Sunday, July 27, 2014

Barging about as all sorts of things, but not as an author

Life on the water is going through a slightly turbulent time at the moment. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm busy with renovations on the Vereeniging, but that's only half the story…or maybe even less.

In fact I'm doing quite a bit of juggling time wise. As many of you know, we have another much smaller barge called the Hennie H that Koos and I bought together some years ago and which we keep in Zeews Vlaanderen in the south of the country. Due to a rather disastrous lack of foresight, it's caused us a heap of work that we weren't anticipating, so recently, and even though we both love the little barge, we decided to sell it. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? I mean the whole principle of constantly throwing good money into the water (almost literally) is not really a good one, is it?

Hennie H - on the way to a decent paint job

So the decision to sell it seemed like a positive move until we got it out of the water to paint the bottom and get it ready for sale.

But, as has been the case every step of the way with this gem of a boat (and it really is), it had a trick up its little rudder just to spite us. We discovered that the propellor shaft was rotten and that we were lucky the propellor itself had not fallen off. So, and this has now become the norm, we have to wait until the parts have arrived before it can be fixed. Meanwhile, we figure it's only a good idea to give it a decent paint job. After all, if we want to sell it, the better it looks, the better…

The better it looks, the better it will sell

The juggling bit comes because I'm also trying to do a lot of work on the Vereeniging at the same time (we won't even mention the studies here…no, not yet). Piece-meal is what I think you might call my activities at the moment, and so my week has looked something like this:

Monday: painting the hull on the Hennie H

Tuesday: painting again on the Hennie H and preparing lessons

Wednesday: I drive up to Rotterdam; give a lesson; observe and give feedback on a presentation; go to hardware and buy wood; go to Vereeniging and start repairing stairs which are about to collapse; continue painting the ceiling and the floor which I started last week.

Thursday: Teaching all morning. I go to a meeting in the afternoon and then  go back to Vereeniging. Ah, the sun's shining, so I start painting the engine room hatch outside. I continue painting the floor and ceiling in the evening when it's dark (not wise - see reasons on Friday). But I give up on repairing the stairs as I've destroyed several cheap screw bits already wrestling with old, rusty screws and have none left to help me fit the new treads in place. This will have to wait till next week.

Friday: I go to an early lesson then go back to the Vereeniging and paint the second engine room hatch. Oh goody, my daughter comes round and we go for a spuddle through the harbours - a lovely respite. When she's gone, I give a second coat to the section of floor I painted yesterday, picking off all the long grey hairs I managed to shed on the wet paint but didn't see because it was dark (hence the 'not wise' comment on Thursday).

4 o'clock arrives. I now see it's getting on time for me to pack up and go back to Zeeland again. I make a mad dash down to avoid the traffic and collapse into arms of dear Koos who's been holding the fort.

Saturday: We go back to Hennie H and continue paint job there….

What a life, hey?

Tomorrow, I really must spend the day studying (I know - I wasn't going to mention it, but needs must), so after a quick tidy up in my poor neglected garden which is covered in shredded leaves and weeds following last week's rainstorms, I'll have my nose in papers on subjects no one else in the world would be interested in…it makes me wonder why I am really.

My one gardening success this summer - my first
 hollyhocks, my absolute favourite plants

Life is quite full enough without academic pressures too… all of which makes me doubt if I'll ever get to writing more of my novel this summer. So, as the heading for this post says, I am barging about with all sorts of things…but not with writing.

I will get back to it though, I will!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Renovations, phase one

Some readers who know me from Facebook and Twitter might notice I've been a bit quiet there of late (says she, while listening to the collective sighs of relief).

There are three reasons for this, actually - two annoying and one very okay. For now, though, I'll pass on the first two and focus on the okay one as it's much more interesting. Well I think it is.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of fixing up to do on my barge, but before I begin any reconstruction, there's the usual maintenance that needs to be done, plus a couple of other very necessary repairs. This is what I've started on, but as usual, everything is taking longer than it has done in my mind's eye.

