Sunday, February 23, 2020

A picture post of a walk in the polders

There isn't much in the way of news right now. For the most part, we are all just weathering the storms that have been battering our part of the world recently. First came Ciara, then Dennis and in between there was a no name storm that seemed to be ours alone. Now we've just had Ellen, and who knows? Maybe there'll be Francis to join the party. 

In between, we've had the occasional sunny, dry day, so on one of these (I forget when now as the stormy days have overtaken my memory), we went for a walk in the polder nearby. It's quite a special area, as there is a village surrounded by common land, through which anyone can walk should they so desire. Very pretty, very pastoral, these photos speak for it better than my words can, so I hope you enjoy our walk.

Common ground to be enjoyed by all

The village houses on the dyke

just green land, sky and windmills

I loved this old barn

And its old cart

And how lovely to see happy pigs at play

This old mama had a lot to say

Sister porker rootling in the mud

A typical Dutch dyke village
One thing this winter weather makes me do is appreciate every moment of sunshine that we get, but I must admit to a longing for the spring, which will revitalise us all, I know. Have a great week everyone.


Two bits of news quite aside from my usual post, which is late, I know, I know, but I hope you will forgive me when I say this first is the reason:

I've just recently published a new memoir about my beloved but very challenging dog, Sindy. I wrote to share the experience with others who might also be going through difficulties with a rescue dog, but it's turned into more than that. In many ways, it's a love story, but I won't say more and will leave you to decide that for yourselves. Here is the link for anyone who's interested:

And while I'm on the promo slide, my third South Africa memoir, Highveld Ways is on special offer for readers who have Kindle Countdown in their countries. It's just 99c/p for the coming week. Here's the link:

Right, well that's it. I hope you don't mind a bit of self promotion here, and you can ignore it as it's on its own post, so now I'll write a separate entry for my blog :)

Friday, February 14, 2020

A flat month in a flat land

Since we came back from Portugal just under a month ago, life has seemed a bit flat. Yes, I know we live in the Netherlands, but that isn't quite what I meant. This flat has to do with our season induced mood, which is rather strange considering the excitement of the weather we've been having over the previous week or two. However, before Ciara came gusting in with all the force of an unwelcome party pooper, we'd already had enough wind and rain to warm us up for the big event. The clouds have been so unrelentingly grey I can barely recall whether there's been any silver in their linings, but I'm sure there must have been.

I know I spent an afternoon in the garden tidying up, and I also know that when we arrived back from Faro I spent a day cleaning the green off the Vereeniging. Given that I'd cleaned her before we left and that there wasn't any visible moss on her panels and hard wood rubbing rail then, I was shocked at the amount of growth that had accumulated in the 11 days we were away.

To address this unsightly mould (how is it that it's so grim looking, even on the green panels?), I climbed into my (also green) little boat with a scrubbing brush and some white vinegar and did the rounds. It struck me then and still does that it was amazing I could even contemplate doing this in January. Normally, the ice would have formed on the puddles in the bottom of the rowing boat and I'd be contemplating skates in place of my trusty wellies. Okay, I'll be honest, I wouldn't normally be contemplating doing anything outside at all. It should be much too cold for such industry.

That said, even without the storms, it's still been pretty miserable in that way that's so common to maritime climates. The Dutch call in waterkoud which I think is very expressive. After I've been away at the weekend, the barge is even worse inside than it is outside and everything feels damp and bone chillingly unpleasant. Even the cupboards throw out an icy blast when I open them. Who needs fridges when your clothes feel as if they've been in the freezer compartment? My solution is to light the stove, fill a hot water bottle, don my woolly boot slippers and huddle under a blanket until the warmth has penetrated the fabric of the interior and I can bear to pick up a coffee spoon without having my fingers frost bitten (Am I exaggerating? Boaters will know).

Then of course, Ciara came and did her best to cause as much damage and disruption as possible. I watched the news from Zeeland and my heart sank as I heard of a block of flats in Rotterdam that had its roof ripped off and numerous other reports of damage across the region. Would the Vereeniging survive? Luckily, she lies in a sheltered part of the harbour and a photo from a kind neighbour that evening reassured me that my old lady was still in one piece with nary a bucket adrift and all her tarpaulins in place. Ciara clearly didn't spot her nestling there. Now apparently Dennis is on his way to finish off what she started, but we're prepared for that too. I have a new neighbour, which is definitely good news in terms of keeping us from swaying around too much.

Safe in spite of Ciara

So that's it for the moment, allemaal. I hope I'll have something more interesting to post about next week...You never know...we might even get to go for a walk. Now wouldn't that be exciting?

Thursday, February 06, 2020

The draw of abandoned places

One of the things that has fascinated me since childhood is decay....I'm not quite sure what that says about me, but crumbling ruins whether they be of castles or houses or even old sheds have always appealed to me. 

When I was in my pre-teen days, I liked nothing more than scrabbling around the remains of old Welsh castles. I remember the happy days of exploring such icons of dilapidation as Pembroke, Manorbier and even Conwy, which in those days almost seemed too well preserved even to me. 

Later, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist (no surprises there, I'm sure) and to confirm this obsession with all things falling down, I went still further into ruination by going on digs to unearth the remnants of Roman villas in Dorset. Even better were the finds from Bronze Age barrows with which darkest Dorset is lavishly littered (sorry...couldn't resist).

Sadly, and maybe because I spent too much time digging and not enough in studying, I didn't get the grades I needed to do archaeology at university. In those days, I think there may have been an active policy to discourage hopeful dirt grubbers by asking for very high A Level passes, and while my aspirations were high, my marks weren't. Instead, I gathered the remains (sorry again) of my pride and clutching my rather average A level certificates, I  went off to do a teaching degree (teachers were in short supply then, hence the greater leniency).

Nevertheless, the passion for all things crumbling remains, which might explain some of my attraction to Portugal. There is so much to be seen and wondered over, even in the urbs and suburbs of cities like Faro and Olhão; there are so many wonderfully abandoned places. These are manna from my personal heaven, especially living in a country like the Netherlands where everything is maintained to death and even 500 year old buildings still manage to look new.

On that note, here are a few of the places that drew me on our recent trip to Portugal:

A rope of sturdy proportions wrapped around with greenery. What was it
there for? It was half buried with what looked like a stone post.

The sorry but beautiful skeleton of someone's house. Who lived there once?
What was their story? Why is the whole place abandoned?

Stones are scattered far and wide as if a storm has flung them off the walls.

Just as lovely as any castle 
Now this got me. The remains of an old aqueduct. Where did it lead?
Why was it put out of use?

And lastly, the road to our hostel. Several traditional old houses stand in
a ruined state. The marks of life long gone are still there, but I fear these
houses are beyond repair. 

As you can see, I'm still feeding off the richness of that trip and it hasn't given me indigestion yet, so bear with me. In fact nothing much has happened since we came back as I've been busy preparing for courses and continuing work on those 600 questions I mentioned last time. I still have 250 to go, so that'll keep me quiet for a bit. I've also started two new courses and marking is about to take over much of my time. That said, there are still walks and other small adventures to relate, so I'll be back to normal again soon.

Oh and yes, I have a new book almost ready to let loose onto the world. I'm clutching onto it as long as possible, though, as it's probably the most personal one I've ever written. It's the story of my Sindy dog, whose character and legacy still make me reluctant to have a new furry friend, but I'm getting close. Maybe once I've let the book go, it will somehow be symbolic of letting her go too. I think it will probably come out next week....maybe :)

Enjoy the rest of your week allemaal!