Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Capsule Wardrobe

Do you remember when a key article every summer in every women's magazine was  " What To Pack For Your Holidays "? Then it just depended on whether you were headed to a week in Frinton, a fortnight in Torquay or a month in the Highlands. Whatever the destination, sunburn would probably occur and a rain hat might be carried by at least one of the party.

 Not everybody went to the sea-side of course. Maybe your granny lived in the country, maybe you had an aunty in Ireland but nearly everybody went somewhere. And , wherever you went, you took a heavy suitcase with you and there would be at least a couple of new things in it.

I was thinking of this on Friday as Younger Daughter and I wandered through the Amsterdam Uniclo on the way to my train. It's recently opened and I do like their clothes but I couldn't help feeling that, now I don't work, I really don't need to buy anything anymore. I've got a couple of warm coats and plenty of jumpers. I've still got dozens of T-shirts, since working with small children we'd be covered in sticky finger prints regularly. I've got plenty of jeans. I don't get dressed up any more.

 I'm obviously getting old.

 But really, more than anything else, we'd just spent an hour in the Historic Museum admiring a tiny collection of their Georgian and Victorian clothes. Only 75 items in all, each exquisite. And I found the Perfect Dress. If I could I would just wear this for ever more....... Isn't it heavenly?

Thursday, 4 July 2019


Have you noticed? When someone asks you these days what you do with all the spare time you've got now you're retired, it's no use just saying that you read or knit. Unless you're walking to Compostela with Miriam Margolies or doing a Ph.D, no one will be remotely interested. You can try to mention a talk you went to ( was it really in February?  ) or a magnificent exhibition but nothing short of reporting that you've been volunteering at the South Pole will do. And it'll be useless without photos.

In my defence, I must say I have done the odd interesting thing when young… but since I don't have selfies of them I suppose they don't count. Even when Smaller Grandson went to a nearby Elizabethan Manor with his class a couple of weeks ago, they all stood there visibly dressed up as pirates … Middle Daughter even made a red coat and an eye patch for him they were definitely there. Lots of snaps of tricorns  and stripey teeshirts.  I can remember the odd memorable Christmas … being in a banana plantation one Christmas for instance or people skating over lakes on another but I can't whip out my 'Phone and show them … ? So was it even real?

Many years ago, I was very fond of an old lady who'd been everywhere, long before the days before gap years. I remember watching television with her and every so often there would be an "I've been there" from her chair, usually over Pondicherri , Mombasa or Cape Town. Generations of the family could do it .Come to that, my grandfather could say it about Archangel or the Dardanelles .

Never mind, life now offers other excitement… I've had housepainters on the balcony all morning.  Full volume weather reports, local traffic reports and local ads. adding a bit of background to  all the goss. from the local football club, where they're going on holiday and what they did last weekend, with photos …  and tacky railings./ So remember, the next time you're queueing up for the peak of Mount Everest or windsurfing off Patagonia, take a PHOTO.
( A statue of Thomas Cook at Leicester Station)

Saturday, 29 June 2019

I'm Real ! Blogger Agrees At Last

A bird's nest, washed out of Smitonius's hedge during a huge rainstorm this week, eggs and all. She was amused to see , woven into the nest, a pink ribbon pinched from a little bag she'd been going to put a jewellery order in.

 I've spent idiotic amounts of time trying to sign into my Blogger account for the last couple of weeks and had virtually given up, almost convinced that I didn't actually exist . An impression re-enforced at the hospital this week, when the young nurse tried to take a blood sample from my arm and failed three times. She rushed off to enlist the help of a colleague and I was left, wondering whether I was empty... Luckily her more experienced colleague managed to get enough to prove that I wasn't.

 Anyway… now I've been graciously reinstated , I can't immediately think of anything at all.   Perhaps binge-watching Nailed It ! on Netflix hasn't helped. Perhaps it was the heatwave that has been driving all western Europe to gay abandon  and to cavort in fountains … except that we here on Holland's north coast haven't been any hotter than normal, the heatwave missing us altogether.

 Never mind, it's pleasantly warm today and I've finally made myself a watermelon smoothie and a tortilla de patatas to celebrate. So now all that remains to do is to watch the boats on the river, read yet another whodunnit and admire my growing collection of lavender and its clouds of bumble bees.  I'll see if tomorrow my brain can dredge up anything slightly more interesting to post...

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Breaking Out ...

It took me all week not to do that jigsaw … exhausting! It's firmly back in its box and will be going back to the recycling center next time I go. Still, it did force me out of the door and onto a train for which I'm grateful. Just a dash to Groningen, since I'd left it to mid-morning,  but I had enough time for lunch and a wander. I found a rather fine poster for a vintage shop and must go back some time  when it's open.


