Monday, May 30, 2011

An experiment

Here are two random photos I have taken recently with my phone. Both of them are what you might call 'road' photos', but why did I take them? At face value, it might seem obvious (to some), but there are reasons for both pics.

The little Fiat cars are absolutely a favourite of mine at the moment, but that isn't the reason I snapped them, and then what about the beautiful medieval bridge at Tournai in Belgium? No prizes for telling me where it is (haha), but I might give one if you can tell me its Flemish city name. Still, what is it that appealed to me here? Any guesses? Just take a good think about what grabs my attention these days, and maybe you'll hit on the answer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Busy times

Blogging isn't exactly easy at the moment. I'd love to post something on a more regular basis, but without boring everyone with the mundane and irrelevant musings of my daily life (fascinating as I'm sure they are...not), there isn't much to write about other than work and the equally mundane and irrelevant musings of what that involves.

What has happened today (surprise surprise) is that the weather has changed. Yes. It has. And it's quite a shock to the system. I've got so used to the sun shining every day that I now feel positively indignant about the rain and wind we've had for much of the afternoon. How dare it! We've had no rain to speak of since the beginning of April, and the days have been lengthening with ever more beautiful evenings. I just hope they come back. Okay, we need the rain. The gardens need it, the water table needs it, and, goodness knows, the farmers need it. The fields around the little house are like a dust bowl. Not funny when this is supposed to be the growing season.

Still, I'm hoping for dry days at the weekend, because I have a plan to work on the Vereeniging and do all the second coats of paint that are needed to add to the first coats that were done some weeks ago. I'm not even talking about the HH at the moment. The first coats are still an ongoing project there, not to mention the other technical issues that keep rearing their ugly heads like Medusa on a bad hair day.

Last weekend was lovely, though. The incomparable and incorrigible Invader Stu came to stay with his super Simone, and we turned the weekend into a kind of photography workshop. They have recently bought a DSLR camera like Koos's, and were really experimenting with it for the first time. It was great to see them having so much fun. It was also a weekend of lovely walks in our peaceful corner of Zeeuws Vlaanderen. Here are a couple of my own photos as empirical evidence, so to speak.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Madrigals Reunited

Years and years ago (forty in fact), in 1971, I went with a group of very special friends to Yugoslavia and other countries in Europe. The tour was also for a special purpose. We were all members of a Madrigal group, and we sang these beautifully harmonised medieval and baroque songs in the most marvellous places along the way: Luxembourg, Salzburg and Dubrovnik to name but a very few.

This year, there will be a reunion of the group, and somehow, I will make sure I am there. We will sing together again (although I can imagine our voices will have lost that youthful quality now), laugh together again (that never fails) and catch up with all those lost years.

The organiser of the reunion, affectionately known as The Drain because his name was Adrian, has started a blog, and I've had my heart stopped by the memories several times. It's been wonderful to find out what these old friends have been up to. I guess there was always something adventurous about all of us, because most of us seem to have either lived overseas or spent some years overseas, or still (like me) live away from the UK. There is one I've been looking for for several years, and had I known it, I could have visited easily....all the time I lived in South Africa, she was in Botswana - just across the border. In fact, she still lives there, so maybe that's a good excuse for a holiday trip?

The photo above (published courtesy of Andi Broom as was) is of just a few of our group. I remember each and every one of them with deep affection, and in fact the boy with the red hair was even, briefly, a romantic attachment at one time. I can't remember whether it was before or after this trip, though. Can anyone spot me in the group?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wandering into the Snails again

This last weekend has been an odd one weather wise. We had big plans for working hard on the Hennie H, but a change in the wind brought rain instead of the sun we've been used to these past six weeks or more. We did quite well on Saturday and finished fixing Koos's beautiful hatches into position. I also managed to give half the back deck a coat of paint (see above), but then Sunday morning came and with it the rain. So, instead of playing duck and dice with the clouds, we decided to head south for the day and have a day in Belgium with a goal, this being to look for the Wandering Snail. We knew they were somewhere around Tournai, but didn't know exactly where.
Our meanderings took us south of Tournai itself and around the villages of Peronnes, Maubray and Antoing. It is really lovely country around there, made more appealing, of course, by canals, railways and old windmills, a series of which can be seen on the hillsides around Maubray. For some reason, only the lower halves remain, but they make very striking monuments standing proud on the hilltops. The one above was especially appealing with its crown of creeping ivy and wild flowers around its footings.
This is the remains of an old lock on the former route from Pommeroeul to Antoing
Just for the record!

