Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.
Thursday 27th September - Veurne

We first noticed a bit of an oil slick around mid morning, about the same time that the fisherman phoned the waterways authority.  Although there didn’t appear to be a great quantity of pollutant, there was enough to cover the surface of the entire port and any spill is quite rightly treated very seriously indeed.

Therefore the waterways guy phoned his boss who phoned the police, both of whom arrived promptly in two teams.  They phoned the fire brigade who phoned the environment department,  representatives of which turned up as well, and phoned the rescue people and before we knew it the port was lined with firemen, environmentalists, oil recovery experts, crane drivers delivering fuel collecting sea booms and a cast of dozens all walking up and down and scratching their heads (and other parts of their anatomy when they thought no-one was looking). 

The harbour master told the environment guy who told the police who told the fire brigade that the spill didn’t look too serious, so the off-shore equipment returned to from whence it came and three men in a plastic boat took their place, merrily spraying detergent and splashing about to the delight of the hi-vis clad crowd. Perhaps there’ll be no mosquitos tonight. 

The Twilight of Another Cruising Year.
Wednesday 26th September - Stavele to Veurne

This morning’s wait for the first bridge of the day was only an hour (three less than yesterday), and when the very cheery chap arrived he filled in the additional half hour he’d asked us to wait until another boat arrived by debriefing us on yesterday’s adventure and making notes of things that perhaps his colleagues could attend to over winter.  

After following us through two bridges a lock and two more bridges, he handed us over to an even cheerier fellow on a bicycle, who became our guide and dare we say confidante, piloting us safely right into the port of Vuerne where we sat, less than a day from “home”, slapping mosquitos in the twilight chill, trying to work our where our year has gone, and how to stretch it just a little more.  

There was a time when mosquitos kept a safe distance from Mr Perkins’ foul expiration and we do miss that smokey signature just a little at times like these.  He has done a sterling job once again it must be said, gooey ooze from his nostrils not withstanding. Sometimes he is a bit tentative in the early morning now that it’s a bit cooler, but having attained a certain age, who isn’t?  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Off-road Adventures.
Tuesday 25th September - Fintele to Stavele

The sign did warn su not to make any waves, that boats wider than four metres and deeper than one and a half were not allowed. When the man operating the lifting bridge ushered us through without question, we believed them all, partly because we are in Belgium  (where everything works).

We expected the six kilometres to Roesbrugge-Haringe to be narrow, perhaps challenging in a boat nearing the maximum allowable size for the channel, but we didn’t expect to have to engage four wheel drive and low range  for much of the way, nor to have to take a bit of a run at a couple of obstacles where the bank had collapsed to leave the net distance between it and the trees on the opposite bank uncomfortably squeezy.  Had there been just a little less water it may well have been called a road, at least then we could have sent someone ahead with a chainsaw to clear a path.   

We arrived at the end of apparently navigable waters and decided that with the river levels currently dropping after the recent rain, waiting till tomorrow to attempt a return journey as planned may be ill advised.   We therefore returned to Stavele where the amazing and eccentric waterside restaurant we had heard so much about was closed for the week.  We would have liked to have visited it too but it must have been expecting us.  Each day we are discovering that perhaps Belgium is just a teensy bit more like France than some would like us to believe! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Picture yourself on a boat on a river……..
Monday 24th September - Ypres to Fintele

If there’s anything like a glorious day outside to purge the constant ghastly reminders of those troubles past which have hung in our minds like the dark grey clouds that hung low in the sky outside, it has to be moving gently on a boat away from it all, on a river filled with clouds.

It’s hard to believe we are barely twenty kilometres from the centre of all of that, yet here we are in the middle of nowhere, or as close to it as exists in Belgium, being three kilometres or so from the nearest village, without a care in the world.

Except for trying to avoid the cows.


Why can’t we stay in bed all day?
Sunday 23rd September - Ypres

As if from nowhere the temperature plummeted and we found ourselves once again having to reinstigate our “rule of ten” the one says we don’t get out of bed until either the temperature or the time has a “ten” in it.

