A travellogue about a dream come true. After seven years of owning their barge, Hennie-Ha, seven years involving catastrophe and crisis, Val and her partner finally go 'faring' to France for the first time. This travelogue is about the places they visit and the people they meet along the canals on their route from the Netherlands, through Belgium and into northern France. It tells a gentle story about how they experience their life on board during the four weeks they spend cruising. Written as a journal, the reader joins them on their travels through rain and shine and reveals how day by day, Val learns to cast aside the stresses and demands of the real world and to appreciate life's simplest of pleasures to the full.
I love it when Valerie Poore publishes a new book of her travels. What a change it makes from reading fiction. I read this book at a time when I received some bad news. I had to escape from it but every book I picked up was either sad or complicated. This one fitted the bill.
From previous books I feel as if I know Val and her partner Koos well. They make a great team.
Koos spent his childhood as the son of a bargie so he lived on a working barge. Val, although she has lived on a barge for many years now still seems to be in awe of the lifestyle and you can feel her excitement on every page.
This is a holiday ( they call it going faring) Val has always wanted to take. Koos wasn't too keen as he's probably done this route many times but Val persuaded him and he enjoyed it.
Sailing through the Netherlands, Belguim and France, the names of the towns and villages the Hennie Ha passed through didn't mean much to me but that didn't matter. Every place was different with different challenges. I'm thinking of one day in particular when Val set off in her little folding bike to find somewhere to purchase some food. She ended up on a busy dual carriageway which was also uphill all the way. Sensibly she dumped her bike and walked although not before falling into stinging nettles. She never found a food shop!
There was also her daily battle to have a hot shower with a special bag of water heated by solar power,but what happens when the sun doesn't shine?
I was impressed at the way Val handled the locks they had to pass through. Some were easy and they certainly got easier the further into their journey as she learns from her mistakes but the sheer strength and courage it took to handle some of them made Val a hero of mine.
The book is peppered with Val's sense of humour. If you've read any of her other books including her fiction ones you will understand what I mean. Val's humour is accidental, she doesn't set out to be funny she just gets herself into so many scrapes that you can't help laughing.
I enjoyed reading about their long summer nights sitting on the deck of the barge sipping wine and reading or talking,my kind of night.
They met lots of people on their journey,some were old friends, some they have passed by and waved hello to in the past and some strangers who they still had a good chinwag with.
Val and Koos bought the Hennie Ha because of her size and their desire to sail her through the waterways to Poland. That will be a story I'm looking forward to reading too. I'm hoping they might make that journey this summer.
And why does the title say they sailed on "a shoe" ? You'll have to read the book to find out !
Out on Amazon for kindle or paperback.
Kindle copy is less than the price of a fancy coffee. In fact you could buy the download and read it with a fancy coffee and still have change from a fiver!
This is the link to Val's Amazon page where you can find links to all her books.