Saturday, June 06, 2009

It's a banging good weekend

They weren't really on a collision course, but it looks like it. They are two identical transporters meeting each other in the Westerschelde estuary not far from Westdorpe

I know we live in the middle of a serious city. I know that. I really do. What I can't get to grips with, though, is the total and mind blowing cacophony we have to live with. I was going to say unbelievable, but it isn't. Unbelievable that is. It's only too real. 24/7, 7/31, 31/12 (or in some cases make that 30 and ok, in one case 28).

Nearly every morning I wake up thinking that WW3 has begun, or at least that we are under attack from giants with monster walking sticks thumping their way through the city streets. This starts at 7 a.m. Not so early you might say for a world war or crippled giants on the loose, but then this is after a night spent listening to riotous revellers who think that the people they are with and all the rest of the world as well are deaf.

Maybe I should backtrack a bit and explain that the dawn raids or in other parlance, early wake up calls, are from the pile drivers on the building site next to the harbour. Oh, I forgot. Not just one site. There are now..let me see...about four sites in very audible proximity to the harbour. They are all building ever higher tower blocks in competition with each other, and they all seem to need to start the race for pile driver of the day, every day and even on Saturdays, at the same time. (I wonder if there's a yellow jersey for the winner of each stage?). Anyway, the explosion of sound and vibration is worse than any rock concert ever, and what baffles me is that there are no government health warnings advising the local populace to wear ear protection when within five kilometres of such locations. Strangely, all the builders wear them, but we mere mortals are clearly unworthy.

As for the night time revellers, I'm sure they think everyone is deaf because I've stood outside in my PJ's at four in the morning watching them. Picture this. Two extremely inebriated students are standing less than a metre from each other. No closer of course. This is Holland, and not Italy, remember. In any other circumstances, they'd be close enough to whisper and still hear each other clearly. But no. They have to shout at the tops of their lungs, and just to make sure they've got their point across, they feel obliged to pick up a few tables and chairs and hurl them into the water for added emphasis. Vocal punctuation is obviously not enough. They need a few physical exclamation marks.

Sometimes, tempers flare and fights ensue. Given the state of inebriation, time is relative to the participants and what might normally be a few terse words is strung out into a long drawn out battle of howls of distress emphasised at intervals by the regulation chair and table throwing, and if things get really bad, then the bicycles fly.

This also goes on pretty much seven days a week.

For a little extra spice, call up the trams squealing across their tracks from six in the morning onwards and the testosterone-boosted boy racers screeching their tyres as they u-turn at the end of the harbour where the road meets its end. Not to mention, of course, the gangs of youths who arrive at any time during the night with their car windows down and their heavy rap music which resounds across the harbour and double flips back to meet itself half way - right over our barges.

"What a gezellig place to live!" my Dutch students say when I tell them I live on a barge in the Oude Haven. I merely smile vacantly, and ask them if they'd like to sample a Friday night experience. I see them thinking of the implications. Many of them are quick to realise that they might well be party to some of my night hour distress. Then I tell them about WW3 every morning. Aaah, they nod sagely. It's a bit noisy yes? Just a bit, I say.

I have escaped now to my personal 'haven', but this one is of peace. We are down in Westdorpe, affectionaly known as Westdopey, for some much needed relief.

On that note, I hope you all have a crashing good weekend. Love from all of us here in quiet, sleepy Zeeuws Vlaanderen.


  1. I have found a cure for the night revellers! Last night I slept with industrial ear plugs in was pure bliss! Unfortunately they can't shut out the pile drivers completely, which not only irritate with noise, but also far reaching vibrations!

  2. P.S. sort of sad you have changed the name of your blog :-( But I'm sure the lovely Luxor is purring with all the lovies it's getting now

  3. Well done Mo! I'll have to sample those myself...maybe now you need a water bed to asbsorb the vibrations ;-)

    I hope my post made you smile though. As for the name change, well it seemed fitting for the duration, and the Luxor will undoubtedly enjoy the attention...or will it? It could well find me a demanding resident and regret its former peaceful life...hehe

  4. What have I done to deserve being among such humourous and well versed humans (of the female variety - heehee!)

  5. That sounds like a noisy place. How does Sindy do with it all? My girls would be barking every 2 seconds!
    I am glad you have retreated to some peace and quiet.