The sudden shock to our systems of a day of barely double digit temperatures may have been taken a little easier if it hadn’t been accompanied by the first serious rain that we can remember.  This was rain of the bucketing down kind which turns to the lashing sort as the wind squalls whip through, and whip they did.  All day.  We began to wonder if someone, somewhere was pairing off animals just in case, then late in the evening it stopped as suddenly as if someone had found the “off” button.

“Red sky at night” we remembered was supposed to be a good sign for the next day, so when the calm came, if we looked at something green for a minute then squinted at the clouds, they took on an ever so slightly pinkish tone, and we were happy to call that “sunset”.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Blue and green should never be seen!"
Saturday 22nd September - Ypres

We were starting to think we weren’t going to experience a Belgian Summer, but it arrived with just one day to spare.   Temperatures in the low teens, gusty winds at times and the sort of rain that doesn’t wet anything unless it stays out in it all day, which we certainly did not do.

The change was timely in that it did prompt a bit of surgery on the heater, to make sure it was pumping out the requisite kilojoules, and we were never happy with the colour match between the buildings and all those clear blue skies and green leaves anyway.  


Friday, September 21, 2018

Don’t Bother Knockin’
Friday 21st September - Ypres

There’s a certain time in the wee small hours when a man of a certain age has to do what a man has to do.

At that time this morning, this particular chap, trying to remain asleep while doing what he had to do with one eye half open and the other still closed, was decidedly unsteady on his feet.  Thinking that some sort of vertigo had set in he gave up his slumber quest, opened his eyes and discovered that the earth was moving, or at least the water on it was and the boat on that was moving in perfect synchronicity.   

It takes a fair old wave action to start a flat bottomed boat that is almost four metres wide a rockin’. One may even have thought it impossible in a puddle that is no more than thirty metres wide by seventy long, with boats and pontoons acting as breaks.  One can only imagine what the wind strength was at the time.  In the cold hard light of day it all looked so beguiling, but there is more to come so we will continue to do what we did yesterday until the weather pattern becomes a little friendlier. 


Thursday 20th September - Ypres

We’d planned to depart this morning, but a judicious check of the weather forecast told us that the calm of the heavily sheltered port this morning may be a little deceptive.   By mid afternoon the winds were expected to increasing to more than fifty kilometres an hour, building to one hundred over the next few days, considerably more than we’d consider to be comfortable in a narrow canal with sharp objects at its edges, and actually in the range where the word "dangerous" comes to mind.

We could have pressed on, leaving early in the hope of arriving before the edge of the weather system arrived, or we could have taken off on an outing on our bikes (if we could get our heads around a fifty kilometre per hour headwind), but really, after a few days of relentless touristing the thought of simply lying around reading or sifting through photographs and not bothering to leave the boat seemed like a terribly pleasant alternative.

So we sat all day like a vintage car cooling off in the town square, creaking a bit, taking it easy after a long journey.


Wednesday 19th September - Ypres

Feeling just a bit over-warred, we trudged into town once more.  Why subject ourselves to this torture? Like a dose of bad medicine, it had to be done.  Perhaps like moths drawn to flames or watching train wrecks we are powerless to prevent, we bought a combined museum ticket this morning, took a deep breath, and plunged once more into the abyss for one last dose of it all before turning our minds to happier things.

We’ve had enough of war to last us quite a while, and we are already actually quite well informed, but there’s more to the story than death and destruction, and it's be nice to discover a little of the few thousand years of history that tend to be lost in the annuls of the last hundred.  It is always a shock to see that “destroyed” in the war means “not a building in the town still standing”, yet strangely encouraging to discover that a town has had a bit of practice at building from the ground up.  

