Sunday, 28 March 2010

follower of fashion

Just a quickie before I get cracking, calculator at the ready, can't wait.

Walking Sheppie in our little park I was amazed at the amount of lighters I saw lying about, always are - lighters and ballpoints, never need to buy one.
Must be the things that easily fall out of pockets, but how about some cash then?

Anyway, that took me back to when Mieke, the sister closest to me in age, and I were teenagers.
At that time school days still included Saturday mornings. Those were the longest hours, leading up to an afternoon of 'dweilen' or hanging about Purmerend, the little village we lived in.
You could say we were a modern version of the Bronte sisters, there was really nothing exciting going on there and besides, our very strict upbringing meant we were not allowed to do anything exciting anyway.
So we made up our own adventures. On the pretext of needing female hygiene stuff, note books, the library, anything our parents wouldn't object to, we would gulp down our lunch, do the inevitable chores quick as we could and try leaving the house without our parents noticing we were wearing make-up. Soon as we were round the corner of the street, we'd hoist up our skirts - we were going to see boys!!
And so, one fine Saturday, great expectations, arms linked, we walked up to a little bustle, a festive opening of a new tobacconist and they were handing out free cigarettes. As a special attraction they had installed a shiny copper bowl on a stand, burning what seemed to me, the eternal flame.
People standing around it, casually lighting their cigarettes, chatting, laughing, as if it wasn't the most outlandish thing to do.
Smoking was, of course, strictly forbidden, a mortal sin in fact. Something we had never even contemplated but now the fags were practically thrown at us, it didn't take long to succumb.

The thing was not to slip up here, there was a lot at stake. First of all, was there anyone in sight who would tell our parents, and next, how to light up as cool as possible, so the boys would be impressed by our worldliness.
On second thought, that was most important.

I went first. I always went first, even though Mieke was older.
Praying this wouldn't be the moment my 'mini-skirt' would let me down, I leaned towards the flame, sophisticatedly placing the cigarette between my pink lip-sticked lips - and my hair catches fire!

Not just singeing it, no, the crackling and the smell of burnt hair told me I was seriously alight.

Try explaining that to your parents. As for the boys.............sigh.

But on the bright side, I must have been the first in our provincial town with an a-symmetric hairstyle.
All the rage in London then. Mary Quant and the likes:

                                       Mary Quant and her mod-bob

A little daring, but then I never could resist a dare.

Friday, 26 March 2010

getting down to business

I didn't, of course.

The tax returns still weigh like a lump of un-bunkable clay on my conscience.
I painted the bathroom walls instead though.
Well, some-one came in last Saturday and he did a really nice job, thanks Danny, but he brought along the wrong kit, grey instead of white, and that kept showing through the paint.
I promised to apply the finishing touches later.
Another chore I've been putting off though yesterday it suddenly seemed infinitely more exciting than the tax forms and it did give me some satisfaction.

I'm  really going to do them now, no excuses and besides, I have suddenly got time on my hands.
I had an appointment this afternoon and was just getting ready for it when the person I was supposed to see called up asking where the hell I was?
I got the time wrong (by 3 hrs!), I won't go in that just now but there is a perfectly good explanation, anyway, rushing to my desk to check my agenda I knocked over a bottle of black current juice.

Everything lying on it, and that is a lot - I am not very organized, is now soaked in sweet smelling, sticky stuff.
Some of it looks quite nice. My multi-coloured memos come together beautifully steeped in the dark purple moisture.
The map of the world has totally changed, continents merge together, new violet islands appear in the oceans.
My mobile looks odd, probably ruined, well, I've got a couple more, never use them, not charged, and even if I remembered to take one with me, I still wouldn't know how to work it.

That is another thing.
I have a shipload of stuff sitting around the house, apparatus that nobody knows how to use.
Dvd players, a KISS ?-box, a smart engine, never used, probably outdated by now.
We miss all the messages on our new answering machine, not a clue how to play them, the cv thermometer, after 5 years yet to be programmed so our house has the permanent climate of a nursing home. It takes me ages to switch on the tv,  I just give up, more likely than not got the wrong remote control. I have lost count of those, and who knows how they match up anyway?

 * * * * * * * * * *

Sorry, that was Femke, my youngest sister on the phone. We had a long talk, discussing the details of our hike, which is going to be Hadrian's Wall now by the way, Coast-to-Coast a bit too ambitious.
Still 80 miles, or was it kilometres? A lot of that up-hill.
I am really excited about it, it's where we grew up, beautiful part of the country, north-east England.
I've just been checking the ferry and b & b's, and oh, just look at the time now - best part of the day gone........

Ah, never mind the taxes, got the whole week-end to think about that.
Not just think, of course, I am going to do them, honestly, I really am.

Hey, maybe I can find a nice young account, willing to put in a few hours in exchange for some nifty bits of modern technology, good as new - tax-deductible?

