Sunday, April 22, 2018

From vineyards to boatyards: springing into spring

Spring has finally arrived and we can shed those heavy layers of clothing. It’s such a relief, isn’t it? I am not one to bare all, but I love being able to go outside in just jeans and a tee-shirt. It’s what I think of  when I hear the title of that film (and book) ‘The Incredible Lightness of Being’. Silly, I know.

To make it even better, I spent a few days in Spain last week. One of the upsides of living in Europe is the ease of access to other countries, so I took advantage of a week’s break in my courses, to hop on a flight to Alicante and a bus ride later, I was in rural Valencia with a fellow former South African  friend. It was just lovely and the hills were sprouting young vines in great profusion. The geometry of the patterns they form really caught my eye and I took loads of photos.

There were also some fiestas going on (when aren’t there?) but these children we came across performing in the streets of Dénia were just captivating.

Then it was back to the Netherlands where the temperatures were even warmer than they were in Spain (true!), so yesterday we took the Hennie Ha for its first spuddle of the year. We always like to do this to make sure everything is working properly before we do any serious faring. It was the most glorious day for it and it has inspired us no end. We went as far as the shipyard just over the border to have a look as we want to have a quick lift out to clean the bottom and paint it to the waterline before we set off for the summer. The winter has been hard on the paint work!

Today has been equally lovely, but I’m afraid rain is coming soon. We cannot have more than a few days of sunshine in this part of the world without the obligatory storm to prevent us getting too used to it. It is also guaranteed to rain when I want to work on the Vereeniging, which I’m planning to do in my free time this week.

Oh and we have a spell of holidays coming up starting with King’s day this coming week...have a good one alllemaal. Do you have any holidays coming up soon?

Monday, April 16, 2018

The way forward

It was two and a half years ago that I wrote what has become my most popular post about my barge, the Vereeniging. As I wrote at the time, I bought it “as an empty shell complete with several not so optional extras, these being rust holes, a rotten axle and rather too obvious ventilation in all the wrong places. I had to forgive her though. She was a hundred and three years old and had survived serious abuse and neglect, somehow managing to stay afloat while the weeds grew out of the rust in her hull. It was a match made for the tenacious; both her and me.”

The blog post I wrote described what I needed to do keep my dream boat alive; how it became my passion and my goal; how even when I moved out of it to give my daughters a home when they needed bolt holes, it still occupied my thoughts, my life and my time.

Now we are a bit further on in time and I haven’t changed my feelings of affection for my lovely barge. She is 120 years old this year. The trouble is that even though I am still only just over half her age, my energies are not quite as resilient as they used to be. I’m beginning to notice the, shall we say, limitations of my advancing years even if she isn’t. Frozen shoulders, locked up ankles, spasmodic (is there such a word?) muscles; yes, these are all rather potent reminders that I am sixty something and I can kiss goodbye to my ideas (note that word) of lissome, lithe agility. Not that I ever have been that, but the idea of it, you understand, is what has kept me going.

So I am pondering on our future – my barge’s and mine – and maybe rethinking the plans. The Vereeniging has been part of my life and my heart for so long I still find it hard to think of a future without my damesschip, but before even contemplating that, there is the dream trip to be done; the one that in all the seventeen years I’ve had her has not yet been done.. We, that is Koos, the Vereeniging and I, have a journey to undertake and that is a non- negotiable. We have to take my old lady home. We have to take her to Utrecht and then along the Vecht and Oude Rijn to revisit the route she travelled as a working barge so many years ago. After that, well, we’ll see. Maybe it will be time to pass her over to some younger hands, but before than, she will be smooshed, smartened and shined as never before. We, the Vereeniging and I, have plenty to do together and with Koos’ help on her oily bits, we will prepare for that day, whenever it may be.

Watercolourisations of two of my photos

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A late blog is better than a late blog

I love blogging as most of you know, and I love reading blogs. I try to post a blog every week at the weekend, but sometimes life gets in the way and I don't get round to it. That has happened this week for a number of reasons, some of which I will elaborate on, because after all, that's what a blog is for, isn't it? Well, sort of. We write about life, its meaning and everything, among other tales of nonsense and irrelevance. I do, anyway.

So why is my post late this week? Some reasons are good and one rather sucks a bit.

But taking the good first. Now the weather is at last cheering up (hooray, I hear you say; Val will stop moaning) and we've had some real sunshiny and warm days, there is the opportunity to go outside and work on the barge, or in the garden. I spent several hours doing both at the weekend and there is plenty left to be done, so this could mean more late blogs. But as my heading says, better a late blog than a late (or deceased) blog.

