Monday, April 16, 2018

Canal du Midi - Castlenaudery to Toulouse (updated May 2018)

To get a feel for the locks on the canal, a few videos here:

Sunrise in Castlenaudery

A few locals

Yep, this one is charging at me. I think it's mating season.

La merde, it is everywhere.
(Thanks for the book Mary! very fun!)

But they are trying...

Mc D is alive and well in the land of foodies.

Just had to pop into the local Sotheby's office in Toulouse, tres charming!

Complete with map of the US on their wall

They even had something perfect for Abigail le princess!

When the place is hundreds of years old, a stroll down the street looks like this -  on location in Toulouse and Castlenaudary:

And the most massive church I've experienced so far, St Etienne (St Anne) in Toulouse,
undergoing some renovations.

And it won't be France without the foodie goodies;-)
Love the boulangeries all over the place!

Le French Pigeon and others - playing with words

Le French Pigeon

A picture tells a thousand words. So, since we failed to take a photo, here's the thousand words to describe what happened.

A short story, from the point of view of Le Pigeon we saved. On Feb 26, 2018. As told by Le Pigeon to her owner, back in Puicheric’s Notre-Dame church, where she delivered the message she was carrying, her duty done, though it was a day late.

She was a homing pigeon. And a beauty. Nothing like the boring shades of grey so commonly found. Instead, shades of brown and white, streaks of brilliant blue and green hues. On her way back to Puicheric to deliver her message from Toulouse, she stopped by to drink, eat a little, and replenish in Carcassonne. Pecking and sipping peacefully along the banks of the canal by the bridge, enjoying a brief sunny moment of respite.

A hit, a splash, all of a sudden the pigeon found herself in the canal, overwhelmed by ice cold water. Whatever it was, it knocked the breath out of her, caused her to flail and splash about, unable to fly off. Trying over and over again, flapping her wings, kicking her feet, but failing to get any lift, trapped in the vise grip of the water’s clingy surface. She gasped, she choked, she kept on struggling to get lift with her wings. She felt them grow weaker and weaker, losing strength, weaker flaps, slower kicks. With her remaining strength, she used her wings to slowly row and drag her body towards the edge of the canal. The bank was too high, she could not get up on the ledge, and the water was freezing cold. Try further up along the bank. There must be an opening, there must be a way to climb out of the canal. Though she could barely feel her feet now, she had to keep on trying.

Feet getting colder and colder, and weaker, I can barely move them. Must keep moving, must get to the shore, must get out of the water. Wings, wings don’t fail me now. Too high, the land is too high, can’t reach it. There, some overgrown bushes there, get there, get under it; wait, rest, rest and recover my breath. Stay here, stay out of sight, try to catch my breath first. Cold, it’s so cold; but I am alive, I am floating, and I let my leaded feet dangle below me. Rest, hide, and recuperate under this protective grassy cover.

Something suddenly swooped under my belly. Before I knew what happened I felt a big hand lift me from the water. A man. He carried me a few steps and put me down on a sun beaten patch of grass, sheltered from the wind, and walked away. 

I try to fly, to just stand up. But I am too weak. I just lay there. Try to breathe, gather my strength to try again. To no avail. My feet refuse to move. I can barely spread my wings. I am paralyzed. I hear cars pass by on the bridge above. I hear people’s voices. I see other pigeons go about their morning foraging by the grassy patch nearby. But I am frozen in place. I hope the dogs I had seen don’t come find me now.

I don’t know how long it was, but sometime later, again, the big hand swooped under my belly and carried me over the bridge, into his boat. There, two other humans. 

The female trying to trickle water on my beak from a straw. Silly girl, can't you see I am too weak to even drink. And I certainly won’t give these humans the pleasure of seeing me desperately thirsty or hungry. I will refuse to drink. I need to rest, regain my strength, and get away. I can barely keep my eyes open. There she is trying again. Now what. She had water in a teaspoon. I let some dribbles of saliva out. I just want to sleep. They leave me alone. I want to sleep, but I don’t trust them. But I must get some rest, I must get my strength back. Every time those lead-footed humans stomp around in the boat though, I am startled. I must stay partly awake. I must be on watch, on guard. What are their intentions? Am I dinner? This IS France, pigeon is on the menu, I know.

They moved me. Look around. They have put me on the captain’s chair. Oh, big hands is picking me up again. Aah, he's trying to blow dry me by the heater. Nice. I still can't move my feet. I don't like being on my back. But aah, the warm air feels good on my belly.