Apparently Ypers is known as the “City of Cats” appropriately perhaps, but not as a result of the nine lives it has experienced, but as a result of a tradition which grew in the middle ages, of flinging cats, which were thought to be the instruments of the devil (are thy not?) from the town belfry.  For that reason alone, the town shall be held very dear to our hearts.

Not an Easy Day.
Tuesday 18th September - Ypres

Late in the day, in “No Man’s Land”, we explored a temporary art piece which gave some sort of scale to the disaster.  Comprising 600,000 tiny cowering or perhaps unborn figurines, one for each person killed in Belgium in those four years it covered three hectares. Like the landscape on which is stands, it is slowly being covered by vegetation, but beneath the new green beard the scars remain.

If there is anything more futile than killing one another for the sport of rulers, then it has to be spending years digging tunnels in order to blow up hills that the other mob is standing on just to gain a few hundred metres of territory, while they are attempting to do the same thing to you.  That is how war was fought here for four years without gain.  The craters have been here for a century to prove it, except for one which turned up in in a thunderstorm fifty years ago.  There is still one which has not yet formed too, it’s charges lost in their mine for a century, quite possibly ready to startle hapless bystanders at a time of its own making.

We toured the sadness today in comfort thanks to David and Belinda’s generosity in providing both the meals and the wheels, visiting graves and cemeteries and places where remarkable people had stood and remarkable things had happened until our brains were full of questions and our emotions drained as they tend to become when one stands on a quarter-acre plot which contains the remains of what once were 40,000 human beings.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Last Poppy.
Monday 17th September - Ypres

Ypres or Ieper. like so many places around this neck of the flood plain can be spelled and pronounced in so many combinations that it seems to be impossible to get it wrong.  It’s the epicentre of a lot of awful history, the reminders of which are so omnipresent that one wonders how the people who live in the surrounding areas, deal with it.

One of the ways is in providing services to those who come almost as pilgrims to visit all those names on walls and tombstones.  This is inarguably a tourist town, albeit a war tourist town which has earned its stripes in that theatre, but in exploiting its history there is a fine line that needs to be trod if the lesson taught by that very history is to be preserved as the generations with direct connections to those names begin to fade away.

“Tommy’s Souvenirs”, “The British Grenadier Bookshop” and “The Captain Cook Restaurant” no doubt have instant appeal to parochial tourists, and the numerous specialised companies competing for battlefield and cemetery tour business serve the centenary visitor throngs admirably, but really couldn’t the world live without Poppy shaped lollipops?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Last Post.
Sunday 16th September - Ypres

We’d hard-earned our twenty-four kilometres of progress today, with a bridge and two locks to negotiate and one of them broken,  so were in no state to race off exploring the city in the afternoon, (which is code for: we will be here for a few days so a nice nap may well be in order).  Having fully recovered by the early evening we set off for a minor reconnoitre of the village. 

The Last Post has been played at the Menin Gate in Ypres every evening for the past ninety years as an act of remembrance and gratitude for the price paid by the British and Commonwealth soldiers  whose lives were lost in “The Great War” while serving in this region and whose bodies were never found.

It’s a bit difficult while that’s going on, beneath the names of just some of the 600,000 who were killed on the nearby battlefields, not to think about stuff, to be more than a little grateful ourselves that by some cosmic quirk we were born in the place and time that we were.  It was on that happy note, with a few thousand others clearly also pondering, we quietly filtered off into the night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Just One More Night.
Saturday 15th September - Diksmuide

We were going to move on this morning, but Jakob whom we expect will be Mr Perkins new medical specialist was delayed a bit.  Since Mr Perkins' health comes before all else, well one more night in town wouldn’t hurt.

We even had a fleeting thought about going out, which as so often happens was followed by an even more fleeting discussion about how so often when we do, we leave with the feeling that we could have had better at home.  Besides one of us was in the mood to cook up a bit of a storm apparently.