Former spot

Firstly, though, last Thursday, we had to move the Vereeniging from one spot to another (all of about six metres) because a neighbour was returning after several months absence and wanted his place back. I'd been occupying it since last October after my hellingbeurt as it is lighter and brighter than being next to a large clipper that dwarfs me. Still, I was instructed to move and so we did. Now you'd think this would be a ten minute job, wouldn't you? So would I except for the fact I know there's no such thing as a ten minute job when it comes to boats. A mere shift like this means untying numerous ropes, adjusting electric cables and moving gangplanks. Then everything has to be retied again to the new neighbour and to other bollards on the quay, a process usually accompanied by much head scratching as a certain Koos decides what is the 'proper' way to secure the barge (if it were down to me it would be a much more random affair, but I know he's right).

New Spot

Next up, I attacked the green layer that has grown on almost everything over the winter. This includes the the Vereeniging, the Hennie H and areas of the crumbly cottage, especially the white stripe of rendering all round the bottom of the house; a stripe that gets larger as we go down the side path of the neighbour's house. Following my meanness to the greenness, I repainted said white stripe, so that took me the best part of a nice long afternoon. Very satisfying, especially now we've got clean fascia boards (and gutters too). The crumbly cottage is looking slightly less crumbly.

A de-greened Hennie H

The last reason for my postponed post was less pleasant. We arrived back in Rotterdam on Monday to find we'd had a break-in sometime over the weekend. No one had heard or seen anything (city life, I guess), but as always, the inconvenience and indignation at the invasion of personal space outweighs everything else. There was nothing taken as we have nothing to take, but dealing with the police and the aftermath took time and emotional energy.

And there I was thinking we were immune to such things here. I now realise I've been the victim of more thefts since I've lived in Europe than I ever was in South Africa.

We live and learn. Have a good week, allemaal

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gutter news

It's amazing what we'll do when on the crest of an indignant wave, isn't it? No? Well, perhaps it's just me, then, but when I make an appointment with a company to come and clean out the gutters at the crumbly cottage and they fail to turn up not once, but twice, my cup of indignation overflows and becomes a veritable tsunami.

The first time said company didn't arrive at the allotted time last Monday, someone called me and asked if it would be okay if they came later in the day. I agreed, but after thumb twiddling for several hours, they never showed up at all. I called them. The woman who answered sounded surprised and apologised. We made another appointment for Friday morning, me forgetting until some hours later that it would be Good Friday – not an official public holiday here, but many people take the day off. Good Friday for them, but not good for me as it turned out.

The result was that Koos and I didn't hold our combined breaths yesterday morning (being Friday), which was just as well as by early afternoon, we had accepted what we'd anticipated: no one came. All the same, I was more than a bit cross; hence the wave of indignation.

"It's all right," said Koos. "I thought we could do it ourselves, anyway, so let's do just that," he finished before going back to his laptop.
High on my surfboard of ire, I wasn't letting it stop there.
"Right," I agreed. "Let's do it now. It's dry now, and it might rain later, so let's get on with it."
Koos gave me a slightly pained look, but, bless him, didn't argue.

I should say that in my mind I was having a 'so there' conversation with the gutter people along the lines being gutted they hadn't come (sorry) and the gutter being where they belonged. And then, why hadn't they let me know? And then again, who needed them anyway? It's a pity I'll have to wait until Tuesday to do this, though, as no doubt my huge roller wave of righteous annoyance will have subsided to a mild swell by then and the satisfaction of my verbal tongue poking will be similarly diminished.

Koos up the ladder. I followed him, so you can see
the point where I got to cleaning the fascia boards

Anyway, outside we went, hauled out the ladder and took it in turns to go up to the gutters. Koos cleaned out the accumulated leaf mould of several years, after which I went up and cleaned the fascia boards. This doesn't sound like much I know, but if you understand I am very very nervous of climbing ladders, and I'm absolutely terrified of descending them, this was quite a feat for me. Added to that, the house is built on a dyke, so on one side, the neighbour's path slopes down to the lower level. The climbing height thus became correspondingly greater as did my stomach flips. Still, I was brought up never to ask someone to do something for me that I wouldn't do myself, so this meant I was honour bound to do my share, given that it was me insisting it couldn't be put off to a warmer day.

Some of the gunk that came out of the gutter
Anyway, we did it. Both sides of the house. And we were immensely proud of ourselves for our efforts.  Not only do we now have cleared gutters with nice clean fascia boards, we have also saved quite a bit of cash, so some of this was justly spent on toasting our success last night. Well, who wouldn't after such courage?

