Saturday, December 29, 2018

End of the festive season

And so this was Christmas!

My daughter's Christmas tree
I didn't have all that much time to prepare for the festive season this year because of being on the helling with the Vereeniging. As I mentioned last week, we had to be towed to the slipway, and this little gem is what took us there. A very cute, but powerful little push boat, or opduwer as they call it in Dutch.

 Here we were, waiting on the pontoon for the previous week's incumbents to come down and for us to go up. I know I added photos last week, but a few more never hurts!

I like this view of the skyscrapers through the old bridge here. You can only see it like this from the water, so it's quite special.

 All the work was over by Friday as last week's post mentioned, but what I didn't say was that Koos, bless him, had fixed the problem with the engine so we could return to base under our own power. It was a remarkably good feeling to be pottering back again and had the weather been warmer, I'd have relished a quick tour round the harbours. But my feet and legs were soaking. This was due to it being unusually high water on Friday. It flooded in quite early when Koos and I had taken some time out to do other things.

When I got back to the helling, the yard was completely under water. Since we'd left some tools, ladders and other equipment on the concrete base, I put my wellies on and went wading to rescue them before they floated away, but it was already too deep and the water flooded over the tops of my boots as well. Nothing escaped, though, thanks to my trusty boat hook, and the only victim of the high tide was me, of course.

In my home berth with frost on the deck
On Saturday morning, we left Rotterdam to drive south for Christmas. We needed to go to the crumbly cottage and fetch our gifts as we were going to spend Christmas day with my daughters and Koos' son. On the way, we stopped at a village we've never visited before. Colijnsplaat was a surprising little gem, sitting behind the sea dyke that protects it from the Oosterschelde (Eastern Scheldt). We found several interesting shops as well as a small maritime art gallery where we bought some lovely books on maritime history. We also found a huge second hand furniture emporium (otherwise known as a junk shop) where we bought some other if we don't have enough to read already. Here are a couple of snaps of the village:

Sunday and Monday were spent wrapping gifts, preparing food and putting up the Christmas tree (I only ever do it on Christmas Eve), and then on Tuesday, we travelled north again for the  day itself. It was a lovely morning, sunny and bright, but pretty cold. After lunch and jollity, the whole family went for a long walk made more entertaining by using it as a mission to pick up litter. My daughter is even more obsessive about litter than we are. We nearly always come home armed with tins and plastic bottles we've picked up on our walks. Well, since there was a party of us, we filled two large carrier bags full. It really is depressing that people just drop their litter anywhere, but at least we enjoyed retrieving it.

Here's a photo of my grandpup, Charlie, waiting for his Christmas dinner. Spot the waggy tail.

Since then, we've been mixing relaxing with some de-cluttering. The rush of being out of the water before the holiday combined with having the worst cold I've had in years was pretty tiring, so I'm doing chores at a snail's pace. So far, we've taken two massive bags of books that will never be read again to the charity shops, taken a mound of old things to the dump and earmarked other things to go the same way. Meanwhile, I've been writing like crazy. My book about our years in Johannesburg is taking shape and, I hope, will be ready to read in a couple of months.

Have a fabulous New Year allemaal! I'll catch up with you all soon, but I hope 2019 will be a happy, peaceful and healthy year for you all.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The end of the year

It’s the end of the year and it’s been a very busy time on a number of counts. One has been finalising the autumn courses; another has been that I’ve had the Vereeniging on the helling again this past week, hence the tardiness of this blog.

A couple of months ago, I noticed a patch of rust on the waterline that needed to be treated before the rigours of the winter really struck, so I booked this week before remembering how cold it might be (see last post).

It’s been wet rather than freezing, but we all know how unpleasant damp cold can be. Still, the work is done! We can relax now till next year. I’m not writing more now as we have to arrange things for putting her back in the water, but there’ll be more later. Here then are a couple of photos of the yard and a Christmasy blur of the harbour. Enjoy your lead up to the festive season allemaal. I still have to do my Christmas shopping...

Monday, December 10, 2018

Winter wondering

I don't know how or why it is but I always forget how debilitating I find the cold weather...until it hits me. The summer was so perfect and it went on being warm for so long my body forgot what it was like to be cold and how I react to it. Well, it has remembered. Big time.