Not being the type to fight battles that cannot be won, the other immersed himself in conversations with Jakob about oils and filters and tappets while said storm was brewing in the galley.  It turns out that for reasons inexplicable, despite being able to achieve all sorts of wonders over a stove with one hand tied behind her back and both eyes closed, the culmination of all this effort turned out to be something of a fizzer.  In fact we looked at one another mid meal and agreed that perhaps, just this once, we may well have done better had we gone out.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Friday 14th September - Diksmuide

We’ve seen the happy sculptures in the Market Square, we’ve spent hours descending the Ijzer Tower museum and while we are definitely pacing ourselves, the day felt just about right for a picnic at the “Trench of Death”; a restored or perhaps enhanced rather than preserved section of World War One battlefield which Tourism Diksmuide describes as “a touching tourist highlight since 1919”.

The trenches may have been sanitised to enable us to visit without wading calf deep in bloody mud, and filthy clay sods and sandbags have been replaced by concrete filled bags, the sloppy black killing fields beyond are now happy green pasturelands, but the photographs exhibited in the very spots where they were taken pull no punches.  To try to understand the scale of what once was is an exercise as futile as war itself.

We’ve often thought that this sort of “education” is wasted on those of our age, that every school child should be compelled to visit places like this, yet today as we watched a class of teenagers romp through as teenagers are wont to do, we wondered if the highlight of their day wasn’t their excursion on pedal go-karts.  Elsewhere, an explanation being given to a group of six year olds did touch us, but in a way that in polite society would normally require consent.  

Neither touching, nor a highlight we thought, but a visit to the "Trench of Death" is time not wasted none the less.


The “New” Tower.
Thursday 13th September - Diksmuide

After more than a week of staring at the thing, we finally popped across the bridge to scale the dizzy heights of the Yser Tower.  Not that scaling it took a great deal of effort once we’d pressed the “close door” button on the lift, but there were still four flights of stairs to negotiate to get to roof deck which made it seem like a small victory.

The monuments have struggled at times to close the gap between Peace and Flemish Nationalism, but the fact that “Peace” gate was built from the rubble of the first tower which was destroyed by Anti-Nationalists, and that much of the main tower is constructed from the war-remnants of buildings from many of the villages and cities of Belgium makes the intent quite clear.

Here we are.  On the roof of a twenty-two storey building filled with artefacts and exhibitions which tell a story of horror so great that it will remain beyond our comprehension.  We can see the whole of the town, the fields that now hide so much of a truly grizzly history, and even the edge of the earth. 

Yet all we can do is gasp and say: “Look!  There’s our boat!”

The Man in the Moon.
Wednesday 12th September - Diksmuide

The Market Square in Diksmuide is famous, according to the internet for its two prominent sculpture pieces.  There is the solemn if just a little tilted, effigy of Général Jacques described yesterday, who seems to have his back turned in silent protest against the flippant goings-on in the near corner, and there’s the flippancy itself.

In the past week we’ve learned quite a lot about the cheery little “Manneke uit de Mane”.  The gilded statue that stands out somewhat discordantly, like a beacon to happiness. That same internet would have it that one time Prime Minister Leo Tindemans was its sculptor.  That does seem unlikely, but he was definitely “beaten” into a knighthood of the “Order of the Man in the Moon”, a not entirely secret society which among other things bestows this honour from time to time on prominent citizens of West Flanders.

This all apparently originated from the publication of a Flemish Folk Almanac filled with jokes, weather forecasts and old Flemish sayings, wisdoms and customs which is still printed occasionally.  Perhaps the Général is just miffed that he didn’t know the secret handshake.

Tuesday 11th September - Diksmuide

Jules Marie Alphonse Jacques, 1st Baron Jacques de Dixmude, (Général Jacques to his mates) was an all round good bloke it would seem.  Having lent a bit of a hand in darkest Africa cleaning up the nasty slave trade whilst still a mere Captain, he went on to become such a heroic commander of troops that immediately after the First World War he was elevated to the Nobility.

