Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Vereeniging fares again

My blog is a little late this week, late as in slow in arriving but maybe that's fitting this time because it had to wait for a venerable old lady to get going. No, I'm not talking about myself in this case, although I confess that by the time I manage to get going every day, I feel I'm becoming quite old myself, if not actually venerable.

The old lady in this case is the Vereeniging. She has lain dormant for several years now, victim of a viral bug that it took far too long to diagnose. Still, treatment has been applied and at 120 years old this year, she has recovered to fare another day and fare well too.

Today, because one of my neighbours is leaving this weekend for his annual sail around Zeeland in the Bietentocht (see my blog about it here), I had to move the Vereeniging from her position in the harbour to a few metres the other way. Well, this seemed too good an opportunity to miss for a spuddle of a momentous kind. After the nursing and nurturing we'd done on bringing the old dameschip back to life, a gentle rondvaart of the harbour areas seemed just the thing. Which is what we did. With great grins and purposeful pride.

It was a magic to be steering out of the harbour. The weather was sublime...


We puttered gently along the Scheepmakershaven and round the Leuvenhaven before returning back along the Wijnhaven to base.

 Rotterdam from the water is Rotterdam at its best...

Approaching the Leuvenhaven
 And there are barges as far as the eye can see and the soul can wish for...

the Leuvenhaven
The vibrancy and the colour of the inner city harbours are a sight for sore eyes... so we feasted them, as I hope these photos show ....


the Leuvenhaven

the Leuvenhaven

Turning into the Wijnhaven

Back home, but a few metres to the left or the north or....

Had I not had commitments of the paying kind to attend to, we would have gone on with great pleasure. But this was a start; we broke the spell of immobility; the Vereeniging has fared again.... and she didn't miss a beat. The dream of going to Utrecht is looking considerably brighter.

Enjoy the rest of your week allemaal.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The last of the summer sunshine

Despite the cold nights and mornings we've been having, I have to admit the daytimes are just lovely at the moment. I probably shouldn't say that, should I? No doubt it will be perverse and change just because I've mentioned it. But we're enjoying it over the weekends and are having lovely walks now we can't go faring for a while, which brings me to the Hennie H.

Our lovely little barge will remain immobile until the spring, I'm afraid. What happened was that following the fitting of a new oil cooler, one of the connections began leaking while we were on the way to a weekend on the Moervaart in Belgium. Unfortunately, we have no 'dashboard' with gauges, so didn't see the oil pressure was dropping until a nasty tapping sound alerted us that all was not well. We stopped as soon as it started, but it seems the damage was done. According to the diesel mechanic who's promised to fix it for us, it's probably a piston ring problem, but of course it could be something else. We won't know until he's taken it further apart. Nevertheless, he's confident it's fixable (at least it still runs!) and as he's officially retired, he's also promised it won't break us (financially). It's been a depressing few weeks, but at least we know and have real hope we'll be up and running again by next summer. We're now consolidating and saving our pennies, which brings me back to our walks.

On Saturday, we did a rather circuitous but pleasant drive around until we reached the Moervaart at a bridge called Kalverbrug. From there we walked along the waterway for some distance. This was where we were heading when the Hennie H died, so it was a bit poignant, but very beautiful for all that. I think my photos speak for themselves as even though I took them with my phone, it still looks lovely. The colours aren't quite as rich as I really saw them, though, and I can't intensify them without giving them a phoney hue, but you get the idea.

On Sunday, we did some cleaning on the Hennie H. There is plenty of work to do still, so I hope the good weather lasts a bit longer! I also have heaps to do on the Vereeniging too....ah well, it keeps me off the streets. Have a great week, allemaal and I'll fill you in on the any new developments next week

Monday, October 01, 2018

September, I (don't) remember....

September. Where did it go? Today it's the first of the month again and I find it's already October. Even if I didn't believe it, the weather is reminding me. It's just cold. The wind is cold, the nights are cold, the air round my ankles in the morning is more than cold. But September must have sprouted wings. I cannot for the life of me think what I did with it other than work. It's still that way.

It's a bit of a merry-go-round in truth. I have to drive to Roosendaal on Tuesdays, teach teachers there, then up to Rotterdam Tuesday night for an early start on Wednesday where I have two individual lessons back to back followed by a group of PhDers. Wednesday ends late. On Thursday mornings I have another PhD group; then in the afternoon, I head down to Steenbergen for duty at my daughter's business. Add to that a trip to Amsterdam to give a class there (a day that involved eight hours travelling for four hours teaching; there's something wrong with that ratio); many useful hours working on the Vereeniging (replacing more outer panels) and some rather less useful days fretting over the Hennie H.