This past weekend has been as lousy as it can get weather wise. It poured down so hard, I wondered if even the sea might overflow. The noise of the rain pounding on the roof began to make my ears hurt; it kept me awake at night and became an intrusive presence during the day. I barely went outside the entire weekend.

This morning, though, I woke to the relief of brilliant sunshine. It was time to shake off the cabin fever and get out in the fresh air. Since I needed to have the valve in one of my tyres checked at the garage, we went to Terneuzen where we decided to combine operations with a walk along the dockside. We parked the car and went bundu bashing over the railway and around a ditch full of water until we could find a way to reach the quay. It was quite adventurous but well worth the effort.

The morning was spectacularly beautiful; it really was. But the wind – now that was something else. It was absolutely bitter and I suddenly thought of what it would be like to be faring along the waterways at this time. During the summer I often dream of how great it would be to go cruising in the winter, but that's when my body is warm from the sun and I don't physically remember how wretched it is to be cold. This morning I knew I'd hate it. I'd just huddle in my coat with my nose under my scarf and be miserable. But I wish it wasn't so. To be out there in such light and with such a wider scene bare of foliage to obscure the view, that would be magical.

I would also love to be doing more on the barge; there are so many maintenance jobs I could be working on. In the summer, I imagine myself continuing well into the winter. Well, imagination is a fine thing because the reality is that I don't and can't. The temperature drops and my willingness drops with it. 

Having said that, I'm due to go on the helling next week. The deal is that if this week's incumbent has too much welding to do, I'll have to wait till February. Part of me is hoping....

Yes, well...below are some of photos I took with my archaic phone camera this morning. It just goes to show how great the light was as they aren't too bad. 

Have a great week, allemaal and weather the cold, if not the storm!

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Two in One

This post will have to cover two weeks rather than one. I'm a little tardy but I have a good reason. Last weekend I was in England visiting my sister and this weekend we have visitors from England ourselves, so I have been much occupied.

It was lovely to be with family again for a few days. My sister and I are close but we don't have much chance to see each other. She is always so busy, as am I, but I felt the time between 'sightings' had been too long so I booked myself a weekend trip to England courtesy of (Sl)easy Jet. Flying into Luton meant I wasn't too far from where my sister lives and she was able to collect me from and take me back to the airport.

We had a marvellous few days of catching up and talking ourselves into dehydration. Given the general inclemency of the weather, there wasn't much incentive to go out, but we did manage lunch at a nursery where Sister bought two fruit trees as a leaving gift for the school where she taught for more than twenty years. I thought it was a lovely idea, especially as she is having a sign engraved saying 'May the fruits of your labours be ever bountiful' (or something similar). She hopes the children will be able to watch the trees flourish, flower and fruit and that they'll be able to pick, eat and cook the produce – she taught cookery and art as two of her subjects; hence the interest in the trees' (and the children's) future development.

Here are a few photos of the lovely walk we managed to do on two afternoons. The light was particularly appealing with sunshine highlighting the warm yellow facades against a rather stormy sky. I must say England is so pretty. Driving around the country lanes up and over hills and through the numerous picturesque villages was such a treat.

A magnificent oak tree

Sunshine before the rain

And again

I love the light through the trees

I arrived back late Monday night, but had to be up early on Tuesday for work. Meanwhile, Koos had been away to Moldova on another photo mission. He came back on Wednesday evening, so we were up late again talking and comparing travels. Thursday was another busy work day, after which I was relieved to have Friday free to make our way to Zeeland to meet our Wandering Snail friends who are over in Belgium for a similar visit to friends. We said goodbye to them in Terneuzen in 2011 and I blogged about it here, but they've since been back with their narrowboat and spent another couple of years further north in Holland. Brexit permitting, they hope they'll be back yet again with the Snail for more touring in Europe. I hope so too.

As for the current state of life, the weather is typically autumnal at the moment: no comment. Work is typically autumnal too. That aside all the children are gearing up to Sinterklaas, that uniquely northern European celebration, while the rest of us are winding down to the end of the year.

For all my blogging friends, enjoy the lead up to the end of 2018 and I'll be back with more desultory news from this small corner of the Netherlands soon.

Have a great week, allemaal!