With less free time this summer , I haven't done much exploring , even locally . But it doesn't really matter ... there's still plenty of people about to watch .
Like the solid matron with a wheelie suitcase , the other day . She's heard that they're made to be pulled along behind one but not believing a word of it , resolutely , though slightly inaccurately , pushes it before her causing people to avoid her nervously . Is there a small part of her that wonders why the confounded thing's so difficult to steer ?
Or the variously-mustached chaps in hiking boots and unfortunate shorts wandering about the station on Tuesday , looking lost . At last two of them bump into each other and hug delightedly , peering at one another in amazement . Then a third wanders up diffidently , and a fourth . Suddenly there are six of them . They can't have seen each other since school or , more likely , National service and seem to be about to celebrate by hiking off to wherever it was they bonded 50 years ago .
But this week's favourite has to be the middle-aged man cycling up the road on the hottest day this week , wearing a traffic cone on his head ....
I went to the seaside yesterday , on a tram * . Well , nearly .
In typical fashion , I chose the day when the line was being given its annual overhaul so I and hundreds of others were de-trammed for the last four stops and packed in a bus ( you notice I'm using the singular here . )
Still , I saw a merry-go-round ,
ate some chips on the prom.
and stood on tiptoe to see the sea . But the really extraordinary thing was ... the sun was shining .
Because apart from that , August's been a bit of a washout , literally .
Still , my tomatoes are ripening .
And Friend took me out for lunch on my birthday .
Great conversation , delicious food and a candle ... and yes, it was this dark at one o'clock on Monday . Something to do with the monsoon season apparently .
But , oddly , the sun still seems to be shining today and I'm going outside again
*At Den Haag's Central train station , there's a tram that goes out to Holland's most popular and iconic beach resort , Scheveningen , rolling through the city center and suburbs of increasingly ornate elaborate , over-balconied seaside villas.
The coffee break is , apart from the salary , the best thing about working . Once you retire you'll need to find a substitute .
You know how a horse can point one ear to locate a sound ? Well , when you don't meet so many people every day , you'll find you need to develop something similar . Think Lady Bracknell ... actually if you've ever had or worked with small children , you already have .
However busy your hairdresser's is you're never really going to hear anything truly entertaining , holiday destinations apart .
In good Supermarkets , the queues are not allowed to be longer than three customers anymore , so there's less time to 'news-gather'/earwig .
The local paper's quite good ... I know , for instance , that they're collecting money for new gnomes for the city farm and which children have got their swim diploma . Or that if you buy a new bra in Stien's lingerie shop , you'll get a discount if you donate your old one ( they''ll send it to Rumania ... no , I can't think why either ) . But our paper's going on holiday for a couple of weeks .
Which just leaves listening shamelessly to people in cafes or trains
" I'm allergic to everything . I can't help it , I can't eat anything at all ... I don't eat chicken , I don't eat beef , I don't eat pork . I only eat mince ." said the woman in yellow ... but then the bus arrived .
There was the group of women sitting next to me as we all ate sandwiches in the park , who were discussing some their exes , "Well , once he said that , I could see the message behind the message ... " Everyone in a quarter mile radius nodded ...
Or the young girl on the train chronicling her food poisoning over the weekend to her mates , "I'd only had a few vodkas and a Berenburg earlier on Friday and Joris had made something with coconut and cider but I threw up the pea soup straight away on Saturday . Even the tiramisu made me queasy ... "...
In fact , sometimes there doesn't even need to be a conversation .
A young girl waiting for a train in Utrecht was carrying a large bag printed with "Awesome Shoes Take You To Awesome Places "... I hope they had , she was now wearing flip-flops and a BandAid .
By dint of working through endless weekends over the winter , supervising the rehousing of her firm's headquarters to larger premises the other side of town , Youngest Daughter earned two extra weeks holiday this summer .The offer of a flat in Budapest , a friend's desire to go to the Opera in Vienna and a love of Italian food ... and she was off on a 2016 version of the Grand Tour .
I'd get 'phone calls from minor airports , Alpine river banks , libraries , forests or street corner cafes ( preferably next to a tram line ) .
She was having the time of her life , and not even a superfluity of " potatoes and pig's elbows " on Munich lunch menus was daunting . A couple of German castles revived her spirits swiftly .
The fact that Prague smelled of forests , had a municipal diving center in the middle
of the city and that the people all seemed to love living there made her want to stay for ever .
A huge park in Salzburg , breakfasts in Budapest , chocolate cakes in Austria , the Kunshistorisches Museum in Vienna and having the Vermeers to herself ... surviving the Marriage of Figaro in a 38C degree Opera House , ... the apericena in Venice with Aperol spritzers and buffets of endless delight , five hours in Florence's Uffizi and some risotto ,
the market and food in Milan and a treasure hunt in its Salvation Army thrift shop made it all most uplifting and every bit as educational as any Grand Tour could hope to be .
The first card is a self portrait of Sofonisba Anguissola , "Her eyes look like mine in a Viennese cake shop "
And the second is Agnolo di Cosimo's portrait of Giovanni de'Medici as a child in the Uffizi ... is it possible to adopt a postcard ?
