Rotterdam to Cologne, January 6th 2014

In the morning I peel back the flimsy curtain and glimpse the first whisker of dawn. Rotterdam’s blinking constellation creeps imperceptibly closer until its vast industrial tangle fills the horizon. Every one of the countless chimneys is festooned with lights like some Christmas apocalypse. Ships, tugs and barges, container terminals, wharfs and warehouses, petrochemical plants, cranes, barrels, boxes, piles of gravel, sand, coils of chain and rope; it’s the machine-mouth of Europe drinking its lifeblood from the seas. We are disgorged from the ferry’s bowels onto the dockside in our little cruiser and set co-ordinates for the centre to breakfast and make a coffeeshop pick-up. Town is a stimulating mish-mash of modernism not without its charms. The Luftwaffe destroyed the medieval town in 1940 in an effort to cow the Dutch after the Nazis met much fiercer resistance on the ground…—More Tales

Hull to Rotterdam, Jan 5th 2014

I am standing at the stern of an enormous ferry staring out into the watery darkness to the distant lights of the Humber bridge, a fat lady’s necklace strung across the throat of the estuary. The “sun deck” is the highest public tier on our vessel and a clench of vertigo grips me as I peer straight down the side of the ship to the strip of brown water between us and the quayside. Disconsolate stragglers smoke cigarettes wreathed in self-disgust. The open-air bar is empty; a solitary server eyes me with lethargic disinterest as a flickering TV, recessed into the wall beside him, shows the dying minutes of an Arsenal FA cup win. The polished decking is slick with a layer of rain and I cautiously skate back into the warm bowels of the boat, my arms extended forward like Frankenstein’s…—More Tales