Making plans!

Making my hiking plans for the summer holidays, folks!

Hi there, all you hikers, ramblers, amblers and speed-walkers. Remember me? Taken in the Derbyshire Hills, 2016  (©R.Grashoff) I...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Spring in The Wetlands - It Has Arrived

Good morning, all over 80,000 of you, around the globe.
Hahaha, sure, I know there's nowhere near eighty-thousand of you logged in to my blog at a time, but seeing the number makes me a little proud anyway!



So...all of a sudden it is sunny. You have NO idea what that does to the average Dutchman! Or woman, in my case.
We rush outside, dragging high-pressure power cleaners with us , and our saws, and hammers, and grand-children (so much for enjoying the sunshine in peace in my back garden).  
In a moment, I myself will be rushing outside as well, as I want to start sowing my peas, and start hardening off my salad seedlings. And afterwards I need to do the weekend shopping.
Not terribly exciting I'm afraid.



I tend to upload my latest photos of my garden (and life in general) to Instagram these days. If you are interested in following me there as well as here, look for me under songsmith2962; my avatar is myself looking down at my mobile.

I realize this is a quickie; sorry about that, but the sun, the sun!
Talk to you later, bye!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Awed in Edinburgh - Scotland with my son (4)

This post was originally written at 29 juni 2013 om 18:45

I had looked forward to the last leg of our train journey enormously, as I have read and seen so much about Scotland.  But...reality differs from screens, and stories can be romanticized. In this case the Scottish borderlands turned out to be...pretty boring, actually.

We left The Lake District with pain in our hearts, as we could easily have spent another week there. But Edinburgh beckoned. So we travelled back to Oxenholme and there boarded the train for Waverley Station, together with Philip and Mrs Nag, two Ozzies from Sydney, who were 'doing' Europe in three weeks. He was sweet, she found fault with everything. For example the lovely room at our Windermere B&B, which she pronounced "so tiny that you couldn't swing a cat in there". (No...but why on earth would you want to, I wonder?)

I watched the landscape from our window, and saw yellowed grassland, sheep, and neglected white-washed cottages. Not very romantic and certainly not exciting. But the entry into Waverley Station made up for the boring journey. Coming into Edinburgh past those Victorian and Georgian monumental buildings, and the Monument, and seeing Edinburgh Castle on that craggy rock simply took my breath away. I couldn't wait to start exploring, but first we had to find a bed for the night. Here we were in luck, as Mrs Nag had booked a room in The Travelodge, and they had one for us as well. We quickly threw our bag into our room, and rushed out into the city.

It had been raining off and on whilst we were on the train, but the sun now peeked through the clouds, resulting in that typically British custom of pretending it is high Summer even though it is only 8 C, and all those pretty girls throwing off their winter clothes and parading through Princes Street in bare arms and legs. I kept on my Dutch winter coat, thanks.
Within 10 minutes we met our first kilted Scottish piper. And then the second. And the third. No question about it, this was Scotland!

We decided to visit the castle first, though the admission was a shock. We bought two tickets anyway, and spent hours walking through the history of the British army. (Why would a pacifist walk through halls and halls full of army memorabilia, you may wonder? To tell you the truth, I don't have a good answer to that...But I did sign the condolence register for some poor 19 year old who had stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan the day before.) The cellars were the best bit. Here they had kept their prisoners of war, amongst whom many Dutch sailors, some as young as 8 years old. 

Outside, in one of he courtyards, there was a youth orchestra playing their little hearts out. The funny thing was that they had decked themselves out in orange boas, orange wigs, red-white-blue bunting and paper crowns. How very insightful, as this day was the Dutch coronation of prince Willem-Alexander.  But a bit weird, as well. And, as I remarked to my son, looking as ridiculous as (normally) only our fellow countrymen can look. As I said this, a woman in front of me, with an orange Heidi-wig-with-orange-wooden-clog, turned around and gave us a flyer. Ah...the orchestra turned out to be from Haarlem (a town not far from Amsterdam). She invited us to Reid Concert Hall for that evening, where they would perform a free concert. We went, and had a smashing time.
The Noord-Hollands Youth Orchestra