It didn't rain on Thursday so I sat on the balcony and took stock .
The lavender hasn't died . The two cherry tomato plants are looking pale but brave and when I got down on hands and knees and squinted , I counted five tomatoes . One this size , O and four this size .
My Wildflower Plantation , a large-ish earthenware pot , sewn with a packet of Bee and Butterfly attracting plant seeds that the housing association gave each of us this year
has burst forth into one white flower too tiny to identify , two pink ditto , a pretty purple sweetpea affair and a cornflower .
Local bees seem to be reluctant to venture forth however , though I have seen two hoverflies doing their silent best to fill the gap .
Never mind , with a balcony 10 by 6 foot , I was hardly hoping to be self-sufficient but yesterday's paper has a large article on page 2 telling us that due to flooding and hailstorms spinach , paksoi , lettuce and rocket will be in short supply till September , at least ... and I'm already a little tired of carrots ...
It's chicken barley soup for supper and a kiwi fruit .
P.S. The plant pots and labels aren't mine . Not even I am that optimistic . They were stacked ín a corner of the Orangery in Utrecht's Hortus , where the cactii were sheltering from the rain .
When I go into town during the day , I'm passed by throngs of students all talking about everything under the sun . Chinese , German , Iranian , Spanish , Canadian , Italian , Dutch and Danes . They're exchanging ideas , networking , chatting each other up ... learning about the world and all its possibilities . Learning about each other , how to work with each other and how to get on .
That Europe consists of a lot more than hen nights in Amsterdam , making out in Magaluf or getting frustrated in a traffic jam on the way to a tent in Brittany . That there are many different ways to organise train networks , schools , theaters , hospitals , hotels and libraries . That not everyone remembers the 20th century the same ...
These students aren't the future elite , our college is the equivalent of an old polytechnic , but what they pick up in the next few years will affect daily life for us all for years .
British students need to be able to join them , they need to have the freedom to get work experience in Bremen or Bologna . To sofa-surf in Munich or Lisbon or to commute in Salzburg . To eat something ribsticking in Budapest and to swing through Antwerp in a tram .
I want this for my grandchildren and their friends . But thanks to Brexit , it's just got a lot harder .
Do you actually like roasted cauliflower ?
Or is it just me ? Perhaps I didn't cook it very well ... but I come from a generation that ate cauliflower decently cloaked in cheese sauce or later , influenced by Mahdur Jaffrey , as Gingery Cauliflower soup . I watch young cooks now making couscous from it ... and rather wonder why they don't just use couscous .
But then , I'm post Fanny Craddock and pre no-carbs . We post-war children were encouraged to eat everything in sight by grannies who'd battled through rationing , and experimented on by Festival of Britain mothers who wildly added gherkins or pineapple chunks to things .
My generation , armed with Elizabeth David and complete ignorance , burst with brio into a world of olive oil and After Eight mints .
I have memories of cheerfully deciding to make Beef Wellington for a dinner party ... I was 20 , I think , and only had a rough idea of how to make pastry but we and the guests survived ... though both I and the beef had turned grey with worry by the time it was served .
Still , we all learnt and ventured into moussaka , chilli and kebabs . Chicken became clichéd , cod scarcer , rabbit stew a curiosity ...
I ran away to Spain and lived there for twenty years , so I learnt how to clean and cook fish , make tortillas and hearty lentil stews and what to do with pigs trotters . Then we came to Holland and ate lots of good cheese and searched for a decent tomato and non-watery cucumber . More and more North Africans appeared and they opened shops , filled with olives and feta , proper tomatoes and chick peas . The world slowly became more organic , bread better and pineapples broke free from their tins . Had it stopped there , all would have been well ...
But somehow or other , the last year or two have taken another giant step forward ;
gluten's bad , milk's bad if it's been anywhere near a cow , carbohydrates are unmentionable in polite society , butter was bad but is now good , and this week's taste sensation appears to be ice cream made from coconut milk , green tea powder and vanilla .
And anyone worth their salt can perform miracles with cauliflowers . Well , anyone except me ...
Still , I'll just celebrate a recent brunch , simply and perfectly delicious and eaten in the best of company : perfectly fresh free range eggs with green asparagus 'soldiers ' to dip in , and freshly baked , still warm Turkish rolls from a nearby baker . And best of all , not cooked by me .
* A rather tatty recipe leaflet given out in 1928 by the Dutch Confederation of Potato Merchants , containing 90 recipes ranging from mashed potatoes to mashed potatoes with cheese ...
SmitoniusAndSonata is a mother and daughter collective blog.
London based Smitonius (Jessamy) makes one of a kind jewellery using vintage buttons, as well as a combination of beads from all over Europe: from lampwork ones by a range of UK artists to vintage and modern glass beads.
Sonata is a miniature quilt maker based in the North of Holland (Leeuwarden). Geraldine Keyzer is already known to collectors of Hitty dolls and owners of vintage dollhouses. She likes to use vintage as well modern cotton to create a range of quilts from simple One Patch to the more complex Grandmother's Garden.