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 ?

Friday, 1 September 2017

You Know It's Bad When ...




You know it's bad when you get a birthday card like this from one daughter , the second gives you a calendar from the year you were born that she'd found at an antique fair , and the third just gives you a giant pot of miracle-promising body lotion .

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Shortbread , Swans and Morris Dancers

That's right , I've just been to England .

Fish and chips , country buses , lots of Red Leicester , the V&A , London pubs , amassed aunts , the biggest and best pizza I've ever eaten , Rosy Pig cider , a folk festival and ( temporary ) tattoos .


It was all great fun and ended far too soon .

I think I'll probably be doing it again next year .

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 voilĂ ...............................



 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 .