    Enjoy :)

  6. and here I thought living near the city was bad....

  7. Yeah, I use industrial ear-plugs also...when around that kind of noise...can't sleep otherwise!

  8. I remember you mentioning the nightspots around you even back in 2006, Val. It doesn't get any better, does it? This is one of the reasons I have never been tempted to live "downtown"- the idea of revellers screaming and throwing up on my lawn just never appealed. I am quite happy, with our excellent transit system, to take our own "trams" into the city core when I need to and then head back to the sleepy west side where the only early morning sounds come from birds, squirrels, and raccoons.

    I hope you have a restful weekend.


  9. Hi Val,

    it' not good, if it's so noisy in your area. I had the same problems two years every night. They were building a new train bigdge near my home, but only in the night. I woke up every night at 3AM. Mostly I started with reading a book. Now it's all over and the silence is back. Cross my fingers for stillness in your neighborhood.


  10. Thanks for the sympathy everyone. To answer Grace's question, Sindy is more or less used to the clamour, but she does bark at the slightest sound of someone on board or if the loopplank creaks or if she sees another dog passing, or if she hears people talking as they pass, so I'm afraid she just adds to the general noise!

    Stefan, it's not going to stop any time soon I'm afraid as they are re-building almost the entire city centre here!

  11. Speaking of the night-time weekend revellers: alcohol is definitely a sort of globalizing force - because it makes the night-time revellers everywhere identical: absolutely wasted and left their brains in the latest bar.

    But if I had to choose the worst city noise, it would be the construction sites. At least you can try to open your window (if you have one) and shout at the revellers to shut up (not that it works mostly, but in theory). But with those bloody construction machines that start early early in the morning there's absolutely nothing you can do.

  12. Wow, that's really too bad! Glad you're away for relief. It seems kids are always wanting to party boisterously on exactly the nights you actually need some good sleep!

  13. Ha Ha, Val!
    I thought it's a "banging good weekend" was some sort of obscure British expression for it's a great one!
    Now I get it...

    I cannot imagine what noise you must live with, as I always pictured living on the water as quiet and peaceful. Living in the centre of a large city would have its various sounds to contend with, now that I think of it.

    Last summer, when we were at the beach in Sandpoint, Idaho, they were building new pilons for the train trestle across the river.
    As we lay in the sun with our ear to the ground, we could hear the pounding of the piledrivers in duplicate.
    Once through the ground at the exact time the pilon was pounded, then again as the sound reached our ears through the air across the water.
    Altogether, it was a rather odd sensation.

    I am glad, as I'm sure you are, that you have a quiet, peaceful place of your own to escape to!


  14. ..but you probably don't hear her, she maybe blends in? But although barking at the slightest noise can get to you sometimes, I do enjoy it, this way no one is sneaking up on me!!


  15. Hi Val

    Thanks once more for your comments on salty blog.
    I seem to remember Rotterdam having quite a lot of building work going on during my frequent visits. Although the machinery didnt wake me, I remember well the mosquitoes playing their part well.

    Yes, Hot Rats are an English group based in Kent but regularly tour mainland europe and can be found every may/june in Oostende for the sea festival.
    If you fancy, as it draws near next year Ill keep you informed and let you know the dates.
    Even Laura wants to go next year with Peanut in tow now that she has seen how easy the Eurostar connections are.

    Still love the blog
    all the best

  16. Maria, I do agree, although it's very hard to reason with semi paralytic students who are off on completely their own trip!

    Lemon, thanks. Good sleep s really what it's all about...or the lack of it! We love it when it rains all night as it keeps people inside.

    Dale, we feel the pounding here too! I don't think I could stand it if we didn't get away.

    Grace, yes, Sin has the same comforting presence too!

    Geoff, thanks! I'd love a heads up on the festival as it draws nearer. Maybe we could meet up there next year?


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