The next day we wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens (always a favourite). But we couldn't take the bus, as we didn't have any 50 pence pieces, and the bus driver couldn't make change from twenty pounds. Shops and pubs being closed still, this meant having to walk there, and getting lost, and sopping wet. But it was worth it. 
Afterwards we spent two hours in the Scottish Museum, where there was an exhibition about the Vikings In Scotland. Two hours was ample for the exhibition, but not enough for the rest of this wonderful museum. We ran through the Egyptian hall, and then were politely but firmly evicted.

Time for a bite to eat, and a wee dram (I had promised myself this. When in Scotland...) We ended up in a pub named The Huxley, and I got some advice about an independent brewer who brewed a beer called Caesar Augustus. With hints of oak and flowers...gorgeous! The Huxley became our home away from home. We were never going to leave it again! After hours and hours in the company of Caesar Augustus, I decided that the dram wouldn't be needed anymore, and that frankly it would be a good idea to try to find a bed. And I was sharing mine with my son...
When we reached The Travelodge, the Polish construction crew underneath our window just fired up their concrete drills. Ah...that's why the street had been closed for all traffic. Ah...and they worked all night, in Edinburgh...I spared a drunken thought for Mrs Nag. Imagine having a room large enough to swing a cat in, but having to share it with a bunch of Polish concrete layers.

Somehow it seemed poetic, our first night in Norwich without a wink, and now our last night in Edinburgh sleepless as well.
When we put down on Schiphol the next morning, it rained.

This concludes our rambles around England and Scotland some years ago - way before Scottish Independence reared its head and Brexit. I have a firm wish to go back to Scotland and explore The Highlands. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Hikers Rule #1: Wear the Right Shoes! - England/Scotland with my son (3)

The original post was published on 26 juni 2013 om 18:40


There are hikers, and there are hikers. You can recognise the real ones by their sturdy boots. And that's where we went wrong. We were wearing the wrong shoes...

Our gracious hostess Paula took a good look at our flimsy shoes and pronounced them totally unfit for hiking in The Lake District. So sorry!
But we are stubborn people (us Dutchies usually are), and asked her if there really wasn't any route we could try? Perhaps one for foolish Dutchmen?

Well, we could always take the bus to Keswick, which is a charming little town, and perhaps we could walk for a bit along Derwent Water, if it wasn't too muddy, that is.
We took Paula's advice, and sat on top of a steamy bus, awed by the landscape we passed through. We saw numerous sheep, and countless daffodils. As we passed Dove Cottage, I thought about William Wordsworth's line: ' A host of golden daffodils'. I had tried to convey the beauty of his poem to my pupils last year, and now I was living it!

Keswick was lovely indeed, and the rain stopped, which was great. We took a public footpath along the edge of Derwent Water, but Paula knew her stuff: it proved to be too muddy for our shoes. Walking back amongst frolicking lambs and indifferent sheep, we decided to walk along the road to the next village, but after an hour saw another footpath leading away from Grasmere Lake, up to the hills. Surely that wouldn't be so muddy? Encouraged by the sunshine, and not at all hindered by the fact that we didn't have a map, we took off. Public footpath, how hard could it be?

Pretty soon we had to look carefully where to put our feet, and we had to cross burns by balancing from one stepping stone to the next. The wind, already blowing quite hard, picked up. On the ridge between Grasmere Lake and Rydal Lake, Wibe wanted to go up even higher, to the top, to take a panorama photo of the eight peaks around us. I take my latent vertigo very seriously, so I declined. Very undignified to be up there and not dare to come down..So I sat on a wooden seat, put down especially for scaredy cats like me. 'In Loving Memory of William Soye Backhouse 1891-1953'. 'Here's to you, Bill,' I mumbled. 'Hope you didn't take a tumble here.'

