Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Having That Gloomy-End-of-December-Blues?

In my country, the Netherlands, we have an expression to describe the days before Dec. 24th: " the dark days before Christmas " (de donkere dagen voor kerst). If you, like me, suffer from a lack of sunshine, and this makes you feel a bit down, this is a post for you!


Now, if this --> 
is what you like to see, and darkness, gloom, dank, wet, windy, foggy weather is what you get...

you have a problem.
Oh... I don't mind frosty weather, as long as there is a frost, no wind, and sun!
But in my part of the world (my name for my country is The Wetlands, b.t.w.!), the conditions are usually as described above.
The Wetlands near my home town (photo by Wibe Koopman)
Here you go. This is what I experience during Winter...

I am a Summer child!!!

Perhaps it's because I was born during a sweltering August (long, long ago). But I am definitely a Summer person. I adore balmy sunny weather, eating al-fresco, sitting next to my goldfish pond, staying up until midnight under the wooden roof in my garden, watching the night moths on my flowers and smelling the roses. Being able to go outside without bundling up like an Eskimo. Seeing daylight during the day (is that so much to ask?) when going to work, instead of travelling to Rotterdam at 6.40 in the dark and coming back around 18.00 in the dark. I feel like a ruddy mole!

SO: the anti-dote!

I don't know what you do to battle the gloom, but I have a very simple remedy. I evoke Summer.
Instead of this...(photo by Wibe Koopman)

I imagine this! (photo by Wibe Koopman)

And I take a glass of wine, light a rose-scented candle, put on some lovely music, and dream of Summer!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Just for a laugh...

I'm dead-tired.
So I'll leave you tonight with this ;-)
Love that cat! Oh, by the you realise you can become 'a follower'? This means you will automatically get my posts..Now isn't that great?

Unfortunately I don't know the name of the artist who did the cat...

Sarah McQuaid - Part II

Hi again, this is 'Sarah - The Sequel, Because I Believe She Is an Amazing Musician'.
I hadn't quite finished about Sarah McQuaid. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll continue...

The lady gets around!
We have all heard, or read, about the travelling troubadours of old, right? And they were men, or so we are led to believe.
Well, I have found you a modern equivalent and it's an upgrade, for this is a lady. I follow her 'around' so to speak, on her travels across the United Kingdom and The United States, and gosh, she does make a lot of miles! (And makes me smile again and again by posting photos of the food she and her roady-cum-right-hand-man Martin eat on the road)
She plays festivals, but also tiny halls, where I imagine she has to put on her frock wrestling with the brooms in the closet, and does radio interviews with live performances which - absolutely amazing! - are always in key. If she has stumbled over lyrics or has missed chords, I haven't heard (and I have listened to hours and hours).

Sarah is one of those musicians who is able to work together with other musicians and blend in. She plays all kinds of music and does them all well. Obscure French stuff in a regional language even most French don't speak any longer? No problem. Elizabethan? Why not. Traditionals from the Blue Mountains? Sure. A new twist to a Sixties classic? Heck yeah. Pagan feminist (my interpretation, hope you won't mind, Sarah) songs with Zoë Pollock? Absolutely. And always, dotted in between like little hidden gems, her own autobiographical material. Beautiful loving songs about her much-missed mother, about her kids, about reflections next to a stream, about keeping the wolf from the door (ah...don't I know what that feels like!).
Okay. I'll stop now. Visit Sarah's website and treat yourself to a gift of music for the festive season. Go on!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

What? You don't know Sarah McQuaid? Oh dear. Well, here's your chance to remedy that!

Some years ago (4, I believe) my son and I visited St. Paddy's Festival in TweeHondjes. It was an evening to celebrate St. Patricks (weird, for a Dutch theatre, I know - they have changed it to 'Celtic Festival' since then). It was a night to remember, for not only did it introduce us to a guy called Albert Niland, but also to a singer-songwriter called Sarah McQuaid.

This was in the days-before-the-financial-crisis-hit-us, meaning the musical director could still ask for real Irish artists to cross the water. (It was only later that we realised that Sarah is in fact of mixed Spanish and American birth. But she has lived in Ireland. That counts for something, I suppose).
We were standing at the back of the 'small hall' (seating approx. 50 people I believe), listening to Albert Niland singing his heart out about the Kings of Kilburn High Road (marvelous song!), when a woman joined us, crowding in between Wibe and me. I immediately took notice, for she was definitely not a local. As soon as she whooped her enthusiasm for Albert, it dawned on me that this could indeed be one of the other singers.
This is what the artists see from stage.

And yes. Some hours later (she was on last) there she was. All alone on the stage of the large hall (seating 220, or something like that), with just a guitar. Which she didn't even use for the first song. She sang an a-capella Gaelic song with her rich warm alto voice, about some girl (which hardly anyone understood - obviously)...and it was beautiful.
Her playlist was not your run-of-the-mill Irish stuff, in fact it had some Spanish and some Americana on it as well. We thought she was interesting, and her music was lovely.

I got acquainted.

That evening I had spent all my money, so couldn't buy her CD. I really, really wanted it though, and looked her up on the Internet. Dropped her a line on her website, asking if I could send her the money in cash (yes - I know! I've learnt to use iDeal since then), and got a CD with a charming note. Not long afterwards, she dropped me a line, asking me if I could translate some Dutch reviews for her. Always happy to help out a fellow 'I-think-creating-is-more-important-than-big-bucks' human being, I did. (As they were rave reviews, they were fun to translate)

The lady gets around.

I've followed her progress ever since. Ah...the convenience of Internet! Now, you'll have to wait for Sarah - Part II. But in the meantime you can look her up, her URL is on the flyer.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Jodymoon; Holland's Best Kept Secret!

