I am feeling a little nervous today (Aug 12) Martin has gone to the UK for three days and I am alone on the boat. Security is one issue – there is lots of housing and bright lighting around the Puishaven in Tilburg, and on the whole the Netherlands feels like a safe place. There are lots of other boats around so plenty of boating company. My major concern is dealing with the systems on the boat – we have two levels of electricity – shore power and battery power. Then there is the propane power and the water tank. Martin checked everything and put water in the tank and made sure I know how to use the shore power. Nevertheless – on a boat anything can happen. Apart from all that it will be lonely – Martin and I delight in each others company so being without him for three days will feel very isolating.
His turn to be alone on the boat (but with visitors for a couple of days) comes next week as I leave for Croatia and Bosnia for a week with my pal Deborough. I am looking forward to the holiday but will miss sharing it with Martin. I think it will be an interesting trip – another couple of notches on my quest to visit a 100 countries before my sell-by date. Enough sniveling as I should tell you about the last couple of weeks.
Just one plug : today is World Elephant Day (August 12, 2012) and our friends Mike Clark ( he lived with us for 4 and half years) and Patricia Sims have just released their film ‘Return to the Forest ‘ featuring lots of elephants, a Queen and a spaceman – catch if you can on ‘Return to the Forest’ on www.youtube.com
We had a lovely day August 1 when we cruised from Delft to Schiedam. This was a great place to stop and hang out for a few days. Schiedam is famous as a distillery town – they make something called Jenever – a juniper based alcohol that tastes like a cross between vodka and gin. Schiedam is a suburb of Rotterdam built on a canal and proudly sporting six large windmills, some old some new. The distillery windmill is still going and the old town is quite picturesque. Lots of old bridges and a lock (only about a foot change in the height of the water) . Our octogenerians did quite well on the boat given there is very little space and moving around is quite an effort. The weather turned a little cooler, but we were still able to make it to the Saturday market.
Martin and I were invited by some people to a fund raising event taking place in the large Georgian house just beside the marina. A young climber (heaven only knows how anyone would think of being a mountain climber in the Netherlands as it sooooo flat) set to climb Mount Blanc on August 24 , decided to make his climb into a fund raising event for kids with cancer. It was an interesting couple of hours spent with some young Dutch people. They were politically aware and astute business people in the events industry. They talked about the political divisions in Holland and the problems of immigration as there are lots of people here from Surinam and Indonesia as well as other places like Eastern Europe, South Africa and the Middle East. They talked about the loss of cultural identity in terms of the loss of the ‘Dutch Kitchen’ – a very interesting analogy of their concerns of losing their Dutchness.
Do we have a Canadian Kitchen or are we so familiar with the cultural mosaic of Canada that we do not have much of a ‘Canadian’ kitchen ( Nanaimo bars and Tourtierre being the exceptions). The age old Canadian identity question – do we have one and what does it look like? My hunch is that our identity is a mosaic.
We returned to Dordrecht as we had an appointment with the “Honden Trim Salon” ( hooray) for Kerry to get a good cut. It was a bit of home coming in some ways. Our route took us back through the busy waterways of Rotterdam – it was quite a journey down the Maas River – luckily it was a late Saturday afternoon when we made the trip , so the traffic on the river was light – it was still quite a journey in our little boat dodging the huge freighters, river ferries and large barges. Sunday in Dordrecht was lovely so we packed off mum and Joan for a walk by the river and had a boat cleaning day. We had guests for dinner ( my first dinner party on the boat) and determined that we could seat six people outside but not around the dinette. I wanted to repay the kind hospitality we had experienced as the Canadian consulate a few weeks before so Heather and Irwin came for dinner. Unfortunately I served fish and only discovered after dinner that Heather is not fishy – but being a polite Canadian she ate most of it anyway. We had lots of Prosseco to make it for it but Heather showed such grace in the face of fish!
After we sorted out Kerry my friend Kalavati arrived. She was on the boat for four days with us so it was getting very cosy with the five of us. Dordrecht , true to form, was wet and rainy. We had one incredible thunderstorm as the rain came down at a level 7. I have decided that the canals of the Netherlands are not about draining the land but much more about catching all the rain that torrents out of the sky. Kalavati was still suffering jetlag and woke up several times a day to ask what day it was and where she was.
The next day we left for Breda – a lovely old town with a beautiful fourteenth century church with a spire. Breda was a lovely old town and we walked around the open air cafes and the pedestrian shopping areas (no cars) soaking up the beauty of the capital of Noord Brabant ( another province of the Netherlands). The port facilities were not up to much – no showers or washing although we did have power and water and very close proximity to an Aldi store.
It was time for Mum and Joan to return to ferry. They had managed on the boat so well that I am sure they must have set a world record for seniors on boats. (There are a lot of retirees on the water in the Netherlands). Getting on and off the boat was a challenge and using some of the port facilities was difficult and at times damn right dangerous for those of a certain age and not adept at boat yoga. I took them back to Rotterdam ( and they were happy to leave after 9 days on the good but small ship Skookum) by train to catch the bus for the overnight ferry home.
In the meantime Kalavati and Martin moved the boat to Tilburg. Going through lots of locks, some with a 15ft shift in water height. I didn’t go with them on the trip instead returned from Rotterdam to Tilburg by train. I arrived in Tilburg somewhat lost but after walking and taking a bus for two stops I found the local harbour (on the way I found a few important landmarks including Alberts – the supermarket we have been using).
Martin and Kalavati were much slower than me and I had to find a place to wait for an hour or so in Tilburg. I ended up in this very interesting bar called Biku, which is also a shop selling tea, jewelry and Buddha heads (Bali store) and a small spa with a mission statement of Beauty, Drinks and Happiness. I learned more about this interesting combination when I ordered a glass of wine and chatted with the owners. As it was the end of the day so we had a chance to talk. Martin and Kalavati arrived during my second glass of wine and joined in the conversation and the wine (which was called Sixth Sense and tasted beautiful).
The next day Kalavati went back to Amsterdam to catch her flight to India. She plans to live there for at least five years. I am glad to say she had a lot of fun with us and really enjoyed her boat ride – even if she discovered that her lassoing skills need attention. We will miss her and I am glad she was able to have a short holiday after her massive move out of Nanaimo. I am sure we will see her again because she has some strong ties in Canada. Since she left Martin and I had a quiet couple of days until this Sunday when he left for England for a few days.
As I said I felt a nervous about being alone on the boat but I could put off those feelings for a while as our friends Marc and Mary arrived at Puishaven for a short visit. They were visiting other pals in Maastricht so their visit to Tilburg was very short as they were 900 kms from their boat in France. It was fun to see them as it took the sting out of returning to an empty boat after setting Martin to the train. They were interested in seeing in how I was doing (Mary and I have similar boat experiences) and checking out Skookum. We laughed about the commonality of our Ikea furniture, kitchen, and bathroom stuff. Good old Ikea – it makes everything
After they left I went back to Biku – my new ‘ local’ in Tilburg to see our new friends Connie, Geert and Carolyn and have a glass of wine before heading to the boat to watch the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics (we have satellite TV). I thought the Closing was brilliant and featured my favourite song for peace – Imagine. I think that St John of Liverpool would be proud to see so many nations ‘living life in peace’ and sharing friendly albeit serious competition. London 2012 – A feel good moment for the world.