Monday, 27 June 2016

Why Would Anyone Choose To Shrink ?

When I go into town during the day , I'm passed by throngs of students all talking about everything under the sun . Chinese , German , Iranian , Spanish , Canadian , Italian , Dutch and Danes . They're exchanging ideas , networking , chatting each other up ... learning about the world and all its possibilities . Learning about each other , how to work with each other and how to get on .

 That Europe consists of a lot more than hen nights in Amsterdam , making out in Magaluf or getting frustrated in a traffic jam on the way to a tent in Brittany . That there are many different ways to organise  train networks , schools , theaters , hospitals , hotels and libraries . That not everyone remembers the 20th century the same ... 

These students aren't the future elite , our college is the equivalent of an old polytechnic , but what they pick up in the next few years will affect daily life for us all for years . 

British students need to be able to join them , they need to have the freedom to get work experience in Bremen or Bologna . To sofa-surf in Munich or Lisbon or to commute in Salzburg . To eat something ribsticking in Budapest and to swing through Antwerp in a tram .

I want this for my grandchildren and their friends . But thanks to Brexit , it's just got a lot harder .

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I've Been Left Behind ...


Do you actually like  roasted cauliflower ?
Or is it just me ? Perhaps I didn't cook it very well ... but I come from a generation that ate cauliflower decently cloaked in cheese sauce or later , influenced by Mahdur Jaffrey , as Gingery Cauliflower soup . I watch young cooks now making couscous from it ... and rather wonder why they don't just use couscous .

But then , I'm post Fanny Craddock and pre no-carbs . We post-war children were encouraged to eat everything in sight by grannies who'd battled through rationing , and experimented on by Festival of Britain mothers who wildly added gherkins or pineapple chunks to things .
My generation  , armed with Elizabeth David and complete ignorance , burst with brio into a world of olive oil and After Eight mints .
I have memories of cheerfully deciding to make Beef Wellington for a dinner party ... I was 20 , I think , and only had a rough idea of how to make pastry but we and the guests survived ... though both I and the beef had turned grey with worry by the time it was served  .
Still , we all learnt and ventured into moussaka , chilli and kebabs . Chicken became clich├ęd , cod scarcer , rabbit stew a curiosity ...
 I ran away to Spain and lived there for twenty years , so I learnt how to clean and cook fish , make tortillas and hearty lentil stews and what to do with pigs trotters  . Then we came to Holland and ate lots of good cheese and searched for a decent tomato and non-watery cucumber . More and more North Africans appeared and they opened shops , filled with olives and feta , proper tomatoes and chick peas . The world slowly became more organic , bread better and pineapples broke free from their tins . Had it stopped there , all would have been well ... 

But somehow or other , the last year or two have taken another giant step forward ;
 gluten's bad , milk's bad if it's been anywhere near a cow , carbohydrates are unmentionable in polite society , butter was bad but is now good , and this week's taste sensation appears to be ice cream made from coconut milk , green tea powder and vanilla .
 And anyone worth their salt can perform miracles with cauliflowers . Well , anyone except me ...

Still , I'll just celebrate a recent brunch , simply and perfectly delicious  and eaten in the best of company :  perfectly fresh free range eggs with green asparagus 'soldiers ' to dip in ,  and  freshly baked , still warm Turkish rolls from a nearby baker .  And best of all , not cooked by me .
* A rather tatty recipe leaflet given out in 1928 by the Dutch Confederation of Potato Merchants , containing 90 recipes ranging from mashed potatoes to mashed potatoes with cheese ...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Who Knew ?

Had someone told me a few years ago that the best way to widen one's circle of acquaintances was to hang over a bridge with a handful of similarly idle adults , exchanging breathless updates on a bird's nest , I wouldn't have believed them .

The eight eggs have become three plump fledgelings and are , as of today , allowed out of the nest , carefully shepherded by both parents  . The gloomier among us who predicted instant disaster in the form of ingestion by huge fish or being turned into mincemeat by outboard motor have been proved wrong .
The woman who won't feed them even a crust of bread in case they become "too reliant on Fast Food" is being ignored by another fan who buys them biscuits .
And the man who knows everything now says he knew they'd have three , because coots always do  ... even though at first he'd said it was a ( adjective deleted ) stupid place to have nested and no good would come of it .
And , so far , I've managed not to drop my camera in the water  .
I've only lived here for twenty years so can't hope to know everyone yet  , unlike an extremely elderly neighbour who pointed out a wizened old chap in a scootmobile to me , yesterday , "He was my mother's milkman , you know " .
But now  I'll be able to say in fifty years time , "That's the Gwyneth Paltrow woman of us waterfowl fanciers , you know ."

Of course I have been doing other things , too .

The Annual Scarf gets a centimeter longer every day . It was inspired , in part , by this poster

And by a couple of recently painted  houses in Groningen

Oh , and talking of posters ...

I now find myself considering every cat I come across ...  The power of advertising .

Sunday, 29 May 2016

I've Joined A Fan Club

I've always liked coots. They're excellent mothers , impeccably smart in their black and white ensembles and they do build very designer-y nests .

