Forgive me for the corny alliteration… I do like to play with words sometimes!
Busy, busy, busy! That’s how February has panned out. Visits from special friends plus a brief visit to Lille in France… and all of it in the midst of freezing, high pressure winter weather.
This of course means guests sleeping in the ‘fridge’, that is my boat over night! James and Tara were first to arrive and adapted expertly due to their narrowboat experience on the Thames in England. They are used to ‘roughing it’ so no problems there!
It can be difficult spending too long outside when all is freezing, but ‘Free’ is left alone during the day, while seeking refuge in a cafe somewhere. Mr Starbucks may be avoiding taxes in the UK but he’s footing my heating bill during the day!!!
Tara and James enjoyed their stay in this wonderful city, and treated me to a pizza out in town, a really nice surprise and change from my normal peasant-like diet.
All good things come to an end and soon it was time for my two young friends to fly back to their own Narrowboat home.
However, no sooner had they left than my old friend Michael arrived. We have known each other a long time and he lives in Lille, Northern France. The following day, his son Michael joined us, but my fear that they would be too cold soon disappeared as they proved to be made of sterner stuff!
As you know, I am particularly interested in slightly more offbeat material and both Mike and I were fascinated by the strange clock on the facade of Amsterdam Centraal Station. On the first examination, one may be forgiven for presuming it to be a time piece of sorts… an elegant piece; however, further observation reveals extraordinary Dutch eccentricity… It measures wind direction! Great for me, but probably useless for everyone else!
Soon it was time for departure, but this time I left too, returning to spend some time in the beautiful city of Lille for a few days. The coach rolled across the Netherlands and Flanders, mile after flat mile, and yet the shear apparent monotony of the landscape intrigues me somewhat. The whole journey has an almost meditative quality and I love watching how the French and Flemish language place names define this part of Northern Europe.
Being a sailor has exposed me to a very European view of life, and much that I love ‘Fair Albion’, I enjoy the multi-lingual, busy and diverse nature of Europe more. I would confess to being a European firstly, for much of my life has been semi nomadic in nature and I have flirted with many languages over the years. By European, I mean the open nature of and the feeling of togetherness… celebrating differences and respecting the beauty and uniqueness of our amazing continent. I certainly don’t mean the stifling impact of Brussels.
John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ comes to mind… Isn’t it better to try and work together than feud and argue apart? The world is beautiful and tragic and it’s up to us to change ourselves and evolve. Maybe the birth pangs of a new Europe are just the beginning of a new dawn…
I pray that it is so.