Sunday, October 19, 2014

More of the same

Now I've written my Nutty Nora posts and got those out of the way, I'm going back to my usual topic - barge stuff.

The last few weeks have been difficult on board because a little while ago, I arrived back after a weekend away and found my lovely, safe loopplank (gangplank) seriously bent, rendering it now totally un-safe for human passage.

My suspicion is that a whole troop of tourists decided to use it for a photo opportunity and pushed it so far down on one side, it then got stuck under the rope pins of a bollard and was bent even more as the tide rose. Now bearing in mind there's a very visible sticker on it that says "max 3 persons", I was not best amused.

As it really was no longer safe, we didn't put it back after my hellingbeurt (slipway week), so I've been relying on the neighbours for access until we can straighten it out and strengthen the section. These things are far too expensive to abandon and the insurance company doesn't seem to be interested in helping either. I know it doesn't look bad in this photo, but you should see how skew it really is…and very wonky indeed.

To make matters worse, my nearest neighbour has also removed her loopplank  as she is no longer living on board, so I am now doing a three barge hop to board the Vereeniging. This requires skills something akin to those of a mountain goat, which - I hope you'll agree - I'm not! Well, if I am, I'm a very clumsy one.

The overall consequence is that there's a limit to what I can do as I cannot easily get materials on and off. So...I am concentrating on painting (surprise surprise!). Slowly but surely, all the red trim is being finished (takes me an age) and my next job is to de-rust and paint the engine room windows. I can't believe this warm weather is going to go on that much longer, but while it does, I must paint…and paint….and paint some more!

Added to that I have also been been working inside and have re-painted my kitchen cupboards. When I made them back in 2002, I stained the panels with chestnut coloured varnish, which looked more red than anything, and I'd never felt like changing them. As of this last week, though, they are no longer red-pannelled but completely creamy white, and I am so enjoying their bright shiny faces.

During the course of the coming week, I'm praying the weather will give me the break I need so I can also paint the foredeck (I've been saying that for months, I know). In the last ten days or so, every time I've decided to do this very necessary job, it's rained, so keep your fingers crossed for me because next weekend, we have to move again and I don't know when I'll next get the chance. 

The reason for the move is because the council are currently dredging all the harbours so we are being turfed out of our spots in rotation to clear different sections at different times. Next week it is the Oude Haven's turn to be dredged and I don't know yet where we'll have to go. By the time I write this blog again, we'll probably be in a different harbour and mooring, so watch this space! I'll also take some photos as it's very rare that the harbour is ever empty of barges. The last time was in 2007 when the harbour wall was re-built. Koos and I were the last to leave, and I took this photo just before we cast off and pulled out.

An almost empty harbour in 2007
It normally looks like this! Very full.
Have a good week everyone and may the sun keep shining on you wherever you are!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In which I find I am technologically challenged

Before I leave the subject of my doffness completely, there's one other incident I've had a big chuckle about…well, more than one chuckle, to be honest. It's not about absent-mindedness, this one. No, it's about that other symptom of advancing years…the inability to keep up with modern technology.

I should say I've never been one for buying the latest and newest piece of techno-gadgetry. On principle, I will buy second-hand stuff rather than new and that extends from phones to cars. I've only ever had one new computer, and one new car in all my nearly sixty years. These days even my smart phone is not smart at all and I cannot work out how to use touch screens, tablets or pods with any semblance of dexterity; I'm just not that savvy…or maybe it's that I'm not that interested.

So when the day came that I flew to Birmingham this last August expecting to drive a hire car, imagine my consternation when they introduced me to a vehicle from out of some kind of sci-fi movie. I'm really serious. I couldn't believe what this thing did.

What happened was that I'd booked a car online (as one does these days) and I'd specified I wanted a manual gearbox. I've never driven automatics so I always tick the box to show I want a normal car with a normal gear stick.

Well when I arrived, things started out badly anyway, which set the scene for further dismay. I was already hot, bothered and frustrated because I couldn't find the car hire office but then even madder at myself because I'd put the wrong return date on the booking form and found I had to pay more than double I was expecting to bring it back a day later. As a result, by the time they took me out to my hire vehicle I was definitely not in the best frame of mind.

The receptionist showed me to the car - at least that's what it looked like. I don't remember now what it was, but on the outside at least it seemed quite normal, bar one thing. It didn't seem to have any mirrors. Never mind, I thought. Perhaps they pop out when the car starts (I really did). I knew things had changed since 1995 which was when my old Opel was built so I was prepared for some small surprises. But, as they say, this was not all...

The receptionist handed me what looked like a small credit card and told me that was the key. She showed me where to poke it in and then hurried off to deal with another customer.

I got in the car and looked around. This was when I started to get worried. Nothing looked normal. There were only two pedals; there was no proper gear stick - just a lever thingy - and there was a computer screen where the  speedo and rev counter should have been. I realised to my concern they'd given me an automatic, but then what was this screen? How did I start the car and where were the mirrors?