The wind picked up even more, and I started to get worried about Wibe. Gosh, this hill was steep, hopefully he wouldn't slip whilst taking photos. In my mind's eye I saw the rescue helicopter approach, fool that I was, in my inappropriate shoes!
Just as I was ready to start climbing to his rescue, an ancient woman passed me, with a walking stick and one of those small typically English dogs. 'Hello, lovely view, isn't it?' A couple of minutes later woman number two passed, this time with an umbrella and a slightly larger dog. I peeked at her boots. Yes. Very sturdy.  'Lovely day, isn't it?' And then woman number three. She had a man with her, and special nylon waterproofs above her hiking boots. She didn't greet me, but her man did. 'Sunny enough for you?'. He looked furtively at my shoes.
Thankfully Wibe came down the mountain just then, safe and sound! We descended to Rydal Lake and loved it. It took us another hour of hiking along pebbled beaches and dirt tracks strewn with sheep droppings to reach the first pub, The Badger, where we had cold pints of Magners cider and I admired those super-fit English old folks who ran about these hills.

We took a bus to Ambleside, where we had an Italian meal and then walked back to Windermere, which took us another hour. What a wonderful day! And all this in the wrong shoes!
Experience Rydal yourself in this charming little video by Eric Worsely (who was wearing the correct footwear).
A walk around Rydal Lake

Sunday, 26 February 2017

This, That and The Other about Weight.

Good afternoon, friendly readers,


Still too early for tulips in the garden! But the shops stock them in all colours and shapes.
My dwarf narcissus is in bloom in the front garden though, it's always the first, I adore it.

This is taking stock.
Remember I told you  8 weeks ago I would like to lose some weight? Preferably 10 kilos or so? Well, so far - nothing doing. It is really frustrating, as I do not eat great quantities (compared to some of my female colleagues I eat little), do not drink soft drinks, hardly ever indulge in sweeties or cakes and have cut down on my alcohol intake.

The trouble is, I do not believe in diets. All around me I see women my age (but also twenty years younger) struggling to lose their flab, and I have seen them going on every diet imaginable, with no LASTING result. Sure, they lose kilos initially, some of them staggering amounts (40 kilos?! Wow, respect! Except that it was back with a vengeance within 6 months after stopping the diet).

I come from an age where being slim was normal. When I look at the old faded photos from my youth (sixties, seventies, eighties) everyone was so slim compared to everyone today! But when I think back, we drank gallons of tea and the occasional beer, and that was it. Snacks consisted of 1 soup bowl of potatoes chips or a handful of peel it yourself peanuts on a Saturday evening, and that was it.
Fast food was chips from the chippy with mayonaise (it's a Dutch thing) and a kroket, and that was it. Going to an Italian, Chinese or Greek restaurant was the height of sophistication in my region, and that was it.

But then, slowly, starting in the mid-eighties, food changed and with it the food fads. All of a sudden everyone started buying soft drinks, and eating a pre-dinner snack called toostjes (small bite-sized toast with French cheese, sausages et such), and it became fashionable to buy lunch out instead of bringing your own cheese sandwiches. Having more money meant eating more and more meat and less veg.
People started gaining weight. So the food industry came with 'light' products in the nineties, and la-di-dah, everyone gained even more weight.


Then all kinds of food myths started doing the rounds. Eat only fruit in the morning, eat porridge, eat raw food, eat power food, avoid bananas, do-not-eat carbons, eat this, eat that.
Result? None what so ever; clever diet gurus made a fortune and people kept on gaining weight steadily. I see it in my daughter. She weighs 12 kilos more than I did at her age, and she can be considered a 'normal' eater.

The latest food instruction from our national health watch organization is to not eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day (we were supposed to do this), but up it to 10.
So first we have been turned into a society of gluttons, and now they are urging us to turn into goats.

I actually like vegetables, so I suppose I am lucky. But I know plenty of people (mostly bearded men) already struggling with the number 5. Who consider a huge steak with 5 green peas the perfect meal.

