Sunday, June 15, 2014

The big stuff that you don't see on Twitter

These days I spend quite a lot of time on Twitter. I'm not very good at keeping up with threads and conversations because I usually have to go off and do other things - like work just as a for instance - and I lose the plot quite often, which can be pretty funny at times. But I love Twitter for all sorts of reasons: the banter between the lovely people I follow on one of my lists, the photos and chats with folk in Dorset, my pre-South Africa home, on another list, and the things I can share with the English boating community, which I have as another list again.

I love this last group because I can see photos and videos of the gorgeous English canals. Tonight, for example, I had a brief chat with a woman who has her narrowboat on the Fens, country which is remarkably similar to the Netherlands. However, what passes as navigable canals there would just be drainage ditches here and no one would dream of boating on them. Our canals in Holland tend to be much wider and more serious, used as they are for commercial traffic. However, we can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in that sense. There are a few small canals. We did a trip on one of them in the Vereeniging some years ago, which I wrote about in Harbour Ways. And there are others in the area known as Westland, which only small boats and cruisers can use - but certainly not barges like the Vereeniging.

One of the few small navigable canals
in the area

Mostly, though, it's the big stuff here and that's no exaggeration. The huge network of major rivers that starts in Rotterdam means we have enormous container barges - sometimes coupled together - heading upstream into Germany, France and even Switzerland.

The sea canal is lined with industry from the coast to Ghent
 Added to that, the Westerschelde estuary gives access to the huge sea canal that makes it possible for massive sea-going transporters to get all the way inland to Ghent and Antwerp in Belgium. I love to watch these monsters sailing across the landscape. They look far too big to be on a mere canal. And often, because they are so huge, they are pulled by tugboats to keep them on course. The sight never fails to impress me.

Muscular tugs pulling a sea-going vessel

Impressive in their own right

Just a tad bigger than a narrowboat
So this is the contrast with the world I enjoy viewing through the images my narrowboating contacts place on Twitter. Half of me would love the tranquillity of doing what they do and never having to worry about the big commercials like these. The countryside is perfect; the small hump-backed bridges are quaint, and even the locks are beautiful. But the other half of me would miss this; these great sea ships that smell of far-off lands. There's nothing quite so exhilarating as being out on the canal in your little boat and being overtaken by one of these. You really feel you are part of a thriving waterways network - the arterial lifeblood of Europe - and not just on a route for pleasure boaters.

All the same, Twitter gives me a taste of that other life, the gentle, relaxed world of the sleepy English canals, and yes, one day I'd like to try it for myself. Luckily, I now have enough Tweeple and #boatsthattweet to ask where to go and get the best routes and trips…thanks to the fantabulous world of Twitter.

There, I bet you never thought I would combine a post about my boaty life with the social media world. 'Tis amazing what you can do when you know you have to get a post out and don't really have a clue what to write!


  1. The scale may be different, but Tardebigge is aptly named, with thirty-six locks in quick (hah!) succession, or the Wolverhampton Twenty-one, perhaps. English canals do big small, if you see what I mean. That's not to say that I'm not impressed when I see Rhine barges surging along, but there's majesty about working boats, whether narrow or broad! Love the pictures. :)

  2. I don't know how you manage your tweeting, to be honest, but I'm impressed that you do. When you have a moment, check out the song Rivers by your compatriot Frank Turner (easily found on youtube). I have a feeling it will get under your skin.

  3. You are right, Christina. Those staircase locks are impressive too. I remember going to Caen Hill! It's more the scale of the traffic and the risk factor that's such a contrast!

    Anne-Marie, that song is lovely, isn't it? I'm going to buy the CD, I think. Thank you!! xx

  4. Growing up in Rotterdam (give or take a few years in Brielle, on the Brielse Maas), I love to be around water, especially rivers. Unfortunately, nothing like that exists here in Finland, so I have to live vicariously through you. Thanks for your lovely blogs, Vally! xxx

  5. One day, you must come and enjoy the Caen Locks - There's a pub at the top, with cake! Then we can tweet pictures of both of us!

  6. Aah, Suzanne, I can imagine that you miss it very much! I'm glad I can bring your watery world to you through these blogs xx

    Jo, there's a chance I might be in your neck of the woods next year for a boat trip. I'm working on it so will keep you posted!

  7. Thank you for another insight to your Watery World, Val. It is all fascinating, and I don't know how you find time to do Twitter as well as blog, work, and look after boats!

  8. I love your watery world, and reading about it, even if I am all blog commented out (as I get on Mondays!) and can 't think of anything clever to say!!!

  9. Hi Val - well done on getting a post up .. and telling us who don't do Tweeting .. vaguely how we could do - when the time comes.

    I can see your attachment to your larger water ways ... they bulk up your brain power .. as you navigate your way round everything ..

    Love the photos and large and small thoughts on canal life .. cheers Hilary

  10. Patricia, thank you! I do most of my twittering late in the evenings and sometimes early in the morning. I don't spend time on it during the day except the odd peek, so it's my sort of unwinding place :)

    Dearest TT, thank you so much, but you know somehow whatever you say sounds clever…well, fun at least! Even when you're all blogged out :)

    Haha, Hilary, I like that "bulk up your brain power"! I'm glad the small glimpse of how I tweet sounds useful!

  11. What a fascinating Blog.
    One to follow we think!
    And now contemplating Twitter too.
    Heather and Gary :)

  12. How do we follow this, all we seem to get is lots of text! :(

  13. Another lovely post Ms P. To quote one of my favourite old films "It's a wonderful life!"

  14. Wow - I don't know whether I'd like one of those huge ships coming past if I was on a little barge!

  15. Thanks Jo, it is indeed a wonderful life. Roll on the day you get your own barge!

    Chris, it's scary and awe inspiring at the same time, but more of the latter than the first. I love it.

  16. Looking at the size of that water or is it sea? the English canals would be a bit too tame for a gal like you.

  17. Anne, it's a sea canal :) There are some stretches of water that are much like being at sea though. The Hollandsch Diep where we were in danger of being blown onto the rocks (in Watery Ways) is like that. I find those waters a little too exciting for my tastes :)

  18. It is fascinating flying over Holland and seeing those waterways all spread out below you.

  19. I'm impressed that you do twitter, I am on it and just started following you, but I can't quite work it out! I remember being terrified of those big boats when we sailed the sea canals of Holland, which we have done quite a few times in the yacht. Also when we crossed the North Sea or Channel, crossing the shipping lanes are a bit like trying to do a slow walk across the M25! But we will do it again no doubt as there is no nice gentle rustic canal to get us to Europe xxx

  20. Jenny, yes, the view from a plane is fantastic isn't it? You can even see the big locks!

    Fran, I think crossing the channel must be much more nerve-wracking than this. I'd be terrified! Good luck with Twitter! I love it, but I realise I'm not very good at it, even now. The best thing I can suggest is to make a special list of the people you really like to follow xxx


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