Thursday, 25 March 2010


No time for writing today, I have got to do the books.
VAT and income tax, to be handed in before the first.
My pet hate job and of course, I always leave it till the last moment.

I am not the only one, all three of my children have small businesses of their own, so I worry about their paperwork too.
Maybe this is a good time to warn anyone contemplating the joys of having children:
they do grow-up and leave home eventually, but that is actually when the real worrying starts.
More about that later, first things first.

In the meantime you can take a look at these links, if you like, meet my family:
Ezra, what's yours? (Answer the phone, please........did you do your taxes yet?)

and there's my travel blog too:

I have got to stop procrastinating, tackle the stupid stuff.
I'll get the Beatles to help me along, always put me in a good mood.
Revolver, great album, here goes......:
'Let me tell you how it will be, there's one for you nineteen for me..............'
From a time when there were still twenty shillings to a pound, anyone remember? Taxman.
'If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet............'
Funny lyrics and that reminds me, I want to tell you about the coast-to-coast walk my sisters and I have planned for July.

Oh heck, I wish I could stay here gabbing on but I've really got to get the tax return done.

I'll be back, feeling much relieved having done my duty, paid my dues - just want to look up the history of that phrase first - and then I will get started, yeah, yeah, yeah..........

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

lame ducks

Yesterday I spoke of my mother and her admirers.

To be honest, more than a few of them were lame ducks.
Lame ducks, or, lamme eenden, as the Dutch say, meaning, people with a flaw, misfits, people whose life does not run smoothly. Alcoholics, divorcees, illegal immigrants, petty criminals or just plain nut cases.
People like you and me, well, me, in any case.

One of them was a real character, mr. Vrolijk, that is Dutch for merry, but he was a miserable sod.
He came to clean our dustbin, nothing my mum couldn't manage herself, but she felt she was doing the right thing by letting him squirt his carbolic liquid into the bin, so he could make a few pennies, even if our garden ended up smelling like a chemical plant.
She also took it upon herself to offer him cups of coffee and tea, feeling sorry for him and his nasty job.
After some per-functional hesitating and resisting, he accepted but would not enter the house to drink it.

However, not much later he asked, cap in hand, would she mind if he had his sandwiches with his tea?
He had no-where else to go, he would be no trouble, happy just to sit out on our bench in the foul weather and enjoy his frugal meal.
Now this really bothered my mother, she was like that, and she tried to coax him in like a shy animal.
And lo and behold, the next time round he ventured in, clutching a newspaper for him to sit on, he would not dirty the lady's chair.
Or maybe by then he had already started to call her Femke, but I can't recall her calling him anything but mister Vrolijk.

Mr Vrolijk turned out to be something of a religious fanatic.
He actually started to bring along his gospel records and we children began to dread coming home from school on Mondays to a whiff of tar and psalms bellowing out onto the streets.
On top of that, he was beginning to boss us around: go do your homework, I am talking to your mother.
Stuff like that.

Needless to say we were dumbfounded but the bloody limit was him sitting in our stepfather's chair!

This was a major offence, no-one dared sit in his chair.
Even our dog, Keesie, jumped out of it soon as he heard my step dad's Deux-Chevaux approaching.
He could hear it a mile off, not that much traffic then, and that gave us just enough time to collect our stuff, turn off Radio Luxemburg and scarper.

That dog was a blessing.
Mr Vrolijk on the other hand was rapidly becoming a considerable pain in the ass.

Of course we complained to our mum but she was at her wits end herself. The long and the short of it is she didn't know how to get rid of him without hurting his feelings.
Funny thing is, I knew what she meant.

Anyway, it all came to an end when my stepfather, whose name was Smith, rang my mum one day.
Mr Vrolijk turned down his music, leaned back in my stepdad's chair, crossing his legs he calmly picks up the phone and says:
Smith speaking...........

That was the last we saw of him. In our home, at least.
He was seen skulking about for sometime after - we would duck when he passed our house, casting vengeful glances our way.
And then he just disappeared for good.

Mr Vrolijk, a lame duck or maybe more of a cuckoo?

Ah, you were never one to discriminate.
Miss you mammy.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

invisible women

I was invisible today.
Trying to make contact on the MSN chat but no-one could see me.
It was weird.
I thought it was just me but turned out to be a world-wide problem, something to do with a server.

It reminded me of an article I read recently. An attractive looking middle-aged woman wrote about how she feels more and more invisible the older she gets. To my dismay I could relate to that.
As a young girl you take it for granted men look up when you walk into a room. It's no accomplishment, it's a given, human nature.
At some point you realise it is not something you can take for granted any more, something you have coming - hopefully by then you have acquired a different kind of presence.

