Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Social Whirl Begins Again ...


It's the Season ... the time to see and to be seen by the world  , at large .
 
Now that we can all go out for longer without freezing to death , we're being offered all sorts of treats . It's time again for Shanty Choir concerts , jumble sales and fêtes , a sportspark opening with songs from  'the Armenian Bob Dylan ' , a balloon competition and freestyle football ...
 
But I've got my eye on this month's top local event . The 2017 Open  Potato Peeling Championship in St. Annaparochie next Tuesday . There will apparently be a wide range of knives and potato peelers available ( also for lefthanded contestants ) , though one can bring one's own , and everyone's welcome to enter . You'll have 268 seconds to peel as many potatoes as you can and at the end of the day there will be a tie-breaker for the best five entrants ... top prize is 75 Euros , so I might start practising now and  , what's more ,  you get to keep your peeled spuds to take home . Bring your own bucket , presumably .
 
But I'll leave you now to further plan my weekend , since I've just caught sight , on page 10 of this week's local paper , of a hooivorkdarten event , not to mention some spijkerslaan . My Fries   isn't really fluent   is nonexistent but , as far as I can work out this translates as pitchfork throwing and nail hammering .
 
On reflection , this sounds slightly risky .  I almost prefer the sound of Britsum's  " I Love The '90s"  fête . 

 
 
Oh yes , I've just realised that I've forgotten to include this weekend's Pzza Dough Painting and the otter-spotting .

Monday, 8 May 2017

Spring Hobbles In ....

I'm not convinced myself , but , in theory , it's Spring .

Most of the time there's a wind that would have the nose from your face , as my mother would have said , and last week the temperature mid-afternoon mostly hovered round 9 degrees Centigrade but at last the trees are getting leafier and greenery is appearing again .  This shop window confirms it


 It's time to buy shorts , hunt out this year's teeshirt ( paler than pale pink or a whitish sort of blue , I think  . Those of us who've gone grey will barely be visible this summer ) and some snazzy sunglasses , just in case the sun ever shines brightly enough to warrant it .

While this lady and I


 weren't quite foolhardy enough to abandon our winter coats this weekend in Alkmaar , lunch was eaten outside in a sheltered courtyard cafe and a very pleasant day out was had . Vintage clothing was purchased , vintage china wasn't . Scented candles were sneezed at and cushions admired . Dove grey kitchen accessories were looked at and left where they sat . Shoe shops resisted , prettily wrapped chocolate not . A proper Day Out with the comforting reassurance that we know what's what even if we don't need it all today .

Churches and mediëval buildings admired . Cyclists avoided , even the very small boy hurtling down a side street , obviously late for hockey practice , who nearly took me with him on his handlebars


 


Street stalls with everything from tulips to clogs , herring to mangoes lined the center of town ; shoppers snuffling around as though they hadn't eaten since this was the entrance to a butcher's shop .


 Coffee and cakes were demolished and Primark raided .  Cafe terraces filled with the very young and the very old and those in between wandered home to feed the cat and put the children to bed .

We drove back north past five windmills in a row , sheep , cows , tulip harvesters and a briefly glimpsed , rip-roaring Irish Pub With Barbecue . Drop In !!
 Another time , perhaps  .... The winds are icy again today

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sits



 
Say  "Sits"  out loud and rather quickly . What do you think you've just said ?

Well , in most countries you might be assumed to have sneezed  . But here in the C17th if you were frightfully fashionable and rather well off ,  you would have been talking about chintz ... glazed chintz in particular or , these days , you might be going to the  Fries Museum to see their latest exhibition . There's a wonderful  three hundred year-old silk kimono , magnificently preserved and vibrant , that's worth the trip alone .

When the Dutch East India Company managed to elbow their way into the market , picking up this beautifully hand painted or blockprinted  cotton in India to exchange in Indonesia or Japan for spices and china , it became increasingly popular and pieces began to find their way back to Holland ,  to Hindeloopen in particular . There it inspired painted furniture , bed covers and the local women's costume and in fact you can still , in the old fishing ports , see women wearing dresses trimmed with chintz bonnets , decorative sleeves and aprons  .


