APRIL 28 – Knots in our relationship?

 Location: Monaco

I am in love with a word. It is my most favourite word in the whole wide world. This word is, “patisserie.” Happy sigh.

I’ve discovered the bakeries here, called patisseries, sell a huge range of the most delectable bite-size, melt-in-your-mouth miniature cakes. Did I mention “huge” range? Possibly 10 to 15 different types of miniature cakes—chocolate éclairs, miniature vanilla slices, puff creams. You name it. They have it or if they don’t, the next patisserie down the road has. I cannot stop eating them and find all sorts of excuses during the day to have at least one cup of coffee and cake.

We’ve slipped into a routine on the boat now. This morning is washing morning. I collect the sheets, towels and our clothes while Bill strings up washing line all over the spare guest cabin.

With both of us knowing more than our fair share of nautical knots and not having much else to do, this seemingly simple activity has on past occasions, generated a fair amount of discussion.

Having once worked in a circus, I know trucking knots. But with Bill’s extensive sailing qualifications, he of course knows far more nautical ones. And because I’m hoping to use this trip to up my own qualifications, I’m keen to learn from him.

Australia recognises two different sailing accreditations—a local one that is used by the navy and professional fishermen, and the international Yachtmaster scheme. Each accreditation has several levels. The Yachtmaster scheme has five. I have my Yachtmaster Day Skipper Certificate (level 2). Bill has his Ocean level (level 5) and is also qualified to teach (but not assess).

While I’m hanging up the last of the washing, Franco sticks his head down through the cockpit hatch.

“Bill, Bill” he yells.

“I’m here,” Bill replies.

“More socca?” asks Franco.

“Love to,” says Bill.

I poke my head into the salon from the guest room. “May I come too?”

Bill looks embarrassed but Franco says, “Of course, of course. That would be lovely. Come. Come.”

I grab my handbag and a coat and follow the men out feeling excited.

Franco explains he’s on a morning tea break from work and has just stopped by to collect us for ‘elevenses.’ We hurry to a crowded little stall at the end of a local market place, where I’m personally introduced to socca, a flat warm chickpea type of pancake cooked on the spot on top of a huge round flatplate, and Pissaladiere, a thick crust pizza with caramelised onions and olives on top, all washed down with a small glass of rose wine. Heaven!

After Franco returns to the office, Bill and I spend the afternoon pretending to be tourists.

We visit the 17th Century Baroque Chapel, “La Chapelle de la Visitation” which holds the personal religious art collection, dating from the 17th century, of a Mrs. Barbara Piasecka Johnson. The collection includes works from Rubens, Zurbaran, Ribera, Italian Baroque Masters, Spanish School Masters, two sculptures and a huge tapestry.

But I am more interested in the second Chapel, which holds the graves of all of Monaco’s past monarchy, including Princess Grace and Prince Rainer’s gravestones. Very moving. It is called the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), and is also known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco Cathedral (French: Cathédrale de Monaco).

Chapelle de la Visitation
Chapelle de la Visitation

Monaco is now a very different city to the one we arrived in just three weeks ago. With the Grand Prix happening mid-May, the city’s previously wide boulevards and lovely hidden gardens are all fenced off and great swaths of grandstands are popping up everywhere, forcing us to detour from our normal routes.

The population also feels like it doubles each day as cruise ships arrive and disgorge tourists, who walk around in big groups following a person carrying a flag held high above their heads.

We receive two or three resumes or inquiries every day, from young folk from around the world, who are walking the wharves seeking crew positions. I thank our lucky stars that we applied online almost three months earlier.

From tomorrow, May 1, Caroline’s berth is leased out to the yacht club which in turn leases it out to rich folk who sail from faraway places to park at Monaco to watch the Grand Prix. Or rather, crew sail the boat from faraway places so that the boat’s owners can park at Monaco and watch the Grand Prix.

I can’t wait to set sail for our first destination tomorrow!

“Bon voyage for Saturday,” my friend Pascale writes on my Facebook page. “Hard life. I can see that it is tough on you.”

“Thank you Pascale,” I reply. “Already feel so homesick for my most beloved patisserie shops. My heart is shrinking at just the thought of our sad separation. Oh sorry, that is my gut shrinking! Anyway it’s going to be the saddest shrinkage in my lifetime. You would be heartless not to share my pain with me.”

I finish typing the message on Facebook just as we wander past the supermarket.

“Oh. Hang on,” I say grabbing Bill’s arm. “We need some food for dinner.”

I go to walk in when Bill unexpectedly baulks.

“I hate supermarkets,” he says. “I’ll wait out front for you.”

“But,” I stumble. He’s never given any indication of this before.

I take another tack. “But, I cooked last night and the night before, and the night before that. I thought perhaps you might like to cook tonight, and if you’re going to do the cooking I’m guessing you’ll probably want to choose what we buy?”

“You didn’t cook the night before,” he says. “We went out to the tennis that night, and besides it’s your job to cook on the boat.”

I stay silent. He’s right of course. But I had cooked breakfast and lunch on both days, and come to think of it, cooked every other lunch and dinner since we’ve been on the boat, and we haven’t actually officially started working yet. I sigh. It isn’t worth arguing about.

“I’ll be back in five,” I promise, acting as though it doesn’t bother me.

Fifteen minutes later I emerge with a stock of stuff to see us through for the next few days. No Bill. Typical man. Probably in one of the nearby shops. Can’t blame him. They are all appealing.

I sit down outside the supermarket with my bags of shopping on one of several huge plastic road dividers, which are steadily being erected around the boundaries of all the roads, and watch the workers constructing multi-storey seating towers on the other side of the busy foreshore road, soon to become one of the most watched race-tracks in the world.

I look at my watch. Half an hour has passed and still no sign of Bill. I try calling him. No response. I’m freezing cold by now so I stand up and stomp around a bit, trying to warm myself up and alleviate some grumpiness.

He finally answers the third time I call him.

“Where are you?” I ask. “Are you ok?”

“Yeah, why?” he responds through what sounds like a mouthful of food.

“I’m waiting at the supermarket. When will you be back?”

“I left ages ago,” he says. “You took too long and it was cold so I came back to the boat.”

“Seriously?” I ask. Even I notice a dangerous edge to my voice.

“I was desperate to go to the toilet,” he says in a rush.

“Hmmmm…..” I’m not entirely convinced. “Why didn’t you call me and let me know?”

Silence.

“Sorry,” he says.

Nothing for it but to pack up the shopping and return to the boat.

Bill is unsatisfyingly defiant when I arrive.

“You said you’d be five minutes,” he says. “I waited double that time but had no idea how much longer you’d be. I figured I must have missed seeing you exit the store so came back to the boat to check.”

“No,” I defend myself. “I actually took 15 minutes but I only called you after half an hour or so. And I thought you said you had to return to the boat because you needed to go to the toilet?”

“Look,” he said. “You said five minutes. You took at least three times longer than that. Let’s drop it.”

“Fine.”

I go to bed feeling as if an ominous cloud has suddenly taken up residence over the entire boat.

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