Monday, June 26, 2023

A dog's life, or rather, life with dogs

It's been an odd and somewhat anxious week since I last posted. Apart from the exceptional heat (which is fine if all you need to do is sit and enjoy it but not so great if you have physical work to do outdoors), other things have been sent to try us. The most worrying of these was when I noticed Zoe, our little dog, was off-colour. At first, I thought it might be the heat, but even so, I felt her listlessness wasn't normal so I called the vet on Wednesday morning and asked for an appointment. Thinking it wasn't urgent, I accepted her offer to see us the next afternoon. However, later in the day things started suddenly getting worse.

When I gave Zoe her dinner that evening, I noticed she was having trouble chewing and swallowing, an alarming development. By the morning, she was drooling as well and her tongue was protruding from her mouth. Anxious, I messaged the vet again at 7 a.m., but there was no reply. Being a one-woman show, I guessed she was on call, and accepted that I'd have to wait impatiently until the afternoon. Zoe slept most of the day; even so, I was watching the drool seeping out of her mouth as I counted the hours to the time of our appointment.

Well, when we got to see our lovely vet, she was shocked and realised things were not good.

"Her tongue is swollen and her throat is full of slime," she said. "I can't see or do anything until the swelling’s gone down." She gave her a shot of antibiotics, another of anti-inflammatories and also an anti-pain shot. "Bring her back at quarter to nine tomorrow and I'll put her under anaesthetic to investigate," she said.

The following morning, Friday, was one I won't forget in a hurry. Zoe's condition had deteriorated still further. She was drooling blood, her tongue was hanging out even further and she was in a horrible mess. Oddly enough, she didn't seem distressed by it, but I was horrified and Koos and I were at the surgery door well before the allotted time.

The vet took one look at Zoe, gasped and immediately administered the anaesthetic.

"I'll clean her up and take a look. Maybe she's got an obstruction, a piece of wood perhaps, or possibly a burst abscess. I can't see anything wrong with her teeth, but until I look I won't know."

We went home in somber mood. I was sick with worry so I spent the next two hours 'pacing' in my own way, which meant working in the garden and preparing for the family to visit on Sunday, something we'd already arranged and couldn't postpone.

It was a huge relief, then, when the call came that we could go and collect her.

"I didn't find anything at all," the vet said. "No obstruction, no rotten tooth, no abscess. It's a mystery, but her throat was full of infected slime and I've had to drain it. I've never seen anything like it."

"It was awful," her assistant said. "Even I felt sick."

"She's had more antibiotics," the vet said. "The drain will have to stay in until Monday, so come back then and I'll check her over again, but if you're at all worried, call me. Any time."

We took our sick little dog home armed with pills and endlessly grateful to the vet for her willingness to be called, even at the weekend. After sleeping the rest of the day and the whole night, Zoe woke on Saturday morning already much improved and my worst job over the weekend was making sure the drain sticking out of her throat didn't get scratched off. 

This afternoon, I took her back to the surgery and the vet was visibly relieved to see how much better she was. The swelling has gone, her tongue is back to normal and the drooling has stopped. She's not yet quite 100%; she still tires easily, but she's getting there and she dealt with all the visitors yesterday without complaint. Mind you, that could have had something to do with two of them being her best doggy mates in the world.

After the op. See that little tongue still protruding?

So that's it, allemaal. No boats this week, and no DIY either, but normal topics will be resumed as soon as possible. When a four-pawed friend joins your family, life assumes a different perspective as those of you with pets already know.  For those of you who don't, please will you forgive my preoccupation this time. Thank you for reading this far and I'll finish with a few boaty photos for a bit of eye candy.

It's poppy season here in Zeeland
Last year in Antoing, Belgium

Somewhere on the upper Scarpe, we think.
This photo was seen in the Voix du Nord newspaper recently
but we don't know who took it, where, or when.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Preparing for boating adventures

This past week has been an exceptionally warm one here in our small corner of Zeeuws Vlaanderen, and even a whole degree warmer than pretty much everywhere north of us. Have I ever mentioned we have the honour of having our address in the warmest village in the Netherlands? It seems to be true because there's even a new sign up at the village entrance proclaiming this fact. Of course, this is an average and includes winter as well (to my joy), because the far southeast of the country around Maastricht often has hotter days during the summer.

Anyway, I digress as usual. Apart from finishing my sunroom (serre) wall, which, barring a couple of long screws that I need, is almost complete, we've been busy on the Hennie H, getting ready for our summer faring adventures. Most of this activity has been inside, partly due to the great loo project being the most important to accomplish, and partly because the hot weather has made it impossible to paint the roof and sides of the living area. Unless I can get up and at it by 6a.m., a time not suited to my own slow-to-warm-up engine (just a euphemism for the fact I don't do early starts), then the bulk of the exterior paintwork will have to wait for cooler, cloudier weather, 

However, I have started on the rear section behind the steering wheel, which is fiendishly difficult to get at and is therefore often neglected. The problem is that I can't get a sander in behind the wheel and regulator, so it all has to be done by hand. I have to bend myself triple and into unnatural positions, an exercise in contortion which isn't much fun, I can assure you, especially at my advancing years.

The area around the window is very difficult to reach with
a sander, so it mostly has to be done by hand.