 
 
As eventually the handcarved blocks were brought back by returning East India Company employees and copied  ; the dyeing techniques and the original processes simplified , and substances like buffalo urine , metal salts and saffron replaced with easier to get hold of materials , local factories made cheaper copies . Nearly everyone has some Hindeloopen patterned cotton  around if they've inherited a grandmother's bed linen ... I've got pieces myself , bought in thrift shops and vintage stores .
 

 
But two hundred years ago , every scrap of this treasure was hoarded ; stored in airtight chests, sometimes for generations , and eked out to make bodices , baby clothes , collars and cuffs , mittens ...
 
And , of course , when totally past their best , the more modern pieces found their way to patchwork quilts . Needless to say , I would love to own this quilt


 
 
 
But what I really , really wanted was this very rich little girl's version of Barbie . A C19th doll and her  chest of clothes . TWO straw hats !!
 
 




Oh yes , and the hem of this dress . For one of the more tomboyish Bennet sisters , perhaps.




 

Monday, 10 April 2017

What's The Opposite Of Kondo ?

I have to go to  Briekantiek , then I could completely de-Kondo my life . They sell furniture , jewellery, pitchforks , old tiles , garden furniture ,
 


 
holy statues , paintings , straw hats , wood burning stoves of every vintage , rugs , door knobs , giant candle sticks ... That's right . It has absolutely nothing I need , let alone could use .  
 
Though if I bought the " industrially unique" ( their words , not mine ) crane built in the early 1900's   , and just about visible here behind the red truck , I could free
 
 

 
 myself from the tiresome neccessity of climbing up and down the stairs from street level .
 
Apartment block one-up-manship ... being lifted onto one's balcony by one's very own personal antique crane . Perhaps I could have it monogrammed ? Attach a crest from the huge heaps of decorative ironwork in Briekantiek's barns. A crest and monogram ? A bit much , perhaps ?
 
Well ,my new neighbour has prayer flags and a Buddah ... I'm going to have to  pimp up my balcony somehow , till the seeds from those tiny wild sweetpeas that I kept from last year's crop  come out . Once they do , it'll be a bit like Sleeping Beauty's castle . They twine their way round everything at a mile a minute .
 
 And I've got a little starter kit for growing radishes from the supermarket's Little Gardeners promotion this year , only radishes are one of the very few vegetables I don't like ( fennel being the other one ) . A major investment is called for , obviously . 99 cents for a packet of seeds from Lidl won't make me self-sufficient but will be fun . Courgettes perhaps ...they grow themselves apparently . And if I chose yellow ones , it'd add a touch of Bling .
 
It's all right , I'll calm down soon ... it's just that Friend and I went to the Collectors Fair in Utrecht at the weekend and all those endless stalls of stuff   does this to me every time . By the end of the day coming home with three soup tureens , a 1930's nightie , a moth eaten toy monkey , five egg spoons and a donkey-shaped velvet teacosy begins to seem reasonable , though obviously we're all avoiding the anatomically correct plaster cast of a diseased lung .









Wednesday, 5 April 2017

It's A Willie Nelson Day

It's a mournful and sad sort of day . If I'd been listening to any other kind of music , I'd just have said I was gloomy , but today's definitely mournful and kind of blue . I'm missing the grandchildren .

Smaller Grandson's class is having a Cake Competition this afternoon and I'm not there to see all their entries or to buy a slice at home-time ( funds raised go towards a much needed make-over of the infants playground  ... welcome to T. May's England ... ) 
S. G.'s chocolate cat cake , which he designed and baked with his father's help looks very stylish , the ganache is shiny and they both managed not to eat all  the Smarties so Puss has a spotty bow tie as well as a CheshireCat smile .

