Tuesday, February 28, 2006

High Water

The Oude Haven, where VallyP's Vereeniging and my Luxor are moored, has an open connection with the sea, so we move up and down with the tide. During spring tide the water can go up so far that it puts the slipway and one of the terraces out of use.

Today was high time for high water.

Guest of the week
This week's guest on the slipway is a French model, a spits, that fits into the French locks with literally inches to spare.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Magic Bus in Manchester

We're back in Rotterdam, loaded with impressions. Loaded with 150+ photos too. Long live the digital camera, and long live our Mancunian friend and hostess Paula. This was a fabulous weekend!
Tourist descriptions are not my area. Suffise it to say that Manchester was vibrant, windy and sunny, very much to my taste.
Val and I look for canal-related things, so this was our chance.
First there was Castlefield Basin.
It is an impressively restored area that breathes the atmosphere of 19th century railways, even older canals, bridges in many shapes and sizes, tastefully mixed with modern buildings.
Deeply impressed, from there we followed the canal across the city. For Paula it was as much a holiday feeling as for us, as she had known Manchester so far only from street level. With us she went to the next level - down, that is. Welcome to the parallel world of old English waterways!

Ever wondered where the original Magic Bus could be found? How about Manchester? It's a pleasant double decker. In fact we saw many of them.

For those with a fast internet connection or much patience I have uploaded a 7.2Mb QuickTime movie with practically all the images of the weekend: the visit to Castlefield Basin, the walk along the Rochdale Canal through Manchester, our visit to The Quays, a hyper modern development around the former sea port, and a trip to the boat lifts in Anderton. To download the movie Ctrl-click (Win: right-click) and choose from the menu.
Photos Koos Fernhout

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Val said she had a surprise for me, Friday.
We took a train north, got off at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and now I am typing this in Manchester, northern England, after a day with Val and our wonderful host Paula.
And I honestly had no clue that we were going to fly!
We went to explore the canals in the city and I must say they put the canals in London in the shade...
'See' you all Sunday evening.

Oh, the concrete thing with the reflectors on it is a park bench. Erik-Jan had the size just right.

The bench seen from a different angle, the grass and the tree convey a sense of proportion. The retroflectors are useful because it sits just beside a road, facing the river. Nice view from there.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

An evening near Brussels, and What Is This?

Walking the dog at dusk, on a Saturday in November 2005.
The corn is still standing.
Looking at this picture, again I sense that wonderful atmosphere.
Don't forget to click to enlarge.

Just south of Brussels. Find it on Multimap.

And now something to keep you off the street: What Is This? The answer not before Monday, we're off-line during the weekend.

You might as well look where it is, but be a good sport, don't go there while I am away.

Photos Koos Fernhout

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Quick One about band practice

Tonight was time for band practice. We play traditionals like Auld Lang Syne and Amazing Grace and -how shall I put it- we do our best.

From left to right our friend Bruce, on bagpipe (what else, he's Scottish), Jodie, Val's daughter on violin, myself on a Hand Crafted (it says) Kasuga folk guitar, VallyP on mandolin and Janet on whatever that Irish handheld percussion thing is called (bodhran).
Dog Sindy joined us for the photo-op. She normally listens to the music from her doggy bed.
The thing you can't see between my fingers may look like a pick, but it is a remote control to trigger the camera. Clever stuff, that.
Pictures taken aboard Val's barge Vereeniging.
Bruce and Janet own this classical Belgian barge, Velocette, after the famous motorcycle brand -they used to own one.
To get on board and off they need to climb over a barge called Ontario. There is a lot of Canada in the air these days.
Bruce was 22 at the 1969 Woodstock festival, when Pete removed Abbie Hoffman from the stage.
There is more. He was an extra in 2 films: Tommy and Quadrophenia. In the latter he was one of the rockers on a motorbike.

Their barge lies here.

Photos Koos Fernhout

Love to all of you,

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dutch barges and Quadrophenia

How do Dutch barges and Quadrophenia hang together?
Bear with me, I'll try to explain.
When I started reading whatever was available about Pete Townshend some two years ago, I came across his Dutch barge. That detail stood out for me, given my special interest in the subject. Here is that barge, in front of Pete's Oceanic Studios.