Today it was suddenly spring.
Right on the dot but still took us by surprise. Some still clad in winter coats, others t-shirts and shorts, as if winter never happened.
I hung away my furry purple coat, with a: ' See you later, not too soon, I hope,' and went for a long walk - the Vondel park, this time.
I wore a v-neck top and little black jacket, great to finally shed some layers.
I couldn't help noticing I was getting some looks - no,  I am not being immodest, honestly, I am my own worst critic, but it has a point.
It meant I was not invisible.
Still being noticed, as a woman, at some level.
Ok, the level might have been questionable, the glances were not directed at my face, but still. And I was not about to be all insulted and huffy, more like happy and relieved.

Am I being silly?
My mother would have laughed, but then she had nothing to complain about. Good-looking, girlish, creative and lots more, till the very end, and most of all, infinitely charming.
She had suitors decades younger who adored her, age was never an issue.

There is one person I am sure would understand. W.B. Yeats.
The poems he wrote about Maude Gonne, an unrequited love, as she grew old - ah, if only I could spend an evening with him, in front of the fire, a glass of red wine, let his grave, melodious voice soothe me into believing each age has its own beauty.

Another poem comes to mind:  How Do I Love Thee?.... Let me count the ways...... E. Barrett Browning, and at the end she says: with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life......
It is so beautiful and touching, not a mention of appearance or age, but maybe a hint of life experience making it possible to love more deeply.

Oh, I am getting all dreamy now, time to wake up and peel some potatoes, get supper going.

Invisible or not, still got to eat. Bye now.

Monday, 22 March 2010

lumps and all

Eyeing up some cooking apples in the kitchen I thought I'd better use them soon before they got all wrinkled. Apple pie seemed a good idea, pretty sure I could find some people happy to tuck in.
All of a sudden there was nothing I wanted more than to bake that pie.

I rushed off to the shops to get some fresh butter, rolled up my sleeves and got going.
I love baking, the feel of it, the smell, the fact that a delicious cake appears after putting some simple ingredients together.
So I was working the butter into the flour and sugar, pinch of salt, kneading it with my fingers. Lovely.
Hold on - I felt some little hard bits, what was that, the sugar?
Never mind, I wanted to stick it in the oven, get a quick result.
But they kept coming up, I couldn't ignore them - ok, I'd have a look.
Floury little lumps, search me...... On closer investigation they were dark on the inside. Chocolate sprinkles? How did they land up in the flower?
I called Rose, hoping she would come up with a perfectly innocent explanation, so I could continue making the pie without poisoning anybody.
She confirms what I already feared but tried to block out.
'Mouse droppings, mum.'

Yes, I had seen the blighters scuttling about but I didn't want to make a fuss in case someone thought they had to go. And now this.
Great. Now what?
Well of course I had to chuck it away, waste of good food, and start all over again.
With less enthusiasm, but it went down well none the less.

I am telling you this because it makes me think of a book I have been working on for quite some time now.
I made a flying start and before too long it started to look like something.
Only I couldn't get the end right. I started changing it, pulling it this way and that, adding bits, deleting chunks, trying out different styles.
You know when you paint a picture and you are quite pleased but you think, if I touch it up here, that would be perfect? But it isn't so you try to cover that up, making it worse and in the end you have spoilt the whole thing and you can't get it back to where you still liked it?
Well, that's what happened to my book.
Now what?

Thinking of the apple pie, I suppose I should just chuck it away and start all over again.
Of course, writing a book is a lot of hard work, you put in a few more hours than when baking a cake, but it is not impossible, just tough. Start again.
The real problem is the enthusiasm. You just can't do it without all the conviction, passion and devotion you can muster.
Without a burning drive, you might still turn out something that goes down well enough, it will not be what you had in mind when you started out, starry-eyed and excited.

I don't want my first, and maybe only, book to be less than its promise, even if no-one ever reads it but me.

Maybe I shouldn't have minded the lumps. Maybe they were part of it; does a story have to make perfect sense, be clever and have a happy, or at least, satisfactory ending?
Or can it still be embraced with all its imperfections?

I don't know. Should I go on regardless or drop it like a hot brick?
Like a hot pie?

Would anybody care for a slice of my pie, lumps and all?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

double dutch

I am going to tell you something disgusting now, so you might want to give it a miss.

Walking in the park the other day a woman in front of me stepped into a gob of spit.
A slimy thread stuck to her shoe for a moment before snapping back. I felt sick.
I have a little trick to help make things like this palatable (yuck, can't believe I said that.) I break it down to more acceptable substances.
What is spit? Molecules of bacteria, water, chemicals, stuff like that, I guess.
Nothing to be afraid of, get over it.
Doesn't always work though. I still had visions of someone - who? - collecting his saliva  (must have been a man,) and spitting it out.
What was he thinking, did he check to see if anyone was looking or did he not even realise he was doing it - causing someone like me to wonder about it?

And why does the mind do this to you anyway?

