Synopses & Reviews
"We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure..."
It was absurd. It was foolhardy. And it was glorious. When they retired, Terry Darlington and his somewhat saner wife Monica—together with their dog, a whippet named Jim—chucked their earthbound life and set out in an utterly unseaworthy sixty-foot canal narrowboat across the notoriously treacherous English Channel and down to the South of France.
Aboard the Phyllis May, youll dive through six-foot waves in the Channel and be swept down the terrible Rhône. Youll meet the French nobody meets—poets, captains, scholars, madmen; they all want to know the couple on the painted boat and their narrow dog. Youll visit the France nobody knows—the backwaters of Flanders, the canals beneath Paris, and the forbidden routes to the wine-dark Mediterranean Sea. Aliens, trolls, gongoozlers, killer fish, and the walking dead all stand between our two-person, one-whippet crew and their goal: the ancient, many-towered city of Carcassonne.
A tale of travel, travail, dubious wine, a balky pump, and a boat built for only a few feet of water, this exuberantly inventive and hugely entertaining odyssey of the spirit, senses, and heart will enchant lovers of France, England, and all that lies between.
"As husband-and-wife pensioners, Brits Terry and Monica Darlington sail their barge down the English canal system, along the Thames, past London, to Paris on the Seine and down the Rhne to Carcassonne, France. Along the way, they introduce the folks who make their homes on the water. They avoid teenage vandals, fail to teach their beloved whippet, Jim, to hunt rabbits and sail across the English Channel after nearly every informed acquaintance advises otherwise. The mixture of British vernacular and boating terms in this book originally published in England will leave some readers adrift. Yet the style echoes the author's clear zest for living in the moment. Frequent flashes of wit and poetic prose capture poignant emotions. The addendum of French phrases entitled 'French in Fifteen Minutes' nicely sums up differences in the French and British cultures and makes clear the author's own mistakes while navigating a foreign language and culture." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This is the hilarious and true story of two senior citizens and their whippet dog who hatch, plan, and carry out a "lunatic scheme" to sail from Stone in Staffordshire to Carcassonne in the South of France.
The hilarious and true story of two senior-citizens and their whippet dog who hatch, plan and carry out a & #8220; lunatic scheme& #8221; to sail from Stone in Staffordshire to Carcassonne in the South of France.< br=""> < br=""> < br=""> < i=""> From the Hardcover edition.<>
About the Author
Terry Darlington was brought up in Pembroke Dock, Wales, during the war, between a flying-boat base and an oil terminal. He survived and moved to Staffordshire, where he founded Research Associates, an international market research firm, and Stone Master Marathoners, a running club. Like many Welshmen, he is talkative and confiding, ill at ease with practical matters, and liable to linger in pubs. He likes boating but knows nothing about it.
Following the publication of Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, Terry, his wife Monica, and their whippet Jim planned to sail the Phyllis May down the Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida—an adventure which, should they survive it, will be the subject of their next book, Narrow Dog to Indian River, coming from Delta in 2009.
Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss the Phyllis May
as a character in Narrow Dog to Carcassonne.
What does her appearance indicate about her personality and her history? What makes her ideally suited to Terry, Monica, and Jim?
2. Discuss the literary quotations that are included each chapter. Which ones resonated with you the most? What does the range of authors and sources featured in the back of the book say about the authors tastes? How do these works enduring in different cultures and speak to different generations.
3. “Moon River” describes the Darlingtons surprise at seeing the raw, industrial side of the London Canal; Terry describes having to brush the Camden gongoozlers from the lock beams “like flies.” Which aspects of their voyage challenged your assumptions about the waterways of English and France?
4. To what extent did the scenery of this trip match the people populating each locale? What were the constant elements that always influenced the Darlingtons perceptions, regardless of where they were?
5. How might the memoir have unfolded if Jim could have written it? What would he have to say about his escapades, and about the people he met along the way?
6. Which of the colorful characters was most memorable for you? What does Terrys method for dealing with strangers say about him?
7. What is at the heart of the Darlingtons quest? How does their mission compare to that of other boaters they meet along the way? What old-world aspects of community are lost to modern, independent means of travel such as airplanes and luxury cars?
8. What transformations do Terry and Monica go through in “Dead Mans Wharf” as they prepare for the Channel crossing, desperately seeing insurance and getting themselves tattooed? How did the trip itself change them?
9. “Mindful of Honor” begins with the Phyllis Mays awkward arrival in Calais, complete with malfunctioning email. Why is it sometimes better for widely anticipated “big moments” to be filled with comic relief? How does Terrys storytelling style enhance such episodes?
10. The Darlingtons confront history throughout their trip, particularly the history of World War II. How did Terrys observations regarding Flanders Fields, chewing gum from American soldiers, the Museum of Resistance and Deportation, and other details enrich your understanding of the war? How does the presence of modern-day military daredevil pilots affect Terrys experience of the Phyllis May?
11. What are the greatest distinctions between the English and French legs of the Darlingtons journey? How do the people, the drink, the food, the scenery, and the pitfalls change after they reach the continent?
12. The closing paragraphs capture Ulyssess epic journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, and the special bond he shared with his dog Argus. Though Terrys trek was not homeward (he hails from Wales), in what way did Carcassonne become his Ithaca?
13. The Darlingtons have recently undertaken a daring waterborne tour of the southeastern United States, aboard the Phyllis May. What kind of adventures do you predict they will find in America? What essential differences will they find?
14. Do you dream of an escapade like the Darlingtons voyage? What exhilarating projects do you want to take on when you retire, if not sooner?
The true story of a marvelous voyage made by three intrepid travelers-two impulsive humans and one wise canine-Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
charts the path of Terry Darlington, his wife, and their whippet as they set off in a rickety canal boat, determined to cross the English Channel and make their way to the South of France. Testing the limits of their wits and their luck, the Darlingtons journey gives them new glimpses of their own homeland, as they navigate precarious, ancient locks as well as English shorelines that range from gritty to breathtakingly picturesque. As they sail their way through France, after a hair-raising Channel crossing, they introduce readers to areas of this luscious country that tourists rarely find, from the canals beneath Paris to the forbidden routes of the Mediterranean. A madcap adventure through Europes hallowed lands, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
is armchair travel at its finest.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Terry Darlingtons Narrow Dog to Carcassonne. We hope they will enrich your experience of this marvelous travel memoir.