Friday, May 25, 2018

The Vulnerable Vandal

Approaching Roubaix

As I mentioned in the previous post, our very pleasant mooring in Roubaix last week resulted in some entertainment of the unlawful kind, but the results were slightly unexpected and ultimately very amusing.

Coming to the last lock before Roubaix

Waiting for the lock
To wet the scene (sorry, a typo, but a fitting one), we were just settling in for the evening on Tuesday when a loud thump announced the arrival of someone landing hard on our roof and attempting to pull open the hatch. Koos shot to the door, opened it with a bang and emerged like a dervish of doom full of sound and fury, which in this case, signified plenty.

He shouted fiercely (and believe me, it can be alarming – Koos is very good at projecting) at the intruder who, totally shocked to find anyone at home, was already beating a retreat and whining, "You frightened me!" In French, of course.

Well, that's a new one isn't it? What kind of vandal complains about being frightened by his victim?

Koos, not to be denied his moment of glory, bellowed a good old Anglo Saxon expletive at the top (or bottom) of his powerful bass voice, to which the vulnerable vandal complained, "And you're not even French? I didn't know you weren't French!" as he scarpered to the safety of the quay, quaking in his new Nike trainers.

I like bollards

In the lock on the way up

Well, that just did it for me. Is this a new millenial milestone? A vandal complaining that he'd been frightened into retreat and that we should have told him we weren't French. Would knowing we were foreigners have made a difference, I wonder? Are there protocols in millenial vandal world that were at stake here? Thou shalt not vandalise foreigners; 'tis bad for our business – or something.

We laughed about it for the rest of the evening. It gives a new dimension to that currently hackneyed term 'snowflake', doesn't it?

As it happened, we had something of a disturbed night altogether, but due less to the millenial méchants than to the police. At some point during the night, we heard stones being thrown onto the roof (in Rotterdam, we have bottles). Getting up to investigate, we didn't see anything, but it seems someone else did. Half an hour later, just as we were snoozing off again, another and much noisier series of thumps landed on the roof and before we knew it, torches were shining through the curtains and very French voices were demanding that we open up. 

Koos went to the door with me behind him this time. It was the police. Five of them. Overkill, I think, don't you? Bearing in mind we'd only suffered the whining of our vulnerable vandal and a few pebbles on the roof, five cops at our door was a bit extreme. If only they knew what we put up with in Rotterdam on a regular basis.

Anyway, they were suitably concerned and with their torches blazing down at us, they asked if we were all right.

"If you'd take that light out of my eyes, I would be," said Koos, in very convincing French I might add.

They didn't really get the joke, and went on to be rather serious about what a bad area it was and how dangerous it was and how we should call them etc etc. It occurred to us they might have thought we were the in-breakers, but given our rather senior appearance, I'm guessing they quickly abandoned that idea.

Anyway, Koos thanked them for their attention, said we were fine and we all said goodnight. 

In hindsight, though, I rather think they take what we understand to be standard urban behaviour more seriously than our Rotterdam police do. The latter go home to bed at 11:00 every night and leave us to it. Only the week before, I'd shooed three guys off my foredeck during the wee hours of the morning. It happens, well, not infrequently I have to say, and we're used to it. Perhaps the French police have other ideas about what is criminal and dangerous, but it didn't seem so bad to me.

Anyhow, the rest of our night passed peacefully, but as the next day we went to a fascinating arts and design centre, I'll save the rest of our trip for my next post. 

Enjoy your weekend, allemaal!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A mini May meander on the waterways

In my last post, I was all excited that we were going to the boat lifts in Belgium, wasn't I? Well, that proved to be a no go. We set off on Sunday as planned but when we were half way there we learned from a skipper on one of the locks that a stretch we needed to go through would be closed until this week Tuesday, so that put an end to our plans for an uplifting experience (sorry).

As a result, and after dealing with my severe wobbly of disappointment, we turned off the Scheldt (Schelde here) onto one of our favourite stretches of water, the Canal de Roubaix and decided to spend a couple of days of relaxation at a mooring we haven't used before in Roubaix itself, a suburb of Lille. 

The canal starts as the Canal de L'Espierres on the Belgian side of the border and this was the first surprise. We have always loved this eight-kilometre stretch up to the French border because of the glorious, towering poplars that line the waterway. Well for the first few kilometres, we were revelling in seeing them again, but then suddenly, at the second lock, the scenery changed dramatically. The friendly (as always) lock keepers warned us we'd be seeing big changes and I can't honestly say this was a totally unexpected as I knew it was happening, but given we were in the same place only last August, it was still astonishing to see. To cut the story short, all the poplars are being felled and replaced by lime trees, and the first phase of the programme has been completed in just six months.

The first stretch of canal looks the same

Then came the surprise

The new look mooring: open and a little empty
but the trees will grow...

How the mooring at Leers looked last year

In fact, they've done an amazing job. The felling, clearing and replanting is complete along a stretch of about two kilometres. The towpaths have been resurfaced and everything is neat and tidy. But it looks open and empty compared with how it used to be. I suppose it didn't help that the weather was also cold, dreary, grey and misty, but we missed our glorious poplars. And did I just say it was cold? 

