Monday, January 06, 2014

The Hoop from my book Watery Ways: what it was really like (very cramped indeed!)

In the last few weeks, I've had two lovely reviews on my book Watery Ways, which really focused on my life as a tenant of The Hoop, the beautiful barge owned by our friend Philip (the teeth). In the next month or two, I'll probably be publishing Harbour Ways, which is the story of my own barge, the Vereeniging, and how I converted it to a live aboard home. Before that happens, though, I thought those of you who have read Watery Ways might like to see the tiny space I called home for a year and a half.

I moved on board in January 2001 and moved off in late August 2002. When I bought the Vereeniging in December 2001, it was in no state to live on (being an empty hull), and so I stayed on the Hoop until I had at least a floor and a bed on my own barge. I adored the Hoop, and really wanted to make my own home as close in style to it as possible. The pictures below are of the interior of the roef, the space in which I lived. I've also added a photo of the exterior of the wheelhouse and the whole barge. The ruim or the hold, as we call it in English, was unconverted on the Hoop when I lived on it. These days it has been fully restored, converted and, in some ways, improved beyond repair. The new owners wanted to replace rather than restore the old fittings - their barge, their choice, but it wouldn't have been mine.

My photos are very bad, but I hope you can get at least some impression of my living space as it was then. They are scanned from old analogue prints, and something went wrong with my flash, so I've had to crop out the bottom of each one. I've put descriptions below them just incase you can't really see it! If I find any more photos, I'll add them. I know I've got some others somewhere, but haven't been able to find them as yet.

This first image is one of the small box beds I had. If you look closely, you might see that Sindy is lying on it. I didn't even realise she was there until I upped the exposure. The other bed is identical but on the other side of the cupboard that you can just see to the right of the bed. They were built in to the shape  of the hull, so not completely rectangular. The white strip to the right of the image is the frame of the sliding door that I could close off for privacy (not that there was much need for that!)

The entrance to the roef is immediately to the right of this image and the bedroom is right on the left. As you can see, the space is pretty small. I loved these old cupboards which were built to the shape of the barge. Nothing was straight!

On the left of the fireplace here, you can just see the stairs up to the wheelhouse (the entrance). At the bottom of the stairs, there was a tiny cupboard sized space where I had my portapotti, but it had its own beautifully panelled sliding door. Note the screwed on tiles behind the old oil stove and the kettle on the stove itself. I remember Philip bringing the mirror and telling me every barge had to have its own mirror. He gave me one for the Vereeniging too. On the right is the kitchen.

Okay, everything was a squeeze! This was the kitchen. There's a bit you can't see that went behind the mantel piece of the stove and that was where I had the famous fridge with a two plate cooker on top.

Back to the bedroom. A photo of Sindy in her proper place on the floor, but you can also see that below the beds there were cupboards and drawers. Very useful! No space was wasted at all and there was a remarkable amount of storage room for such a tiny area.

And here is the wheelhouse that I loved so much and spent hours sitting in. It was also where the real toilet lived upside down on the bench. You can't see the roef so well from this angle, but it sits behind the wheelhouse. What you can see is the windows of the roef  on the barge next to the Hoop, which had a very similar accommodation area.

And finally a photo of the Hoop from the quayside. You can see my loopplank perched on the bows. This was the one I had to use to get the two big dogs (Polly and Daisy)  up and down to the quay, come rain or shine. I have photos of them too and also of Sisha, but I'm still a bit sensitive about them, so will not post them here. Maybe I'll do a post of my doggy paintings one day instead.

I had forgotten how cramped it all was and how basic. I had things crammed on every surface and I see the tiles behind the stove were quite stained. I spent hours cleaning them and in my memory everything is much brighter and shinier than it looks in these photos, but time tends to put a rosy tint on memories,  and it fades the colours in the photos (or makes everything yellow), so the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Anyway, it was a heap better than when I found it as I painted everything.

