Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Ritz Is So Last Year ...

Well , it will be next year when Leeuwarden will be European City of Culture along with Valetta .

 I don't know about Valetta , but we're not really a tourist Mecca and those who come are mostly really keen sailors , who , rather naturally , tend to bring their boats with them . Hence a slight shortage of hotel space .

But a couple of local farmers have had a brainwave  et voilà...............................



 They've reckoned that they can fit around 5,000 huge drain pipes on their land and are planning to fill each one with a comfortable layer of straw . The guests can put up a curtain if they want but you'll be cosily grouped together and , in theory ( though this hasn't been tried yet ) pipes could be stacked up to make bunk beds for groups . Showers and loos will be dotted about and breakfast ( farm fresh eggs , bread and cheese and milk from the farm ) is included in the 20 Euro per night price . 

 You'll be woken at cockcrow , of course , but there'll be plenty to do . You can cuddle the cows  or just learn how to milk one ,  ride a horse or help to clean out the stables . Those who want to get into town for a concert or event can use the farm's planned tractor taxi service ...

 And where are all these drain pipes coming from ? Apparently they're all to be used in various projects locally in 2019 and the building firms are happy to have a place to stash them till then . Now , all we have to hope for is that next summer's better than this ....

Monday, 26 June 2017

A Week ...




A perfectly normal week , really .

The sun shone , then it didn't . I discovered that you don't want to be cycling as fast as you can over a metal bridge when a huge clap of thunder makes the whole world rock . Then the sun shone some more . Then it rained again and the bread ran out . I discovered that peanut butter doesn't go with raisin bread .

Went out to dinner with friends and had some very nice Balinese chicken in coconut milk , some satè skewers and pickled vegetables . As the restaurant gradually emptied , people drifting off to the open air concert in the middle of town , we sat and watched a tiny mouse , not much bigger than a lemon seed , dart about clearing up the crumbs . It deserved a medal . Left up to him , Leeuwarden will be more than ready as European City of Culture in January .

 One daughter flew to Malaga for an old schoolfriend's wedding , another broke her toe and is now learning to walk in one of those huge shovel-shaped shoes A & E give you , and the third was looking after a friend's cat . I offered commiseration , enthusiasm and sympathy by 'phone .

I read five books , enjoying them all , especially Kate North's Land of my Dreams and Roddie Doyle's Bullfighter . Thought of making some muffins . Didn't . 

And didn't go to the Agricultural College's Apiary's Open Day , yet again . That's right ... it rained .

Monday, 19 June 2017

Four Birthdays in Five Days ...

Four birthdays in five days and not one of them mine , but I don't mind at the moment . I think I'm quite old enough for the time being .

 
One of the birthdays was for a young lady who seems to have turned fifteen and  5'11" overnight and who plans to become an interior designer ,  and another was for Elder Grandson who astonishingly , is now ten and wants to be a skateboarding dude .

This , when I heard it , seemed startlingly unlikely since he'd much rather stay inside and explain mediaeval history to you than go outside but his parents took him at his word and Sunday saw him looking long and lanky on a skateboard ... in a helmet and some shin pads his mother had unearthed from somewhere . His Alexander Technique aunt spent the afternoon helping him to find his balance , his mother promised to get him proper knee-pads to replace the improvised shin pads before  next weekend and he was off ...  

And I can clearly hear his two year-old voice , snuffly with a cold , telling us a joke about a dinosaurus and dissolving into giggles long before the punchline ...


Monday, 29 May 2017

De-Cluttering



You might not be surprised to hear that I didn't take part in the potato peeling competition . What can I say ... I didn't go to the Haka workshop , either . I did wonder if I should go and find this rather fine statue but the sun shone , instead .

I sat on the balcony and admired boats , canoes , sup boards , cruisers , yachts , Zodiacs  ...
     I particularly admired the young couple who live on the third floor opposite my flat , who man-handled their giant , already fully inflated Zodiac up the stairs to their flat on Friday evening and down again in the morning , especially since between them they probably don't weigh more than twelve stone . ( Perhaps that's why ?) 

More than 140 row boats went past on Friday evening, too , at the beginning of a watery Elfstedentocht ; more than 250 kilometers from town to town through the province , overnight by lantern-light . It would have been wonderful to stand alone on a bridge out in the fields at midnight and watch the lights approaching , with only the sound of the oarlocks ... a bit spooky , perhaps .

Browsing among Audible's new releases for something nice to listen to , I discovered "The Vampire's Legacy" :  A Vampire Pregnancy Romance by Samantha Snow . Good grief !
Blurb says : "But no-one could have predicted that within just 48 hours of meeting this mysterious stranger , she would be giving birth to his baby ". ( Sister Ann Brigid might have warned you ... and did , regularly , if I remember ) . Mind you , the 48 hour pregnancy recommends it as I remember our Firstborn arriving three weeks late , though , to be fair , she's never bitten anyone . Still , I chose a Barbara Vine ,instead .

 Our supermarket's now labelling their tubs of olives , 10 Calories per Olive . You have been warned .

 And finally , a middle-aged daughter excusing her father's non-responsiveness to the doctor's receptionist today , "Sorry , he's as deaf as a canary ... or aren't they deaf ?"

