Wednesday, 16 May 2018

And Then It All Went Splat

Or Crack! or Krak!! or Kapotski!!!
My laptop's screen decided to retire last Friday, getting darker and darker till I could only make anything out if the room was pitch dark. And 150 Euros to repair it, bearing in mind the fact that I bought it in 2013, made replacing it seem almost a bargain. Almost.

The Dutch pension system kindly keeps a small part of each monthly pension payment to one side for us and pays this out every May as Holiday Money. Everyone's used to this Big Brother arrangement, since employers have always done it as well and they add a bit extra so, depending on your salary, it can be quite a respectable amount. Involuntary, but painless saving.

So, you say, everyone in Holland goes on lovely, extravagant holidays to the Azores or Mexico? … well no. Everyone in Holland dusts off the family tent, climbs into the family car if they have one or a bus if they don't and drives to a French campsite, preferably one near the border. Or they stay at home.

Why doesn't everyone splurge? Simple. The holiday money is always paid out in May. Everything, including my old laptop, knows this and waits till May to expire. On the rare occasions that one's white goods can totter on another year then the sofa springs will all go boing! and poke out through the upholstery, someone will spill chocolate milk over the carpet and the curtain rod will detach itself from the wall.

There is junk mail thundering through every letter box in the land, offering bargains galore in everything from fridges to trampolines. I think the yearly Holiday Money could be renamed the Personal Kapotski Fund. Or, in my case this year, the New Laptop Payment and a dash to England to see daughters and grandsons on the leftovers.      

Thursday, 3 May 2018


Today the sun shone and people were smiling and taking photos of pink trees. 

Apparently, in a rather colder Leicester, Smaller Grandson spent yesterday afternoon trying to teleport himself round the house. According to his mother, he's been putting a lot of effort into it. I really hope he manages it . Then he could pop over for lunch.
I used my new skin cleanser this morning and was surprised to find  it's green (no,  not my face. The lotion )  and that it smells aggresively of cucumber.  And suddenly I was six again.
High tea with various elderly great aunts all eyeing bowls of salad, searching for sneaky slices of cucumber.
The minute one was found Auntie Bel would beat herself on the chest, closely followed by her sister Claire and they'd both say, " It really doesn't agree with me."
I could never work out what Grandpa's sisters and the cucumber could find to fight about, till a cousin explained with sound effects. I was very impressed ... do children still have burping competitions? My mother discouraged these . They gave you indigestion, she said. (This was obviously an everpresent family danger ! )

Oh, I found a giant lizard lurking amid the blossom photos .........

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

And Just Like That ........

Ta-Dah !! It's hot and sunny and we're sitting on a cafe terrace in teeshirts! It won't last, of course, it's much too early but everybody looks livelier . Perhaps they're just astonished?

But now, I'm almost tempted to go out onto the balcony and dust down a chair. Or go past the garden center and buy a plant or two ... something sturdy, though.

No tomatoes yet. Perhaps my new waif and stray, which I found last November blowing about the car park; two leaves on a tatty bit of stem that I brought home and stuck in a jam jar of water to see what would happen. It gamely grew roots, got stuck in a flower pot and here she is

A geranium, one of those dangly ones ( I only have a sketchy knowledge of the true gardener's vocabulary, I'm afraid ), she looks remarkably like a large , rather bullying, deep pink one that lived in a tub round the corner till it disappeared in November. Said tub is now filled with genteel mauve things, instead. Perhaps I could take a couple of leaves from my new plant over one night and re-introduce it discreetly? No, maybe not; I'm not really cut out to be an urban guerrilla. I'll just re-pot her and stick her on the balcony and let her achieve world domination on her own, leaf by leaf.

I don't think she'd be too happy with this photo. Once I've re-potted her, I'll have to show her in her feisty glory ... probably just before she grows next door.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

"What You Need Is ...... "

The worst conversation opener of all has to be,"What you need is ......" and you know that whatever follows, whether it's a bowl of Jerusalem artichoke soup or a bus tour to a liquorice factory, it's not going to be the answer.

Amazon has me in its sights again. Usually they leave me alone , but I bought something from them at Christmas that had to be returned, and they're determined to tempt me into spending the resulting credit note. So this week they're suggesting that my life will be complete with a book of Spanish recipes, a book on David Bowie and one on building birds of prey from Lego.