Elder Grandson took to school like a duck to water but we all wondered how his little brother , a much shier child , would cope . Young , imperturbable teacher has let him ease himself in , discover how to read , work out how to do sums using his fingers and toy cars and to work out what he's really good at ... drawing and running very fast , apparently . But better than all this is the group of friends he's made .

His mother , having watched them all hare around the playground , asked him,
 "Who's in your gang ? " whereupon he looked slightly disapproving . "We're not a gang . We're a team ."
 Having said all this , this same child announced over breakfast the other day that he wanted to stay at home to paint instead of going to school . Being told he couldn't , he looked mildly thoughtful but followed along . Getting into his class , he walked up to the teacher and said quite simply,
 "Good morning . I've got nits . " Sadly , same imperturbable young teacher didn't recoil and send him home immediately as he'd hoped  , she checked with his mother , laughed and gave him some pegs to organise instead .

So ,  potholed playground or not the little local primary school's doing as good a job with him as they have with his big brother .


Friday, 31 March 2017

Serves Me Right , I Fear ...

Train travel must be familiar enough not to need a special section in etiquette guides , surely ? You know , the usual things ; give up your seat to the obviously pregnant or ancient , don't use your 'phone in the Silent carriages , take your crap home with you  ... that sort of thing . Dutch trains have screens in every compartment with travel information and little timely reminders about responsible behaviour .

The young chap taking up a double seat the other day can't have read them lately .
"Is this seat free ?" I ask idiotically , gesturing to the overnight bag , laptop case , sandwich box , anorak and cuddly blanket piled up next to him . He sighed theatrically , put the film on Pause and said ,
 "I can make room for you " whereupon everyone nearby swivelled round to see just how much room I 'd need ....

 So it goes without saying that I'll not be rushing to the local beauty salon that's advertising their grand reopening tonight with a Pampering Evening with Bubbles and Bites .
 Probably not for the likes of me ... might be a nibble too far

Monday, 20 March 2017

Hoovered Up Last Week

Odds and ends ...

According to a Daily Telegraph quiz on Friday , I'm only a Plastic Paddy . My various , rather distant Irish ancestors would be mortified , but unsurprised ; I haven't been there for over forty years . Never mind , one of my cousins is called Patrick Joseph Mary , and you can't get much more Irish than that ... I'll have to put it on my application for a passport if Brexit threatens ...

A sentence from a Guardian book review last week caught my eye , "Many Britons can date their childhood to the suffix their subconscious applies to the word "Raleigh", be it Roadster , Chopper or Burner ." That the suffix that I came up with was Walter says it all , really ...



The Den Haag  exhibition of clothes Givenchy had designed for Audrey Hepburn was beautiful ... columns of black satin with only giant pearls or a swirl of tulle for the evening  , hot pink or mustard coats with tiny pill box hats , beautiful embroidery ... but the most striking gallery was dedicated to her work with Unicef . The photos of her with refugee children showed her at her best , glowing and alive in capri pants and simple cotton shirts with three toddlers draped round her neck . In another corner there was one of her handwritten recipes for pasta reproduced with her wooden spoon  ,  a photo of her on a gigantic sofa with her cat and another of both the designer and herself buttoned up in his tweed coat in the snow . Not just Holly Golightly but someone you'd like to have known .

The three of us were fading away with hunger by this stage so repaired to the museum cafe  for lunch . Was unable to resist one of the weird pink rolls , though filled with cheese rather than smoked mackerel . Had to ask ... why's it this colour ?  Made with wholemeal flour and beetroot juice , apparently  . Which just leaves the question why ? Another desperate attempt to make us all eat our  Five A Day , perhaps . In case your baker produces beetroot bread  , be warned . It just makes the bread slightly sweet and heavier .

And this week ?  Blood oranges , "The Trouble With Goats And Sheep" by Joanna Cannon on audio , yet more rain and the poop test . Lots to look forward to ...