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.
Having followed Valerie Poore on Twitter for some time now, I finally got round to buying one of her books. Watery Ways proved even better than I expected. The amazing characters living on the barges in Rotterdam’s Oude Haven reflect the variety of colour, shape and repair of the barges themselves. Val is a courageous, hard working resident of a barge without washing facilities or modern conveniences and with the help of her friends she soon learns to manoeuvre her barge in the busy, terrifying waterways beyond the Haven. A budding relationship and her experiences on board convince Val that she wishes to own her own floating home, so we join her quest to find the ideal craft. At times she has the companionship of dogs and a suicidal cat who add to the excitement of day to day life on board. I found myself seeking out maps to follow her journeys, but having tried “driving” a boat on the Thames I wouldn’t dare try to navigate the Dutch waterways!
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way
To find out more about Val Poore’s life see her blog
Watery Ways on Amazon UK