How about you?
Like do any of you take things literally when they are meant metaphorically?
So when someone says: 'He's a real prick,' then presto, the image of that particular person appears in the form of a giant prick?
In Holland there is an expression, it is not considered bad language, and nobody thinks twice about using the c-word in this respect:
'Voor de kat zijn kut,'  translates as: 'for the cat's pussy (excuse the pun.')
It is what you might say when you are doing something but nobody is taking any notice.
Or, when you are improvising, just fooling around.
In both cases you are doing it for the cat's etc.. You might as well not bother.

There is something puzzling about this saying though. The possessive pronoun used in Dutch, 'zijn', is masculine........
No-one can accuse me of being unimaginative, but there are limits.

Sorry, how did I get here?
I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud, writing ad lib, voor de kat zijn kut, as one might say here.
So you've learnt some Dutch today.

But I've got to hurry now, I'm late for an appointment, said I'd be there with bells on!

Right - tell me what you are thinking now :)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

name game

Rose-Anne, our daughter, and I were talking about names.
Names for babies. In case she had one - not that she might have one stashed away somewhere, but sometime in the future.
That would make me a  , yeah well, it's bound to happen sooner or later, three healthy grown-up children..........I have very strong feelings about all that stuff, but I"ll get to that later.
Now for the names.

 Three lovely names surfaced, names I had in mind for any more daughters  I might be blessed with, but the rest turned out to be boys. To my surprise, and dismay, Rose tells me they are all in the top ten of most popular names today.
That made me think, first of all, how did she know? Obviously she has been doing some research, but why? Just hours before I had joked about her inheriting the Boddé genes, meaning an ample bosom.
Maybe it was more than her grandmother's genes making them flourish.
Dear me.
Well, as I said, we'll get to that later.

Names. Boys names are not so easy.
Besides, what seemed perfectly fine decades ago, is now a common four-letter word.
Our eldest son's name. A name that has been passed on from generation to generation in the Scherpenzeel family.
A solid, straight-forward name, no?
No. A refined English gentleman once asked Dick his name: 'Ah, yes, Richard - nice to meet you,' he replied benignly, as if he had just saved us all from embarrassment.

My son's contemporaries have less mercy, of course.

But his second name is Saefren, the a and e joined as in Caesar, not on the keyboard though.
I loved this name, found in an old book; it is derived from the river Saefern or Severn in Wales.
Very romantic.
Of course one must allow for the hippy influences I was subjected to.
 We thought the better of giving it him as his first name, too unusual,  hard to pronounce and spell, certainly for the Dutch.

                                           the river Severn - Wales G.B.

 So Dick it was.

Though I know for a fact he uses 'saefren' on-line,  playing Counterstrike and  Quake.
It does a hell of a lot  more for his image than 'dick'.

I have got to rush now, get some food for the week-end.

I'll be back, like I said, to tackle the other stuff, you know, babies and things.

Friday, 19 March 2010

middle finger?

Middle age doesn't much agree with me.

 Young enough to still want to enjoy all life has to offer, old enough to realise time is running out.
Just when you have reached a point in your life where money is not so tight, the children are standing on their own two feet, parents passed away, hey, seems like you can do whatever you like.

Then it hits you.
All the warnings and good advice from your parents, your teachers, preachers, doctors - the stuff you refused to listen to cos you were too busy living, experiencing, experimenting; smoking, drinking, sex and drugs, not to mention the lesser sin of over-indulging in food. Rock 'n roll, late nights, no exercise - but you thought you were indestructible.
And even ìf, you could walk under a bus tomorrow and never have really lived.
You owed it to yourself.
Ya, we all used that excuse, thinking later, I'll get to it later. Plenty of time to fool around now, I'll start towing the line when I'm older. Like 30. You think you'll be past it once you reach 30. But when you are 30 you are in your prime, at 40 you still look good, feel good, who's counting anyway?
Later, not now.

But over 50 there is nowhere to hide, your friends are beginning to fray at the edges; cancer, heart attacks, strokes - words that keep popping up more and more frequently.
Guys who once drove you wild at the disco have become old farts, your thenadays sassy girlfriends - for all the make-up, the nips and the tucks - the dash of youth is lost forever.
Dear god, these are my peers. I would dearly like to believe it has not happened to me, by some fluke, some incredible stroke of good luck, it has passed me by.

It takes one look in the mirror.

If I possibly can I will avoid doing that, go without make-up, brush my teeth with eyes closed, give the hairdresser a miss - but sometimes in a fitting room, or like when I needed pass-photos, I see myself and I can't believe that's me.
That reminds me, I still have to collect those photos, but I told the man I would not have them sitting in my passport for the next ten years.
He was quite offended when I said that. 'Perfectly good likeness,' he thought.
Thanks a lot for destroying that last bit of confidence.
'In that case,' I said 'I'll be back after I've seen a plastic surgeon.'
He thought I was joking...........

