The Mistral has blown up again and we must wait for Olivier to come and advise on the matter of the boat batteries. I have rounded up some small viennoiseries from the boulangerie by the marina for breakfast. The morning will be spent working round the three men who have the deck in the cabin up and are poking around in the boat’s bowels. It is established that the problem is not with the batteries but with the charger and a new one must be ordered with minimum delay. Cue leafing through catalogues.
Today Nick and I are invited to share a celebratory lunch with Francois and Fefe to mark their 47th wedding anniversary. The chosen venue is a Vietnamese restaurant called Chez Diem in the centre of Frejus. Francois has borrowed Olivier’s wife’s car in order to drive us there. It is a small, squarish model into which we squeeze for what will be a sometimes hair-raising trip. Francois is already a bit stressed by the matter of trying to find a mail order outlet that will enable him to order a charger and have it delivered to the marina. This has involved attempting to place an order with an English supplier which has a depot nearby.
We set off a bit uncertainly, lurching between lanes whilst making last minute decisions according to traffic flow. It’s a bit like dodgems and it doesn’t help when Francois takes a call from England on his mobile. We drive a circuit of Centre Ville, rattling around in our biscuit tin, searching in vain for a parking space. As the car stalls at each junction there are muttered curses of “merde” and “putain” from the driver’s seat and “Poulet, Poulet fait attention” from the seat behind him.
The rain begins to fall and when we finally find a parking space and spill out the Tailles then decide that we don’t really have time to do the market before lunch so we get back into the car to try and find a ‘parking’ nearer the restaurant. Nick and I exchange conspiratorial glances. Rarely is Nick fazed although he has never found it easy to be a passenger. In the event we now find ourselves in the queues of traffic we were trying to avoid in order to gain the centre of Frejus. Eventually we find the carpark which is adjacent to ‘Chez Diem’.
All is made thoroughly worthwhile by a superb Vietnamese lunch where Fefe and I start with crispy Beignets of Crevettes, and some shared Nems. We call these latter Spring Rolls in the UK. I choose Squid Hong Kong style, spicy and tender. As we eat and drink we become increasingly mellow. This meal carries me right through the afternoon and into the evening. At supper-time a hard-boiled egg, some tomato and leaf salad is all that I need.
Whilst we have been with the Tailles at Frejus I have been following the news from England and in particular the progress of the campaigning for the forthcoming EU Referendum. The most recent polls are showing a tilt towards the Leave campaign which I find sad and depressing. I am feeling a real sense of displacement here in the south of France. With the electrical glitsches that have arisen on the boat we are pretty much grounded. Nevertheless we are able to get to sea for a limited run because Olivier has lent us a charger to boost the batteries and give us enough juice for a few hours at sea. We don’t plan to venture far afield but sail east towards Agay where we find a sheltered anchorage. Francois cooks us delicious bavettes for lunch which we eat with boiled potatoes in their skins and one of my basil and tomato salads. Crashing out on my bunk, the next thing I know we are moored back in the marina and there are gales of laughter emanating from the cockpit.
Sitting in the cockpit at the end of the afternoon I happen to glance up at the small screen where French news is being broadcast. We learn that Jo Cox, an English MP and rising star in the Labour Party, and who is very pro EU, has been shot and killed. This is a tragedy that has far-reaching implications. There are many moving tributes including a tear-jerking item by her husband Brendan. She was evidently a truly good person and was murdered because of what she believed in and worked for. This makes me very sad and I have already been feeling unsettled and somewhat pessimistic as we approach voting day. It is the most important vote that I am likely to make in my lifetime and perhaps the most significant historical moment for my country too.
Supper on the boat is a muted affair and before I retire to my bunk with my current read, a Mo Hayder thriller, I mix up the marinade for the chicken joints we bought at the supermarket for tomorrow’s lunch which will be Jamie Oliver’s Gurkha Chicken.