Still, trying (but in truth failing) to be courageous, I stuck the credit card into the slot where the receptionist had shown me. The computer screen sprang into life and filled up with numbers and blinking symbols…but the car hadn't started. At least I couldn't tell if it had or not. There was a faint sort of purring, but I couldn't find a resident cat and nothing else seemed to be moving.

Frustration set in. I tried again at least three times and still the car didn't seem to do anything except purr faintly. Was it or wasn't it running? I really couldn't tell.

So it was that eventually I marched back to the office and demanded help. The astonished assistant who was now at the desk listened to my complaint and then said, "But madam, it's a hybrid car. Don't you know about them? It's electric, so of course you can't hear it."
"But it's got no gear stick either!" I wailed.
"No, madam, it's an automatic. Look," he said patiently, "I'll come and show you how everything works."
Still deeply troubled and very suspicious, I followed him back to the now-dubbed space invader.
We got in.
"Put the card in the slot."
I did.
"Now watch the screen. As soon as it says 'ready', you can drive. Just remember never to use your left foot"
"Oh? Why not?"
"Because there's only an accelerator and a brake. You must never use your left foot, see?"
Okay… well, not really, but...
"Now watch the screen again. Put your right foot on the brake and keep it there. Now put the car into drive."
"But it's not running!" I said, confused.
"Yes it is, the screen says so."
"The screen says so…right…"
"Put the car into drive and watch the screen."
"What must I be watching for?"
"What's behind you, that's what," he said patiently.
"But why can't I use mirrors?"
"There are no mirrors, madam."
I looked at him, I looked at the alien controls of this automatic hybrid thing that I couldn't hear and couldn't feel and decided I was absolutely not going to give up control of my already iffy directional sense to a computer screen.
"Nooooo!" I exploded. "I can't do this, I'm sorry, but I'm NOT driving out into rush hour Birmingham in this thing. Find me a proper car!"
The assistant looked totally flummoxed.
"But it is a proper car, madam."
"No. It isn't!" I squeaked. "I wanted a car with everything in the normal place…and a gear stick...not this…whatever you call it!" To my shame, I burst into tears.

Well, that convinced him. After making embarrassed but soothing noises, we got all my luggage out of the space invader and I was led back to the office until they could find me something else. After about half an hour someone delivered a small manual drive Peugeot complete with standard speedo and displays (although even some of these were digital) and they hurriedly handed me the keys and sent me on my way.

When I told my family this story, we all had a good laugh at my histrionics, but it was a bit of a salutary lesson. I've now acknowledged I need to go on a course or two on how to cope with some of this 21st century technology. I dread to think what I'll do otherwise when my old and trusty car (with wind up windows and old fashioned cassette tape deck), computer and phone (no touch screens in sight) give up. Or maybe I'll just have to accept it's time for me to give them up too! What do you think?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Thanks to Carol Hedges

This is going to be a pic-less post this week. I'm a bit too busy to write about the boaty stuff for one (which means looking for photos) and I've only got forty minutes on my laptop for another. Yes, I know I could get the charger, but I've forgotten where I put it - which brings me to the subject of this post.

I've just read Carol Hedges funny/brilliant post about some of the…um… minor drawbacks of entering vintagedom as she so beautifully puts it. It made me laugh so much. It also reminded me of some of my own 'classic'  lapses of memory - or is it reason? And there was one recently which I now feel impelled to fess up about.

As many of you know, I had the Vereeniging on the helling a few weeks ago. This means being out of the water and on dry land, but even so, we still have a gangplank (loopplank) to get on and off the barge, because it is perched on trolleys up in the air rather than sitting in the wet stuff.

As the gangplank was lowered into position, it had to be squeezed up against the handrail of some steps that lead down onto the area where we work on the boat's bottom. The fit was so tight it even took some paint off the rail.

I observed this in some consternation and started worrying. What would happen when the tide came in and we moved up or down? Surely the loopplank would get caught on the rail as it moved and get dislodged from its position on the Vereeniging. I inspected it closely, even measuring (with my fingers) the possible extent of the problem. It looked dangerous. Seriously worried now, I set off to find Sanne, the yard manager. I was almost  at her office door when I stopped in my tracks.

What on earth was I thinking? Stupid woman (me, that is - not Sanne). Nothing was going to move! I was out of the wet stuff and on dry land! The barge wasn't going to rise and fall with the tide (at least I sincerely hoped not) and the loopplank wasn't going anywhere!

I felt such an idiot…Sanne, of course, looked at me expectantly from behind her desk as my hand fell from the door handle. No, I didn't fess up then (I was far too ashamed of my stupidity). I made as if I'd just remembered something else and scurried off. But I did tell Koos a bit later  - I had to tell someone - and we cried with laughter.

I think these are what we call Senior Moments. Very cringeworthy, but very funny too!