My solution? I don't have one. Sorry. Except...yesterday I saw someone on TV with proof that using a smaller plate actually makes a person eat less.
I'll try to eat my 10 plant forms a day, rainbow coloured, from a tea saucer. Will keep the pastas/rice to a minimum. And I'll keep indulging in the occasional beer or whisky (hey! comes from grains, yay!). Life is for living!
But I have booked my bicycle into the shop for a facelift and tune-up, ready to start cycling to work again. And I try to take a brisk walk every day. The gardening season starts soon; more bodily activity. I do the occasional dance around the room or in the local hard-rock cave. 
And I look wistfully at the Spring Collection I do not fit into.

So have a nice Sunday, won't you? Have a nice cucumber on me!


Monday, 20 February 2017

In the Footsteps of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter - England/Scotland with my Son (2)

Hi there!

Part 2 of the ramble I took some years ago around the North of England/Scotland. Enjoy!

23 juni 2013 om 16:11

Hiking in The Lake District has been our our 'to do list' for years. So when we finally came round to travelling to Windermere in May of 2013, my son Wibe and I were looking forward to it enormously.

We weren't sad to leave grubby Norwich, and the weather helped by being cold but dry. The train didn't run this Sunday, and we were herded into a bus to take us to Peterborough, which was soon filled to capacity by burly men having to travel up to Scotland.
Our destination was Windermere, which we would reach by train from Peterborough, via Leeds, Carlisle, and Oxenholme.

We only had to wait 10 minutes for the fast train to Leeds, and saw the landscape slowly but surely change. Green it was, and green it stayed, but it became more and more unkempt and rough at the edges.
In Leeds we nearly made a huge mistake by boarding the train to London, which arrived at the Carlisle platform only minutes before our train without anyone announcing anything. It was our sheer luck that we overheard two women talking, and quickly jumped out again.

Whilst Wibe dozed (he always falls asleep on trains) and the cheerful hubbub of the British voices around me faded to a background buzz, I was glued to the window. The hills became higher and wilder, and the only living things I saw were thousands of weathered sheep and one large bird of prey. 
The train passed small grey slated villages, and there was snow on the highest peaks. And dozens of waterfalls splashed down into brooks and burns. Sometimes we went into a tunnel, only to speed out of it into thick mist, and then going into the next tunnel and coming out of it into bright daylight again.
It was absolutely gorgeous. We travelled over brick arched bridges, spanning deep valleys, and I expected Voldemort to attack any minute.

At Carlisle we barely had time for a wee and a cup of much needed coffee in the quaint restaurant before we needed to be on the train to Oxenholme. And there we had to change trains yet again, this making it the 9th hour of our rail journey. By the time we reached Windermere, we were terribly tired. 
We walked downhill from Windermere Station, and entered the first hotel we saw, The Queen's Hotel, hoping they had B&B facilities. The bar was hopping with animated punters, and the barman burst out laughing when I asked him for a room.
'We don't do rooms, love'. But...it says 'hotel' on your front?
'Yeah, funny that, I can't understand why that sign is up there. Try a bit further down the road, there's B&Bs there.'
We saw a B&B in a tiny Victorian House which appealed to us, Lingmoor Guest House, and were welcomed by Paula, who turned out to be a wonderful hostess.

The next day we took a bus to Derwent Water, and walked for hours and hours along that lake, and Grasmere Lake, and Rydal Lake back to Windermere Lake, meeting lambs and sheep and old ladies who rushed up hills with their walking sticks and small pooches. 
But that's another story. I have provided you with a link to The Lake District from Above

Monday, 13 February 2017

Never Trust a Man with a Nappy on his Head! - England/Scotland with my son (1)

I've decided to re-post my very first hiking saga for you, since most of you will have missed this, due to the fact I didn't have that many readers back in the day...it comes in installments, so keep your eyes peeled.

Enjoy!


I've wanted to take a sentimental journey to Norwich for years. 
But you know how it is: no time, or no money, or no time and money.

Finally, this April, time, money, opportunity and my son all happened to coincide.
 I booked a ferry trip to Harwich, a train ticket to everywhere (I'll explain 
about this later) and packed lightly.
We arrived in Harwich after an uneventful night, and found a delighted ticket 
seller at Harwich station. He was only too happy to stamp our BritRail passes 
and told us to swop trains and platforms at Manningtree.