Erik-Jan Geniets, one of the faithful commentators of these blog pages, wondered how so many Dutch barges ended up on the Thames. Fugitives in the 2nd World war? Just imported by aficionados? Hard to say, but my guess is the majority were just imported. Erik-Jan sent me a link to a Dutch page about an eel barge, photographed near Custom House in London at the beginning of the 20th century. Closer inspection of the image shows that the hull is of the same type (tjalk) as Pete's barge. This mooring was reserved exclusively for eel barges.
A search with the words "eel barge" resulted in a 1984 message about Pete acquiring his... eel barge! It is very, very improbable that his barge was ever used for that purpose, they were built of wood, not steel. More likely Londoners of that era referred to Dutch barges as eel barges. But then again I don't know the complete background of this particular vessel.
Needless to say that Pete and eel are connected: Eel Pie Productions, but also the liner notes of Quadrophenia, where main character Jimmy recounts:
"...and when the telly finished he’d storm out of the house like a lunatic to get to the Eel and Pie shop before it closed. He’d come home with enough for an army. I never liked the eels..."

I wonder if Pete will be interested in reading this. It's not your usual list of things he knows about himself, I think...

Guest of the week

A very elegant barge of the type 'luxe motor'. Luxe because they were much more comfortable than the sailing barges of that era, motor to distinguish them from those sailing barges.
The name Nieuwe Zorg means new concern. Holland is a country of calvinists, you know...
Yet we find a traditional frivolity, painted on the bows.
Photos Koos Fernhout

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The title 'Treasures' reflects what these images mean to me. It could have been 'New Tele lens' too, for today I received the adapter to make a serious close-up beast out of my digicam. *)
Thanks to this lens I could take the two pictures below.
Around sunset we took the dog for her usual walk along the river Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam. It was not only the new lens, but also something extremely clear in the evening light, that led to these images.
*) The tele converter triples the maximum focal length of my zoom lens to an impressive 255 mm (35 mm equivalent).

About halfway we came across two photographers who, it seems, were enjoying the view and the light just as we were. We do that walk very regularly around that time of day, but this was the first time that happened.
The above picture was taken from this (click on Multimap)
spot in westerly direction.

Guest of the week

The Johanna Jacoba is this week's visitor to our slipway. Built in 1918, she was supposed to spend her life under sail only. It took only a few years before the owners realised that diesel engines justified the investment. This is a type of barge we haven't dealt with on these pages before: Friese maat kast (Frisian size barge, kast is untranslatable) just the size to fit into the locks in the province of Friesland: 31 x 6 m / 100 x 20 ft.

As promised, below you find a picture of the historic fishing vessel Trui, moored up in the Oude Haven awaiting return to her home port Enkhuizen, where she is part of the Zuiderzee Museum collection.

Photos Koos Fernhout

Monday, February 13, 2006

Religious Race on the banks of the Sambre

Just upstream of Charleroi on the Sambre in Belgium lies an old riverside port called Marchienne-au-Pont. Apart from a medieval castle it boasts not only an underground railway station -they live beyond their means in this poor region- but also a floating church, with stained glass portholes and all. This dates back to the time when transport on the river was essential for the prosperity of the region, and a dedicated church came in handy for the barge people, who lived aboard.

The religious tradition is kept alive, largely by the members of a yacht club upstream. Every year on the last Sunday in September they celebrate the Pardon de la Batellerie, pardoning of the skippers.
This is a colourfoul event. The members of several yacht clubs attend mass, enjoy being pardoned and having a good glass, put on a parade of pleasure craft with amateur sailors standing to attention, while the locals try to get rid of old stuff at a quayside flea market.
The parade is only one of the highlights. Another one, quite exciting, is the... Duck Race!

Here they are, all dressed up in their individually designed and numbered racing colours, concentrating on the important race to come.
Alas, their span of attention lasts only until halfway the race. The duck in the lead discovers something edible beside the track and subsequently all other participants are side-tracked.Could this be sabotage? There is betting money at stake, you know.

The finish-line is the dotted line between the orange cones, and that is what they reach in the end.

