Right then. Carol's off doing very important granny things, so she's asked me to hold the fort - or rather hold the turret up here in the ivory magnificence of Hedges Towers.
It's just you, me and the Pink Sofa. That's right. So...now we've snuggled up together, I'm going to tell you all a story. Yes, a proper story.
Now...many of you know I spend an inordinate amount of time sploshing about in boats and talking to the ducks. Indeed, I've spent so much time doing this, I've even managed to write two books about it, so it'll come as quite a surprise to you all to know that I loathe being wet, detest being cold and the worst thing of all is a combination of the two. So yes, you've got it. I...do...not...like...swimming. At all! But you live on a barge, I hear you say. Very true, I reply, but I live on it and in it, not under or around it. That's for the ducks. Not me.
So...my story is about the time I got arrested by the Water Politie for supposedly trying to hurl myself off a bridge in Rotterdam. Now keep what I have just told you about my predilection for keeping dry and this will make you laugh. It still has me chuckling and it's twelve years down the line.
The way it went was this: When I first came to Rotterdam, my erstwhile husband and I (sounds like the queen doesn't it? Only hers isn't erstwhile - not yet anyway. Neither is mine, actually. He's just not mine anymore) decided to buy a barge to fix up. Which we did. A very beautiful and graceful one it was too.
Now he and a few others went off to collect said barge from a harbour in Amsterdam, but because I had to go to work, I couldn't go too. The arrangement was that they would let me know when and at what time they were approaching Rotterdam and I would go down to the river to see them in. The other part of the plan was that they would pull in close to the river wall before sailing into the harbour, and I would jump on board and do the last half a kilometre with them - just for the fun of it.
Well that was all well and good as a plan. In practice, it didn't happen that way.
The thing is it was late November, so the evenings were dark. Added to that, my husband and his crew were late. By the time I got the call to go down to the river, it was already about eight o'clock. And very cold.
So, I wrapped up warm, but just in case I emptied all my pockets of anything of value. I was going to jump on board the barge, see, so I thought I'd better not have anything that I didn't want to lose just in case I dropped it or things fell out of my pockets.
Please note that at no time whatsoever did I think of anything like going swimming either accidentally or on purpose.
So, off I trekked down to the riverside. I found my way to the appointed place, a quayside next to the harbour entrance (see pic - Imagine me on opposite bank), and there I waited - in the dark.
It was pretty darn cold, I have to say, so I started pacing up and down on the quay, every now and then peering over the edge to see if I could see any barge lights approaching. Nix, nada, nothing. Not for ages. I waited and waited and paced and paced.
But then I did see some lights. A boat was coming hurtling towards me at great speed. As it approached, I saw it was a police launch. Then I saw another one and they both seemed to be inordinately interested in me. I was a bit worried. Maybe they thought I was - you know - a lady of ill repute. I tried moving along the quay, but they followed me. And then back again. Then after walking away from the side a bit, I noticed they just stayed put, which unnerved me even more. Why oh why were they watching me?
After playing 'follow me' up and down the quay for a few more minutes, I decided enough was enough.
Our new barge was nowhere in sight, so I thought I'd better just go back to the harbour and wait there. Anything was better than this rather disturbing standoff. I waving jauntily at the water cops (hoping they'd be happy to see me go), backed up the steps quickly, ran across the road and headed back along one of the harbours.
No sooner had I gone fifty yards or so, than a couple of police vans came screaming up the road towards me. Then another one came from behind and blow me down, a whole regiment of policeman leapt out and grabbed my arms.
The ensuing conversation was too bizarre for words:
"Good evening, mevrouw," said one. "Can I see your ID?"
"Why?" said I.
"Well, mevrouw, we had a report from a bus driver that a woman was trying to jump off the Erasmusbrug."
"Really? Well that wasn't me."
"But you were there, yes?"
"Yes, but I was waiting for someone...coming by boat."
"By boat." Note cop's first cynical grin.
"Yes." Note my earnest affirmation.
"So why were you waiting there for a boat, mevrouw, there's no, how you say, jetty there."
"No," said I, "I was going to ju...."
Oops. Better shut up now.
"You were going to what?"
"Erm, I was going to...er...join them on board."
"Where is your ID, mevrouw?
"I'm sorry, I don't have it with me because I was going to ju..... join them, that's it...join them...and I didn't want to risk ...."
Note cop's second cynical grin.
"And you weren't going to jump in the river?"
"No. It's true," I said. "Look," I went on frustrated now, "Anyone who knows me will tell you I'd never do that. Never!"
"But we don't know you, mevrouw, and the bus driver said..."
"Look, I don't care what he said. Why don't I phone my husband and you can speak to him. He'll tell you. I would NEVER do that!"
"Do you have a phone, mevrouw?"
"Erm...no...I left it at home...with my ID..."
"Because you were NOT going to jump in the river. Is that right mevrouw?" I blushed.
By this time I was surrounded by about ten policeman, all vying with each other to hold on to me and make sure I didn't make a break for it and hurl myself into the adjacent canal. If only they'd known. I would never, ever, top myself that way. Far too cold, wet and uncomfortable.
But in the end, though, one of them had a phone and so I was able to give him my husband's number to call. I wasn't allowed to speak to him myself. Oh no. They had to do it. Hubby, of course, thought it was an absolute hoot, and nearly got me locked up for a lark, but in the end, he confirmed my story.
Apparently he'd come into the harbour from the other end, but he'd forgotten to tell me. Brilliant eh? The upside was that the police gave me a lift to the harbour, still not really trusting that I wasn't going to go late night skinny dipping.
So this, friends, was my baptism into the world of the Oude Haven. Fortunately for the cops and for me, it wasn't a wet one, but I'll never forget that's how it all began.
Okay, Carol's fans, story time is over. The Pink Sofa and I are now going to partake of some tea and cheesecake - pink cheesecake - but if any of you would like to read some more of my stories about life in the Oude Haven, click on the link below. My two books, Watery Ways and my new release, Harbour Ways are full of anecdotes from my barging life.
Here's my blog too:
And my twitter handle is https://twitter.com/vallypee