Q&A interview with Valerie Poore
Hello Val thank you and I’m so pleased you agreed to be a guest on my blog. Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Caryl, thank you so much for having me here! I’m honoured to be a guest on your blog, I really am. To answer your question as briefly as possible, I’m English born, but I moved to South Africa in 1981 and then to the Netherlands in 2001, so I haven’t lived in England for 35 years. I’ve spent most of my working life writing for marketing and communications and now I teach writing skills. I write my books in my free time.
I really enjoyed reading your series of Narrowboats Adventures in Rotterdam, beginning with Watery Ways. So much so, that I’ve become addicted to narrowboat memoirs and read others too (and somehow managed to get myself added to a list of UK Canal Experts on Twitter! ) I’ve yet to read African Ways or How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics, so have those to look forward to. When did you realise that you enjoyed writing?
Oh That’s a good question! I actually think I’ve always known it. I can remember loving writing essays at primary school and I even managed to win a couple of English composition prizes although I don’t remember what I did to earn them. My parents were both very artistic and musical, but they didn’t really rate writing as anything to be encouraged, so it never occurred to me to try and write seriously for myself until I was in my forties. All my jobs have involved writing for the companies I worked for, though, so I don’t quite understand why it took me so long to work out that I could do it for myself, especially as I am an avid reader. When I was a child, if I got upset, I would threaten to leave home and take all the books with me. My family still tease me about that!
h that did make me laugh Val!
What attracted you to living on a narrowboat? And what aspect of that life do you enjoy the most?
Ah, Caryl, the big appeal was the idea that if I wanted to move, I could take my home with me. I’d moved so many times in my life up to the point when I saw and fell in love with barges, I realised that if I lived on one, I’d never have to ‘move house’ again. Well, that was the theory anyway. But I soon grew to just love the life and the best thing about it is the sense of peace you have when surrounded by gently lapping water – that and the simplicity and pared-down nature of life in a very restricted space. It’s a life of few luxuries, but wonderful all the same.
I’ve learned via your books that there is such a lot of maintenance required to keep your boat afloat and also looking respectable enough to be moored in the Historic Harbour Oude Haven at Rotterdam. Is there a time during the year when you can have a break from this or is it pretty much ongoing throughout the year?
Oh yes, I do much less in the winter. I tend to do interior renovations when it’s cold and just try and keep the exterior clean, but sometimes I have to touch things up outside, such as the mast and the teak entrance to the rear cabin. They suffer from the bad weather quite a lot. It’s also a mission to keep things from going green in the damp. I generally don’t succeed and have to spend a lot of time in the spring scrubbing it all off!
It must be nerve wracking to have your boat undergo one of the required inspections. How often do these take place?
The insurance inspections have to be done every six years, but I mostly have them done after five. And yes, they are very, very nerve wracking. I’ve got one coming up next year now I come to think of it! But those aside, I have the Vereeniging out of the water at least every two years to have the bottom cleaned off and re-blacked. I look for any weak spots then and usually have a bit of welding done each time it’s out.
What have you learned so far about the history of your boat Vereeneging (hope that name is correct?)
That’s perfect spelling! Even I get it wrong sometimes…it’s true! About the history, I’m very lucky that I know who had it built and what it was used for as the man I bought it from bought it himself from the original owners, a transport company owned by a family with the name of Mur. The Vereeniging was built in 1898 to carry goods along a fixed route from Loenen on the Vecht river (known as one of the prettiest towns in the Netherlands) to Amsterdam in one direction and to Utrecht in and beyond on the Oude Rijn river in the other direction. It was built with a specially narrow width of 3,2 metres(about 10′) for a specific lock on the system, but sadly that has sort of shrunk over the years and I can’t go through there anymore. Following the Vereeniging’s old commercial route is a trip I’d love to do, so hopefully next year.
Oh yes, we’ve had the must wonderful five weeks of faring this summer. I love the way you use ‘faring’ too. I think it’s just the best word for what we do with our barges. And yes, I am writing a travelogue about it now, so I hope it will be ready by Christmas. I’m keeping everything crossed that I’ll have the time to finish it once work gets going again, but I’m about half way through the first draft at the moment. I’ll definitely keep you posted, Caryl.
Which books do you enjoy reading for pleasure and who are your favourite authors?
Oh good one! I read more or less everything except really gory crime fiction and erotica, but my absolute favourite reads are detective fiction and travel memoirs. I am a huge and long-time fan of Deborah Crombie’s and Donna Leon’s police mysteries, but more recently I’ve discovered and really enjoyed LM Krier’s DI Darling books and also Christina James’ DI Yates novels. I love Carol Hedges’ Victorian murder mysteries too. They are wonderful. There are many other crime writers I like, but these have stood out because they’ve given me a really good puzzle to work out. On the memoirs side, I’ve read so many it’s hard to keep track, but I love all Jo Carroll’s travel memoirs. She’s an amazing person because she only started travelling, or rather backpacking, when she retired and she travels to incredible places like Nepal and Ecuador on her own. I can really recommend her books. Luckily for me, she goes off for six weeks every year and writes a book about her experiences afterwards. I don’t know what I’ll do if and when she stops! I wish I could mention all the other writers and memoirs I love as well, but your readers might get bored if I go on too long!
Do you have a special place to write on the boat?
No, funnily enough, I don’t. I can write anywhere as long as I’ve got time. I often write in bed or in the train. It just depends on when I have the space to give to it. As long as I’ve got my laptop with me, I can write wherever I am.
If there was one place in the world that you’d choose, if you could, to go to just to write in peace, where would that be?
That’s a really wonderful question, Caryl! One half of me instantly says Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, which is a country that still owns a part of my heart. However, there’s a beautiful spot on the Canal de la Souchez which leads to Lens not far from Lille in northern France. We spent the night there in July and I would just love to go back there for some writing time. It is surrounded by the most beautiful trees and countryside; it feels incredibly peaceful and remote, but is really only a kilometre or so from the town of Harnes, so it’s just perfect. That would be a lovely place to go and write. I’d take my home with me of course…
Thank you Val, that was really interesting. Thank you for visiting my blog today.