Click on the Multimap image to see Marchienne-au-Pont on the map. Scrolling westwards takes you to Maubeuge. Multimap fails to show you clearly where the locks are. There is one every few kilometres.The rise and fall is very gradual. maybe 2 - 2,5 metres / 6 - 8 ft per lock. This stretch of the river is canalized, meaning no parallel canal has been dug. Closer to the source things change. How to overcome a watershed from one navigable river to the other will be the subject of a soon to be published piece, so keep watching this space.
Photos Koos Fernhout

Friday, February 10, 2006

More Maubeuge

Maubeuge is not an obvious place to go and explore.
One deadly sin in tourism is the lack of an old city centre. Two world wars took care of this. Most of the buildings are post-second world war.
As usual I won't blame you if the lack of visible history -or appealing modern architecture- puts you off. Probably it is my 'core business' to show images of places in such a way that the viewers start resounding with my good feelings . When that happens, it makes me immensely content. The comments are there to testify.

Let's start our walkabout in the heart of Maubeuge that has grown organically around the river Sambre. Luckily there is a lock and dam and what's more, there's a Dutch barge in the lock.

Time for coffee, just up the street. The interior designer seemed to fancy shiny things - so does my camera...

Told you, no architecture to fill history books with, but I love it!

The lock is right under the circle on the map that you get by clicking on the Multimap logo.
Photos Koos Fernhout

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This week on the shipyard

As a rule the historic vesssels in the Oude Haven are made of steel, or when they are really old, iron. This week's guest, Trui, is an exception, being made of oak wood. This is not a barge but a fishing boat. Maintenance is done by a group of volunteers.

Here is an image I took in France in a town called Maubeuge, August 2005. This is another place the tourists on their way to sunny Southern France like to skip.
It is hard for me to explain in words what I find so attractive about Maubeuge, but I am confident that the photo willl do part of the explaining for me.

The yellow lines are a standard feature of French rural stations with level crossings. This is the only colour I maintained, the rest was reduced to greyscale.
Photos Koos Fernhout

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ugly Beauty

Last Sunday I visited Manage (pron. the French way) in the 'Le Centre' region in Southern Belgium. I always seem to gravitate towards that area, which has an ugly beauty.

Of course, of course, beauty and ugliness exclude each other. Yet in my subjective world there are things with a special type of ugliness that I perceive as beautiful.

I find that special beauty in old industrial places like Manage, preferably but not necessarily when the weather is grey.

I hope the pictures don't make you feel down.

By the way, whether Manage's post office is beautiful or not is debatable, I suppose.
I think it is impressively ugly. What I love is the way it says 'Postes' and 'Posterijen' as if these French speaking locals would need that extra Dutch clarification...

Oh, just one more thing, about Dutch grammar: our language makes no difference at all between 'to carry' and 'to wear'. So, if you see a Dutchman without a wristwatch, it'll be because it makes no sense to carry a watch, don't you agree?
I tend to take things a step further. I like to know what time it is at all times, so I carry a mantle clock - 't is better than bearing a mental block.

In fact I found this clock last Saturday in a rubbish heap in Belgium. I took it home and after cleaning it just worked, including a most wonderful chime (soon to be heard on these pages).
Photos Koos Fernhout

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Richmond Riches, Eel Pie Island, Another Pink Car and Family Portrait

To begin with a picture that sums up many of the things I love about Richmond. The beautiful buildings, the sense of affluence, the hustle and bustle and not to forget the strong presence of the Thames as a waterway.
This is the Richmond waterfront, seen downstream from Richmond bridge.

Eel Pie Island on the right, connected with the shore by a footbridge. Another legendary object.

For those who don't take things at face value this pink Cadillac's licence plate says MIS PNK.
Photo shot from the hip in Richmond's Hill Street on September 3, 2005. The old double decker in the background is held together with a long white ribbon. Its destination is WEDDING !? ;-)

Family portrait: clockwise from top left Barry, Jodie, Val and myself. In the middle the most important family member, Sindy.

PS MyVal has started blogging too! Expect special insights on dogs - and from a dog...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On the slipway

Practically every Dutch barge owner does the helling maintenance themselves. This is hard work, and rather unpleasant, especially when cold and wet. As a result a week out of the water in winter is in lower demand and therefore cheaper. Even then the facility is in such demand that sharing is stimulated. So this week we see two small barges, ready to be pulled out: Orca on the right and Concurent [sic].

Bertus Hekkema (background) is in charge, his first assistant Jurgen Schiphuis looks back to see what his dog (a very rare Dutch breed, kooiker) is up to.