By some fluke, we manage to come across the Snail. It was absolutely not where we expected it to be. We'd already been to the boatyard where we thought they were heading. Crossing the Schelde at Antoing, I looked out of the van window and there it was, moored side by side with another narrow boat. We found Ol on board with Woody, Sindy's other boyfriend. Sadly for us, Anne had gone off to a concert in Valenciennes, but Ol made us a very welcome cup of coffee, and we sat and talked boats and waterways for an hour or two. It was great to see him and we'd had a marvellous escape from duty for the day. I can highly recommend it as a tonic, especially as the sun came out for us too. I always approve of that.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Boaty stuff

Last weekend, we had the highlight of going out on the Vereeniging, but what I didn't mention in my last post was the several days Koos and I had spent re-painting the red and black stripes around the barge that we'd stripped completely during the 'hellingbeurt' (or week on the slipway). Our outing was a kind of celebration on completion of that work. It never stops, but you have to have some excuse to enjoy it sometimes...

Well this last week, we've been down at the little house in Zeeland. I haven't so much had a holiday as taken a few days off from face to face teaching. Much of my work at the moment is online, so for that it doesn't matter where I am or what time if day I do it. Good huh? So I cancelled a few individual sessions and spent these glorious spring days on the Hennie H. Yes, it's still there and is still a project in progress, but now we are back in the water, the other paintwork still has to be done. We've worked hard this week, and Koos has done a fantastic job of making new hatches for the engine room, while I have been wielding my paintbrush. Unfortunately for Koos, my work is the more visible, but his has been harder and more technically demanding. Sadly, if I showed you photos of what he's done, you might not really notice the difference, but the hatches are now infinitely more professional and water proof than they were before. I think he's done a brilliant job. As soon as they are totally finished, I'll post photos and a description. For now, I'll leave you with a couple of pics of our outing, and a few of the newly painted decks on the Hennie Hahahahaha........ha!.

Our guests, Roger, Eveline and Mo with me about to head over to the steering deck. Photo taken by Marion Corfield.

Sindy doing what Sindy always does on boat trips - seeking protection. Photo by Marion Corfield

Heading out across the river. Wow, did that feel good!

The HH with its pristine painted decks

Monday, May 02, 2011

The sad, the good and the wonderful

This last weekend has been one of memories: memories recalled and memories made. The photos above were taken on 31 May 2004 when we took the Vereeniging on its first real 'tocht' upstream from Rotterdam. Koos took the photos and my guide and mentor on this trip was a very dear friend, Jan, whose funeral we sadly had to attend on Friday. It was cancer that took him. For my own part, I like to remember him as he was that day - healthier, happier and stronger than I had or have ever seen him. These photos are precious as a result.

Saturday here was Queen's day, a good and festive day for all cloggies. Koos and I didn't take much part in it as we were busy preparing the Vereeniging for another day out. Still, Koos managed to take this photo of preparations for the festivities in the harbour, I think it's great. There is a surreal quality about the girl and the balloons against the brickwork of the flats behind.

Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and breezy, and at 12 o'clock we welcomed our friends on board, along with Mo, Craig and their spaniel, Charlie, who happens to be Sindy's best friend these days. Craig and Koos started the old motor going with one easy swing of the starting handle (the starter motor has packed up but that's another story), and the Vereeniging suddenly came to life, pulsing with energy and ready to go 'faring'. With the ropes cast off, the gangplank on the quay and everyone on board, Koos steered us expertly out of the the Oude Haven. We did a tour of the neighbouring harbours, and then it was out onto the river to test the new stabilizers Frits and Koos had made and Frits had welded on during the last 'hellingbeurt'. What a difference they more rolling like a porpoise and nothing dislodged from inside. Brilliant. We went downstream a short distance and crossed the river to go round the Noordereiland by the Erasmus Bridge. A quick tour round Mo and Craig's habour, and then back to the river, upstream and round the end of the island. The Vereeniging then powered back across the river at an impressive speed and we re-entered our harbour complex at the eastern end. By the time we eased back into our berth, we'd been out for an hour and a half and enjoyed every second of it - well I had anyway. I just love being on the water, and with the weather and wind as it was, well, it was simply wonderful (if you'll excuse all the alliteration).

When we broke out the beers and a bottle of wine to celebrate, I made a silent toast to Jan. He would have loved it too. Go well, Jan. You were a real people person or 'mensen-man' as they say here, and I can bet you will be steering folks around the celestial seas from now on.

Wish you were still here, though.