And , as if that weren't enough , they can run on water . Magnificent !

This year ,there's a family ensconced  next to the supermarket , in one of  the strange emergency housing/floating window box affairs the council puts up along the canal where the water's too enclosed by high walls for nest-building .  

Everyone going past is stopping to see how they're doing . On Friday we could all see eight eggs !

By yesterday evening , as passersby were hanging over the railing trying to see if any had hatched , we were rewarded by a glimpse of a rather squashed redheaded chick .  And after I'd bought some tomatoes and a yoghurt , there were two ... and even more onlookers .

We're all going to have to nip along to buy something else today . Maybe we should have a club scarf ... black and white with a narrow red stripe ?

Oh , and talking about fan clubs ... It's no wonder the lady from my last post looks rather pleased with herself ; here she is in the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam , still drawing admiring glances !

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Thankyou ! The Transformation ...

Thankyou for the advice ...  you're right , of course .

This season's wardobe must have a touch of pink ; and deep olive green does go so well with certain shades of  pink  .  Definitely a paisley shawl and a somewhat  larger bonnet with slightly larger  ribbons for high days and holidays  . And , given the chilly wind , the football socks sound cosy .
Just not the gardening clogs or Twinkletoe's gold trainers  ... I'm not convinced they're me , somehow .

J.A. Kruseman's anonymous lady* , painted in 1829 , looks so delighted with her outfit and I'm sure I will be , too .
* Doesn't she look like Mrs. Bumble !

Monday, 9 May 2016

Sartorial Advice Sought ...

I've spent so long this winter bundled up like Smaller Grandson that I've only just realised I've got absolutely nothing to wear . Or any idea what I'd like to wear .

All my neighbours , obviously much more organised than me , are sporting new 'tops' in  peach or white that look alarmingly like the tops very old ladies with tight perms  wore in the '60s . The girls going up to the college all seem to have denim shorts which they wear with black tights and football socks . Everyone female  between twentyfive and fiftyfive is wearing coral-pink teeshirts , gold trainers and jeans that their knees poke out of .  Every little girl has a Frozen pink tu-tu on and the drunk outside the supermarket has Frozen pink rubber gardening clogs . I  only seem to have fourteen chunky jumpers and sensible shoes .
Probably time I went shopping ... but what for ?

P.S. Smaller Grandson doesn't really walk round like this usually , but he couldn't resist it at the Space Museum

Sunday, 1 May 2016

There Has Been The Odd Sortie ...

It's been like living in a snow globe recently .  There was  a sudden wonderful burst of sunshine the other day , and I grabbed my coffee and sat on the balcony ;  whereupon the heavens opened and the hailstones bounced off my toes ... my bare toes . At this rate I'm going to have to buy fur-lined slippers . 

Well wrapped up , I have ventured out , though  . Went to a Collectors' Fair in Utrecht with Friend ,  both of us showing admirable restraint ... slightly easier for me , I feel , since I can't shoehorn one more thing into my flat , much as I'd like to . Accessories seem to be the next big thing ..



And there's been an impressive exhibition of Mayan treasures in Assen Museum  , which I have no photos of , since the off button on the new camera's flash is unfindable.

 Never mind , I found the poster for you , where it incongruously peeked out of a shop window . Assen , the museum apart , is dying on its feet ... the building of an out-of-town Shopping Center and
the closure of the department store has taken the heart out of the town . Even the tattooist ,  
Suits 4 Life    ,  has closed its doors .  It's not been helped by the town council's determination to upgrade the drains in the town center ... all at once . Next time I'm wearing waders .

Back home , a trip to the shops revealed the surprise addition of a three-story high pirate's sword in the town square .  Makes a change ...

But it's now disappeared again , perhaps swept away by marauding students over the weekend  ...  so much more impressive than a traffic cone , after all .

Fatigued  by all this excitement , yesterday  I got on a country bus and enjoyed the scenery as we wandered from village to village through endless green fields and herds of dozy cows . From Wommels to Winsum , skirting  Tzum and Lollum ;  past windmills  , barns and little churches , two or three  to every hamlet all the way to Bolsward and a book sale in its Martinikerk .


As I went in , the church's huge , empty , whitewashed arched interior with a wonderful carved pulpit

and magnificent organ ( in need of repair , hence the book sale ) , was suddenly filled with song ... incredibly Ray Charles and Willie Nelson were singing  'Seven Spanish Angels ' .  And just as suddenly it stopped ... the volunteers had found a Bach cd . More in keeping , perhaps  , with this Reformed , very plain building .
I did find a small restored wall painting hiding up in a corner  

and pottered happily along the pews , lined with the usual ancient bird books travel guides , including a pristine Illustrated Aerial Guide of the Twenty Best Roundabouts of Europe  ( I decided against it , but the sale's on till June in case you need it ) , bought four paperbacks , and promising to come again , wandered up through quiet little streets to have a sandwich and resist kidnapping the cafe's little white-stockinged tabby cat who was snoozing on my feet .