General Witterings -
Sunday 18th November 2001
The old canal approaches the Loire from the south. The first major work is a very large basin/dock/port - call it what you will. The French call it a 'gare' (station). I think this gare was not only a port, but also a holding point for when the passage across the Loire was too difficult.
There is then a lock, which takes the canal down to 'normal' river level. The lock is a bit tricksy, as it will also act as a flood gate when the winter river level gets too high. The river, at normal levels, flows at a very good rate, so I assume that locking up TO the river was never attempted, as at that height the river would be a raging torrent.
Upstream of the lock, a peninsula has been built that comes downstream parallel to the bank, forming a channel between it and the bank, with comparatively still water in it. Nowadays, the peninsula is incomplete, and gives the appearance of a series of islets. The gaps between the islets lets water through, so that there is a considerable current in the channel.
Downstream of this lock, a massive masonry causeway protects the bank, and acts as a towing path. It leads directly to a pier of the bridge that crosses the Loire some 600m downstream of the lock. When it reaches the pier, the towing path continues in the form of a helix winding up the pier to the crossing level, thus enabling the towing animals to cross the river.
The peninsula ends upstream of the bridge.
Some 200m downstream of the bridge, on the far bank, is the lock to take boats up the far side. Hence the boat has to get to it via its own devices, and in the full stream of the river. There must have been some way of organising haulage, but it's not obvious as to what it was. Things are complicated by the fact that this lock is angled to point downstream (to help prevent silt blocking the entrance channel), so that boats entering and leaving have to make a turn of more than ninety degrees against the channel.
In "Les Canaux du Loing, de Briare, d'Orleans", Jacques de la Garde describes "cette navigation heroique", which cost a dozen sinkings a year. The following is a rough translation from his book, though if you fancy doing it yourself, I'd be tempted to get someone who is really good at French to give you a more accurate translation.
Going downstream - so across from Chatillon to Briare - boats were let down on their own two anchors - letting out all the scope on one, then dropping the second, retrieving the first, and letting out all the scope on the second, etc. Gulp!!!
The 'tricky' bit came when they had to turn upstream to enter the lock - which faces downstream to avoid getting silted up - and I guess that that's when a few boats got upset and sunk.
To make it easier for themselves, the crew of the first boat across would secure their boat across the approach to the lock, so that the other boats had some protection as they swung round.
Depending on the strength of the flow, the whole operation took two to four hours.
Going upstream, after coming out of the lock the boat would be turned upstream, and hauled by capstan up the bank until above the lock on the southern bank. Then it would be let down and across the river on anchors. Once across, just above the lock, it would be secured to capstans again to be swung round into the lock. This took three to six hours.
Using these techniques, 30 men could thus pass 18 craft a day...
A tug was brought in in the 19th century - and was able to cross 8000 craft a year.
I'm quite keen on custard. It's OK neat, but is often accompanied by:
My preference is to start off with Birds' custard powder, lots of sugar (preferably brown caster sugar ('caster' to help it dissolve, 'brown' 'cos the roughage helps one to crap nicely), milk with added milk powder to beef it up a bit, and cornflour if it turns out a bit thin.
Birds' isn't here, but they do a 'pudding powder' which is pretty much the same, but the local supermarkets don't have it, so I have to use something called Crème Anglais or some such rubbish, which definitely needs thickening with cornflour.
In the next day or two, I may start experimenting with eggs - which I've not played Russian roulette with ever since that rather up-front, in-your-face Conservative lady spilled the beans about all our eggs being contaminated with bits. The hue and cry raised by the (then) MAFF and DoH had nothing to say about the veracity of what she said, but vilified her for frightening the GBP (Great British Public) with such dangerous facts. Ah!! Got the name - Edwina Currie.
I've often fancied re-creating the 'sponge cake soaked in sherry/rum and fruit juice', in the bottom of a bowl, covered by fruit cocktail covered by custard. Unfortunately, this is best eaten cold, and during the last 10 years I've never had the patience to wait for custard to get cold. I suppose I should team up with a non-custardy friend who could make me one as a surprise treat.
I have, out of shyness, not dwelt upon the sexual aspects of custard, and on the numerous parts of the human body upon which it can be placed whilst one licks it off one partner. Playing the part of the licker is very much better than being the lickee, as the lickee looses the central thrill of consuming the custard. This thrill could be supplied if the licker agrees to participate in mouth to mouth custard transfer. Unfortunately, my experiences as a lickee have been most unsatisfactory. Although partners willingly agree to this, when the time comes for mouth to mouth custard transfer to take place, I generally land up either with nothing (they've swallowed the lot) or with very much less than half a mouthful of something that definitely isn't custard. Chiz! Chiz!
Lots of people seem to be visiting Oz these days. The following items should be avoided if you wish to escape alive from a conversation with the average Oz person. First generation Oz folk will know of these slights, but 2nd generation onwards definitely do. These are the three BIG reasons why the Aussies hate the Brits.
ONE: Breaker Morant
Breaker Morant was an Aussie (a Captain, I think) who was one of the 'colonials' who fought with the Brits against the Boers during the Boer War. Unknown to the Brits back home, the Boer war was a dirty little war, with atrocities committed on both sides. When the GBP became aware of this, there was a demand that Brit Forces should refrain form being beastly to brother Boer, and that acts of beastliness should be punished.
There seems little doubt that Breaker had been beastly to the Boers, but no more so than countless other Brits. However, he was caught being beastly, and he was sentenced to be shot at a court martial. He and his colleagues were the only people to be punished for beastliness. It is the opinion of most Aussies that he was singled out because he was an Aussie and not a Brit. His story is told in the aptly named book 'Scapegoat of the Empire' (which I've not read - does anyone have a copy?), and has been filmed as 'Breaker Morant' with Eric Woodward in the title role. The film has some gorgeous shots of the South African high veldt.
First World War campaign, generally reckoned to be the brain child of Churchill. (Though Churchill, as the First lord of the Admiralty, merely advocated a bombardment and blockade of the peninsula. His superiors eventually mounted a full beach landing/invasion, to which Churchill was very opposed.) The campaign was aimed at breaking the deadlock on the Western front, by attacking up through Turkey. This was to be initiated by a beach assault on the Black Sea coast at Gallipoli. The Aussies and New Zealanders formed a very high proportion of the attacking troops, who were very poorly led by British generals. The Turk proved to be unexpectedly plucky fighter, and inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers, who eventually withdrew after heavy losses. The Turks were amazed that we hung on for as long as we did.
The Aussies have never forgiven the Brits for this debacle.
For those of a maudlin nature, this is what is inscribed on a war memorial erected by the Turks at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli:
Jardine (David, I think) was from the same family as in Jardine Matheson - a company that made its fortune smuggling opium into China - and was the 'gentleman' Captain of the English Cricket Touring Team during the infamous 'bodyline' series, where the basic ploy (dreamed up by Jardine) was to aim the ball at the batsman's head in the hope of knocking him out - a ploy which proved to be highly successful. Jardine's name is HATED in Oz.
(As an aside, the implementer of the ploy, fast bowler Harold Larwood, was not blamed at all - he was seen as merely carrying out the instructions of his Captain. When he retired from cricket he went to live in Oz, where he was welcomed, and lived very happily until old age overtook him not so many years ago).
That's all, Folks!!