He is remembered fondly in a bronze effigy which when viewed from most angles portrays him as a picture of strength and leadership. It stands tall right there, not quite in the centre of the market square of the town he is credited with defending so valiantly.  He’s curiously positioned though, neither addressing nor defending the public buildings in the more traditional siting of such monuments.

Instead, he’s peering down Railway Street, and when viewed from the rear he has a curious tilt. Is he we wonder, ever vigilant, watching westward on the town’s behalf to be sure the nasty blighters aren’t sneaking back while everyone’s in bed, or simply waiting to surprise a grandchild hiding in a doorway?

Monday is Market Day.
Monday 10th September - Diksmuide

“Market Day” is not necessarily high on our list of things to visit, but since this was our first for here, we braced ourselves and we took the plunge.  The "Big Marketplace" did contain more people present than we’d ever seen before in one place in Diksmuide, but if we had added up the numbers the total would certainly not have qualified as a “crowd”, perhaps more a “small gathering”.  As has been our usual experience in markets of this ilk, a smattering of quality food product stood out among an otherwise forgettable collection of trinkets and the sort of clothing a person would not be seen in even after his time on earth had expired.  Strangely perhaps despite the fresh produce on offer, the greatest gathering of folk seemed to be around the various take away food vans.

Still not quite up to speed with the way the town works, we asked the nice man in an electronics shop why he was closed on Tuesdays.  

“Because Monday is market day” he replied ever so helpfully, as though that explained everything.  There were vague warning bells ringing in our heads though; Is it possible, we wondered, that indulging in market hot dog cheeriness is the kind of activity that needs a prolonged recovery time?


Friday, September 14, 2018

Living a Dream.
Sunday 9th September - Lelystad to Diksmuide via Antwerp.

It was not difficult as we ambled around the waterfront in the warmth of the evening in Antwerp after a delightful meal, and a delightful weekend for that matter, to find ourselves entirely content and perhaps more grateful than usual with our particular lot. There is no doubt that we are living in some sort of dream.

Oh it’s true that our eyes were still stinging a bit, perhaps from a day spent outdoors in the breeze, or perhaps from reading the price tags on the boats and accessories on display.   We had also been a little disconcerted to discover that after a decade of not too diligent searching, while the boat of our dreams did exist, the cost of realising that particular dream would require several extra lifetimes of saving.  

Apart from experiencing the temporary emotional fizz of unwrapping a new toy, it’s hard to imagine how forsaking our perfectly comfortable if heavily patinated floating home for something bright and shiny could bring greater happiness.   It would admittedly bring more warmth, arguably more reliability, seaworthiness and certainly less damp, but how could we be happier?  

Besides, what would be left to dream about?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Saturday 7th September - Lelystad

The evolution of the English language is a terrifying albeit wondrous thing.  It’s terrifying when change occurs through laziness, when grammar and spelling evolve needlessly in a way that detracts from the joy of expression in that language, yet wondrous when words evolve through that same misuse, to succinctly define the previously less well defined.

One example that comes to mind, is the preposterous use of “tragic” as a noun,.  This it appears is a peculiarly Australian habit, which from at least a colonialist’s perspective is entirely more acceptable than allowing Americanisms to sneak up on us.   The  Macmillan Dictionary describes it thus:

TRAGIC - NOUN [COUNTABLE] AUSTRALIAN INFORMAL HUMOROUS - Someone whose interest in a particular sport or activity is so strong that other people find it strange or silly.

“Boat Tragics” - When four people who live on boats fold themselves into a Mini for four hours so they can stay overnight on a houseboat in a harbour in another country, in order to get an early start to visit an on-water boat show the next day.  

Better get a picture of this Ria, “ How did you fit the drone in?”

Around Here, the Earth IS Flat.
Friday 6th September - Diksmuide

We have lived on the waterways of Europe for a decade of summers, yet we still find it vaguely amusing if not confusing to find substantial pleasure boat ports in the hearts of towns which themselves seem to be in the middle of nowhere.   Generally these ports are considered by the residents of the towns to be eccentric curiosities, rather than “attractions” as may be the case in other places.

