16. May, 2022

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MONDAY 16-05-22

My word, we didn't get much sleep last night. The first wave of thunderstorms hit us about 22:30 and lasted a couple of hours. The sheet lightning became almost constant and the rain that came with the storms was torrential. Fortunately we'd packed away ready to move off this morning, and so were spared having everything soaked through.

The second wave of storms hit about 03:00, and they were just as bad. It wasn't just the noise from the thunder and rain beating on the roof that kept me awake. I was also bedroom roof vent monitor, and as such had to make sure the roof vent above our bed, was closed quickly at the first sound of rain, and then re-opened as soon as it was safe to do so.

We awoke to a cloudy sky, very wet sandy soil on the pitches and large puddles and leaves from the trees everywhere. I think just about everybody was having a well earned lie-in, but we needed to be on the move, thus we had the shower block to ourselves.

While my darling Chef popped to Reception to pay them for three night's camping and pick up the baguette she'd ordered, I joined the queue behind a German couple at the dump station. Oh it was painful to watch, but never mind, eventually we were rid of everything we wanted rid of and set off for Sarlat & La Canéda.

Today's cunning plan was for us to drive down the road to the canoe hire establishment and hire a canoe for a paddle down the river. However, The Chef woke with a bit of a sore throat and feeling under the weather from a cold which has been creeping up on her for a few days, and following forensic questioning from her, we established that I hadn't been in a canoe since I was a lad, and she had never been in one at all. Not that any of that should have been a huge issue, but we were a little bit concerned about the overnight rain raising the river level and increasing its flow rate. So we decided to give it a miss and have another attempt in the coming days.

When planning the trip I hadn't appreciated just how close to each other these destinations are, and I should have done. Thus it didn't take too long before we arrived at Sarlat's Carrefour supermarket where we stocked up, before moving on the town's Camperstop.

The pay and display machine was a nightmare to operate. I could see The Chef getting madder and madder with it as she tried to pay for a ticket (two option, one hour free, or €10 for 23 hours). Eventually I wandered over for a bit of moral support, and eventually we got a ticket.

Given the time of day we decided to have an early lunch before setting off for the town centre. To prove there was no shame in The Chef's difficulty, she eventually went over to assist a FRENCH couple who could speak no English, to get a ticket for themselves, and they were very grateful for the assistance. The machines really are not user friendly.

So a bit about Sarlat and La Canéda:

Sarlat and La Canéda were distinct towns until merged into one commune in 1965. Sarlat is a medieval town that developed around a large Benedictine abbey of Carolingian origin. The medieval Sarlat Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sacerdos. This abbey appears in records as early as 1081 and was one of the few in the region that was not raided by the Vikings. The name for the abbey church was Saint Sacerdos by 1318; in the 20th century, it would become a cathedral under Pope John XXIII.

Because modern history has largely passed it by, Sarlat has remained preserved and one of the town’s most representative of 14th-century France. Its historic centre, with 77 protected monuments, was added to France's Tentative List for future nomination as a UNESCO World heritage Site in 2002. The excellent state of preservation owed a debt to writer, resistance fighter and politician André Malraux, who, as Minister of Culture (1960–1969), restored the town and many other sites of historic significance throughout France. The centre of the old town consists of impeccably restored stone buildings and is largely car-free.

Gosh, today was another hot one. It was about a thirty minute walk in to town where we picked up a map from the Tourist Information Office before mooching around.

It's a very well preserved town centre full of medieval buildings, but by the end of our trudging we decided we've had enough of old buildings and French history. It's much too hot to subject ourselves to it all. And to be honest, after a while, unless you're able to appreciate what it is you're looking at, it's all a bit samey. The weather here has certainly caught us out. I expected temperatures to be around the low 20's, but we're regularly nudging 30°C, which is fine if you're doing nothing except relaxing on a campsite under an awning, sat on a spacious grass pitch. But today we're sat on hot tarmac in a glorified car park, where technically we are not allowed to get chairs out and sit in the shade. Well to hell with that. When we returned from town, The Chef made a couple of coffees so that we could enjoy a couple of cakes from the shop across the way, whilst I got the chairs out and sat them in the shade.

We then consulted the travel books, cunning plan and maps, and have decided to scrap a couple of destinations out in the sticks on the south side of the river, and instead return tomorrow to Camping la Plage, which we left this morning. There we'll rest for three nights during which we'll pick our moment for the paddle down the river. Right now my darling Chef's health is my only concern, and we'll be back out, and at it in no time.

When we do leave the campsite we'll be setting off for Limeuil and Bergerac, before heading for more interesting destinations which don't rely so heavily on old buildings and French history.

Finally please allow me to pay tribute to a former colleague, Paul Witt, who's funeral took place today in Cambridge. I would have loved to have been there, Paul deserved it, but sadly not only I, but several of his former colleagues are away this week for various reasons and thus can't be there either.

Paul served in the Parachute Regiment as a young man before working on the railways. I believe it was from there he joined the Cambridgeshire Ambulance Service. Paul was one of those rare people who said very little, but when he spoke you always knew it would be worth listening to. He was so softly spoken, and because of the noise from the engine, I was often guilty of nodding my head, smiling and agreeing with what he was saying as we drove along in the ambulance, without having a clue what it was he was saying. I just hope that I was nodding and agreeing in all the right places.

Paul was a bit of a pioneer in his day, in that he was one of the first three trained Paramedics in the whole of Cambridgeshire. He did it the HARD way, studying and passing a conversion course from the American EMT-P programme, most of it done in his own time.

The photograph I attach is of Paul Witt on the right, and Simon Butler on the left, who went on to become the first ever NHS trained and registered Paramedic at Cambridge. Simon went on to train future Paramedics and achieved a Doctorate at Cambridge University. He still keeps his hand in doing operation shifts at Cambridge. The photograph was taken around 1989.

R.I.P. Paul.