You know it's bad when you get a birthday card like this from one daughter , the second gives you a calendar from the year you were born that she'd found at an antique fair , and the third just gives you a giant pot of miracle-promising body lotion .
Fish and chips , country buses , lots of Red Leicester , the V&A , London pubs , amassed aunts , the biggest and best pizza I've ever eaten , Rosy Pig cider , a folk festival and ( temporary ) tattoos .
It was all great fun and ended far too soon .
I think I'll probably be doing it again next year .
Well , it will be next year when Leeuwarden will be European City of Culture along with Valetta .
I don't know about Valetta , but we're not really a tourist Mecca and those who come are mostly really keen sailors , who , rather naturally , tend to bring their boats with them . Hence a slight shortage of hotel space .
But a couple of local farmers have had a brainwave et voilà...............................
They've reckoned that they can fit around 5,000 huge drain pipes on their land and are planning to fill each one with a comfortable layer of straw . The guests can put up a curtain if they want but you'll be cosily grouped together and , in theory ( though this hasn't been tried yet ) pipes could be stacked up to make bunk beds for groups . Showers and loos will be dotted about and breakfast ( farm fresh eggs , bread and cheese and milk from the farm ) is included in the 20 Euro per night price .
You'll be woken at cockcrow , of course , but there'll be plenty to do . You can cuddle the cows or just learn how to milk one , ride a horse or help to clean out the stables . Those who want to get into town for a concert or event can use the farm's planned tractor taxi service ...
And where are all these drain pipes coming from ? Apparently they're all to be used in various projects locally in 2019 and the building firms are happy to have a place to stash them till then . Now , all we have to hope for is that next summer's better than this ....
The sun shone , then it didn't . I discovered that you don't want to be cycling as fast as you can over a metal bridge when a huge clap of thunder makes the whole world rock . Then the sun shone some more . Then it rained again and the bread ran out . I discovered that peanut butter doesn't go with raisin bread .
Went out to dinner with friends and had some very nice Balinese chicken in coconut milk , some satè skewers and pickled vegetables . As the restaurant gradually emptied , people drifting off to the open air concert in the middle of town , we sat and watched a tiny mouse , not much bigger than a lemon seed , dart about clearing up the crumbs . It deserved a medal . Left up to him , Leeuwarden will be more than ready as European City of Culture in January .
One daughter flew to Malaga for an old schoolfriend's wedding , another broke her toe and is now learning to walk in one of those huge shovel-shaped shoes A & E give you , and the third was looking after a friend's cat . I offered commiseration , enthusiasm and sympathy by 'phone .
I read five books , enjoying them all , especially Kate North's Land of my Dreams and Roddie Doyle's Bullfighter . Thought of making some muffins . Didn't .
And didn't go to the Agricultural College's Apiary's Open Day , yet again . That's right ... it rained .
Four birthdays in five days and not one of them mine , but I don't mind at the moment . I think I'm quite old enough for the time being .
One of the birthdays was for a young lady who seems to have turned fifteen and 5'11" overnight and who plans to become an interior designer , and another was for Elder Grandson who astonishingly , is now ten and wants to be a skateboarding dude .
This , when I heard it , seemed startlingly unlikely since he'd much rather stay inside and explain mediaeval history to you than go outside but his parents took him at his word and Sunday saw him looking long and lanky on a skateboard ... in a helmet and some shin pads his mother had unearthed from somewhere . His Alexander Technique aunt spent the afternoon helping him to find his balance , his mother promised to get him proper knee-pads to replace the improvised shin pads before next weekend and he was off ...
And I can clearly hear his two year-old voice , snuffly with a cold , telling us a joke about a dinosaurus and dissolving into giggles long before the punchline ...
You might not be surprised to hear that I didn't take part in the potato peeling competition . What can I say ... I didn't go to the Haka workshop , either . I did wonder if I should go and find this rather fine statue but the sun shone , instead .
I sat on the balcony and admired boats , canoes , sup boards , cruisers , yachts , Zodiacs ...
I particularly admired the young couple who live on the third floor opposite my flat , who man-handled their giant , already fully inflated Zodiac up the stairs to their flat on Friday evening and down again in the morning , especially since between them they probably don't weigh more than twelve stone . ( Perhaps that's why ?)
More than 140 row boats went past on Friday evening, too , at the beginning of a watery Elfstedentocht ; more than 250 kilometers from town to town through the province , overnight by lantern-light . It would have been wonderful to stand alone on a bridge out in the fields at midnight and watch the lights approaching , with only the sound of the oarlocks ... a bit spooky , perhaps .
Browsing among Audible's new releases for something nice to listen to , I discovered "The Vampire's Legacy" : A Vampire Pregnancy Romance by Samantha Snow . Good grief !
Blurb says : "But no-one could have predicted that within just 48 hours of meeting this mysterious stranger , she would be giving birth to his baby ". ( Sister Ann Brigid might have warned you ... and did , regularly , if I remember ) . Mind you , the 48 hour pregnancy recommends it as I remember our Firstborn arriving three weeks late , though , to be fair , she's never bitten anyone . Still , I chose a Barbara Vine ,instead .
Our supermarket's now labelling their tubs of olives , 10 Calories per Olive . You have been warned .
And finally , a middle-aged daughter excusing her father's non-responsiveness to the doctor's receptionist today , "Sorry , he's as deaf as a canary ... or aren't they deaf ?"
So , now I've de-cluttered my head slightly , I'll go out and see what else is going on ....
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 .
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
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.
