What’s it all about Alfie?
So why are we doing this?
It seems that since we started we have been scaling logistical mountains, jumping through financial hoops and fixing endless technical problems. Why did we bring this on ourselves?
When all the jobs are done and the logistics fade away (maybe that’s a dream) the question arises why are we here doing what we are doing?
I asked this of our most recent visitors, Patricia and Malcolm and their son Liam and his friend Erin. I was telling Malcolm of the experience of waking up that first morning outside Utrecht last summer with Barbara, Melanie, Mike and Ayja; the mist over the fields at dawn. The beauty of the experience. So Malcolm turned to me and said “reason enough”.
It is true that beauty is a major motivator in our actions and it may be enough but Victoria is beautiful and our life there and our friends and family and house are all beautiful so the ‘Why we are here?’ is not answered.
Another of the reasons that we have articulated is a desire to shake ourselves up. Life in Victoria is known as the velvet rut- it is a bit of a rut but it feels really good. We are undoubtedly entering a period in history of massive rapid change and it seemed like a good idea to get a jump on it. Shake ourselves into a more agile mobile state before events do it for us. A bit dramatic perhaps but I do truly believe that dramatic times are ahead. With a degree in theatre performance I can’t say that I am anti drama. It is just that when you are raising a family, growing up or getting old, some drama can be a more than you want. And drama is about being present in the moment.
Yesterday With Barbara visiting Deborah in Croatia I arrived alone in Helmond with my T-Mobile credits on the iPad gone, all the Hi credits on Barbara’s rocket stick gone and I burned up my Lycamobile cell credits talking to Mark Pakenham in France about hot water heaters for the boat. (We are suing a Dutch hot water heater company for screwing up our system) So I had NO connectivity. How disastrous is that? So I needed to get into town to sort it all out. The in town marina that I was heading for originally is not built because of the recession and so the closest moorage is at the last lock 4.5 kms away. First I have Kerry (the dog) so I need to get Kerry’s bicycle trailer together to take her with me. I forgot to mention that I brought the bicycle trailer back from the UK where I was having a medical to be on the NHS (National Health System) as featured on the Olympic opening ceremony. I put the trailer together and get it all hooked up to my folding bike. I run up and down the dock a couple of times. OK. I pop Kerry in much to her disgust and run up and down a couple of times. All OK. I stop and she doesn’t want to get out.
Off to town, 4.5 Kms. Kerry finds a way out the back of the trailer and is running along behind. So I stop and secure her in the trailer with her lead. Anyway get to town, park the trailer, find all the relevant communications stores. Did you notice how at least half the stores in any mall are now communication stores? €70 later I have cell coverage, rocket stick time and iPad connectivity. Back to the boat. Flip on the iPad. Nada, nothing no connectivity. Stay Kerry. I jump on the bike without trailer back 4.5km to the store. “sorry, my fault” says the store guy. Synced wrong thingemy to the whatsis. OK back to boat- oops I step out of the store to locked bike and realize that I have put the key to the lock down on the boat 4.5kms away! After a fruitless attempt to get the store guy to drive me back to the boat I finally just walk the 4.5 km pushing the bike on one wheel.
Typical day? Maybe not but not far off.
What perhaps it does illustrate is that a variety of events can come our way that have to be dealt with somehow. And we can deal with events in a catastrophic way or with the sang-froid of Victor Frankl. In general humour takes everything in its stride down the middle path.
I sit now on a railway platform in Utrecht, an incredibly beautiful city where we rented our boat last summer and squeezed under the old bridges with 10cm to spare.
Since the big ‘why are we here?’ is a bit daunting I will answer ‘why I am here on a platform in Utrecht station having just missed a train by 30 seconds?’
I mentioned the lack of a hot water heater having paid €427 to have the instant diesel heater fixed unsuccessfully. So following on my call to Mark burning up my Lyca credits I decided to follow his suggestion to keep it simple and install an instant gas hot water heater. Now here is where the rabbit hole commences. I do the research and select a Morco D61E heater which wonder of wonders is manufactured in Beverley Yorkshire about 5 miles from Barbara’s mother’s house. Since I am off to the UK to get my NHS medical I naturally think I will pop over and pick one up. However when I say I want it for my boat in Holland, John at Morco recommends that I pick it up in Holland and gives me the name of the Dutch importers. Back over to Holland I call Van Heet. Yes we are the importers but not a retail seller. He puts me on to the retailer who is an Internet store. Back to the wonderful world of the Dutch Internet that I have just spent €70 Euros getting up and running. But you cannot buy anything online in Holland including Internet time unless you have a Maestro card and you cannot get a Maestro card unless you have a Dutch bank account and you cannot get a Dutch bank account unless you have a Dutch address which of course we do not. Visa and MasterCard from non Dutch banks do not work. So I ask Wouter Van Leeuwen of Van Leeuwen Caravans how can I buy the Morco heater. After working through a few suggestions involving giving someone the cash to order it on-line for me with their Maestro card which not knowing anyone close by didn’t work out, we settled on my jumping on a train with cash in hand and meeting Wouter in Utrecht central station where he would bring a Morco unit. I felt like we were doing a drug deal handing over €345 to a complete stranger in a railway station. He opens his rain coat and there amongst the vintage French postcards and wristwatches is a Morco hot water heater. So here I am now on the next train with my new Morco water heater heading back to Roemond and the the boat and Barbara fresh back from Croatia and Kerry.
Just to be living in Europe for a year at least is an amazing reality. I think that perhaps no one should be allowed to be an Architect or Planner until they have lived in Holland. The level of creativity, visual literacy and social responsibility is astounding. I look at some buildings and cannot even fathom how they had the idea let alone how they then managed to get them built. (see previous blog on Rotterdam). And then of course there is the history at every turn. I remember a few years ago on Bill Wolferstan’s Linquenda, a 1906 Dutch sailing barge, on the canal de Nivernais in France walking into a village for a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread and stumbling back into the 13th century.
Yes truly we are blessed. So this retirement. A lot of work but definitely very cool.
I am definitely very happy to be in Europe. I remember last year driving up from the south of France on the motorway and having the exit signs go past as ‘Milan’ ‘Geneva’ ‘Paris’. Much as I love Duncan, Ladysmith and Nanaimo somehow there was magic in those signs. One turn to the right and you were on the road to a deep history.