This is understandable since the waterways in much of Europe were created as industrial corridors and were traditionally less than desirable places to actually live.  It came almost as a shock to find that here waterfront property seems to command more of the premium with which we are familiar.

The docks of Diksmuide were once lined with buildings of a somewhat more utilitarian nature; tall silos in brick which had long since served their purpose.  Modern constructions were constructed more or less of the same scale and height as the buildings that they replaced, coincidentally on what appears to be the highest land as far as the eye can see.  While from our perspective it would appear that they are built overlooking the water, the fact of the matter is that that is exactly what they do; they overlook it.  We are reliably informed that even from the first level the edge of world is clearly visible across the plains, which surely must give the occupants some comfort when ugly arguments arise regarding the form of our little planet. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

In the Shadow.
Thursday 5th September - Diksmuide

It’s a lot easier to push the events of the past into some recess of the mind, to be brought out only on a particular day of remembrance when one is happily detached on the other side of the world, but we are not, we are once again in what was at one time “the thick of it”.

It may not be apparent in this photograph, but the the Peace Gate, the ruins of the first Yser Tower, and the current tower which houses a twenty-two storey high museum, are positioned in a way such that the Gate frames the inscription on the ruin, and the tower provides a perfectly aligned backdrop to both. We are moored exactly on this axis and no more than fifty metres away, so it is impossible to escape the shadow of the past.  Had we wanted to do that, perhaps we should have avoided Flanders altogether, particularly just two months before the centenary of the end of “The Great War”.

There will be more to say no doubt, as our journey continues, but for now the inscription that we read each time we look out of our window is enough to ponder; (loosely translated) “ Here they lie like seeds in the sand hoping for a harvest in Flanders.”

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Wednesday 4th September - Nieuwport to Diksmuide

The summer holiday finished last week, and it seems that the sun itself is now having a bit of a break, perhaps exhausted from its big effort, and is now sleeping late and generally not bothering to do much at all.  Technically it has a few more weeks of work to do before summer is officially over so perhaps its just catching forty winks before resuming its normal state of affairs for a bit.

That’s exactly what we are doing.  In a sense we have completed our journey, having arrived gently in Diksmuide without fuss or fanfare, on a day that was neither hot nor cold, not fine, but not raining, perfect for snuggling in to the place as we begin to make it our new wintering nest.

Now that we’re here, we’re not setting out madly to explore the district we’ve decided.  We’re going to absorb it.  When the time comes to leave a month from now we’ll be wearing it like an old sweater, which may turn out to be quite a comfort if the sun doesn’t get its act together shortly.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Everything Works In Belgium.
Tuesday 4th September - Oudenburg to Nieuwport (the long way)

We are constantly being told that we’ll really like Belgium, that it’s not at all like France because EVERYTHING WORKS.  If we thought three hours yesterday waiting to go through bridges that did work was a long time, then imagine our wonder today when we arrived at the first bridge to find it didn’t,  nor did the second for that matter.

The nice man at the control centre confirmed that he would open the first at our appointed time and that he would let us through all the bridges on our route today.   Twenty minutes later when I called again, another nice man said that he was sure that the nice man who presses the bridge buttons would do it as soon as he “returned”.

Forty-five minutes after the appointed time, not wishing to appear anxious, I again enquired, to be told in a very friendly tone that there was a problem with a lock (several kilometres away) and if I thought this was bad, I should have been here the day before yesterday.

Eventually we were allowed to pass, and after a further fifteen minutes, arrived at the second bridge to find it out of order.  The nice man on the telephone told me that a man in yellow van would be there very soon.  We weren't sure exactly what the man in the yellow van was supposed to do, and as far as we can tell, neither was he, so after arriving very promptly indeed it appears that he immediately took long service leave.   