Last April my local theatre, TweeHondjes, persuaded me with a 'buy one-get one ticket free' to come listen to Jodymoon. Was it a good offer? It was the best offer of the year 2013!

Usually I am suspicious of such offers, for they often mean the group cannot get the theatre filled. But I know that TweeHondjes director Johan Veenstra has very good taste in music. So I decided to give this Jodymoon the benefit of the doubt.

I was blown away.
Digna Janssen, a willowy Southern belle based in Maastricht, told us she is, amongst other things, a singing coach. What she didn't explain but what we quickly found out was that she is an original songwriter with introspective lyrics and a great voice, and a personality to match. She told us Johan Smeets is responsible for the string arrangements; well, kudos to Johan!
Together with her partner Johan Smeets and backed up by a two-person string section (Marie-José Didderen on cello and Wim Spaepen on violin) she managed to transport her audience to higher levels of music appreciation. And she even gave us an impromptu singing lesson, which I personally thoroughly enjoyed.
Jodymoon was the surprise of the musical year in Hellevoetsluis.
Johan Smeets during his amazing solo
Why aren't they on TV?

Which takes me to the following question: WHY oh why isn't Jodymoon up there with other Dutch bands, as they are definitely as good as, for instance, those bands that are featured in DWDD every week? (Secretly, I think Jodymoon is better...)

A one-woman plug

So. I've decided to do a little pushing here. Mark this:
Jodymoon has released three albums. I've immediately bought all three the day after the concert.
So can you. To make this easier for you, I'll list them.

1. 'never gonna find it in another story' - 2008 (my favourite track: sleepless laura)
2. 'who are you now' - 2010 ( my favourite track: I could wait forever)
3. 'the life you never planned on' - 2012 (my favourite track: City lights * that guitar!!!!!)

Do look them up, they are on YouTube, and on FB, and have their own site, which I will link for you. I mean, I've done all the work for you, now all you have to do is listen. 

I can't wait for album #4!
17th January: I've got the next best thing: a link to their latest song. Enjoy!Money in our pockets by Jodymoon

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Do you like romantic naive art with a pagan twist? I've got the artist for you!

During my travels on the Internet I once in a while stumble upon an artist who's work I really, really like. Hannah Willow is such an artist.

Now, I publish this without her consent. I hope she won't mind... But below this post I'll put her URL, which is out there on FB anyway, so check her out! Not only does she draw wonderfully, but she is also a silver smith.

Hannah Willow's URL:

Beware the Christmas spirit!!

It's here! The countdown to those days of exhausted family spirit. I write 'exhausted', for as a teacher I WILL BE absolutely, totally, utterly washed-out by the time I have got the groceries in by December 24th.
My home-made wreath.
Preparation is everything.

Every year I start out by enthusiastically going into the garden with my secateurs. We have plenty of evergreen trees, and in our climate there usually is no severe frost until January, so they are at their best.

I use a straw base for the wreath, and pins. Easy-peasy.
Besides, I don't like tidy wreaths. So there are always bits sticking out. (A bit like myself; always bits sticking out)

I used to bang a nail into our front door, but ever since we have forked out a huge amount of money for a new one I'm not allowed to do that any longer, so I hang it from the flag holder.

One year I was sad to find that someone had stolen my wreath. My inherent positive side urged me to consider that someone liked this untidy wreath so much that they wanted it for themselves.

The proof
Here you are. The Rays of Light Creative Process in progress.

Handy, those pins!
Having a stylist in the family helps ;-)

My Mum is immensely creative, and even though I haven't inherited her ability to draw, paint or sculpt (and thank Heavens I haven't inherited her inability to carry a tune either!) I have got her sense of style. And so has my daughter. Which takes us to the local garden centre every year in the weeks before Christmas, to immerse ourselves in whatever is trendy that year.
This year, the trend is wood, nature and frosty.
Hence, we have bought some stuff (we always go there saying we will NOT buy anything), as usual. And had great fun decorating. This is only the beginning. We will 'do more'. Much more!
Which brings me to exhaustion. By the time it is december 24th, I will be dead on my feet. So:

Plan. Do not leave it until the last moment. Yes, the food plan is already in my head. So is the guest list.  And a merry time will be had by all (and if you doubt this, I will not invite you, so there)!
Table piece.


Feed the birds? Of course you do!

Yay! It's Sunday. Some people go to church, others to football matches (and some people argue that this is one-and-the-same), and I blog.
Today I would like to tell you about our birds. 

The home-made bird feeder in the birch.
We are fortunate in that we live next to the municipal park, which borders on a copse. There is a large 8-shaped pond in this park. So we have both songbirds, birds of prey and waterfowl in the proximity of our back garden. (And many dog-walkers, but this is besides the point).

Both my husband and I are avid bird lovers. This love of birds has been nurtured since youth. (Do people today still do this, I wonder? Give their kids an inherent sense of love for a particular bit of nature? Most of my pupils can't tell a tit from a gull!)
You could say that 'our' birds have enough opportunity to find their own food in the copse. But   then why do they visit our garden in such huge numbers? Because we lay their table. It's as simple as that.
We have watched them, read up on them, and spend a lot of time (hubby does; I blog) catering to their particular needs.

He knows, for example, that blue tits and other tits like their nuts from a red mesh bag. Once in a while he experiments with a yellow mesh bag, and - no! They prefer the red one. But does he hang this bag in any old way in any old tree? Of course not! It is hung just so.

Yesterday he came home with a special insect-feeder for the robins. And we put out grain and seeds for the ground feeders. Our black tom watches this with great interest. But he leaves the birds alone most of the time. His speciality is moles and voles. He leaves them for me - a little something for you! aren't I clever? - in my bed. 
But that's another story.