It is not just about looks of course, even though they are a humbling reminder of what you want to ignore: middle-age. And old-age already grinning at you: come come, my lovely.

Time to start reckoning - how much time left to cram in all the stuff I put off and desperately want to do now?
I think I can safely cross off the universities I meant to attend, I won't pick up where I left off after 4 years of piano practice, and the classic example, ballet dancing, no, I never desired that anyway, but belly dancing, yes, maybe, at least I've got the belly now.
Hmm. How many books left to read till my eyesight is blurred?
But I don't want to think like that, I just want to pick up any old book without worrying it means I might miss out on a really good one.

See what I mean, it's a bugger, and I haven't even got to the things that really matter yet.

It's lunchtime and I'd better stop anyway. Calm down and give it some thought.

I'll be back, this quinquagenarian is not quite done yet.

Just look it up:)

Thursday, 18 March 2010


The other day I went to buy some logs for the hearth.

That meant a trip to Purmerend, some 20 kilometres from Amsterdam. I lived there when I first moved to Holland, and later in life too, for a while.
I go back there for wood, I like the ride and I like the place where it is sold.
It's an institution for the mentally handicapped, or mentally challenged as we are now supposed to say.
I think that sounds odd, so I looked up 'challenge', just to check.

The Oxford dictionary says: an invitation or summons to engage in a contest, duel etc; provocation, a calling in question to prove one's ability, skill etc; summons to justify one's presence.
Excuse me for laughing but I don't think my friends there would think much of that if they had the foggiest, and they haven't, but they would laugh their heads off if they had.
These men don't have to prove or justify anything, they are fine just as they are.

A motley crew, if ever I saw one. If I were an artist I would ask them to sit for me, their faces, bodies, their whole demeanour is so fascinatingly off beat, surprising and strangely alluring.
It is always a great pleasure to spend some time with them.

I used to take the kids along when they were small, thought it would be good for them to get to know people who were, uh, challenged, learn to appreciate we are not all the same.
The first couple of times they stayed in the back of the car, a little afraid, a little shy and timid, big round eyes taking it all in, and quiet too. Until we drove off and the questions kept coming - I answered as best as I could.

I was teaching them respect.

Were they once reluctant to abandon their play and accompany me on these trips, soon they began asking when we could go again, bolder now they would leave the car, though sticking close to me.
Eventually they started to talk to the gawky men, giggling when they realised they were smarter than these adults, catching each others eye, trying not to burst out laughing.

Whoa, this was not what I had in mind.
On our way back home I gave them a good talking to and said if they couldn't behave they must stay in the car next time.
And they did.
As the men carted the heavy sacks to the car, my boys knelt back-to-front on the back seat, ready to watch the show.
The loading is a serious matter, they have to count how many go in and need to concentrate hard for that. The men count out loud, hesitant, squabbling, correcting each other, and checking until they feel sure enough to call the therapist and give him their best guess.
Once he agrees we proceed to settle the finances. Slowly and deliberately we work out the price, for the benefit of the men, but they are more interested in the cash.
Who do I hand it to?
They exchange glances, shift from foot to foot, cough, nudge; a silent inside bartering - who may take the money?
It is solemnly collected, fumbled and smoothed, gazed at by all, then suddenly, as if in a hurry to get rid of it, passed on to the boss.
A done deal, they amble away, the big moment already forgotten.

But this time our pleasant routine was disturbed.
My sweet little boys, who could already count to ten and more, were extremely amused by the spectacle.
I mean falling about laughing, faces lit up with glee, as they randomly called out numbers, counting backwards, imitating the men's gruff voices, causing total confusion and upset.

The poor fellows were most disturbed, unable to hold on to their adding, they decided to haul out the lot and start all over again.
Angry, shouting at the kids to shut up, they plod on:  1, that is 2, and 3, uh, 4........
13, 8, 27, 5, 4, 3!!!! the children shriek, hiccuping, almost choking on their merriment.

This is not on!

I am not in favour of hitting your children but at this point I could have happily bashed their heads together.

Still, it taught me something.
My children were not poking fun at my friends because they were handicapped,  they just found the situation comical and acted on that, unhindered by what was correct or not.
And it was, very amusing, truth be told.
So you try teaching respect and get shown up for being double.

Kids - now that's what I call a challenge.........

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


We live in the centre of Amsterdam.

Whereas normally the canals run in front of the houses, ours is at the back. The street was once a 'schans' or trench, defining and defending the town. The front is 'bovendijks', the back 'onderdijks' - above and under the dike, so the building has dropped levels.

