Friday, February 12, 2016


Apologies to Carol Hedges. This story was first published as a guest blog on her fabulous Pink Sofa blog, but seeing as my last post was the back story to my life as a resident of the Oude Haven, I thought it would be fun to edit and repost this. It's part of the pre Watery Ways era and so doesn't come into the book.

Most of you know by now that I spend an inordinate amount of time sploshing about in boats and talking to the ducks. That said, it might be quite a surprise to some to know that I loathe being wet, detest being cold and the worst thing of all is a combination of the two. So yes, you've got it. I do NOT like swimming. At all! 

But you live on a barge, I hear you say. 
Very true, I reply, but I live on it and in it, not under or around it. That's for the ducks. Not me.

So. This story is about the time I got arrested by the Water Politie for supposedly trying to hurl myself off a bridge in Rotterdam. Now keep what I have just told you about my predilection for keeping dry and this will make you laugh. It still has me chuckling and it's fourteen years down the line.

A water police launch
courtesy of Wikipedia

The way it went was this: When I first came to Rotterdam, and as I mentioned in my last post, my erstwhile husband and I (sounds like the queen doesn't it? Only her husband isn't erstwhile - not yet anyway. Neither is mine, actually. He's just not mine anymore) decided to buy an old barge to fix up. Which we did. Now he and a few others went off to collect said barge from a harbour in Amsterdam, but because I had to go to work, I couldn't go too. 

The arrangement was that they would let me know when and at what time they were approaching Rotterdam and I would go down to the river to see them in. The other part of the plan was that they would pull in close to the river wall before sailing into the harbour, and I would jump on board and do the last half a kilometre with them - just for the fun of it (yes...well, it sounded like fun at the time).

That was all well and good as a plan. In practice, it didn't happen that way.

The thing is it was late November, so the evenings were dark. Added to that, my husband and his crew were late. By the time I got the call to go down to the river, it was already about eight o'clock. And cold.

So, I wrapped up warm, but just in case I emptied all my pockets of anything of value. I was going to jump on board the barge, see, so I thought I'd better not have anything that I didn't want to lose just in case things fell out of my pockets as I was launching myself off the quayside (it does sound a bit 'off the wall', doesn't it? Sorry).

Please note that at no time whatsoever did I imagine going swimming either accidentally or on purpose.

Well then, off I trekked down to the riverside. I found my way to the appointed place, the quay next to the harbour entrance, and there I waited - in the dark.

It was pretty icy, I have to say, so I started pacing up and down, every now and then peering over the edge to see if I could spot any barge lights approaching. Nix, nada, nothing. Not for ages.

I waited and waited and paced and paced.

But then I did see some lights. A boat was coming hurtling towards me at great speed. As it approached, I saw it was a police launch. Then I saw another one and from the way they were positioned, they both seemed to be interested in me. I started to worry. Maybe they thought I was - you know - a lady of ill repute. I tried moving along the quay, but they followed me there. And then back again. Then after walking away from the side a bit, I noticed they just stayed put, which unnerved me even more. Why were they just watching me?

After playing 'follow me' up and down the quay for a few more minutes, I decided enough was enough. Our new barge was nowhere in sight, so I thought I'd better just go back to the harbour and wait there. Anything was better than this rather disturbing standoff. I waved jauntily at the water cops (hoping they'd be happy to see me go), backed up the steps quickly, ran across the road and headed back along one of the harbours.

Well no sooner had I gone fifty yards or so, than a couple of police vans came screaming up the road towards me. Then another one came from behind and blow me down, a whole regiment of policemen leapt out and grabbed my arms (I never said I wouldn't exaggerate).

