Friday, April 22, 2011


This week has been both busy and beautiful. What weather we are having! Mid summer would be hard put to equal this week's continuous sunshine, mid twenties temperatures and cloudless blue skies. I'm slightly worried this is going to be it for the year though. The last few years have delivered the best weather a tad too early for us to really benefit from it in the usual holiday period.

Anyhow, the start of this week took me to Amsterdam. I've been going there quite frequently recently as I've been giving what is known as blended learning Academic Writing courses for the University of Amsterdam. This type of programme involves a combination of face to face and online teaching, although for the courses I've been giving, there are only two face to face sessions in the eight week programme. I'm not sorry about this as going to Amsterdam for a two hour session uses up pretty much an entire day. It takes me two hours to get where I have to go, two (and some) to give the class, and then another two (and a bit more) to get home again. Nearly 7 hours.

Still, I enjoy these excursions into the heart of the country's capital, the place where the intelligentsia and the tourists congregate. The vibe is so different from Rotterdam. Amsterdam feels like a city of poets, artists and literature. It feels like the city of intellectuals. Rotterdam, by contrast, is the city of action. It revels in its soaring modern architecture, its industrial buzz and reputation for keeping the pulse of the country beating. Two totally different cultures, often at odds with each other, but equally exciting to me.

That being said, this last Monday was glorious and I took my camera with me to capture some of what gives Amsterdam that special something. Here, then, are the results:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Fever

The creek close to the little house.

Finding the time to do everything I want to do and get enough sleep at the same time seems to be difficult. As I advance in years, I seem to need more sleep, not less, and this conflicts with the ideas I have of continuing to do everything at a break neck speed, or at the very least with some kind of efficiency.

Much as I love the spring, it always reveals a heap of things to be done outside that in my winter cocoon mode, I have either failed to notice or deliberately ignored. Spring can even be a depressing time when you live on a barge as the winter is never kind to boats and while the rest of the world is waking up fresh and renewed, boats tend to look at their shabbiest and most neglected by contrast.

Two weeks ago, I had the Vereeniging on the slips for bottom work and painting. No inspection this time, but I had two metres of plating added for the zekerheid as we say here in the Netherlands. Added to that, the marvellous Frits (who did the work, nobly assisted by Koos) added stabilising fins to each side of the bottom to stop it rolling quite so porpoisefully (haha) when out on the choppy waters of the river. Meanwhile, I scraped, sanded and painted. Even so, we only managed to get the hull done, although we did remove some more of the old tar off the rubbing rail and take all the red paint off the strip above it. Frits is coming tomorrow to do some patchwork here, as while Koos was stripping the paint off with our very effective needle scaler, he also managed to take off some rusty lumps of steel. Parts of the strip now look like open weave lace work as a result.

Besides this, we have both been working hard on the Hennie H, now back in its berth and with a bottom so strong it will see both of us out plus a few generations of our combined offspring to come. The bottom is Strong with a well deserved and very expensive capital S. We have both agreed we can't afford to sell it now, it's cost us so much, so our latest dream is to take it to England and explore the UK canal network. I even think it might just happen!

On top of that, there is maintenance on the little house to be done (one job a week) plus real work (!) to do to keep paying for all this, and then in October, I am starting a Master's degree in TESOL. Will there be time for a holiday this year? I don't know, but since every weekend in Zeeuws Vlaanderen is like a holiday anyway, maybe it doesn't matter so much. At least we can still do fun things like nipping off to France for lunch, and thanks to the fantastic (and most importantly, very cheap) Ryan Air, the odd weekend to Poland, Sardinia or Malta is still on the cards.

The weather here is gorgeous at the moment too, so I can't even complain about lack of sunshine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring and a new start

It's been a long time since I've done a blog post. I'm out of the habit and out of the loop, but the desire to write something or anything is upon me again, so I'm starting small and hope it will grow like the flowers that are blooming all around us now.

What a spectacular time of year it is. I adore the spring. It's all about renewal, and that's how I feel now. Soooo, to get me going, here's a few pics that I took yesterday while on one of our mad dashes off to France. We went to a tiny place called Mons en Pévèle for lunch...just because...well, just because we love it there and it was a return visit we'd been promising ourselves. The photos will, I hope, show you why:

Canal side homes to be envied: Pont à Vendin

fronds of cherry blossom soften the severity of an old
railway bridge

From the other side, the goemetry of the bridge takes the focus

The church steeple towers above the village on the
hill at Mons en Pévèle

Mons en Pévèle basks in the warm spring sun

What a location for what a villa...what you get if you're

I can't see much wrong with this side, but you never can tell!

Transport can take many forms in rural France

It's about colour, that's all...

Mons en Pévèle in close-up