Anyway, we have a small yard at the back where the canal flows. Facing north-east, so it is a challenge to get anything to prosper other than ivy and moss, but Peter has managed to create a pretty little garden, with a beautiful wisteria twisting round the pergola, met by a grape vine, surprisingly sturdy and flourishing in the cool Dutch climate.
In the summer we can have lunch or supper there, a place to dream on a balmy night, though the view is dominated by a massive modern office building - not very romantic.
Not much doing at wintertime, but we had some fun retrieving our boat that had sunk under the heavy weight of the snow that fell amply this winter.

Peter also put in a pond. Now I never understood the point of that, as we are surrounded by water, but still, it's his thing, he nurses the plants, he puts in the work, least I can do is admire it.

To be honest, I think it is a bit of an eye-sore, but the rewards are the water lilies, after braving the cold they return each year, and, a fat little goldfish.
I like to think it is the same one that survives the cheeky town herons. Each year a new lot gets tossed into the pond, foolhardy, knowing full well the ugly birds will come and snatch them. And each spring we peer into the muddy depths of the little pool and rejoice to see there is still one left.
There he is. Has got to be the same one, the really smart one.

And so, for this reason, Peter keeps a pump running, day and night, every day of the year, to stop the freezing over when it's cold, to supply oxygen when it's hot, probably adding quite a bit onto the electricity bill, all for one tiddly goldfish........
Not this winter, though. It was bad, heaps of snow and the canals were solid ice.
Ducks started visiting our garden, our pond, to be precise. The pump kept an opening in the icy surface, as big as a pizza plate, and they took turns swimming around.
Eventually the thaw set in and less and less ducks came to use our spa, just one couple kept hanging around, checking the place out, making themselves at home.

A week ago Peter thought it was time to start getting the garden ready for the new season. To his delight he finds under a broom shrub, next to the pond, a nest with three perfect eggs.
We are not agreed on their colour but I like to think they were a soft turquoise; we won't know for a while because the female is now seriously brooding and the male is swimming and waddling about importantly, defending his mate and their, last count, 8! eggs.

Alas, I have little hope they will hatch, I have often seen the mum bunk off after covering the nest with some twigs and dead leaves, but the frost had returned. Those eggs must have been stone cold. Maybe someone ought to tell her the bad news, I feel sorry for the whole ritual they are going through for nothing.

I ask the gardeners who work in the park opposite our house. They seem to know all about these things and explain if the eggs are not viable the couple will sooner or later abandon them and simply start over again.

Well, that's a relief. But will they choose our garden for the next laying? I was so looking forward to all the tiny ducklings, had fantasies of them following me about, crossing the street with Sheppie and me to the park to have some fun, meet other ducks.
The only thing is, how long is the whole business going to take, because as for the moment, we can not get into the garden. The male gets excited, pacing back and forth by our back door, quacking - we are to stay away.

Peter is scratching his head, eager to start pruning, planting, sowing.
Now is the time.
He turns to me and says: Maybe you were right about the pond, maybe it should go..........

He can't be serious, what about the ducks?

I don't want to be right.
That stupid pond is here to stay!

Monday, 15 March 2010


This morning I had an appointment with an ENT doctor. Nothing special.
I was told to allow 15 minutes to register, bring along some identification and insurance card.
OK, I checked how to get there, pretty easy, and left nice and early.
Every thing under control, I made my way there, could see the hospital from the road and then somehow managed to lose my way.
And lose precious minutes trying to find it again.
The Dutch are sticklers for time, I don't want to be late.

I got there.
Now where to park the car? Opposite the building seemed most likely. Are we supposed to pay? Yes. I see a man standing by the parking-meter, looking around him, obviously needing some help.
An immigrant, Moroccan I think, looking puzzled and, I sense, a little reluctant to ask me, so I offer.

The ticket dispenser is something new, incredibly complicated, with buttons and switches, menus and choices, even some kind of keyboard behind glass, to register your license plate. Operated by a large knob to select numbers and letters.
The gentleman, regaining his composure, starts dictating his to me. His voice now authoritative but the accent makes it hard to understand and I don't want to embarrass him by letting him know.
And thus we struggle on together.
The positioning is very sensitive, the indicator jumping all over the place - it takes skill and concentration to hit the right spot.
And time.
Just as I think we might have managed to master the machine, my ally, who was noticeably becoming agitated and impatient, reaches out and masterfully presses the red button.

