Friday, 14 August 2020

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore
Self published in April 2008.

One of my Found On Twitter challenge reads

How I got this book:
Birthday present from my sister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this account of her first year of living on a barge in Rotterdam's Oude Haven, Valerie Poore’s overriding impression is that “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water”.

The year in question is 2001 and, at forty something, the author takes the plunge to exchange her life in the corporate fast lane of Johannesburg for life on a historic Dutch barge. Every month brings new challenges, obstacles and experiences. She meets a whole world of fascinating people, not least of whom are an endlessly smiling, but absent minded ‘landlord’, an intellectual, but quirky friend and confidante and an old world charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. She also learns how to cope with the sometimes strenuous demands of casting ropes and negotiating locks when acting as skipper’s mate during numerous nail-biting watery adventures.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live on a barge, this book may be the bait that hooks you; whatever your reaction, it will certainly give you an off beat and amusing insight into the ways of living on the water.

My partner and I have been toying for several years now with the idea of trying narrowboat living in England. It looks so wonderfully idyllic and the Dutch equivalent caught our eye a couple of weeks ago when we briefly had our motorhome parked up next to one of their canal marinas. We saw that waterbased life, as Poore mentions here too, is as essential to the Dutch psyche as cycling!

Watery Ways is a lovely, gently paced memoir of Poole's first year afloat in Rotterdam. I appreciated her inclusion of technical aspects of Dutch barge restoration as well as accounts of the sheer joy of travelling around on these historic boats - 'faring' is the term she uses. All is not always plain sailing, of course, so I felt that I got a good sense of the negatives as well as the positives of boat life. There's a lot of maintenance drudgery to undertake!

As with another boating memoir I read, The Narrowboat Lad by Daniel Mark Brown, Watery Ways has really captured my imagination and I was completely at home with Poore's prose style. Her tendency to panic certainly struck a chord with me so it was reassuring to realise I wouldn't be the first nervous ninny to take the plunge - so to speak! Reading this memoir has got me pondering again.

Etsy Find!
by JB Creatief in
the Netherlands

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Valerie Poore / Biography and memoir / Books from England

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