We cannot be sure if we will ever move again, but it does take our mind off the weather.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Oudenburg Looks Nice - Probably.
Monday 3rd September - Bruges to Oudenburg

The photograph was taken somewhere in Bruges last evening, but perhaps it looks enough like downtown Oudenburg to use in the brochure.  We can’t be sure, because we didn’t actually leave the boat to find out.  When we arrived the weather was that sort of windy mizzle that if we’d been paying attention when Dave and Ria took us for that walk along the beach all those years ago, we would have understood meant “Welcome to Belgium”, and the snug little cabin of our “Joyeux” seemed to be a far brighter alternative.

In any case we were a little fatigued from all the thumb twiddling we’d been doing during the day, while waiting for the lifting bridge operators to have morning tea, or lunch, or to return from their cousin’s wedding on another continent, or any other reasons which may have detained them, and therefore us on our passage.

There was no need to go ashore as it happens, as an elderly chap on a bike arrived to take our orders for fresh produce.  He had potatoes he said he’d picked yesterday and eggs he’d laid today and jam that he’d make on the way home, and onions the he’d plant as soon as he got there.  He wasn’t to know that one of us is a sucker for old chaps on bikes, so he left with an order for enough produce to fill a small supermarket and enough money to buy one, and the world remained in happy equilibrium.


Well that’s that then.
Sunday 2nd September - Bruges

Life in a tourist town is different to that in a less salubrious location.  Even after almost a decade of travel in the manner that we do, we still occasionally need to suppress feelings of that particular kind of urgency that tourists have, to see everything all at once.

We have to reassure ourselves that we are living here, that we can take our time, that if we don’t see something today we may tomorrow, and if we don’t tomorrow our world quite possibly will not end as a result. 

Having suppressed the urge to get out and about, we settled in to occupy ourselves with the sorts of projects and Sunday tasks that no doubt most of the city’s actual residents were engaged in.  We were happy too and content, right up until the time we noticed the rosy glow downtown caused no doubt by the tourists slowly fading into the evening, and could no longer resist the urge for just one more twilight walk through its by then near-deserted streets.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Imagining a world without boats.
Saturday 1st September - Bruges

We’ve long held the view that if mankind had been meant to go swimming, it wouldn’t have been given boats.

It is reassuring to see that people who are perhaps not quite as well off, are still able to navigate quite happily around the waterways of one of the most beautiful cities in the world with minimum financial outlay. This morning we happened upon members of the Canal Swimming Association of all things, whacking out a couple of k’s in the cities canals in the name of recreation.    

That they can do this and survive is a testament to the cleanliness of the waterways on which we live. Our own pre-digested contributions to it thankfully amount to a tiny drop in a very large waterway, but we are still more than a little squeamish at the thought of joining them should the boat for some extraordinary reason forget how to float.  

“Are they really swimming in this?” we wonder, “Or just going through the motions?” 

Complimentary Colours.
Friday 31st August - Bruges

There’s an orange thing floating on the canal just the other side of the bridge from where we currently live, it’s an installation called simply “Pavilion”.  It’s clad in translucent orange plastic, but the light that shines through it is actually quite red in an orangey pinkish kind of way. Within its space our feeble little brains have no trouble discerning that it’s very much from the red end of the spectrum, but in trying to balance what they are seeing, they can’t quite come to terms with  looking out of it the world beyond, which takes on a disconcertingly green hue from exactly the opposite side of that same spectrum.

The lounge setup in the car rental place on the other hand, was green.   So when we stood in the queue more than thirty minutes before the appointed time of return, and the nice young man apologised that he would be quite a while with the customers before us and if we would like to just leave the keys all would be well, we were happy to wait, telling him that we would prefer to make sure that there were no problems with the account before leaving.  

He returned after forty minutes, apologised once more, checked the car in, then told us that technically we were ten minutes overdue, but he would over-ride that in the computer.  It must have been our brains adjusting to all that time we had spent in the green space, because for a second or two, we almost saw red.
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