Wednesday, 6 December 2017

How Can I Have Forgotten ?


It's only 340 days or so ago , so how can I have forgotten that days in December shrink from twentyfour hours to seven , that in December rolls of Sellotape are only two foot long and that in December the town's entire population takes it in turns to join the queue in the Post Office.

 That there'll be wet snow on the day you've arranged to meet a vague acquaintance for coffee and icy fog when you go Christmas shopping in Groningen . And no heating on the train when you come back from Amsterdam.

Still , at least this year , even though M&S has closed in Holland, I've managed to get hold of a Christmas pudding , know where the nutcracker is and have posted the cards so if all else fails Christmas won't be a complete washout.

 
And I've seen the perfect Christmas shoes.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Keeping Busy In My Old Age ...



No , I haven't slipped down the back of the sofa or gone off on a round the world trip ... 

I've just been pursuing a certain Pokemon character . I've got the whole thing down to a T .

Pick the toy shop with the most plastic clutter in the window . Fight your way though a sea of pink sparkly things and fluffy things . Interrupt one of the employees who is rushing out of the stock room with a trolley piled high with shiny boxes .

The best informed member of staff usually looks too young to work anywhere . You might in fact remember him from his pre-school meltdown days , in which case don't remind him that he was frightened of the swing or forget to admire his almost-moustache . Don't try to impress him with your computer skills ; let him find the right Pokemon pages.

If  they haven't got what you want , don't despair . Have a coffee and look in another shop or two .

 By day three , get on a train and widen the search.  Eventually, like me,  you'll find something roughly right and the manager will throw in a free pack of Pokemon cards, delighted with the prospect of getting rid of you .

On the way back to the station, remember that Birthday Boy and all his/our relatives will need Christmas presents next month .

Monday, 6 November 2017

Bits and Pieces



Aldi have always sold roasted almonds . I was just rather surprised last week to find that the ones they now stock are adorable . It says so on the packet .

I'm temporarily immortal , having just had the 'flu vaccination .Can't help feeling that if I'm going to do anything remotely risky , this might be the moment .

Though when we tried some Tai Chi this week at the gym , it was swiftly demonstrated that I'm not going to be part of any band of Superior Pensioners weaving graceful patterns in the local park's dawn light . Not having any coordination at all , I kept on getting teetery and tied in knots . All attempts to remain serious , graceful and balanced reduced me to giggling hiccups , so I had to retire to the treadmill instead .  There's something very sobering about the treadmill ...
The Class Swot persevered and , taking to it like a duck to water , asked for more next week . Meanwhile I seemed  to be rediscovering my teenage silly-arse self .

The sun shone for an hour this afternoon and I took the chance to have a coffee on the balcony . Sudden commotion as two little boys cycled past , bells ringing and bellowing "Alarm !", "Alarm! " . Had I not just poured out the coffee , I might have joined them ... it looked much more fun than dusting . 

 
Is everybody else's deep freeze full of pumpkin soup too ?

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Miaow !

The new ... in theory , temporary ... municipal library which rejoices in the name "Pop-Up Library" ( such a dispiriting name ) is full of bewildered Leeuwarders , cardboard boxes , new machines , an assortment of old armchairs and new Ikea dining tables , a windup gramaphone and the roaring of mechanical dinosaurs in the lobby .
And , depending on the time of day , Dutch lessons for bewildered foreigners , spontaneous Bible lessons by a young man in a wooly hat ,  unofficial lessons/workshops on how to use the new machines for the older staff by the very youngest stagaire  and weird clanking of hot water pipes .
 No , it's not the most peaceful of places any more . 

Until I sat down at one of the tables this afternoon to hunt for my library card and found a cat .


 I think all libraries should have a cat and I hope he comes to the old jail/new library , sometime in the Spring . 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Maternal Solicitude ...

When the children 'phone , you naturally want to hear all their news , so you ask about what's been going on . How are their children , partners , partners' parents , work , their friends , the cats , the garden  ? ...  yes , being related to me must be like being picked up by the KGB .

It's an empty nest thing , I suppose . For some reason it took me ages to get used to not knowing what they were wearing that day , once they'd left .
A fully furnished picture of their home life makes them seem nearer .

And now Younger Daughter has introduced a further character ... After years of showing no interest in gardening or of growing anything at all , she now has a plant .
So now , of course , every week I'm also asking after Mint . Together we glowed as she reported that it had two new "branches" ( she's still not mastered the jargon but it's just a question of time ) ...

Now , as long as I don't start saying , "And how's Minty this week ? "...


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Local Gentry



It's museum time again . The new season's exhibitions are beginning and the one I went to yesterday was  simply titled  , "Rich In Groningen" .



 It was a collection of locally held treasures  , some  from attics , some from country churches and a lot from the museum's vaults .
 Lots of crests , uncomfortable furniture




family portraits by the barrow load , silver goblets , gorgeous wall paper copied from odd scraps of the eighteenth century originals in the city archives , even the odd angel .





Since the city , in an attempt to avoid corruption , had a complicated system involving having four mayors , electing two at a time every two years there were lots of portraits of tubby chaps in black and splendid lace jabots ... and a definite family look to them .
In fact , there was a certain family look to most of the portraits and the same names pop up again and again .

But the occasional parvenue pushed forward and , since anyone could , would design himself a crest .


The Reverend Rudolphus Kuen and his wife Elizabeth had a particularly nice one .

I left , designing mine as I went . Aubergine with a bay leaf wreath and soup ladle rampant ?

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Operation Stonebreak



Sorry , it sounds less clunky in Dutch ,"Operation Steenbreek "... or maybe it doesn't , but anyway , whatever you call it ,  it's in full flood .

It's a nationwide scheme to make towns and cities in Holland greener . Leeuwarden did a survey and discovered that up to 77% of the gardens in some neighbourhoods were totally covered in stone slabs , with a resulting decline in wildlife . Hedgehogs , bees and butterflies are becoming scarcer ...

So this weekend , all you have to do is dig up one of the flag stones in your yard and take it along to these young people and they'll swap it for a fruit bush  .

All of which sounds admirable ...  but I live in a flat  .  Neighbour and I pondered how to hack a chunk off our respective balconies and totter down the road with them but couldn't quite see ourselves managing it .

It'd probably be simpler to buy a couple of bushes at the local nursery ... I wonder if we asked at the town hall , they'd even give us a grant ? Two Euros fifty each ?