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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The spring of spring

What a difference a week makes at this time of year, doesn't it?

Last week, I was moaning about the Beast from the East, and now we are turning the heating down and remarking on the mildness of the balmy air.

It's been lovely today. After a torrential downpour and thunderstorm that woke me up in the middle of the night, the skies cleared and we were treated to one of those mornings of stunning light and flossy clouds. To celebrate the turn in our climatic fortunes, Koos and I went for a walk. Our purpose was to go and visit a ram (predictably coined Rambo) that lives in a field some distance along the dyke on which the crumbly cottage is situated. This poor fellow is all on his own and I feel very sorry for him. He's a friendly creature and spends his days as close to the fence in his large field as possible. I think he just waits there for the next passer-by to stop and give him a bit of attention and scratch him under the chin.

I recently read that rams should not live alone, and I can't help noticing they they are isolated far too often. While I understand they cannot be left to run with the ewes all the time, they could easily be placed with wethers (castrated rams), or even with other animals. It seems wrong to keep such a herd creature alone and it's easy to see they crave the company.

Here's a couple of photos of Rambo communing with Koos:

I took some other photos of the pretty houses along our route. Being white and quaint, they looked especially attractive in the sunlight and I appreciated anew how lucky we are to have this lovely place to escape to.

I love this Cape Dutch style home. It's very pretty and has a
lovely big garden

View over the polder to the sea canal

The local B&B. Totally self contained cuteness

From its other equally pretty side

The main house; in other words the owners of the B&B
Same style of quaintness

Then of course, I couldn't resist a roofscape that begged to be captured with all its colours and uneven tiles:
Roofscape from the height of the dyke
And lastly, there were some other pretty things along the way of a livelier variety:

Isn't she a sweetie?

Breakast time
Altogether, it was a lovely walk on a gorgeous spring morning, and although it clouded over later, it gives me the feeling that the warmer weather is here at last.

Hoping you have a spring in your step too allemaal. Are signs of warmer days around in your world? Or cooler for my southern hemisphere friends?

PS: On the subject of sheep, my novel How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics is at a knockdown price of 99p/c on the US and UK Amazon sites this week; just if you need something to banish the winter blues once and for all :)

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Beast from the East

I think almost everyone knows what that term means now. After the two weeks of sub arctic temperatures we've had, Siberia topped it all by sending us its wind, that Beast from the East. Now most people who know me well know that I don't vent, explete (if there is such a word) or otherwise resort to cursing, swearing or being in any way mouthy. It's just not me. I have, however, discovered that there's an exception to this; a conditional clause if you like. I should now like to say I don't swear unless I am faced with the full fury of a Siberian wind (or drivers who are trying to kill me, but it amounts to the same thing).

This last week has tested me beyond anything and I have given very strong vent to my feelings on several occasions – in fact, almost daily. The Beast from the East has shown no mercy and it's been like an assault every time I've walked through the university campus or through town. While I understand the actual temperature was only around minus 3 during the day, the wind chill factor was given as minus 25. Yes. Just think of that.

Anyway, I'll stop moaning now. But just so you know. I was not a happy bunny.

Quite apart from that, there are other interesting side effects to this type of weather. When the east wind blows, it pushes the water out of the rivers and keeps the tide out too. The result is we have very low water in the harbour and scaling the gangplank is an exercise akin to trying to climb up a chute. Going down is even more of a lark. It is not rare for me to squat down on my haunches and inch my way down while clinging to the rope with one hand and trying not to lose my bags in the other one. I would just go down on my bum if I could, but the plank has a surface similar to a large cheese grater. I'll leave you to consider the implications of that one. Here are this week's pics of the challenge. If you look on the other side of the harbour, you can see the footings of the wall. You shouldn't be able to – see them, I mean.

The cheese grater plank. It's actually worse than it looks

An interesting exercise in depth perception

See the footings of the wall opposite
Anyhow, I'm very pleased to report that after having snowed quite heavily on Friday night, today it has been positively warm at all of 7c. The snow has thawed and so has most of the ice, so I've been enjoying (yes, really) being outside and cleaning the Hennie Ha. A pity it started raining as soon as I'd finished. If it's not the Beast from the East, it's Murphy popping up to have his say.

Have a great week, allemaal and I hope the weather is being kind to you wherever you are.