By the market, my favourite climbing rose was having a good day … had I left it a couple of days later it would have been reduced to a couple of twigs; one storm after another this week has battered everything flat.

As always I dropped into the North African shop on the way back to the train and was fascinated to overhear a discussion between the owner and a possible buyer. Purchaser was wondering if he could redesign the front to make more sales room; 'modernise it all a bit'. He was told that the shop front's protected , "because it's been like this for the last twenty years." Considering the church round the back is at least a couple of hundred year old, the man looked a trifle puzzled but , of course, the street just used to be an alleyway.  Anyway, I realised then just how long I've lived here; I watched the facade being done. When we first came it was the only place to buy olives, proper tomatoes, good lentils and feta and, home-sick as I was, it was a lifeline. It's funny to look back and think that the only way to get chorizo was to go to Amsterdam! And Manchego cheese is still really only to be found at Christmas.

It's impossible to think of life  now without these things. I settled down the end but have always enjoyed trips to Groningen … in fact, I've just talked myself into another tomorrow. Lots of birthdays next week and presents to be found….

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Still Shoeless, of Course

But I have got another Pyrex dish, seven more secondhand detective books and two jigsaws. In my defence I should say that I had taken five cookery books and a raincoat to  the charity shop when I went... as Kondo-ish as I'm likely to get.

 One of the puzzles is guaranteed to send me boss-eyed; by Tuesday I'll be seeing little red triangles on everything. Charity shop jigsaws only come in two kinds..."Views" like German Castles, Greek Temples or Shakespeare's Birthplace … or "Busy" like Biscuits, Fish Scales or Ferns. Well, this one is a Mayan mother with her baby, wrapped in a blanket, mostly blanket. Endless stripes and a straw hat. I think it's supposed to be soothing … we'll see. Anyway, I've got a big jar of olives and a chicken roasting in the oven. So happy me.

Boats chugging up and down the river. A large, lurid pink Geranium called Marjorie, a big bag of Minneolas and Summer's beginning.

Now the Keep fit group has shrunk for the Summer, the local paper is the source of all gossip again. It's funny how much has changed in the last few years. These days the mayor seems to attend endless 100th Birthday parties and Golden Wedding Anniversaries but a couple of weeks ago he outdid himself. A local couple celebrated their Platinum Anniversary and her 108 year-old father was there to raise his glass to them, too. My youngest aunt, who's going to be 80 next week, seems positively frisky in comparison … mind you, she and her husband still go on hiking holidays.  Don't think I've ever hiked …..

Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Rain's An Hour Late...

Ten past five and it suddenly pours with rain for six minutes … Sitting comfortably on the sofa with some coffee, I'm not unduly bothered but do wonder if it's a sign of things to come.  I check the online edition of the Guardian again and it quite definitely says that it was going to rain here at four. Where will it end? And then it dawns on me... I'm not going ga-ga. I've been taken prisoner by the web.

Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of feeling like death after a bad reaction to some pills, I'm feeling almost human again and can put the laptop down and join the real world again. Perhaps plan a day out. An hour or two on the train, a good lunch and buying some new shoes will be quite exciting enough to start with … and I'll throw caution to the winds, not checking the weather before I go.

Sunday, 24 March 2019


Yesterday had everything …

An elephant dressed in Kevlar and lace, a quickstep with a terrier, a lead, his owner and her rollator ( it became rather macrame-like till we could all realign ourselves ), coffee with Shakespeare's Wife on the train, the chance to play with a four year-old and a silver foot ball and to top it all, a magic cookery book…

Or maybe, had the sun not been shining, I would just have written that the Groninger Museum had decided to stage an exhibition of everything animal-related hidden in their vaults, including the life-size elephant, a dragon and a conveyor belt. That the terrier had wound himself so successfully round the rollator's wheels that his owner was stranded between me and the bus and it seemed rude to shove her aside rather than help. That Germaine Greer's book, grabbed from the pile by my bed, was entertaining with breakfast on the train. Or that waiting in a draughty bus station, the little boy was having a wonderful time shooting penalties with a tiny football made by his big brother out of rolled-up silver paper from a few chocolate bars.

And the cookbook? My favourite secondhand bookshop had it in their 50 cent box, obviously unaware of the magic recipe inside … Above a yellowing early '60s illustration of something orange-ish, it promised everyone's warming favourite, Tomato Soup.  The list of ingredients is economical in the extreme: 1 litre of cold water, 5 tomatoes, 2 cloves. And the method? Boil for 35 minutes. Season if necessary.  Yum!