As I said, I adored it and will always remember it with love. Everyone should have their Hoop at some time. If not a boat, somewhere else they cherish as a special place in their lives.


  1. Dropping by - to say Happy New Year. Will catch up with your lovely blog when I get home.

  2. Before I comment on your blog, Val, I just wanted to say 'happy travels', Jo.
    So pleased you published the photos, Val. They are fascinating. I'm looking forward to reading Water Ways. I think we all have this romantic idea of barge life, but I should imagine you have to be organised!! Still you have everything you need - including space for dogs and a mirror! Wonderful!

  3. Thank you, Jo! I;m looking forward to hearing about your Cuban travels very much!

    Lynn, thanks! I wasn't terribly organised as you can see, but somehow it all worked. I'd forgotten how cramped it all was. The Vereeniging seems positively luxurious by comparison. I'm so looking forward to doing it up again when my daughter moves in the spring!

  4. I love it! Thanks for alerting me to it - I will look at your blog so much more thoroughly now! However cramped, it still looks wonderful to me. I find making a very small space work as a home a very interesting challenge, too; I used to lie in bed planning how I would do this sort of thing!

  5. So right, Val. Mine is Suffolk, I'm now realising, since I have not been for a while. I am glad you've had some lovely reviews - and have a great 2014!

  6. Wonderful, Val, and as I am reading Watery Ways, so much fun to see. The tiles with the centre screws are just as I imagined them, and I know I will go back to this post a few more times as I go along. It was cramped, wasn't it, but you made it work so well.

  7. Wonderful. Love the tiles. Also, love the memories! Adventure is always cleaner some years on.

  8. Sindy looks very happy with her stick :)

  9. Glad you like it Terry! I notice that my yellow duck washbag is hanging up in the kitchen to :-) I still have it - very faded now, but a keeper.

    Jenny, Suffolk is too lovely. I've not been there enough, but i can imagine it's special!

    Patricia, this will have special meaning for you now you're reading it too! If you were visiting the Hoop now, I'd apologise for the clutter, but as you can much stuff, so little room!

    Jack, welcome! I'm glad you like it! I have the same tiles in my own barge...and in my cottage too!

    Stu, nice to see you here! Yes, Sindy loved her sticks - still does if she gets the chance!

  10. Great to see photos Val.It is compact ,yuo must be a very tidy kind of person,but it's very cute.

  11. It all looks so tiny! The romance must be in being able to travel the canals and the people you meet. I am new to your blog and your travels, was your husband with you on The Hoop?

  12. Anne, it was tiny, and I'd forgotten really just how small it was, but it was perfectly 'me sized' :-) I tried to be tidy, but it was difficult with so much stuff to cram in. Even then, I didn't have much in the way of possessions, but it looked a lot when concentrated in such a small space.

    Valerie, no, I was living alone on the Hoop. Even now, although Koos and I spend most of our time together, we are not married.

  13. I am amazed!! As someone who suffers from stuffocation, I don't know how you manage to fit everything in!!I'd love to live on a barge, but I'd have to have a house to keep all my stuff as well. What an insight into a different way to live!

  14. I'm full of admiration and at the same time disbelief that anyone can live in such a tiny space! I love being on a boat but for short times only. You must have wanted to run round fields after being so confined!

  15. Carol, that's actually what's happened! Now Koos has sold his barge, it's even more necessary! I have my little country escape in a small village in Zeeland. I had to have somewhere to put all my books...

    Ros, it was fine for that first year when I had nothing much anyway, but I definitely needed more space, hence the Vereeniging…and later on, the cottage. In between those, there was a different barge in Belgium… but that's another story.

  16. We need wonderful photographs like these to remember all the little things. We did something similar with a static caravan and it was fun!
    Thanks for all the lovely reviews on Twitter, can't wait to read your new book...

  17. Happy New Year Val!
    Your photo's depict some very cozy spaces.
    Great news on your book reviews too.


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