Saturday, December 06, 2014

My fourteenth Christmas

This year's harbour lights
My first Christmas in the Oude Haven was at the end of 2001, so this is my fourteenth end of year festive season as the proud caretaker of my lovely Vereeniging. Every year, the winter seems to change. Some are just plain cold, but not enough to stop us having the occasional spuddle. The photo below is one from December 2008, when my daughter and I decided to go for a row with a broom and a homemade paddle (we really did - and they worked perfectly!). Yesterday, we went for another spuddle, except this time we had a smart electric motor and a battery on my increasingly decrepit little rowing boat. Now you'd think that would be much more efficient, wouldn't you?

Well, the occasion will enter the annals of the ridiculously memorable because we wired the motor up the wrong way so everything was in reverse. I'd done about four pirouettes before my daughter grabbed the tiller and figured out that reverse was forwards and left was right! I did feel an idiot, but in hindsight it must have looked very funny.

The fact that we were trying to tow another rowing boat 'to help out' a poor neighbour who was rowing against the current just made things even funnier. Poor Bas didn't know what we were up to except that we were running rings round him. It was icy cold, but I wish I'd had a camera on me to capture the moment.

Then there are the snowy Christmas seasons. I know everyone seems to think we've not had a proper winter in years, but I have photos to prove otherwise. These three were taken in 2009, one of the prettiest winters we've had with lots of real snow and icicles as well as plenty of sunshine to make it all sparkle. Children playing ice hockey on the canals made a beautiful scene and everything was frozen solid.

This one below was, I think, earlier, but I don't know exactly when. The trees on the quayside have been gone for years, so I suspect it was back in 2005 or 2006. My photos are not always dated very well as the cameras were not set to the right date and time on occasions. Needless to say, this was a very snowy winter in the Oude Haven.

Last winter was unusual in that we had no snow, no frost and everything remained growing, even my annual primulas, begonias and geraniums. They all survived to flower again this spring. This last week, though, we had the coldest days since the winter of 2012/2013 so maybe things will be back to normal again. Much as I hate the cold, I think it's probably a good thing. The earth and the land need the ice and frost to kill the bugs, and snow gives lots of good things to the ground, but even still, I'd prefer not to have too much of the white stuff. Give me freezing temps with sparkling sun rather than this kind of whitout.

That aside, Christmas in the harbour is lovely as many of the barges put up lights in their rigging. This year, lighting up evening will be next Friday, so here's a taste of what's to come. I know I've shown this one before, but I love the atmosphere. This was Christmas 2006.

I'll be keeping my head in my books over the next few weeks, so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a lovely holiday wherever you're going or what you're doing. May it be peaceful and joyous whatever your persuasion. I won't sign off completely as I might post again, but for now…

Happy holidays and blessings to those who value the season's spiritual message XX


  1. Hi Val, I love your pics and the story. Have a great Christmas season 2014. Love Stefan xx

  2. Thank you, Stefan! Lovely to see you here again. It's been a while since we've been in touch. You have a great Christmas too, dar friend!

  3. Snow does make everything look prettier. Over here life grinds to a halt when we have a flurry of snow and it headlines the news. Your photos are lovely. I always think fairy lights should be compulsory all year round. Have a lovely Christmas with your family Val .x

  4. Stunning pics, Val, and you have captured the magic of winter in the Netherlands in your writing so beautifully. We have Dutch relatives and friends and I have always wanted to see the Netherlands in the depth of winter and see skaters on the frozen ponds and canals. We've visited at other times of the year. Love it!

  5. Hi Val - how funny you wired everything up the wrong way ... what a great story! Interesting to see your cold years ... I'd forgotten 2009 - but that must have been the year my uncle was in hospital and I was piling around with two house, two hospitals and two patients - let alone this patient! It was a difficult time ..

    Just turned cold briefly here .. now warmer again ... who knows when my toes will be cold ... tiddly-pum? Happy Christmas and seasonal end .. the lighting up looks amazing - I loved seeing the fishing boats in Mousehole harbour all lit at this time of year ..

    Cheers and have a happy time with your books - Hilary

  6. Thank you, Anne. Fairy lights make everything look prettier, don't they? We tend to have them all year round in the harbour, because it's a social centre, but not on the boats.

    Lynn, please come and visit! Any time!

    Hilary, the wrong wiring was so silly and I did laugh about it - especially afterwards. Thanks for the good wishes. I'll probably be back, but I know I should just work!

  7. Lovely post. I shivered and felt such admiration! Next year, must visit!!

  8. There's something rather special about snow on water. I suspect you'll be seeing that scene again this year. They're forecasting snow on our UK televisions as I type this. I love that photo of the fancy lights on the rigging.

  9. Stay warm in your wintry cold, Val. I hope the season is kind to you

  10. I loved this post, which all the lovely photos of winters past. I always giggle when Europeans say 'ice hockey'. To us in Canada, to add the word 'ice' is redundant!

    Thank you for the kind words on my blog. I wish you, Koos, Sindy, and your girls a lovely holiday season. All the best to you all for a healthy and happy 2015 in case you don't come back on here. xx

  11. Thank you, Carol. Yes, you must!

    Ros, I don't like snow, but admit it's pretty - for a while!

    Jo, thank you. I'd rather be following in your footsteps though :)

    Anne-Marie, bless you and hugs to you all, including your furries! xxx

  12. Val. I like your sense of humor while you assisted your neighbor in this post. Milestones are notable as we forge ahead. Congrats on 14 years! I thought of ice skating and the hothouses in the center of Chicago years ago when you described the winters. There is a beauty even in the frigid temps. Happy Holidays to you also! Lynn

  13. Dear Val - I agree “Every year, the winter seems to change.” Last year we had terrific snow days here in Nara while usually it rarely snows no matter how we are chilled to the bone. The paddling of boat always reminds me of the song “Row, row row your boat / Gently down the stream / Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily / Life is but a dream”, no matter how you felt cold and a bit awkward. Paddling against the stream struck me as an interesting fact of life as a metaphor. I’m interested in your unique way of life on the boat with humor and wit. Wish your fourteenth Christmas be filled with the most precious things you think. Stay warm and be safe.


  14. That's a lovely post, enjoyed looking at the pictures! Love the one with everyone on the snow, and the really bleak winter boat ones! xxxx

  15. Thank you, Lynn. I'm glad you enjoyed my nonsense!

    Yoko, I make a habit of paddling against the stream. It's just my nature!

    TT, glad you liked it. The children are actually skating on the pond. All natural ice! It's a lovely tradition here.

  16. Love the pictures and story. I'm with you on loving the look of snow but hating it in reality, I hate driving in it, in fact I just don't. That's when living in a city becomes easier than living in the country xxx

    1. I don't blame you, Fran. I don't either! We are so lucky we have good public transport. I don't cycle in the snow too! xxx


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