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, 15 April 2017

Viggo's Blog - What Does An Easter Bunny Have That I Don't?

Hey there, fans, Viggo here.
How have you all been? Yeah, yeah, I know, it has been a while. Too long, probably, I know you miss me when I don't post.

I've been busy.
It takes up all my energy to keep up with young Bowie, the Brat. He hasn't stopped growing, and it pains me to admit he is now taller than I am... I still have twice his weight and girth though, and I am eating daily to keep it that way.

The trouble is, my woman says, that The Brat eats daily as well. Pfhaw! I eat far more often! Stop interrupting me, woman!

So, today is the day when all people in my hood are rushing around to get the Easter Breakfast Shopping in. I have never seen such nonsense. What is the attraction of those chocolate bunnies, I wonder? And what is the point of all those eggs? I just don't get it.
Mate told me that it is simply a human thing, like they dress in orange and swill beer when there's a football match on. But Mate lives in a household with three males, and my house is a football-free zone with two females in it and an honorary male who only swills beer whilst playing guitar. That doesn't count. Besides, I like beer. He tends to leave his cans and bottles on the floor, so I can have a good sniff and a lick around the rim. His coats always smell interesting too. But I digress.

The Brat has celebrated his birthday last week: 1 year old already. I remember him coming to the house for the first time...such a sweet little thing he seemed. Little did I know...Oh, he runs up to me to lick my chops, and grooms me, and he purrs into my ears, but I know what he is up to!He wants to be alpha cat!

There can only be One Top Cat in this house, and that is ME!
Oh, by the way, did I tell you about the White Goddess? I didn't, did I?
She apparently was on her 9th life already, and she lost it. One day last month me and Mate I were chilling on the pavement late at night, it was a very nice balmy night in fact, and there was a huge earsplitting screeching sound mixed with a sort of thump. And then this dead-sounding quietness all around. So we went to investigate, and we saw nothing at first, but then Nose turned up from the other side street, and he pointed out a very flat thing in the street. You cannot call that a cat anymore, that's rude, so I won't.
Anyway, she always ignored me, the snooty feline, so I cannot pretend I'm sad.
She was mighty sexy. When not flattened.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Garden Delights For Tender Hearts

Hasn't it been a glorious day today?
Well, it has been here!
I've told you before that I live in the wetlands of The Netherlands - the delta of all deltas, where the atmosphere is naturally moist, the humours are damp and the skies are often grey and low.

My violas and English grass - such easy going plants.

So it is not very baffling that we crave sunshine, colour and warmth, especially after the long wet grey winter months.
And then...when the sun does come out, we do too. We rush to our garden centers to stock up on compost, pots and plants. The Dutch summers are short, so there's no time to waste!
I love it. The only snag is that it is an expensive hobby when you buy everything from the center. So this year I decided to sow my own seeds, and hopefully first save myself some money on the plants, and second save myself money again because I've grown a lot of my own salad greens and veg.

Radicchio and sunflowers

So my window sill has been chock full of all kinds of containers holding seedlings. Viggo has been quite annoyed to be unceremoniously shoved to the corner. He has taken his sweet revenge though, by nibbling on the seedlings. Mwah. I have plenty.

They are growing very rapidly, so today I potted them on.

Having my own two cats and most of the neighborhoods kitties around as well, and plenty of song birds, I have had to cover it up with netting.
There's two kinds of lettuce in the 5 black containers, sugarsnaps and swiss chard in the wooden box and right in the back is more lettuce. The rather bedraggled plant in the foreground is a beloved hanging plant I overwintered in the attic. It is a bit sad, because I divided it, which gave it a shock. But it is gorgeous when in bloom and it will flower until the first frost.

This is my herb table, but as you can see I can never resist adding some flowering plants as well.

To add some colour to my mostly green beds, I've planted lilies, which will be in bloom in June/July. I adore lilies; they look lovely and smell wonderful.

the herb table from the side

My part of the town is quite old, and most of the older traditional houses still have a traditional front garden bordering the road, instead of having it paved over and added a well-meant but often puny container with one hugely overpriced shrub (as dictated by stark minimalistic fashion)

This house is not far from my own, and every time I pass it (which is almost daily) I enjoy the magnolia. Isn't it wonderful?

Right. Time to do one quick round with the watering can.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

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'. 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