Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comfort Junkie Dog

Here is VallyP's dog Sindy, convincingly playing the part of the affectionate comfort junkie.
She now grudgingly admits that for her blog she'd hired a ghost writer, VallyP no less, who is now temporarily unavaiable. Sindy's comment: " 's Not fair!"

After an extremely summery month of September so far (making up for an extremely rainy month of August), today we could finally sense a hint of autumn in the air.

However, after this morning mist was over, it was like summer again.

Numberless times we have walked the dog along the river, but today was the first time I noticed this cast iron cover over a firehose connector.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This is for Dale

Dale F who so often says just the right things, who has a unique ability to put them into the right words, and loves horses. We love you, Dale, thanks for your comment on my Lille post. I feel I am a lucky man. VallyP sends her hugs to you too.

She can't spend on blogging the time it deserves. Giving less would be doing it wrong. Hence her decision not to blog until workload permits. Until that have to live without new posts from Vally P. In the meantime I shall be happy to oblige every time people ask me to give her a hug on their behalf.

This is the traffic sign of the day.

It makes perfect sense unless you give it a Koos interpretation:

this road accessible only for
- tractors without drivers;
- men with small girls;
- cyclists using horses to pull riderless bicycles.

What exactly happened to Philippe Chabottier, who died here on the bank of the river Maas, near the Belgian border on Februari 17 2002?
Well, it seems he was drowned here.
Now we face the beginning of a new tradition after the roadside memorial: the riverside memorial!

A strip of today's pictures. Click on the strip to view large version.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can't explain...

So what is it that fascinates me so about Lille? This is the question behind the answer in the header of this message: Can't explain...
Let's try and make the images speak for themselves first.

Is it the translucent quality of the atmosphere? Maybe, but during my first visit in 1983 to this city the restoraration process was still in its early stages. Many of the buildings weren't much more than ruins, the façades - or what was left of them - still covered in sooty grime.
Here, on the left, is the opera building; on the right is the commercial centre with the traditional beffroi-type tower on the corner.

Well, since I can't explain, what it is that fascinates me so about this urban sprawl, let's get on with the pics.

Danger! High voltage. Touching the wires absolutely forbidden.
Near Lomme, a shunting area I had previously only seen on maps...

The footbridge over the train tracks.

Same footbridge, from a different angle.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Go To The Mirror

There are plenty of traffic mirrors around if you develop an eye for them - not unlike manhole covers. Like their lowly friends, the mirrors are far from uniform.

I found most of these in Belgium.

As usual here is a film strip of the entire collection. If you want to view a slide show, please click on the strip.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Sentimental Journey to The Bois-Blancs

It was a scruffy part of Lille, designated to be pulled down and be replaced by an Olympic Village. After the Games it was to become the Knowledge Centre of the North of France.
Luckily the Olympics went to Athens and and the isle of Les Bois-Blancs could doze off again.
Once a year in September, European countries celebrate their monuments. The Bois-Blancs had no monuments to offer, 'so' once a year since 1996 a varying group of Dutch historic barges sailed off to the this neighbourhood to provide them with monuments. Through the years I was one of the very faithful participants, because this was my brainchild.

Dutch barges moored at the Quai de l'Ouest in 2004.

Back then, they'd all but given up hope, and several houses were boarded up. Since 1996 however, this part of town regained self-confidence. People gave new attention to their houses, and gradually the island stopped being an area better avoided at night.

After the event in 2004 - as usual the third weekend in September - we decided that it was time to stop. The novelty had worn off, it was getting harder to mobilise the necessary forces.

After my tour along the railway I went to see how 'my' neighbourhood was doing. It seems we stopped just in time. It has been done up beyond repair. No more scruffiness to be found, gone are the small irregularities in the asphalt, no more dust or muddy patches on the pavement.
It has become a shopping area without shops.

The old canal
(the new and larger canal is on the east side of the island).

The footbridge, a great vantage point.

The little square-that's-not-square seen from the footbridge.

So goodbye Bois-Blancs, I'll miss you next weekend, and I know you'll miss us too, but I promise I'll come back now and then - see how you are doing, like I did this time.

Is this madness?

I have an ongoing love affair with the northernmost city in France, the metropolitan area of Lille. This area is spread out across the Belgian border, as I've written earlier in "A brief visit to France".
Part of the magic is the train journey from Belgian Kortrijk (Courtrai) by way of Mouscron and then across the border to Tourcoing, Roubaix and Lille, where the terminus is a true copy of Paris's Gare du Nord.