Is there anything I've missed? Well, maybe a couple of nice walks, so I'll post some photos of the one we took yesterday. I call it our Windmill walk. It's on a kind of no-man's land between the Gent docklands and a Belgian suburb. We used to walk there with Sindy and it's remained special to us, but we see they are trying to 'improve' it and make it a proper nature reserve. It's peaceful, wonderfully so.

Widened and dredged

The windmill walk

A railqueduct

Rails to rove by

The industry line

No man's strip

Shapes I like

See what I mean?

Oh one more thing...I am writing again and enjoying the journey back in time. More African Ways are on the way. As for September,  I'll do better in October, I promise.

Have a great week allemaal!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Museum pieces of a special kind

It's just over a month now since we arrived back from our summer travels, and today at least, autumn has been showing its hand. Up to this point, though, we've had nothing to complain about weather wise. The rainy days have been few and often confined very conveniently to the night. We've been able to enjoy some lovely spells to help ease us into the shorter days and chillier nights.

During this time, various activities and events have kept us occupied, not least of which has been that I've had to go back to work. I started again on 4 September, just after Monumentendagen, the day when anything of a heritagyl flavour gets brought out, polished up and shown off to eager public eyes like ours.

On one of these days, Saturday it was, the first of the month, we came across this eye-catching collection of very beautiful old cars. Being English, I have a bit of a thing about motor racing, and classic sports cars get me going quite easily. I absolutely loved these, especially the MGA and the Austin Healey. The old Volvos were gorgeous too...well, they were all gorgeous to be honest. And I have a very special affection for old Beetles as well, so look at the photos and admire away.

I can't remember what this was, but it's very oooh worthy

The oooh worthy from its profile

Wonderful old Volvos from the back

And front

Very lust worthy too

And this Austin Healy was just it.

A stunning Cabrio Beetle

And a standard, gorgeous classic
The following day, we decided to visit another open monument at Beernem not far from Brugge/Bruges. We took a very circuitous route, quite accidentally on purpose of course, and stopped to consider our options in this lovely avenue.

Belgium at its best

Lovely barn house converted beautifully

The open monument we were seeking was a fabulous museum on an old barge, the Tordino. It is the brainchild and project of a friend of ours, Frederic Logghe, who felt there was far too little attention paid to barge and inland waterways heritage in Belgium. The result is this magnificent waterways museum on the barge. Here is a link to his Facebook page about the project. What is remarkable is that he has funded this entire enterprise himself and relies purely on voluntary donations to keep it going; he receives no government or authority support at all. Despite what my photos suggest, it was VERY busy and wonderful to see how many people had cycled to the museum. Its location is not, shall we say, prominent.

An entire wheelhouse inside the barge

An incredible array of waterways equipment and old technology

Models, old photos, paintings, barge name-boards. It's all here

Diplomas of female crew

The Tordino has a long term mooring here, just beyond the safety lock
between Beernem and Brugge

The safety lock doors are behind the barge

Local history about the ferry boat community that lived here
And lastly, our own bit of history, the Hennie H is still unwell. I don't want to go into details as it's a problem we have yet to solve, but the photo below shows where she is currently lying in Zelzate until we can get a tow home. The view is great...that much I can say.

Have a good week allemaal and I'll hopefully have some brighter news to tell you soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the autumn if you are in north and the spring if you're in the south. May it rain plenty of sun on you wherever you are.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Gentbrugge, the final final stop

Saturday, 18th August: that was where I left you last week as I continue to spin out this journey. There's a reason for it quite apart from not wanting to write too much for each post. The beauty of this long drawn out account is that I can relive the holiday every time I write about it. Memory is a marvellous mechanism. We think we've forgotten places, people and events, but they're all in one of the many drawers that make up the storage cupboard of our minds. It only needs a gentle tug to pull out the one we need and all the memories come tumbling out.

The afternoon we arrived in Gent, then, we simply pottered around and relaxed into small jobs and chores: a bit of painting, some judicious touching up of scrapes and scars from rubbing against lock walls and so on. While we worked, we noticed a family paddling towards us on their boards; not a particularly unusual sight, but what really captured my attention and my heart was the sight of 'father' standing on his with his Collie between his legs. As they reached the quay, the dog leapt neatly off and bounced around the other family members as they pulled in too. When they left again half an hour later, she took her place on board with practiced ease and off they went. A very smile worthy scene.