Signs of neglect are always apparent
I don't enjoy being a contortionist

As for the loo, Koos has almost finished his work. He's even added a flip up table to the new back wall of our newly spacious WC so we can have a dining table rather than being obliged to eat on our laps as we have done in the past. Such a move has become even more necessary since acquiring our new shipmate, whose interest in food is of an all absorbing nature. We hardly dare eat anything on the sofa now, and I'm still amused by a question I read recently on Google: "How do I know if my spaniel is hungry?" The answer was a short "spaniels are always hungry". This has proved to be very true and I'm having trouble keeping the excess kilos off my increasingly tubby friend.

The two pics below show Koos protecting the sandwiches I made for him to take on a trip. Note the indignant expression on said spaniel's face.

Anyway, photos of the new loo and table will follow as soon as we've cleared away the tools and made the space look presentable again. Meanwhile, the new crew member has also been prepped for the summer by having a major trim. She hates being brushed and fussed over, so it was off to the experts for her. Unfortunately, her coat seems to be growing back fast already, but hopefully, it won't get too long before we're back in port again. I have yet to introduce her to the dubious joys of swimming. Spaniels are supposed to love water, right? Well, not this one. We shall have to see if I can persuade her to take a paddle at the very least, but bearing in mind her distaste for stepping in puddles, I don't hold out much hope.

Well that's it for this week, allemaal. Hoping you're all enjoying the glories of a hot summer if you're in the north, and a not too frigid winter for those of you in the south. I'll finish with some photos of earlier faring just to get you in the mood for this year's trip. More on where and why next time!

If, by any chance, you're interested in our travels through Belgium and France, here's a link to my first travel memoir, Faring to France on a Shoe:


Sunday, June 11, 2023

Not seeing the wood for the obstacles

I missed writing a blog post last week because I didn't feel I had anything of interest to write about. Then, when I was chatting to a visiting friend this afternoon, I realised I was in the same position. 
"All I've been doing is replacing all the wooden planks on my sunroom wall," I told her. "That doesn't really make for interesting blog posts."
But then I got to thinking. Why not write about it? That's my challenge, surely? It's actually been quite a project, so worth a mention even if it isn't about boats. However, on that subject, Koos has been just as busy expanding the loo on the Hennie H; also not a particularly glamorous project, but it's involved quite a bit of problem solving with which I've assisted – or maybe hindered. I haven't dared to ask. But I have at least done some painting of its new walls.

Anyway, back to my sunroom planks. They're not thick and they're not short and there are lots more than two of them, so hopefully there'll be no comments on that front. Still, I have to admit to being a bit daunted to begin with and was very much hoping I could find someone to do it for me. Well, I did; at least I thought I did. The only problem was that said klus man (odd job man) gave me a quote, took my deposit and then promptly went bankrupt, leaving me with no option but to try and do it myself since he'd had half the money I'd put by for the job. I couldn't grumble too much, though. He left several others a lot worse off than me. 

After this blow, it took me several months to gather my courage and get started, an initiative eventually prompted by the fact the wooden cladding was visibly rotten and was threatening to fall off the wall if I didn't pull it off first. So I forced myself into action by ripping out all the rotten, splitting and peeling planks in the space of a couple of hours one afternoon. Apart from the four right at the top, which just needed some serious sanding and re-varnishing, everything else was quickly and easily removed; indeed, some of the planks at the bottom of the wall simply gave up and disintegrated the moment I touched them. It all made sense of my term of endearment for the house being the crumbly cottage.

Then came the fun of trying to find planks of the same type and dimensions. I never realised how difficult it would be. Wood. Good old overlapping rebate planks (I hope that's what they're called, because they aren't tongue and groove despite doing the same thing) were not easy to come by in the dimensions I wanted. Our local hardware didn't have them at all; the nearby DIY superstore didn't either; its equivalent over the border in Belgium offered them but only via the webshop and I couldn't order with my Dutch address. Who would have thought ordering a few planks would be such a time-consuming mission? Luckily, my Taurean persistence (some might say obstinacy) prevailed and I managed to order them from another supplier in Breda (100 kms/60 miles away) who were willing to deliver them for less than the cost of my petrol there and back. At last a good result.

Now, while I was involved in all these preparatory activities, the weather was dry, sunny and cool. Perfect for construction. But my friend Murphy's always lurking somewhere in the wings. The day the planks arrived and I was ready to get going, he decided to start turning the knobs on the temperature controls – up. 

I spent two days seeking shady places to put my trestles so I could treat both sides of the planks with what we call beits here. It's not just stain and it's not really varnish. In fact, it's coloured sealant that feeds the wood and protects it at the same time, and it's not supposed to be applied in the sun. Anyhow, as I worked away, Murphy was enjoying himself too and the temperature crept up and up, so by the time I was ready to start fitting the planks over the new insulation I'd added to the sunroom, we were up to 29C in the shade. Lord knows what it was in the sun, which (predictably) is where I was and still am working. Yesterday, we had 32C and today is likely to be the same, so I'll end this post here and get back at it before I turn the same colour as my new pine cladding. 

The halfway mark

Down to the ground, waiting for the
finishing trespa piece

I still have plenty to do, as the small section to the right of the door needs to be done and a section next to the sliding doors at the front, but the worst is over. 

We tend to be quite private about our crumbly cottage and where exactly it is. Mostly, I only show bits and pieces of it, but I love this painting my daughter did of the back of the house, so to finish with, I thought I'd show you. It has a stylised look that I like very much. The sunroom (serre here) is the the structure behind the ivy wall.

Have a good week allemaal and next week I'll show you the finished loo on the Hennie H. I bet you can't wait 😆