So , now I've de-cluttered my head slightly , I'll go out and see what else is going on ....

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Social Whirl Begins Again ...


It's the Season ... the time to see and to be seen by the world  , at large .
 
Now that we can all go out for longer without freezing to death , we're being offered all sorts of treats . It's time again for Shanty Choir concerts , jumble sales and fêtes , a sportspark opening with songs from  'the Armenian Bob Dylan ' , a balloon competition and freestyle football ...
 
But I've got my eye on this month's top local event . The 2017 Open  Potato Peeling Championship in St. Annaparochie next Tuesday . There will apparently be a wide range of knives and potato peelers available ( also for lefthanded contestants ) , though one can bring one's own , and everyone's welcome to enter . You'll have 268 seconds to peel as many potatoes as you can and at the end of the day there will be a tie-breaker for the best five entrants ... top prize is 75 Euros , so I might start practising now and  , what's more ,  you get to keep your peeled spuds to take home . Bring your own bucket , presumably .
 
But I'll leave you now to further plan my weekend , since I've just caught sight , on page 10 of this week's local paper , of a hooivorkdarten event , not to mention some spijkerslaan . My Fries   isn't really fluent   is nonexistent but , as far as I can work out this translates as pitchfork throwing and nail hammering .
 
On reflection , this sounds slightly risky .  I almost prefer the sound of Britsum's  " I Love The '90s"  fête . 

 
 
Oh yes , I've just realised that I've forgotten to include this weekend's Pzza Dough Painting and the otter-spotting .

Monday, 8 May 2017

Spring Hobbles In ....

I'm not convinced myself , but , in theory , it's Spring .

Most of the time there's a wind that would have the nose from your face , as my mother would have said , and last week the temperature mid-afternoon mostly hovered round 9 degrees Centigrade but at last the trees are getting leafier and greenery is appearing again .  This shop window confirms it


 It's time to buy shorts , hunt out this year's teeshirt ( paler than pale pink or a whitish sort of blue , I think  . Those of us who've gone grey will barely be visible this summer ) and some snazzy sunglasses , just in case the sun ever shines brightly enough to warrant it .

While this lady and I


 weren't quite foolhardy enough to abandon our winter coats this weekend in Alkmaar , lunch was eaten outside in a sheltered courtyard cafe and a very pleasant day out was had . Vintage clothing was purchased , vintage china wasn't . Scented candles were sneezed at and cushions admired . Dove grey kitchen accessories were looked at and left where they sat . Shoe shops resisted , prettily wrapped chocolate not . A proper Day Out with the comforting reassurance that we know what's what even if we don't need it all today .

Churches and mediëval buildings admired . Cyclists avoided , even the very small boy hurtling down a side street , obviously late for hockey practice , who nearly took me with him on his handlebars


 


Street stalls with everything from tulips to clogs , herring to mangoes lined the center of town ; shoppers snuffling around as though they hadn't eaten since this was the entrance to a butcher's shop .


 Coffee and cakes were demolished and Primark raided .  Cafe terraces filled with the very young and the very old and those in between wandered home to feed the cat and put the children to bed .

We drove back north past five windmills in a row , sheep , cows , tulip harvesters and a briefly glimpsed , rip-roaring Irish Pub With Barbecue . Drop In !!
 Another time , perhaps  .... The winds are icy again today

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sits



 
Say  "Sits"  out loud and rather quickly . What do you think you've just said ?

Well , in most countries you might be assumed to have sneezed  . But here in the C17th if you were frightfully fashionable and rather well off ,  you would have been talking about chintz ... glazed chintz in particular or , these days , you might be going to the  Fries Museum to see their latest exhibition . There's a wonderful  three hundred year-old silk kimono , magnificently preserved and vibrant , that's worth the trip alone .

When the Dutch East India Company managed to elbow their way into the market , picking up this beautifully hand painted or blockprinted  cotton in India to exchange in Indonesia or Japan for spices and china , it became increasingly popular and pieces began to find their way back to Holland ,  to Hindeloopen in particular . There it inspired painted furniture , bed covers and the local women's costume and in fact you can still , in the old fishing ports , see women wearing dresses trimmed with chintz bonnets , decorative sleeves and aprons  .


 
 
As eventually the handcarved blocks were brought back by returning East India Company employees and copied  ; the dyeing techniques and the original processes simplified , and substances like buffalo urine , metal salts and saffron replaced with easier to get hold of materials , local factories made cheaper copies . Nearly everyone has some Hindeloopen patterned cotton  around if they've inherited a grandmother's bed linen ... I've got pieces myself , bought in thrift shops and vintage stores .
 

 
But two hundred years ago , every scrap of this treasure was hoarded ; stored in airtight chests, sometimes for generations , and eked out to make bodices , baby clothes , collars and cuffs , mittens ...
 
And , of course , when totally past their best , the more modern pieces found their way to patchwork quilts . Needless to say , I would love to own this quilt


 
 
 
But what I really , really wanted was this very rich little girl's version of Barbie . A C19th doll and her  chest of clothes . TWO straw hats !!
 
 




Oh yes , and the hem of this dress . For one of the more tomboyish Bennet sisters , perhaps.