Our review for one of our favourite authors, Valerie Poore and her book “Faring to France on a Shoe”
A travelogue 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 have loved reading all of Valerie Poore’s books about her adventures afloat. “Faring to France on a Shoe” is a very different challenge. This time, Valerie and her partner Koos find and fall in love with a Dutch barge called the Hennie-Ha. Smaller than their other barges at just 15 metres long and not big enough for Koos, a tall Dutchman, but it would be perfect for ‘faring’ or cruising the French waterways, something Valerie has always wanted to do.
Living on a boat or a barge is a challenge, for everything is so compact with not much room to spare. This alone leads to situations that would test anyone’s patience. I have always admired the way Valerie copes with whatever life throws at her, her ingenuity and determination always leading to the joy of her achievements.
In her previous books, Valerie has been faced with some immense challenges, and you come to admire the strength and humour it took to overcome them. This time, I thought, would be different. A delightful holiday on the French waterways. What could be better?
Right from the start, the problems arrive, some more disastrous than others. Undaunted, as usual, Valerie and Koos master them all, leaving just the numerous locks to contend with.
I have had the misfortune to be introduced to the locks on the River Thames in the UK, something I didn’t enjoy and wouldn’t do again even if my life depended on it! So take it from me; locks can be tricky and dangerous places.
But the holiday in France turned out to be worth the trouble it took to get there. Valerie’s brilliant powers of description introduce you to so many amazing sights, sounds and delights of an amazing journey, leaving me sorry to come home…
About The Author
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way.