Sunday, 5 August 2018

The Best Option

Husband had Alzheimer's for years before it was diagnosed, years before slight irrascibility became occasional rage, before getting lost became the norm.

When the small day care farm couldn't keep him safe anymore and there was no alternative to a fulltime care home, we found somewhere nearby, beautifully run by a team of charming nurses, where it didn't matter that he slept all day and wandered about all night, got hungry at four in the morning and liked playing the keyboard during breakfast.

They gave him plant pots which he overwatered,  let him make toast at midnight, wear his pyjamas all day,  push another old chap's wheelchair up and down the corridor for hours much to their joint delight.  I'd bring him the paper every day and chocolate biscuits, an old friend brought wine, he'd be sent magazines and sweets, his sister 'phoned … and he mostly tolerated it.

But two years later he could no longer taste anything, television frightened him, music irritated him, the sun was too bright and he didn't recognise the moon. He'd ask if he'd ever had a job or gone to school, ask what a fork was, who I was. Then he didn't talk anymore. Stopped eating and drinking, stopped breathing, stopped living.

And now for the first time in years, he's free. As one of the daughters said, he's found a nineteenth century wilderness where he can live off the land, surrounded by trees and birds. And sad though it is, we're happy for him.

Friday, 22 June 2018


Max Liebermann's wonderful Parrot Man is only still in Den Haag's Gemeente Museum because I couldn't quite work out how to get it out of the exhibition without someone objecting. And they were selling an excellent poster of it in the shop downstairs which did look rather easier to bring home on the train. I would have lugged them all home given a chance … certainly the Anton Mauve one of the rather exasperated farmer's wife looking at the lamb … you can see her thinking, "There's not enough wool on that for a pair of socks and it's eating for three."

Having sat so long sitting staring at the paintings in the Summer Impressionist  exhibition that a passing attendant asked me if I was alright, I went down and ate an enormous Brie sandwich with sweet peanuts in it ( I don't know why they'd been added, they really weren't a good idea so I fished them out… but the coffee was good ). 
Then I went back upstairs to the Art Nouveau exhibition on the other side of the landing. And found more rooms full of things, every one of which I needed, really needed. 

I mean, if I needed one I could probably knit myself a tea cosy. I've certainly got enough odd bits of wool to knit ten tea cosies … but none would be quite as pretty as Berthe Bake's .

I took masses of photos which I seem to be working out how to load but it's still all a bit hit and miss so do look at the museum's website. There's masses of pretty things and quite a few that you wouldn't give house room to. It's rather like windowshopping.

 Meanwhile, there's an Escher exhibition to see, here. 
Next week.

Summer Exhibition

Friday, 15 June 2018


The Geranium, hereafter known as Gloria, went out onto the balcony and made it her own. She took over a little table, grew dozens of leaves and buds, and even attracted a compliment. ( Here geraniums are seen as old ladies plants and not really considered favourably so the compliment was rather along the lines of, "Gosh, she's a big one, isn't she!"  Still.)

She loved our early hot summer spell and flourished.
But on Thursday morning, while I was in the kitchen trying to  set a world record for eating a bowl of porridge at the same time as tying my shoelaces  I opened the curtains and …. I saw half of Gloria blowing next door. Fierce wind rushing down to the river had snapped a big chunk off!

All my fault, I know. I've so enjoyed seeing her run riot that I've been overwatering her. Oh well, I'll have to replant the broken bit and hope that she settles down again. You never know, I might end up with two Glorias.

***And if I can ever work out how to load photos onto this laptop, I might even show them to you.

Monday, 4 June 2018

And We Were All Useless ....

Just as I was wondering whether to go off to the library or not, two police cars and an ambulance shot round the corner, sirens blaring , closely followed by two more police cars and a police motor bike.  They all tore into the next street and stopped by the old ladies home's back door. Another ambulance and police car rushed round from the main road and  two police started wrapping red and white tape round everything, including our car park … a sixth police car and third ambulance followed and a yellow helicopter hovered at the end of the road . The noise and chaos started taking shape....

Everybody was out on their balconies, wondering what was going on. Some of the police crowded round the home's door, holding tarpaulins as a shield as paramedics ran around with stretchers and the helicopter finally managed to land . By this stage there were so many people milling about I assumed that it was a training exercise and felt rather sorry for them all on such a hot day. The staff from the home set up a table with coffee and cold drinks and the tarpaulin holders changed around, glad of a rest. A man with a blanket round his shoulders was helped into a car and a lorry was driven away. Everybody, about 30 assorted paramedics, police and a fire crew, all milled about, desperate to help ...

Oxygen tanks lined up. Medics ran in and out of the tarpaulined area. Urgent instructions. A saline drip and a trolley disappeared into the ever growing tarpaulined space. The six police cars and three ambulances sat , doors open .... We all waited.  Radios crackled and one after the other,  the spare ambulances left...

A priest arrived.

The helicopter crew picked up  their stretcher and huge red rucksacks and left and two motorbike police started to untangle the traffic by the park at the top and the river at the bottom. Boats sailed past. Students were being allowed to cycle up the river path again in a tidy, organised queue, supervised by another motor bike policeman . The tarpaulin holders all swopped round again. And a hearse arrived.

She'd just gone out to walk down to the river with her walking frame because it was such a nice morning and she hadn't heard the peep-peep-peep of a backing lorry. The driver hadn't seen her, tiny and dressed in grey, in his blind spot  She was 92.
An hour later, it was as though nothing had happened at all.

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.