The ensuing conversation was too bizarre for words:
"Good evening, mevrouw," said one. "Can I see your ID?"
"Why?" said I.
"Well, mevrouw, we had a report from a bus driver that a woman was trying to jump off the Erasmusbrug."
"Really? Well that wasn't me."
"But you were there, yes?"
"Yes, but I was waiting for someone...coming by boat."
"By boat." Picture cop's cynical grin.
"So why were you waiting there for a boat, mevrouw? There's no, how you say, jetty there."
"No," said I, "I was going to ju...." 
Oops. Better shut up now.
"You were going to what?"
"Erm, I was going them on board."
"Where is your ID, mevrouw?
"I'm sorry, I don't have it with me because I was going to ju..... join them, that's it...join them...and I didn't want to risk ...."
Picture cop's second cynical grin.
"And you weren't going to jump in the river?"
"No. It's true," I said. "Look," I went on frustrated now, "Anyone who knows me will tell you I'd never do that. Never!"
"But we don't know you, mevrouw, and the bus driver said..."
 "Look, I don't care what he said. Why don't I phone my husband and you can speak to him. He'll tell you too. I would NEVER, EVER do that!"
The disbelief on their faces was almost rude. I mean as if I would lie about something so true.
"Do you have a phone, mevrouw?"
" left it at home...with my ID..."
"Because you were NOT going to jump in the river. Is that right mevrouw?" I blushed.
By this time I was surrounded by about ten policeman, all vying with each other to hold on to me and make sure I didn't make a break for it and hurl myself into the adjacent canal. If only they'd known. Just the idea makes me shudder - even now.

But in the end, one of them had a phone and so I was able to give him my husband's number to call. I wasn't allowed to speak to him myself. Oh no. They had to do it. Hubby, of course, thought it was an absolute hoot, and nearly got me locked up for a lark, but in the end, he had the decency to confirm my story. Apparently he'd come into the harbour from the other end, but he'd forgotten to tell me. Brilliant. 

The upside was that the police gave me a lift to the mooring in their van complete with flashing blue lights. It seemed they still didn't really trust that I wasn't going to go late night skinny dipping. Can you credit it?

So this, friends, was my baptism into the world of the Oude Haven. Fortunately for the cops and for me, it wasn't a wet one, but I'll never forget that's how it all began. 

Next time, I'll tell you the story of how we got stranded on the river at night in a rowing boat with no lights. 

It's all part of life's rich tapestry isn't it?

Our first mooring spot 


  1. Oh dear, so funny - and isn't it just like a husband to forget to tell us the vital piece of information? It must have been embarrassing to be followed by so many officers of the law - and of course, if you really want one, they will be nowhere to be found!

    1. Too true, Patricia! It's always the way. I'm glad it made you smile today!

  2. Well goodness me Val !
    The first thought that came into my mind that 'It was a novel way for an author to gain notoriety'
    Not that you need too :) :) xx

    1. Haha, Mel...a 'novel' way...I like that :) As the author of one or two, I can appreciate that, notoriety notwithstanding :) :)! xx

  3. Brilliant, Val! One of the funniest things I've ever read! No wonder you still chuckle about it 14 years later! This is a hoot! What an adventurous life you lead...sometimes adventure unintended!

    1. The adventure is nearly always unintended, Steph. It just seems to find me...a bit like Miz Mike. I do mind my own business, but things just happen that way :)

  4. Hi Val - well that was fun ... and I can quite imagine it happening - also the forgotten alteration to the plan: husbands! As you say a good story to be told on and off over the years bringing a smile and a giggle to many ... cheers Hilary

    1. Just to add to your comment on my latest post - it was the almshouses .. I did title them in the pic as Quirke's almshouses .. must have been some storm! It's lightening up here .. but still raining .. cheers H

  5. Love this tale Val and although I don't know you in 'real life' somehow it doesn't surprise me that you have these sorts of adventures ;-) xx

    1. Thank you, Jane :) For some reason, I feel quite pleased about that! xx

  6. What a great story! I am your complete opposite with regards to water, as you will recall from our jumping off your barge into the Rotter ten summers ago (ten!!! Can you believe that??) I am happiest in the water, near water, and get wet on purpose six days a week in the pool. :)

    1. Near water is essential, on it is preferable, but in it is not for me, Anne-Marie. You have my admiration, you water baby you! xx

  7. Wonderful story - you are a really excellent writer. 'Erstwhile' has redolances of Bronte to me.... Or maybe Thackeray.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! It is a nice word, isn't it?

  8. Haha, wonderful story! I hope you've learned your lesson about loitering on the canal side!!!! Xx

    1. I keep it in mind all the time, Fran. My reputation, you know ;) xxx


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