This time I took the motor scooter to Lille, and I followed the railway closely, taking in as much of the area as I could. Normally I would only get superficial impressions in the passing, this time I took several hours instead of the usual thirty minutes.

The first station south of Kortrijk is called Lauwe. No scheduled passenger train has stopped there for years. The station had a second life as a pub, now it is for sale. Wouldn't I love to stay in there for a while. If anyone else is interested, I can provide the broker's name and telephone number.
Note, the telephone booth is not that old, yet it is an endangered species.

No old roman temples for me. This is the my idea of history, must take pictures now, it may be gone tomorrow!

Quite large areas are still in use as farmland.

No, not the Seven Bridges Road, there are only two of them here.
The French words are at the top, which means we are now in the French speaking part of Belgium.

Opposite Mouscron station the atmosphere is very much like my beloved Maubeuge, or many places in England if it weren't for the traffic here driving on the right.

Lethally pretty - I love it...

...but this is my favourite of the week!

The end of today's zig-zag ride along the railway: Tourcoing station.

Realising I had left for France from Rotterdam in the morning, and was planning to be back before midnight I asked myself: is this madness? No, most certainly not! Madness is staying in Rotterdam on a gorgeous day like this instead of breathing in that wonderful French atmosphere.

Please click on the FilmLoop to enjoy the complete series full size (95 photos)!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Manhole covers anyone?

Just for once don't look up, look down. A manhole cover like the one below is rare, but be prepared to find a great variety of them.

My collection is modest, only 25. I found a few of my favourites in Richmond and Twickenham, England.

Nowadays the real politically correct call them personhole covers (retching sounds, forgive me, my friends).
Yesterday I heard a French woman say plaque d'égout, (but it's not all about sewers).
The Dutch term is putdeksel. The u is pronounced as in cut, not put. Deksel is pronounced like deksel, so that's easy. Don't forget this, it's a good thing to know in case you come to visit.

Click on the strip to view large size.
Don't take pictures of this kind if you could be mistaken for a muslim. Your suspect behaviour will be reported and your bad intentions assumed. It's referred to as citizens' alertness, I call it totalitarian xenophobia.
Photos Koos Fernhout ©2005-2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The tidal river Scheldt in Belgium

This is about the Belgian river Scheldt around Rupelmonde, upstream from famous Antwerp.
Rupelmonde and its surroundings along the river used to be the home to a series of shipyards, that had to close their doors one after the other.
Now that the issue of barge restoration is taking off in Belgium, a new life was found for the old CNR shipyard in Rupelmonde.

Saturday September 9 was the great day when the first completed project was shown to the public. This is a traditional fishing boat of the region.

The boat was in such a state that much new material had to replace the rotten bits. The result: the boat looks like new.

Here's a view across the river. For ages I've been aware of a castle-type building there, hidden behind the trees.

Always seen in sailing past, no place to moor up. So this was the opportunity to go and explore, as I was using the motorscooter.

It turned out the area is of a stunning beauty, with old river branches almost overgrown by the woods. Note: wild woods are very rare in this part of Europe. When viewed from the sky, the woods here give away there true nature. They are arranged in neat rows.

Not for the first time this summer, the view was enhanced by a light that adds beauty to every single item it touches, like here in the garden behind the castle-like building.

NEW!!!! To view the complete photo album of this day please click on the bottom left of the filmstrip.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Higher Viewpoint - once a year

You have seen this before on my pages, our local version of the White House, the first sky scraper on the European continent, visible in the distance in the picture below.

Nowadays it is completely dwarfed by the surrounding offices and residential buildings.

Once a year, the during the Rotterdam Harbour Festival, visitors are allowed on the roof of the White House.

This is a great opportunity for us harbour dwellers to see our barges from an unusual perspective.
The third barge, bottom left, is my good ship Luxor. My next door neighbour, mostly hidden by the foliage, is VallyP's Vereeniging.

Thanks to a high viewpoint and a long lens.

A view of the slipway - so that's how it works.

Traditionally, on that particular weekend's Sunday, the sailing barges leave the harbour for a slow motion race on the river.

The weather was so bad that I missed the race, just caught a bit of the end.

'Shanty choirs' consisting of what look like retired sailors. What if I could choose between a Who concert and this? Hard to say. Well, not that hard.

This pic is especially for Dale. See the art nouveau letters saying Het Witte Huis? If you misspell that badly (as the English tend to do) you get The White House.