Just an example: yesterday and today the weather has been fabulous, so I thought I'd do some painting outside and then do the interior work in the evenings. But what happens, see, is that I get interrupted in the nicest possible way when I'm painting on deck. People who haven't seen me around much now notice me being busy and want to stop for a chat.

So, my forward hatch took me the whole afternoon to sand down and paint - it should really have been a one hour job at the most.

Then there's what we call the potdeksel. I don't know what it's called in English, but it's the rim that runs round the edge of the foredeck. I had to scrape quite a bit of rust off from the underside and treat it with anti-rust oil. In theory, this shouldn't have taken all that long either, but my neighbours wanted to know what I was doing, so this lead to a discussion about good paint and how to prevent rust. And so another hour disappeared.

Still, I got it done, but I will still need to paint the whole foredeck again…and the panels….and the engine room…and, and…

But moving on to the interior, although I have nothing to show yet, I have accomplished quite a bit in the evenings this week. I've re-painted half the ceiling in the barge (the back half); re-painted the cupboards in the bathroom and the doors, replaced a couple of rotten floorboards, one of which was under the bath and fixed up a curtain over the not so pretty space at the end of my bed. The sad thing is if I took photos, most people would wonder what I'de done, so until I've got something new, I won't show you any of these details.

What I am showing you, however, is the shabby state of my decksail (I don't know what else to call it). I bought it two years ago and was delighted because I'd long wanted a real canvas one instead of the PVC one I'd had for years. Sadly, it's been a huge disappointment. The company that made it must have used cheap cotton off-cuts as it has faded terribly. It also shrank so much in the first month, they had to add new pieces all round, and altogether, it looks a mess. Since it was pretty expensive, I was not happy at all. 

I have now bitten the bullet and ordered another PVC one. It's a lot cheaper and will be far easier to clean and keep in shape, so I'm really looking forward to receiving that in the next week or so,

And now I'm tired.

I'll still be quiet on the social media front as apart from boat stuff, I'm also very busy reading for my research paper (one of the annoying distractions) and I'm having to take it easy on the computer (eye problems being the other annoyance). That said I'll still be here...but just not quite so much there. 

Enjoy the lovely summer weather everyone. I'd love to know what you are all busy with on these glorious days.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Bonding with my boat again

As many of you know, I have only had partial occupancy of my lovely barge for some time. My daughter needed a place to live two years ago, so I made space for her to move in. I spent more of my time in Zeeland where I have my little house on the dyke and only came back to Rotterdam when I needed to be there for teaching. As I do a lot of teaching online, I haven't needed to be in the city more than three days a week, and sometimes less.

Anyhow, my daughter fell in love (as daughters do) and has now moved out while she and her beloved look for their own barge. The Vereeniging was home to them both for a while, but even they realised that it is far too small for two people with such space consuming hobbies (both in rock bands with a number of guitars and other musical instruments to boot).

Even I had trouble with space now and then

One of its many phases

 I am now delighting and revelling in having my lovely home to myself again and I am busily exploring the possibilities of quite a re-furbishment. My book, Harbour Ways, describes how I converted the barge for living when I first bought it, but that was largely completed ten years ago. Time has made its usual mark on the interior and it is now well overdue for some serious renovation. To put it mildly, it's all a bit shabby and the photos here show it at its better past.

At a different phase and time

All the same, I am happier than I've been for a very long time. To be on board and feel its benign presence; to smell the faint, but distinctive scent of 'barge'; to lie in bed and listen to coots pecking at the weed on the waterline; or to listen to the plopping of fish rising and the air bubbles that break the surface, these are just the best ever smells and sounds and they do more to give me contentment than any possessions or luxuries ever could.

The Vereeniging's intereior in freshly painted state

In the past months, I've written a number of posts about the hardships of barge life - mostly tongue in cheek - but in truth, I wouldn't have it any other way. The fun side is always there and let's face it, I've managed to wring two books out of the experiences!

My barge is a bit empty now with nothing but a bed, a sofa and a rug, but that's a good thing. I can see everything for real, the good and the decrepit, and I can work out what needs to be done. I have big plans and I can't wait to begin.

I know I haven't really been away, but I do feel as if I've come home.