Friday, September 23, 2016

The dangers of resuming work

This last week has been very busy and highly risky. It's September, the academic year has begun again and not only do I have to work more or less full-time, but everyone else is doing so too.

As a result, the traffic has been a nightmare. On Tuesday morning, I drove up from Zeeland to do my usual stint in Rotterdam and got stuck in a traffic jam that meant I spent an hour and a quarter doing a distance that I usually complete in roughly seven minutes. This of course made me short of time arriving, and so I hurried to get where I was going. In my haste, I twisted my ankle and fell heavily on my left hand, hurting it quite badly...well badly enough to make it look as if I had donned a boxing glove and was a right bruiser (excuse the pun)...but yes, the swelling and bruising were considerable.

What makes it worse is this is the third time I've fallen in the space of a week - a phenomenon I put down to the pressure of having to work again after such a wonderful lazy, cruising summer. Yep, I've decided work does not suit me and is far too hazardous. For example, the first of the three falls occurred when I was busy prepping for lessons on my laptop. I got up from the sofa, caught my toe on the charger cable, stumbled and fell. This did not do said toe much good and it swelled up to the proportions and colour of a juicy vienna sausage.

The consequence of course was that I had to wear flip flops (normal shoes refused to fit) when I cycled into town later the same day to buy some printer paper for producing those lessons on which I had been working when....well, you get the picture. Anyway, getting off my bike, I caught the heel of my sloppy sandal on the pedal and down I went again, sprawling and with the bike on top of me for added effect. Talk about the Battle of Wounded Toe...given that it was now the biggest, fattest thing on my foot, it got it again and now had black and blue added to its livid red colours.

It was for reasons of my poor embattled foot that I was also wearing sandals when I fell for the third time on my way to my class (see above if you've forgotten). Since this was 'proper' work and I needed to look presentable, I wore some wedge-heeled open sandals instead of my flip flops. Now I don't know about my fellow female readers, but I always thought wedge heels were somehow safer than normal high heels. As I lay spread-eagled on the pavement, where for two pins I'd have shut my eyes and had a kip (it seemed easier than getting up), I  realised I was probably wrong. And then again, ever since this incident, I've been hearing about how dangerous they are. Do you think it's true? I'm not sure.  In my case, though, I think it's work that's dangerous and I should definitely give it up for my own safety. Don't you agree? After all, now I have both a handicap and an impediment (sorry...awful puns I know).

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Gone blacking

What a busy week it's been. Something I didn't mention after the fun of World Harbour Days was that last Sunday, I met a long time Facebook and Blogging buddy, Lucinda E Clarke, who came to Amsterdam for a few days' holiday. I am a great admirer of Lucinda's books and being another former 'African', we have lots in common.  I took the train to Amsterdam in the morning, arrived at midday, following which we found a cafĂ© near the station and spent more than three hours nattering non-stop. Her poor, patient husband was just that...very patient, but he was very interesting to chat to as well having lived a fairly roving life too.

Lucinda and me in amsterdam

Then on Sunday evening, we charged down to our Zeeland harbour in Sas van Gent because we had to take our Hennie Ha to the boatyard in Terneuzen early on Monday morning to be lifted out for its insurance inspection. On the way, we took a detour over the Zeeland islands on a road we haven't followed before. It took us over a huge dyke with a massive set of locks in the middle that separate sea water from fresh water - a very complicated locking process. As there was an outlook point, we took the opportunity to stop and admire the evening view. It really was rather lovely.

The Krammersluizen (Krammer locks) centre.

Dyke road

The Krammersluizen (Krammer locks)

The outlook point from below. We climbed to
the top
We left the marina on the Hennie Ha on Monday morning at eight fifteen, a bit worried that we'd be late for our ten o'clock lift out, but the brave little barge went so well, we were actually there early. It's only thirteen kilometres from harbour to harbour, but we'd counted on taking nearly two hours. Here are a couple of photos I took on the way of what I call the coal art. The whole canal is lined with loading bays for various materials, much of which is occupied by coal heaps. I find it quite beautiful, but I know not everyone might think so.

Coal mountains at the canal side

Frosted coal

A coal depot
I also enjoyed this view of a truck spraying the dust to keep it down and the ferry across the canal that carries workers from the village of Sluiskil to the industry on the other side.

Dust laying truck

Ferry across the sea canal

When we arrived at the yard, we waited a while, but then everything started moving and before long, the Hennie Ha was floating high above the ground where it was cleaned with a high pressure hose before being put on a monster trolley and shunted into a position where we could work on it. The following photo series shows the whole process.

Thoroughly sprayed with most of the old blacking off
An hour or so after we'd settled into position, a beefy Suzuki motorbike roared into the yard, off which tumbled - sorry dismounted - our dear friends, Jackie and Noel, last seen on the Canal de Roubaix in France. They were on their way back to Belgium to collect their belongings from the barge they have now sold before heading off to pastures further and newer. It was a farewell meeting but we had our usual fun and laughter with them. I shall miss these two immensely. We only met up a few times, but it was enough to cement a firm friendship.

Favourite folks - Jackie and Noel on their way.
Tuesday brought the insurance man, who tested the thickness of the hull in strategic places, pronounced it fit and barring a couple of minor details in the engine room, gave us a thumbs up for the next six years. The rest of the week has been spent scraping, sanding and painting the hull above the water line and also blacking the bottom. It's been hard work as always, and Koos did a truly sterling job of the underside of the hull, which involved lying on his back and rolling the bitumen paint on above him. I was allowed to just do the pretty bits this time, in other words the green sides and red trim. It now looks like this.

Happiness is a beautiful black bottom

Like this
Tomorrow, we will be going back in the water again and taking the Hennie Ha back to its own berth to finish off the decks and other paintwork that we don't have to hang over the side to do. That reminds me - I also have to finish off the paintwork on the Vereeniging...ho hum...a boat lover's work is never done!

Saturday, September 03, 2016

World Harbour Days

This summer has been magical for me. We've spent more time on the barge than at any period in the past and had more fun faring than ever before. However, the summer is coming to an end and work is starting again. The students are flocking back into Rotterdam, a reminder for me that I still have a job to do and cannot drift around the canals forever.

Last weekend, we had a lovely outing on the Hennie H and discovered a canal close by our harbour in Sas van Gent we'd never been to before. This weekend, we are back in Rotterdam. It's the end of the season and with that comes World Harbour Days.

Traditionally, we do a tour of the harbours on the Vereeniging, but my old girl still has engine issues, so we took the rowing boat complete with electric motor out instead. It was a lovely 'spuddle' (our word for a short sort if 'joyride' trip on a boat) and we enjoyed the usual colour and vibrancy that this occasion involves. I don't really need to say much more as most of you will have seen World Harbour Days posts from me before. It is so much a feature of Rotterdam life and I just love it. The photos we took tell their own story, so I'll leave it at that. Apologies for the odd format, though. I don't have my laptop with me and cannot get Blogger right on my iPad.

One of many serious rowing teams taking part in a mega race

And another

Always busy in the Leuvehaven

Tugboating beauty

Tugboating muscles

Shanty choirs on the quay. They're everywhere

Koos doing a little skippering

On Monday, we will off to the boat yard for an inspection. After that, I'll be back to normal life as a teacher of academic and business English. But I have some books to write too and a blog to maintain. See you soon everyone!