Then as Koos had some well earned down time, I took myself off for a walk. As we were in Gentbrugge, I knew we had to be close to the old sea lock that has long since been closed to water traffic. All this is now diverted round the town by way of the Ringvaart at the Merelbeke lock we'd come through the day before. Years ago, I read Roger Pilkington's Small Boat Through Belgium where he writes about the Gentbrugge lock and the excitement of waiting for the tide to be high enough to go out onto the river (everything was a bit boy scoutish to Mr Pilkington), so I wanted to see it for myself.

I've walked this tidal reach with Koos before, but a bit further downstream. I hadn't seen where it actually reaches the lock. At low tide, there is practically no water in the river here. With nothing to feed it when the water is on the ebb, all that's left are the silted up mud banks and a few puddles. The bird life is wonderful, though; they have it all to themselves and the banks have become so thickly overgrown, the shrubs are inpenetrable. The fascinating thing is that on the town side, the lock looks clean and ready for use. The basin is a large one as formerly, it would have held several barges moored abreast, but these days, the water lies still and the gates are closed, only used by cyclists and walkers. But on the other side lies a wilderness. I walked past the lock gates, but couldn't see anything through the dense bushes. The high tide line was still clear though, as the banks were wet round the roots of the tall shrubs.

What I did manage to reach was the other side of the barrage. On my Saturday afternoon walk, I saw just mud with a thin stream scoring a course between a few puddles. I didn't have my camera with me then, so we went back the next morning and took the photos below when the water was higher. As you can see it's full of debris as it's never cleared, but it was good to see the end point; that place where in former times boats and barges would be racing the tide to get through into the city on time. The untamed nature of the sea Schelde appeals to me immensely and I'd love to bring a canoe up this un-navigable section one of these days although it seems there is talk of building a lock somewhere between Gent and Melle, so it could all change. Anyway, here is a link to an article that shows what the river looks like on the other side of the Gentbrugge lock

Behind the barrage: the railway bridge

At the barrage
 During the evening, we took a walk the other way along the quay of the Visserijvaart that connects the Schelde with the other city waterways. We've never been through Gent at night so it was another first and very lovely it was too. The street lights spilled pools of soft yellow over the liveaboard barges along the quay, some of which are quite incredible in their adaptations from commercial vessel to designer houseboat. The only sound was our footfalls on the stone paving slabs; all very romantic.

The following morning we went for yet another walk but this time round the Gentbrugge neighbourhood. From our mooring, we crossed through the Keiser park which makes up this end of a long island in the Schelde, and over the bridge into the neighbourhood beyond. It was a quiet, grey morning with not many people about. I have a feeling it is an area on the up. While many of the backstreets are rather run down, several houses have been renovated and it looks as if young families are moving in and doing them up. Judging by the number of bikes sporting kiddy seats that were parked outside on the racks, the population is growing too. There is also a commercial business district the other side of the railway line that crosses the river. We found this fine old factory building and chimney there.

Factory building in the commercial area 
And even more arresting, we found an enclosed corner of land with these adorable pigs installed. On the fence was a notice asking us to please not feed them, but there was nothing about why they were there. Still, a charming distraction from the strict lines of the business buildings.

Three little piggies
On the way back to the Hennie Ha, this unusual house caught my eye. I liked its decorative tile work and windows and it seems the owners do too as it was very nicely maintained. Note the regulation bikes out front.
I rather liked this stylish building with its decorative tile work

By midday, we felt we'd explored enough and decided this was it; we'd make the move to get on our way. We thought about stopping somewhere on route to Sas van Gent, but in the end, shelved the plan. The weather matched our going home mood, which was more than a bit grey. I still feel it now – the sadness of realising it was all over for the year. For two pins, I'd have thrown all commitments to the wind and just carried on, but life isn't like that.

We untied, cast off and turned our nose to the north.  As always, it was a pleasure to be on the great sea canal to Terneuzen, and in fact the sun came out to cheer us on our way. Three hours later, we were back in our home mooring, at the end of another wonderful summer of adventures.

Now, though, we have to cross our fingers that the Hennie H will carry us forwards again another year. I won't say more now, but our lovely barge is a bit sick at the moment. Tomorrow we will know just how sick, so keep your fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and have a great week allemaal.

A favourite spot now in Gentbrugge