one deaf ear, missing teeth and penchant for drinking beer and eating pancakes for breakfast and lunch smothered in Canadian Maple Syrup overlaid with thick chunks of bacon, this well before my Irritable Bowel syndrome kicked in, there was a U Bewt Prawning Industry at Exmouth. Over twenty prawn trawlers out in the Gulf of Exmouth a wide yawning ‘V’ shaped shallowish body of water. Then over the ensuing 55 years until now, theres only five or six of the very same trawlers left. This is a viable industry? But somebody in Government, a Functionary with loose tappets, decided that the Exmouth Prawning Industry should be proclaimed ‘Sustainable’. And it was as it helped sales to Japanese, Chinese and American squillionair’s including Donald, Vladimir, George at Lake Como and at Kim Jong-Un’s summer palace. How can it be so asked Professor Julius Sumner Miller as he poured a glass  and a half of dairy milk into a block of Cadburys Chocolate.

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Bourge, an important looking all stone building.

Sorry, got carried away. Back to the Bourge’s Gothic Cathedral. Building started around 1190 and hiccuped its way along for a century or two. The building is 125 metres long compared with Paris’s Notre Dame’s 130 metres. They seemed to always have been short of money when building the Cathedral as it took a long time to finish. There were problems with the structure as well. The North Tower collapsed on December 31st 1506 and some of the flying buttress’s had to be further ‘buttressed’. It was built in a ‘Basilican’ format that is without any transept to form the traditional church/cathedral ‘cross’ floor plan as is usual. All points to a lack of funds, will and poor engineering.

However, the west, front facade, is bloody marvellous with five doorways the centre or ‘Doorway of the Last Judgement’ being the grandest. All are richly embellished, thick recessed stone surrounds. decorated, filled about with statues, heads of past bishops, angels, saints, gargoyles blah blah. You choose your entry doorway depending on when you last went to confession and whether you need your chakra re-aligned. Theres also a marvellous ‘Astrological Clock’ built by a very clever Jean Fusoris and Andre Cassart in 1424. It reads the hours, solar and lunar calendars as well as displaying the Zodiac signs.

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Sancerre – thats our home for three weeks – the cream rendered building. We share it with Jeanie an American. Both our ‘garrets’ are up on the second and third levels. They make good use of roof spaces everywhere in France.

Out the back of the Cathedral, is an equally fine stone building of three storeys the top one in the steeply pitched slate roof. Its got solid buttresses as well and a diagonal half timbered entry stair which leads to the first floor. This is the 13th century ‘Tithe Barn’ where the holy fathers kept their ‘Tithes’. A tithe is a one tenth part of something, usually produce of farmers and ‘turned over’ to the monastic pure of mind and soul, holy fathers. Here they stored grain, cereals, corn, vegetables, wine and if the farmer had ten children, one was stored in the Tithe Barn for use by the holy fathers as they saw fit.

As I pointed out some 500 words ago, I’m over Cathedrals, Churches, ancient heritage listed villages, but not Tithe Barns. I want One. Not over Jamesons Irish Whiskey 🥃 either.

Ooroo from the lovely French Lady Sue 😘, and her husband, the Rev Father Moi 😇.