They leave me alone for a while. I am on a lower seat. They are having dinner. Try to move. No. Try again. Quick, while they are distracted. Plop! I moved! But ouch, I fell off and I can't get up. Feet failing me again. I spread my wings. Nothing broken, but so weak. I’m on my back. Big hands come to the rescue again. But I want OUT, and NOW! I try to move, I must move, get away. Flap my wings. Flap whatever can move, just flap it.

They take me out. YES! But no. I am free, but I cannot move. I use my beak to push up, again, try again. No. Argh. Try again. I can't. I will try again. Let me breathe a little first. Oh, but the wind. So strong. And it is cold. Cold and windy. Well, get me back on my feet and I will know what to do, fly to that nearest tree. I can see it. But I can't even stand up. Try again. No. Rest, rest for a little while. Let the wind blow past. Rest. I will be strong again. Soon. It is night. I will sleep. Here, out in the open, in the wind and cold, I will rest, embraced by the night.

They pick me up. Again? It is not big hands. It's the girl. Small hands. She brings me back inside the boat. Oh wait, I have a room. Yes, an improvement. And on a soft bed of paper towels. Yes, I can poop. I do poop. And poop some more. I use my beak to push myself up. No, I can’t. Rest. Rest and try again. Wait, what's this? Water. And food? I shall not drink or eat. I will not show them I wish to drink or eat. Stay focused. I need to get away. But aah, it is warmer, and I am feeling a little better. And I am sleepy.

They are quiet now. Gone to bed? They leave me on the floor, in my room. Snug and feeling a little safe and cozy inside a brown paper bag. I move to the warmest corner. I sleep. I try. But here is the girl again, looking at me. The same, I am the same can’t you see, I haven't morphed into a rabbit yet. And the 2 guys, they now take their turns looking at me.

Middle of the night, all quiet, no more stares, no more stomping around. I drink, and drink and drink. Try to eat the stuff they left me. Nah, not for me. Seeds, gimme seeds, not crumbles of stale bread. I smell sesame seeds, but they are few and far between. Sleep beauty sleep. In peace and quiet.

Sometime later that night, I try spreading my wings. They work. Yes! And I stand up. Yes! I managed to stand up. I will have to find a way to get out of here tomorrow. Meantime, rest. Get stronger.

I hear them stomp around. It is morning. Girl’s face peers into my home. Big hands’ face peer into my home. I hear other voices. They have come back with reinforcements. Girl opens the bag. Another girl peers in. French? Me for lunch? I flap my wings, I must get away, I can stand now, I can fly now, I must get away. The girl takes me, she holds me with both hands. I try to flap my wings, she takes me out of the boat. Onto the grass, freedom! I flap and flap. Lift off. I fly again. Quickly, high as I can on that nearest tree. Stumbled a little on the first branch. It’s ok, get a grip. They work. My wings work. I am free! Fly, I fly away, high and away, beating my wings strongly.
And that is how I got back home. I didn’t look back. I heard clapping, and girl cheering, but I didn’t look back until I reached Notre-Dame.

Scene of the rescue:


A stab at poetry...

Birds Of A Feather

Birds of a feather, they thought they were. 
“Together forever”, they thought they’d swear.  
Didn’t see the flaws beneath wings  
Didn’t wish to notice broken things. 
Only wishing to admire perfect plumes 
Rich and fluffy, bathed in colorful tunes. 
Only wishing to hear delightful chatter 
While soaring amidst cloud nines together.   
Didn’t wish to notice looming puffs. 
Didn’t want to know a name called nimbus.  

Only being human they were 
Just like the rest of us, I now conjure.  
Simply wishing to cling on tight 
Anxiously fearing to miss outright 
That fleeting beast called happiness. 
That desperate need for togetherness.  

Shakespeare, blame it all on Shakespeare.   
“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” 
We were fooled fooled fooled, one and all  
By a clever turn of phrase that day 
He coined simply for a play. 

Or were we? 


To Be 28

Oh to be twenty eight.
Barely drawn, the hand of fate
Sprinkles of experience, tons of dreams
So bright, the future seems.

Three brilliant kids, millionaire by forty 
Condo in New York, cottage in the country
Start-up venture, on Moore’s law trajectory 
The dream continues, so relentlessly.

For the world is still an oyster
Pleasing the buds, if not the banker.
Shuck away, efforts are not wasted
A pearly gem, still to be discovered.

But ugly is, an oyster’s shell
Can one get past that ominous smell?
Would ambition trump compassion 
In the race to scale a mountain?

But tasty is, a champagne pairing
Fatty morsels so rich and satisfying.  
Brave the obvious and enjoy the ride
The journey has barely begun to feel quite right.