Have a lovely Easter weekend allemaal. More to come soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Meandering along the Moervaart

Yesterday was a day for dreaming of faring to come. It was beautiful; the first really lovely weather of this year in my inexpert opinion. Not only was the temperature balmy and mild but the sun even had some warmth to it as it touched our faces.

"Let's go for a walk?" I suggested to Koos. "In fact let's go somewhere for a walk."
He agreed, always keen to go somewhere other, so we decided on a ramble along one of our favourite waterways, the Moervaart. It's not too far from the crumbly cottage and is a navigable route we love to take at the end of our summer trips these days; in other words, ideal for boosting our anticipation of faring away in the holidays.

So we hopped in the car and off we went...and went...and went.
"When are we going to get there?" I asked,
"Soon, I have a special spot in mind." said Koos
Twenty minutes later we were still driving.
"We must be nearly there," I complained. "We've been driving for ages!"
"Not far now," soothed Koos.
"Yes, but I'm hungry now. And I need the loo"
"Stop complaining. It'll be worth it."
 "But it's never taken us this long. I'm feeling queasy with all these bends. We'll be in Lokeren before you know it!" I was whining now, but it made me laugh too, reminding me of a funny cartoon I saw on the internet recently:

Well, the next signpost we saw was indeed heading to Lokeren, but back the way we'd come. We'd done some kind of circuitous route and overshot it by several kilometres. Maybe this is the right place to mention Lokeren is at the far end of the Moervaart. It doesn't go any further. Right.

So, after going back past the town and heading again towards home, Koos took yet another turning (nooooo!!! I squealed) and finally brought us to the bridge at Sinaai on the Moervaart he'd had in mind.

And it was good (it really was. And a relief too). We climbed out of the car, inspected the bridge, one of several lifting bridges on this waterway, and set off along the towpath in the direction of Lokeren. I have to say the walk was definitely worth the wait as I hope these photos will demonstrate. Within minutes, we were conjuring up images of pottering along the Moervaart in the Hennie Ha. And it resulted in our planning a long weekend of cruising from Sas van Gent to Lokeren, a distance of around 38 kilometres. I'm sure you'll agree this is going to be a trip worth taking and a wonderful start to our faring year.

That was yesterday, then. Today, it hasn't been half as nice, but with the fire of faring in our blood, we started cleaning the Hennie Ha in anticipation of our travels to come. Neither of us can wait for the day we 'maak lossen' the ropes and pull away out of our berth. And that was the great thing about this one day of sunshine we've had. It's set our wanderlust loose and got us going again. Roll on spring and more boating adventures.

Have a great week, allemaal!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Still winter...?

I saw a funny poster on Twitter today. It's about the first thing I've read about winter that's actually made me laugh. It went something along the lines of 'Winter's behaving like an angry relative who keeps storming out of the room and then rushes back in shouting "And another thing!"'

What March in the harbour should really look like

It's true though, isn't it? We can't get rid of this blessed season. It keeps coming back with a vengeance. Last weekend I posted photos of a lovely spring walk we took. I even opened my coat and took off my hat. Can you imagine that? This weekend I've barely been out of the crumbly cottage. Yesterday we managed a trip to the dump with some junk that had been accumulating over many months, but it was snowing quite determinedly. So I decided that was it for the day apart from braving the throngs in the local supermarket. Today I managed an hour outside in company with a large container of cleaning vinegar. Together we attacked the green mould that has been covering just about everything of a stone or concrete surface. But it was absolutely freezing. I feel so sorry for the birds and wildlife, not to mention my panzies and daffodils which have all bent over in despair.

My rowing boat
Talking of cleaning vinegar, I must say I love it. It's my number one favourite stuff for cleaning just about anything...well, except me. I draw the line at that. Sharp and refreshing it might be, but I have certain sensitivities about just how sharp that can be. That said I have used it to clean the shower and chucked it down the loo. It's amazing at removing the unpleasant orange residue you get from the water in these parts. And the nice thing is that it's natural...well, it's the best part, actually.

last year's spuddle in March
I also use it to clean the green off my barge and I spent a few hours on Wednesday afternoon doing just that. It's funny to think that this time last year we were already spuddling about in the harbour. I was emptying my rowing boat of icy water on Wednesday too and remembered our first venture out last March. It'll have to get a sight warmer before I'm willing to start out this year.

Look! We weren't even wearing coats!

So there you are. I've managed to rabbit on about total rubbish for a few paragraphs just for the pleasure of writing my blog. Enough, you say? Okay. Have a good week allemaal.