Watery Ways by Valerie Poore
Trading life in the fast lane of Johannesburg for that of Rotterdam's serene Oude Haven, Valerie Poore packs all her worldly possessions aboard the historic Dutch barge Hoop and sets about rebuilding both the boat and her life after divorce - and rediscovering herself and her own capabilities in the process. Along the journey of renovation she is joined by an array of characters, including two dogs and a rather adventurous cat, a smiling but absent-minded 'landlord', a quirky friend and confidante, and an olde worlde charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. Before long Val has to learn to cope with the strenuous demands of acting as Skipper's Mate during numerous nail-biting adventures -frequently with hilarious effect. When the Hoop, her rented home, is sold Valerie relishes the new challenge of hunting down the Vereeniging, another picturesque barge aboard which she builds herself a new home and learns that, when life on the waterways is threatened by rust and insurance critics, it is those who band together to help who make the lifestyle so worthwhile. Valerie's touchingly sincere story is one of discovery and friendship, endurance and love and, most importantly, never allowing the landlubbers to get you down!
When I was younger I loved reading the autobiographies of the rich and famous. The lives lived by the old Hollywood stars really amazed me but what I am now finding more amazing are books written by ordinary people who do something that bit different with their lives. While we may not all want to do the same thing as the people we read about I think part of us wishes or yearns for something different from what we are experiencing now.
One of those people who has changed her life a few times is Val Poore. Her book African Ways is about moving to Africa with her husband and two very young children hoping for a better way of life, my review is here
Still living in Africa, her children have now grown up and fled the nest, Val moves with her husband to the Netherlands for his career choice and as houses were so expensive their eyes were drawn to the barges on the canal. They found a barge and began to restore it but before the dream of living together on it was fulfilled, life took over and their relationship came to an end. After a short spell back in Africa Val decided to go it alone and find a barge to live in by herself.
Val discovered she was really interested in boat restoration and as word circulated around the harbour she was offered an old barge to live in and restore by it's owner Philip. This barge had no running water, no electricity and no heating and trying to get Philip to fix those problems was a job itself.
When I first saw this book I did wonder if I could read a book about life on a barge, was I interested enough? After reading African ways I decided I was and I'm so glad I did. This book is not just about barges or houseboats, it's about life and friends and strangers helping strangers. It's about once being a family of four and then starting again on your own in another country and learning a new language. It's about laughter and finding love.
Val eventually has to move from the barge she is restoring and decides it's time to buy her own. Lots of mistakes are made along the way but with the help of her new barging friends Val gets there in the end.
One of the first questions I had in my head when I started reading this book was, "I wonder if people who live in barges ever fall in the canal?"
Well the answer is,"Yes they do! " Val writes about this happening to her and because of what went on just before her fall I didn't stop laughing for days.
Val brings so much humour to this book as she learns all the rules of living on a canal and tells us of all the mistakes she made. The difficulties of getting elderly dogs on and off a barge and the cat who comes to stay. The warmth of the new friends sometimes brought tears to my eyes and when she met Koos I just knew love was in the air.
So for a while just forget the fiction books and read about real life and about someone who changed theirs.
Valerie Poore is nearly ready to publish her follow up to to Watery Ways which will be called Harbour Ways and I'm looking forward to re - acquainting myself with all her barging friends.
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