I haveto 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 .
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 .
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
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 ...
One does want to look one's best , which is why both I and my bike were tidied up this week .
Predictably the whole thing worked better on the bike . Only four months old , her after sales check involved her saddle bags being hoovered , tyres pumped up , chain oiled and being lightly polished with a chamois cloth . She gleams .
I , on the other hand , having gone to the hairdresser rather than the bike shop , have only had a haircut . I have polished my shoes , though , so there's a slight improvement overall even if I don't exactly dazzle .
Since Friend , YD and I are hoping to see the Hubert De Givenchy exhibition To Audrey With Love in Den Haag this weekend , I might even re-attach the top button on my coat . Still , Friend and YD will look their usual elegant selves and I'll be the Margaret Rutherford figure bringing up the rear . Perhaps if I hoover my capacious handbag and check for the odd fluffy peppermint .... ?
Winter's gone on rather too long and I've now got butterfly brain but since , these days , I'm quite glad to have any brain at all , I'll just rattle it about and share the contents with you .
Unfortunately I'm not going to the hairdresser till next week , after Storm Doris is due to sweep across town . So I'd better stay at home for the next couple of days or my hair will be whipping around like a lassoo . I'd hate to strangle someone en route to the greengrocer's .
No , my hair's not really like her's ( or the bear's , fortunately ) but I've got to the stage where my fringe tickles my nose and wakes me up . But since it's half-term this week ... rather nicely called the Crocus holiday here ... everyone useful has vanished for a few days ; if they're not skiing , they're looking after their grandchildren .
I'm happy to stay at home though ,for a day or two , having got three Minette Walters whodunnits and a gallon of carrot soup to get through , though there is obviously a slight risk of turning orange by the weekend .
It's been a week or two of odd moments . Sitting on a bus with a recently arrived refugee family whose two little boys were invited to sit in the front by the bus driver , who then went round each roundabout twice , much to their delight . A couple of older locals expressed their appreciation of the ride too , as they got off ... perhaps it'll become a regular feature like Pensioners film afternoons .
Seeing a man in sheepskin mitts paddling his kayak up the river in a short snowstorm ( looked very awkward , whether because of the mitts or just blinded by the almost hail-like snow , I don't know ) .
Noticing that there's a new driving school in town called Toples , which just translates as Top Lessons , but which probably is building up their business , no end , especially among school leavers .
And being tickled to notice in an article on the current shortage of iceberg lettuces that there's a British Leafy Salads Association .
Finding yourself the owner of pale green socks with cartoon mice all over them or finding yourself the owner of glittery golden socks .
Being given a kit to make a pair of Latvian mittens in a pattern optimistically called The Thousand Year Old Mitten ... the donor saying that she won't be surprised to inherit the semi-finished kit . Or a raspberry flavoured Matrushka doll lip salve .
Sharing supper with someone who's eaten your version of pizza Margherita since childhood and doesn't expect it to taste like the real thing .
Sharing supper with someone who knows exactly what risotto should taste like and can cook it for you .
Long rambling 'phone calls that stop before Silent Witness .
Talking to someone who knows who you're talking about when you mention cigar bands or shortbread, burnt toast or winning Your Dream Cottage contests .
Going on extraordinary excursions that wouldn't have occurred to you but turn out to be just what you wanted to do .
I know sons are lovely , too , and my grandsons are a constant delight but I would have hated not to have had daughters .
When I opened the curtains yesterday morning , it was -6 Centigrade , the sky was clear and everything was rimed with frost .The big weeping willow on the other side of the river was a spectacular , glistening filigree but Picasa's gone on strike again and won't show you my photo .
We'll just have to do with this poster instead and ignore the monkey , the large sticks and the ruin .
Went to this exhibition of silhouettes a couple of weeks ago and loved it . They'd gathered a surprising number of pieces , many from private collections .
Apparently cutting silhouettes was extremely popular from the C17 onwards among Frisian gentlemen with time on their hands ; and elaborate ones like these were just the thing to present to the young lady you hoped to make your wife .
Some were made to commemorate a victory at sea or the death of a loved one , though the one shown on the poster isn't much bigger than a postcard and seems just to celebrate a day out with the lads . Or a stunning hoar frost like yesterday's .
Today at lunchtime , as she puttered back down the river past the flat , she was just an old boat with layer upon layer of fading red paint . As lovely to see as all the old boats are , but no showstopper ...
But on Sunday at sunset , for a moment
Still wrestling with Blogger , Picasa and my Christmas-impaired concentration levels .
So, there may or may not be a photo or two with this and there's no real way of knowing what it'll be of .
Sadly it won't be a shot of the young man wrestling to get a neighbour's new sofa upstairs on his own , yesterday . A very comfortable , fulsomely upholstered three-seater sofa . In the lift whose doors as a result couldn't quite close . He , neighbour and I stood looking at it , arm rest only really very slightly protruding .
If we pulled it out and started again ? Perhaps it would fit at an angle ? Diagonally ? On its side ? Perhaps it could be tipped up a bit and she and I could get under it and prop it up ? Whereupon he stopped listening to us ...
Anyway , by the time I'd got back from the mailbox , he was manhandling it into her third floor front door and and she'd made coffee . Lovely biscuits .
Neighbour and I decided that we didn't really want to go into the removals business anyway . And the young man , who turned out to be her nephew , seemed to agree .
Meanwhile Picasa has decided to post this photo of a Groninger Museum's car advertising their latest exhibition ,
I'm particularly taken by where the petrol cap is ....
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.