Well.... so far this week I seem to have lived on baked potatoes, read a book about running a karaoke club (don't, neither the book or the club can be recommended) and vaguely contemplated finishing a miniature quilt promised to MD eight months ago. So I'm obviously not who they think I am.

Tomorrow , perhaps I'll just go and sit in the Language Factory , have a coffee and listen to the background soundtrack that gives a quiet non-stop, shifting stream of  conversation in every language under the sun. Someone recommended it as being very Zen. Might inspire me to get up and do something or could just drive me crackers.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Goat On The Golden Egg...

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in a little country town about an hour from here called Ommen. I wandered around the market

chatted with a few people ( everyone talks to you in Ommen ), had a coffee and sandwich ( hearty eaters in Ommen ) and  admired the murals in little side streets but didn't see a single tin soldier.

Having seen the poster for a new exhibition at the Nationaal Tinnen Figuren Museum,

I'd missed the bit on their website that said it was only open at weekends in March ; the museum opened full-time in April.
So I'll have to go back to admire the howdah ... and I will. Besides I must find out why there's a very long horse near the goat on a golden egg near the museum that wasn't open yesterday  .......

And a post-script ....

         Just in case you're looking for a companion ....our local paper has a weekly column highlighting one of the animals in the nearby refuge that needs rehousing. This week it's Ethan, a very little cockerel with an extremely loud voice.

"Not recommended if you've got neighbours, but he's friendly and would love to come and live with you if you've got some space and a couple of hens."  Wonder if anyone's adopted him yet ........ ?

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

All I Want Is A Strawberry

And I don't really even like strawberries . I mean, I eat them but vastly prefer raspberries or green apples, water melon or gooseberries; but at the moment I'd kill for anything that wasn't a brussel sprout ... even a purple one.

It's incipient scurvy, perhaps.

This whole winter thing has outstayed its welcome.
 It was C-10 the other day and, in fact, has only just crept above freezing, having decided that raining was more fun.
The only bright spot was the arrival of blood oranges in the market this week.  I know we're not supposed to eat things that come from far away, but they remind me of my granny who loved them too, and I know how short the season is...

This new promotion in the supermarket made me think of her, too

She definitely wouldn't have understood the Five A Day concept which these cards are promoting and would have found it very limiting. Her soups already contained carrots, leeks, parsley, onions, celery, and turnips before the lentils or barley were added.
But now it's been upgraded to Ten A Day, she would have been more impressed. And, the only person I've ever known to enjoy eating pomegranates, she would have wanted an extra Five for fruit. No child ever got away from her without a banana or apple in his hand. So anything that encouraged children to try new food, to make eating fun, would have appealed.  Meanwhile I'll collect them for Smaller Grandson who enjoys cooking and drawing in equal measure.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Sugar Shoulders

It's all Friend's fault ... as I perched precariously on a high stool with a microphone almost poked up my left nostril, she said  "Go, Beyonce !"  ... and off we went.

It's now Culture Capital 2018 for Leeuwarden and, as the poster of us all carrying the Frisian lily pad in the station reminds us, we're all supposed to do our bit. 

Well , Friend had translated the Historisch Center's guided tour app's voiceover script into flawless English and now I was going to be the 'voice'. Three students from the Friesland College's Sound Design faculty were to do the recording as part of their coursework. 

There were two scripts, one for children and another for adults ; a total of 29 pages.  Three hours had been allowed to record both the English and German voiceovers.

We started off in great style ... the children's one read easily, being zippier , with shorter sentences. It was helped by the fact that I've been reading to various children all my life, starting with an endless, increasing multitude of smaller cousins.

After that we had a break , while someone else recorded the German children's section . Then it was my turn again... the adult's bit.  By this time I'd read the script far too many times and I successfully mangled whole chunks of it but the students were endlessly patient and we kept on going. Until the penultimate paragraph describing what you can see in the Grocer's Shop and its displays ."Old fashioned sweets , like Syrup Soldiers and ullevelen ..."

And that's where it all went wrong....  At least ten attempts were made  and  every time I said Sugar Shoulders . On take eleven I finally managed syrup shoulders ... and after recording the last paragraph , we gave up. I hope the German lady zipped faultlessly through her final section and the apps will be downloadable before it's someone else's turn to be Culture Capital of Europe ... it's Coventry, I think, in 2019.