I give up, sorry, I have an appointment to keep, can't even see to my own ticket now - I'll probably get fined.
I dash into the hospital reception area, it is enormous, like the Central Station, and all the signs and brightly coloured directions are not helping.
I am confused. Where do I register?
I have to take a number first. Another machine. No buttons, no knobs, how does the number come out? Someone waves a hand over the clever little box on a pole, and out pops my number.
C0125, that means 7 to go before me, and what, 5 minutes to my appointment time?
But the numbers come up quickly and soon it is my turn. What is there to register anyway?
Name, address, insurance? Ya, that and a whole bunch of other stuff I have no idea what they need it for but I am in no position to spend time questioning that, so I answer whatever, grab the forms and back to the labyrinth of coloured paths to destinations less cheerful.
(Would be a great place for a children's party, treasure hunts, hide and seek.)
Now I am late, running through the corridors I crash into an angry looking man in a wheelchair, he turns around and glares at me, then moves toward the lift, raising his arm, shouting at the people inside to hold it for him.
I'd better take the stairs!
To my satisfaction, I get there first. Panting at the receptionist's desk, about to creatively explain my tardiness, I am kindly asked to fill in yet another form and to take my time as the doctor is running late.........

20 minutes later my name is called. The doctor.
Sometimes just one look is enough to know: I like this person.
I liked my new doctor.
He had kindness and fun written all over him and I happily followed him into his little office-cum-practice, ready to answer more questions, fill in more forms.
His eyes twinkled, his smile twinkled, his silver hair unruly like a teenager's and it seemed perfectly natural to be sitting there talking like old friends.
At some point I must have forgotten the reason of my visit, must not have realised he was about to examine me - I simply found my face being held in his warm hands, his face close to mine, I almost closed my eyes..............he gently eased a spatula into my mouth.

And so I left him, hugging my file. The nurse at the desk said my next appointment would be with another doctor as this one was leaving end of the month.
She must have read my expression for she gave me a knowing look and said: 'He is very nice too, promise.'

Outside, and back to reality, I see a group of parking attendants.
I get into the car meaning to inconspicuously drive past them, only I can't drive in reverse. It's not just me, lots of people can't, you can look it up, something to do with the brain.
Hmm, not sure that is making it better, but anyway, they were in stitches, pointing, shaking their heads.
Still, they helped, even offered to do it for me. And of course, I told them I hadn't paid for parking, had they fined me?
No luv, you're lucky, that machine is out of order.

Great. Thanks for telling me.
And as for lucky?
Come to think of it, yes, I was........ but how could they know?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

reply to john


Thank you for your comment.

I will reply like this, so that what you told me will not go unnoticed.

Another senseless killing.
What cold-hearted reckoning must have proceeded this terrible act to justify taking the lives of two men, men they did not even know - two brothers, for god sake.

Ruining the lives of many others in the process.

People who must live the rest of their lives knowing somebody thought nothing of killing someone they loved and needed.
No guilt, no remorse.

How can they go on with their lives? How do they mend their souls? Can they ever again look at the world and smile, feel life can be good, can be gentle and safe?

Dear god, it is hard to think about these things.

I feel it in my body. Anger and fear tensing my muscles.

Not fair. It is immoral, it is unacceptable.

It is. Unacceptable.

But do we, do we accept violence as part of the world we live in?

I think we yield - give in, give up, what can we do?

Another stupid question. I don't have an answer.

I don't even have words of comfort, no buts, no understanding - I can find no excuses.

And again I am thinking of the children, what about the children?

But no, John, not bitter, not cynical - just empty-handed, and overwhelmed, I suppose.

Still I am coming to South Africa soon.

I don't know about statistics, about where we are more, or less, safe, and it wouldn't matter anyway.

Did I tell you how much I loved it there? How much love I felt, how freely it was given?

How intensely happy and at home I felt?

That's why I am going back.

I am following my heart - what else can we do?


Saturday, 13 March 2010

for a friend of a friend


Yesterday I learned a friend of a friend had been shot.
Point-blank, in front of her house as she was returning home.
Someone wanted her car.

Why am I telling you this?
Because I want to cry out: 'No!' I want to ventilate my outrage, my disbelief, my sorrow.

It is a terrible crime.

Why, why did he have to shoot her? Did he really not know she would have handed it over in a second given the choice?

She is left paralysed.

How dare anyone change her life, the lives of those who know her, love and depend on her, how can anyone have so little regard for another human being?
And for what?

What has to happen to make anyone able to do that?

I think of the chance-less children I have met and loved in South-Africa and my heart grows cold. Please, no.......

I know brutal injustices happen daily, all over the world. We all know that.
We choose not to let it sink in, you can't, you would not survive.
But when it is more than a few lines in a newspaper, when the victim becomes a real person, it hits home.

And you have got to face it, this is the world we live in.

I wished this friend of a friend recovery of health and faith in humanity.

Now I am wondering about faith.
What happens when we lose it? Do we become bitter, can we no longer feel joy and love innocently?

I think of words like hope and love and forgiveness - they look like they could mean something -
but not right now.

The bullet that hit this woman, that smashed her flesh and bones, destroying her expectations, the life she dreamed about or simply took for granted, her agony, fear and disbelief............that bullet caused another, more gentle impact, a ripple of contemplation, reaching people like me, and now you.

I realise now I have wished to live life refusing to believe anyone would want to harm me.
How foolish is that?

