Sunday, June 26, 2022

A bookend type of month

I've been remiss, I know. It's three weeks since my last blog at the beginning of June, and here we are at the end of the month; mea culpa. I have to admit I've been finding it hard to focus recently and even took a month off Facebook altogether, but maybe I've mentioned that already.

Part of the difficulty has simply been the time of year. There's always a lot to do in May and June with the end of the academic year. Added to the usual course-end scramble, we have staff assessments, official English speaking tests, and coaching sessions for PhDers writing their theses in English. The speaking tests usually involve quite a bit of travelling around so at the end of the week, writing my blog has been something "I'll do later", except that later didn't arrive, not until today, that is.

I enjoy the speaking tests as we often go to schools to conduct them and I find it so interesting to experience the difference between them, which largely depends on where they are. 

Take your standard small town Dutch secondary school. Most of the children are competent, well-trained for the exam, polite and, well, dare I say it, a bit boring. They haven't seen or experienced much of life at all so their range of conversation is correspondingly limited, but they can do what's required and do it well. The city kids, on the other hand, especially those from 'alternative' educational backgrounds, are a world apart: feisty, often ill prepared but with so much more to say. They seem to have more life experience, more knowledge of the arts and literature and generally wider interests. It's fascinating to observe and one could easily be forgiven for thinking it's better for young people to grow up in a cosmopolitan, unusual environment if their ability to hold a conversation in English is any gauge of their educational and social development. I'm sure there's more to it than that, but on the surface, that's how it appears.

Anyway, back to our own world and tomorrow we will be testing the Hennie H in preparation for our summer travels. Koos has been away for a week on a well-deserved break to Hungary, so there's been a lull in proceedings there, but July is approaching and we hope to be on our way sometime in the first week. 

Last Monday, the bridge was returned to service (see previous post), so no more ferry, and life is more or less back to normal. We have painting on both boats to do before we go, fire extinguishers to have checked, fenders to pump up, diesel to buy and supplies to get in. Oh and in between all that, it will be Koos's birthday. I think things are about to get very busy!

To calm you down after all that exciting news, here are some photos from our world.

The Mark heading into Oudenbosch

The Basilica at Oudenbosch 

Snack hunting in Zeeland

The Vereeniging– just because

Horses and their foals at a nearby nature reserve

And again–just too adorable

Mummy and baby. The foal was very new

Have a good week allemaal, and I'll be back again at the beginning of July.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Fun with the ferry

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows my blog that I’m rather fond of boats and boat travel. “Yes, Val,” I hear you thinking. “That’s hardly news, is it?” However, as you also know from my previous post, we’ve been having some boat engine trouble, meaning we haven’t been anywhere much  on the water since last October, which for me has been a serious drought, despite the wet winter. One small ‘spuddle’ trip, just for fun, and a trip to the yard a mere 5kms away have been it so far this year.

Imagine my delight, then, when the local council announced the closure of the road bridge over to our nearest town in Zeeland for maintenance purposes. This was followed by a further announcement they would be providing a foot and bicycle ferry (voet en fiets) across the canal to compensate. Since we are spending most of our time in Zeeland (on account of said engine troubles), the bridge is a vital and daily connection between us and the boat, so I’ve been taking great pleasure in fulfilling a few faring needs by using the ferry every day.

It’s only a ten-minute ride across the canal, but it’s great fun and I would dearly love it if the council kept it going after the bridge is re-opened. I’ve been very lucky so far because I haven’t had to wait for the next crossing once. The ferry can take a maximum of twelve passengers and their bikes; it’s always well used, and sometimes totally full. On two occasions, I’ve seen people turned away due to the maximum being reached before the departure time. Sadly for them, it’s an hour’s wait before the next crossing. 

The thing is, although the crossing is short, it takes a while for passengers to embark and disembark, meaning there isn’t enough time to do more than a there and back (or heen en weer) trip in an hour. I reckon they should have a bigger boat, especially at weekends, but the fuel costs are probably quite a consideration at the moment.

Just so you can have an idea of the extent of the crossing, below are my photos from the trip over. As you can see, it’s no meagre waterway:

Embarkation point village side

Bicycles galore

Leaving the village

Out on the canal

A view of the bridge, which is now permanently
opn for shipping

Normal traffic on the canal

Turning off the canal into the harbour at
Sas van Gent

Not far from our Hennie H now

Disembarking point

Those photos were from my first crossing, but here are some others of the return and also what came past another day. 

Leaving the harbour

If you expand the photo, you might just see
The Hennie H in the distance

Skipper giving it some welly

Always grand to see these DFDS ferries
Little and large together!

And on it goes towards Gent

Heading home again

So that’s been my fun this last week. A small but real consolation given the hold ups we’ve been experiencing. Unfortunately, the weekend did an about turn with the weather and it’s now cold and wet, but I have work to keep me busy until the sun shines again. 

Have a good week allemaal and I’ll catch up with you all again soon.