Doom snuck up on us like a cat. Cautious, seemingly unmoving. Imperceptible to those who don’t know.
The first sign that “something” was about to happen was the unannounced appearance of haphazardly placed concrete planters on the quay where cars had been parked just hours before.
Not much later, men in orange vests were unloading their three-legged measuring devices from their vans almost daily for a workday of obscure operations. At least for me. For example: one of them standing on the bridge, exchanging hand signals with the other on shore, like members of a secret society.
After their visit, there were new random numbers (5401, 6952) scrawled on the sidewalk with white paint. Sometimes accompanied by a firm arrow. Sometimes by a large dot or circle. On the outer walls of the houses appeared fluorescently colored targets and mirrored objects faceted like the eyes of a fly. At times those were removed or relocated.
At the nadir of the corona figures, the orange jackets arrived early in the morning in a passenger car with a minuscule rowing boat in matching color upside down on the roof. The device being lifted off the car and into the water within seconds. They just fit in together, the orange jackets, their knees almost in their necks. Thus began a meticulous rowing tour around our houseboats. They took samples out of the water. Or put them in. No idea. Their answers to our curious questions got us nowhere.
Things got really serious when a Tintin-like diving suit on a long rubber umbilical cord popped up with its bulbous headgear next to the houseboat like the Loch Ness monster. This was preceded by a moving string of bubbles, as if a colony of fish were doing a polonaise close to the water’s surface.
And then one day the letter slipped through the letterbox: ‘Temporary relocation of houseboats’.
Text & image: © Marjan Ippel, 2021
Not only Amsterdam’s houses, but also the more than 600 kilometers of quays that circle the city and define it, are built on piles. About 200 kilometers of these are on the verge of collapse and will have to be completely renewed from the waterfront over the next six years. This will result in a real migration of people from the houseboats that are moored to them.
One of these is my houseboat on which I have lived with my family for twenty years. Most of my floating neighbors have even been moored at ‘our’ quay for over thirty years. Where we are going for the duration of two years, how that will go, and what will happen to my floating patio which houses at least two duck nests each year, we do not know yet.
A drastic renovation of the quay that will not escape any Amsterdammer or tourist. Even if only because the work will mean having to make a detour by bicycle.
Read more in the English Section.