Norwich used to be a haunt of mine when I was in my teens and early twenties, 
and I hadn't been back there since. My memories of this Norfolk city are pleasant. 
The Close, the ancient Cathedral grounds, is rated amongst the most beautiful 
and un-spoilt of England. So I felt a happy anticipation when we left the station 
and walked along the river walk to the Cathedral.

Some hours, and a visit to the Keep and Sheringham Beach later, 
we needed to find ourselves a bed for the night. The first four B&B's had 
no vacancies. We walked uphill and found a hotel which did B&B. It looked a 
bit shabby, but clean, and (quite important) it had two single rooms for us for 
the price of a double, and they even threw in breakfast for free.

We decided to walk back to the station to get ourselves some sandwiches for 
dinner, and when we had almost reached our hotel, we passed a group of young
men coming from that direction. When they had passed us, we looked back. 
Did one of them really wear a Pamper on his head? Yes.
I tried to explain the quaint practice of 'Stag Night' to my son. We had a laugh 
about it. Silly Englishmen.

Our day had started at 5 am, so we were ready for bed at 10 pm. We had only 
just wished each other a good night when an almighty banging and shouting 
started up next door. Our two single rooms were the bookends to the Stag Boy's 
room, you could say. He needed a lot of Dutch courage. The shouting, screaming,
 singing, counting 'one, two, three, bottoms up', and eventually the howling fights 
and violent throwing up lasted until 4 am. We got 10 minutes sleep, then a fight 
started under our window.
We needed to be on a bus to Peterborough at 9.40, so we needed to get up early 
anyway. 
Somehow, Norwich didn't live up to its memories.

The Frustrations of a Newby Music Film Maker

Good afternoon to you, where ever you are!
You have missed me...at least, if you are a regular reader, you have. Otherwise you haven't...duh!
The reason for my absence is that I have been very busy with my regular work (let's not talk about that - although fulfilling it is extremely stressful at times and non-eventful at most others. I enjoy it. I like my pupils. It brings in the veggies. Full stop) and with my passion: singing.





I have mentioned that I am a singer/the singer (opinions differ here. I like to think I am THE singer) in three set-ups: a cover band consisting of 5 other musicians of a certain age and myself, and a duo consisting of my son in law (gorgeously young) and myself, and a jam session band consisting of  20 or so very different musicians who drop in or out and sort of do their thing - preferably at the same time as the others.
And as of yesterday I have been drafted to be the singer in a jazz band as well.
Hey-ho!
Sounds great. Is great, really, it is a lot of fun!

But: and here it comes...I have been toiling to upload a song to let you all listen to what I am working on. I've recorded it on my iPhone, using iMovie, and uploading a load of my own original photos to give you something to look at whilst listening to me singing a song.
So far, so good. It's finished, it's as good as it gets. And it's floating in cyber space...or is right now being performed on Pluto. 
But for the life of me I cannot seem to import it into my Mac. Or export it to YouTube or even FB (I mean..geez, FB takes anything, right?).
My iPhone keeps informing me that I do not have enough storing space. Well...fiddle-dee, I have space, since I've removed 3/4 of my stock of photos and songs. But my phone thinks differently.
So, clever clogs that I am, I thought to import it directly into my iMove on the Mac. Right? Nothing doing.
So there it is: a perfect little 4 minute song with images, lounging in my phone and determined to stay there and not be shifted.

I got soooooo frustrated!
Usually I routinely upload onto YouTube and then give you a link. Doesn't work.

So you will simply have to take it from me. I have tried. Honestly I have.
If there is anyone out there who knows how to fix this, please reply in the comment section.
In the meantime, I will keep on singing. 
It's just that I will have to sit on my hands in order not to throw my i-whatsits through the plate glass window!

UPDATE 2/27/2017: In the meantime I have managed to upload the song onto my Facebook page...yeah! If you are curious: the name is Song Smith, the photo a painting of a lizzard, the song is called Cry Me A River.