Valerie Poore is the lovely author of many books mostly wonderful memoirs such as
Waloon Ways (about Belgium), Faring to France on a Shoe, African Ways and many
Hallo Valerie or should I say Val? (Val please!)
all thank you very much for participating in this small interview for
“My Crazy Life Full with Books.”
you via Lally Brown on Twitter and the We love memoirs group
on Facebook, but actually I ‘knew’ your boat earlier. During a visit to Rotterdam
in 2013, I took a picture of a beautiful boat called the Vereeniging.
Apparently this was the boat of Valerie Poore, which we both discovered in
Did you always have interest in living on a boat?
Kathleen, firstly, may I thank you very much for inviting me to your
I’m so pleased to be featured here. And I think it’s lovely that you took a
photo of my barge long before we ‘met’ each other.
As for whether I was
always interested in living on a boat, the answer is no.
In all honesty, I never thought of it until I came to the Netherlands.
I used to live in South Africa, which is a very dry country with virtually
no natural surface water. It was a great surprise to me to find people
living on barges here and travelling throughout Europe and I fell totally
in love with the whole idea.
You’ve a fantastic knowledge of Geography
(inter alia the rivers,
the locks of a country) Was that always one of your interests
and do you have other interests too (besides writing of course)?
I’ve always liked maps and looking up routes and places to go, so
I suppose you could say I’ve just transferred that interest to the waterways
since I’ve been here. Now I love poring over the charts and seeing which rivers
and canals go where and how many locks there are. That can keep me absorbed
for hours. As for my other interests, well, I have quite a few. I love history and
went on some archaeological digs when I was young, and of course, I love
reading which helps with the history too. Besides these, I like woodwork and
making and restoring furniture, and I also like walking, photography and dogs.
Well, all animals actually, but especially dogs. I really miss having a dog and am
looking for one now.
How do you start living on a boat? I think by
selecting a proper boat.
But how do chose the boat of your dreams?
Oh Kathleen, I have no idea how you should select a boat. You could
say that mine chose me because of her name. I saw my Vereeniging and
knew she had to be my barge. Vereeniging is the name of a town on the
Vaal river in South Africa where I used to go quite often for my work.
I loved sitting on the banks there, eating my lunch and reading and I
was very fond of the town. When someone showed me photos of the barge,
Vereeniging, I knew she was meant to be mine. It helped that I loved her
design as well and knew I could convert her into a special home
How could you describe your life on board?
My life is quite simple. I have everything I need but nothing more. That
means I have a small kitchen and a bathroom as well as a living area,
a work area and bed, but that’s all there is. There’s no room for anything
extra, so I have no TV, no music system and no dining table. I have
books (of course) and a table for my computer, but all the rest of the
space is dedicated to my tools, my water tanks, the engine room and
some storage space for other boaty stuff. It teaches you not to hoard
or collect too many possessions, which I quite like.
You travelled a lot with your boat, what lock
complex is the most
complicated and or beautiful?
Wow, that’s a good question, Kathleen. Locks come in so many shapes
and sizes, but that said, I think the most complex lock systems I’ve been
through have been in Belgium. If you count the big lifts as locks, there
is the incredible 73-metre barge lift a Strèpy Thieu. Then there is the
amazing Inclined Plane at Ronquières where you trundle downhill in
the lock basin, which is a huge bath on wheels. After Ronquières,
you come to the second deepest lock in Belgium at Ittre. It’s 14 metres
deep and very impressive. Ittre is also very beautiful, but then so is Strèpy.
Actually, all of Belgium is beautiful. I love it.
Is it a dream to live all the time on a boat?
Ah, Kathleen, I’ve lived that dream already. I lived full-time on
board for eight years. Then in 2008, I bought a cottage in the country
to get away from the city noise. I started going there at weekends, but
I was still on the boat more than on land. Since the Corona crisis started,
I’ve been at the cottage more than on my barge, simply because it’s easier
to keep away from people, but I expect I’ll go back to a sort of half-and-half
life on board when things open up again. In the summer, we hope to go away
on the boat and then we’ll be living on board full time for two to three months.
You’ve lived inter alia in England, South
Africa and The Netherlands.
Are there similarities between the countries for ex. People,
habits …. Or totally not?
That’s a good question. I’d actually say they are all completely
and surprisingly so. Even though the majority of South Africans speak
English as their main language, the people are quite different from the English.
They are very spontaneous and enthusiastic by nature.
English people are polite and very friendly but tend to be more reserved
and less demonstrative. The Dutch are different again, but I found it very
easy to adapt to life in the Netherlands. I like the honesty and matter of fact
nature of Dutch people, but if I had to choose where to live, I’d move to Belgium.
I love the countryside and waterways there. I also find the people charming
and friendly and I adore Gent. It’s my favourite city in Europe.
(It's one of my favourite ones too :-) )
Where do you get your inspiration to write your books?
Ah, Kathleen, that’s an easy question for someone who likes people
It’s the people, the places and the very differences I’ve talked about that give me
the inspiration. I’ve been so lucky to have had so many great experiences in
different countries. That’s all the inspiration I need.
You’ve written wonderful memoirs. But what was
remarkable event that happened in your life?
Now, that’s much more difficult to decide. Apart from having my
children, a single event would be impossible to come up with. I had some
incredible experiences in South Africa, which make it even harder to choose.
However, I would say that the first long trip my partner, Koos, and I did by boat in
2016 is probably the event I will treasure forever. It was just magical.
We had two more wonderful summers in 2017 and 2018 that were longer
and just as lovely, but 2016 was the first time we’d been away for more
than a couple of weeks, so it will remain the most special.
Lots of people dream of winning the lottery.
What would you do
when you would win the lottery?
You know I’ve never thought about that in any real sense. I really don’t
I’d probably give most of it away but depending on how much it was,
I might buy a cottage somewhere warm where I could spend the cold
winter months. I really, really hate the cold, so I’d probably do that.
Or, make sure I could spend European winters back in South Africa,
because I do miss it very much. Perhaps I should buy my cottage there!
My native language is Dutch, however most of
I speak and write in English. Do you speak Dutch? Was it difficult to learn?
I read and write Dutch quite well, but yes, it’s a difficult language for
who learned French at school and not a Germanic language.
My biggest problem is listening as Dutch people tend to speak quite fast.
When they slow down, I can understand almost everything, and then I can speak
to them just fine. But, anyone who knows me will tell you they recognise the
blank look on my face when my Dutch friends are speaking too fast.
And I still make hilarious mistakes when I’ve misunderstood something.
There are so many words that sound similar it’s far too easy to mis-hear them!
I always end with the same question. What are
your plans and
wishes for 2021 both personal and for the world?
Ah, Kathleen, I’m hesitant about making plans right now, but my personal
wishes are to cast off the ropes and go cruising in my beloved Belgium and
northern France again. I do so hope we’ll be able to do that this year.
And while we’re on wishes, I’d love to be able to go to Portugal or South Africa
next winter and do some more European travelling during the spring and autumn.
That’s a big wish list, I know. As for the world? Well, it would be great it if the
Covid virus lost its grip on us all and we could return to a normal state of existence.
It would be so lovely to get it out of the conversation.
That’s a very big wish, I know, but I look back to the time before Covid and
feel very nostalgic about how carefree we were then in so many ways. We could
then talk about other things that are important, but they seem to have gone by the
wayside since last February.
Of course you can find her on Amazon too. on this link.