We can easily become bitter and cynical, and justifiably, but that is not going to help.

I hope this tragic story will remind us how fragile we are and how precious life is.

How we must never stop caring.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

dream to remember


And this is what I came up with:

This dream had me wondering about what was sub-consciously troubling me.
Going over the classical glum and sorry situations I was beginning to feel discombobulated (=confused and upset, just found that word, isn't it great?)

So even though I couldn't remember the dream, I was reinforcing its effect, and in a way making it come true.

Now that's a thought.

Can I do that?

This opens new perspectives.

My dreams are plenty and often amazing.
Fancy I could make them come true, in a fashion, but still - would I?

Would you?

Hmm. But doesn't the thought make you smile?

Funny things, dreams, what they mean, what they tell you.
Even the ones you don't remember, or maybe, especially the ones you can't recall, the ones that linger on, colouring your day, your moods, leaving their traces on your life.

So what was it all about then? Will I ever know, does it matter?

Tomorrow I shall wake up trying to hold on to a new dream and today's dream will be just another dream to remember -
if only I could.........


elusive dream


I woke up this morning feeling sad.

Immediately I knew that was because of what I had dreamt but whatever that was, it was gone - I had absolutely no recollection, not even a hint.

This is a bad situation because I know the feeling is going to stick with me until I manage to sort it out.

Chances are some time during the day something will trigger my memory and it will come to me in bits and pieces, making no sense at all or maybe something I recognize and can link to recent or past events or musings.

Hopefully I can then laugh it off - funny games the mind plays - but as for now I am sitting here, biting my thumb, wondering what can possibly have upset me like this.

I think I'll go and walk Sheppie, always a good way to clear my head, snap out of an unwanted mood.

I'll be back.


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

to be perfectly honest


I might as well just tell you now that what I write is not necessarily true.
Ja, I know.....

It's not that I am a habitual liar, far from that, but I tend to get things wrong, run into muddles, act hastily, and, as my headmaster added on to a badly needed letter of recommendation:
Katie has the quality of speaking her mind when it is best to remain silent.

Some quality, hey?

Anyway, how about I just apologize in advance for all the stuff I am going to get wrong, including spelling and grammar, oh, and also for contradicting myself.
But that's because what I believe today might not be what I believe tomorrow.
So I change my mind sometimes.

What I am saying is, though I am fully aware of these shortcomings, I still just go ahead and write whatever I feel like, even though it might not be accurate or slightly exaggerated or fanciful.

Having said that, it doesn't mean what I write is complete nonsense, so don't let it put you off; I am usually quiet sincere and try not to upset anyone.

Good, I'm glad we got that out of the way, and gosh, look at the time - time for a nightcap, isn't it?


Sunday, 7 March 2010


I am now trying to find out how this blog works.

Peevishly clicking on words, tabs?, worried I might inadvertently be sending my inner most thoughts, once trusted to the machine, out into the world.

Well everything seems to be linked up to anything.

I stumble upon Facebook, another thing I got talked into, forgot all about, eventually shut down, and now it appears I have re-activated it again.
I see some well-known faces peering at me and an encouragement to invite several more to be my friends.
They have even selected some for me.

But those àre my friends.

At least, I thought they were. We see, write or talk to each other regularly but maybe in this day and age that doesn't count for much until they are secured in your Facebook collection.


Silly word anyway, Facebook, but I reckon they are getting something right, it seems to be the place to be - the more faces, the hotter?
I twitter, therefore I am.
A modern interpretation of Descartes?

I don't know, Facebook, Hyves, Twitter, Twatter, Blogger.....
well, I am doing it, aren't I?
Giving it a go - before you know it I'll be all over the place, and then what, hey?

I am going to step into a soothing bath and think about that.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

writing, of course

I'm not sure what I am doing here. Well, writing, of course.

Of course - I am always writing. Just give me a keyboard, pen and paper, or else I'll be writing in my mind, making up stories, putting thoughts into words, I just can't help myself.

'Why don't you start a blog?,' said Ezra. He is my youngest son, my baby-dier, the one who actually dared tell me he was 24.

24! So what does that make me? That can't be right, can it?

You know, I think this is going to be a major topic; age, ageing, growing old or older.
It worries me.
And that is putting it mildly.

Well, just so you know, and me too, didn't realise till now.
I am going to fix dinner and mull it over.

a timid sun

I haven't even started yet and already I have had to defend the blog's title.

'What does it mean? Not snappy, not catchy - not you.'
But it is, it's exactly where I am.

'I must endure the timid sun,' concludes W. B. Yeats as he ponders on the loss of his youth, the wild and passionate days are spent - lines written in dejection.

Well, we will see about that!
Much as I love Yeats, I am out to prove him wrong. But I'll take his timid sun, for I like how he put those two words together, and see what they mean to me.

Well, thats it. I'm off!