It will be many years before the lime trees reach a height that provides the lush shade and magnificent tunnel that their predecessors formed. Apparently, it was very necessary as the poplars had reached the end of their lives and were becoming dangerous. I do understand it, but yes, it was sad to see. Next year, another stretch will be done, and the year after, the final reach to the beginning of the canal. I took plenty of photos as I don't know when we will pass this way again.

All the same, it was good to moor up at Leers Nord again and cycle to the familiar village supermarket to fetch a few supplies. It's a wonderfully peaceful mooring and I am sure we will be back again in the future. It has that feeling of having arrived.

The next day (Tuesday), we travelled on under the care of the French canal authorities. The two cheerful novice lock assistants helped us through the system at something of a snail's pace. We couldn't help remarking at how last year, we'd had the A team and this year, we got the B team. That sounds unfair as they were lovely and very helpful and definitely working on their A status, but it seemed to take forever as they were both learning the ropes and spent a lot of time on the phone taking instructions. Unfortunately, as we drifted around waiting for one of the locks, a youth walking along the towpath with his mates decided it would be fun to throw stones at us, something we've never experienced before. I'm just glad they were quite small — the stones, not the boys.

Mooring in Roubaix

Anyway, eventually, we arrived at the moorings in Roubaix. The lock assistants helped us connect up to the electricity and then left us to it, promising to be back on Thursday when we wanted to make the return journey. Then the charming PR lady, Camille, from the canal administration dropped by to give us yet another folder of information about the canal (we already have two from the previous two years). She was accompanied by one of last year's A Team so we have to assume he's been promoted. It was great to find that he remembered us, another welcome we shall treasure.

After lots of laughter and convivial chat (well, more Koos than me as my French is limited to occasional interjections and an attempt to look comprehending and agréable, as one does), they departed, but with a warning not to leave anything outside that could be stolen. Roubaix is part of the greater Lille urban area and, like Rotterdam, carries the attendant problems (which we are used to) of petty crime – as we were soon to discover.

However, what we also discovered is that today's millenial petty thief has lost his edge and become what we quickly termed a Vulnerable Vandal....but perhaps I'll keep that story for next time. Suffice to say, it was très amusant.

Watch this space allemaal! To make up for a late post this week, I'll do two instead...or maybe even three!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Carol Ann Kauffman's VISION and VERSE : Interview with Author Valerie Poore

Many thanks to Carol Ann Kauffman for having me on her blog for a Q&A interview! It was great fun to do :)

 Carol Ann Kauffman's VISION and VERSE : Interview with Author Valerie Poore: Valerie Poore  (I prefer Val, but write as Valerie) City, Rotterdam Country, the Netherlands Good morning, Val, and welcome...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

We're on our way again

And this is where we're going! Now the Hennie Ha is fit for business again, we are taking a week's holiday to go to our beloved Belgium and experience this amazing waterways piece of engineering. It is the great boat lift at Strépy Thieu near Charleroi, or rather La louvière to be precise. We are taking three days to get there, one day there and three to come home again (all being well!). 

I took these photos in 2010, when going up it (or down it) in a barge seemed just a dream. I can still hardly believe we are actually going to be doing it. The aqueduct along the top feeds barges from the hilltop into the lift, which then drops 72 metres to the lower level of the canal.

These are the lift shafts that you can see from the side view. I've watched boats being lifted up here many times, and it is just amazing to think I'll be doing it for real. Koos did it once soon after it opened in 2002, so for him it is the second time, but still exciting.

This view out over the valley shows just how high these hills are. Isn't it fantastic? I think this lift is one of the great wonders of the waterways. We are also going to try and do the four old lifts that this one replaced. They are only in use during the summer and are just for tourists as they are now a World Heritage site. I've done one of those before and blogged about it, but it would be fun to do all four if they are open.

Have a great week allemaal. I just hope mine will be all I am expecting it to be...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Terry Tyler: Free Books :)

STOP PRESS!!!  Only till tomorrow! Grab one or all of these now. I’ve loved them all! Terry Tyler: Free Books :): On impulse, I've put four of my older books on FREE for 5 days,  from May 9-13th .  Click on title for universal Amazon link. �� Th...

Monday, May 07, 2018

A picture post of our trip to the shipyard

A quick weekend to the yard just over the Belgian border started early Friday morning when we left our harbour at 07:00. I'll fill in the details later, but we just wanted to paint the hull, especially around the water line. It had suffered so much damage from the harsh winter, so a weekend out of the water was just what was needed. The pictures tell their own story...I hope!

The Ghent-Terneuzen Canal was like a millpond

So off we went

The yard at Zelzate is mostly for commercials, but yachts
are stored there over the winter too

The Hennie H in dry dock just before we started painting

We had a wonderful show of passing traffic

And a nice view off the back deck

Looking forward while the dock dried out

And two days later, a nice gleaming black hull

Just as we wanted it

The dock being sunk again on Monday morning

The water is pumped into cavities below the bottom
to push it down

Back at our berth by 11:00

One smart little barge again

This video is for Carol Palin, so she can see how the dry dock is 'sunk' by flooding it.
And now I have to scoot back to Rotterdam to work, so have a great week, allemaal!