Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 - 1 (Harwich to Richmond)

When the possibility arose that I would be able to go on holiday  after all this year (due to my caregiver responsibilities that was very un...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Our pets are part of the family. How about yours?

Tigger (+) and Gina, then newly arrived

Did you grow up with pets in your family? We had a small zoo, when I was young. Chickens, geese, ducks, a horse, goats, a dog, always more than 1 cat, rabbits, guinea pigs, a tortoise and agapornisses and tropical fish.
So it's no surprise that I want my children to grow up with pets as well, I suppose.

That photo above the blog is from 2005, and shows you a typical scene....we do love our catnaps!


Ah....seeing this makes me realise how grey our Gina has become over the years. Here she was young,  and having a good time with my daughter on the lawn.
She's 10 now, and grey and becoming an old lady, who is stiff in the mornings and who has her old lady whines. And who has days of not wanting to leave her basket for walks, and who has to sniff at e-ve-ry tuft of grass along the way when she does like her walk.


Tigger, the large tomcat we adopted, and had with us for 10 years. And Snuf and Snuitje, who shared the rabbit hutch and were devoted to each other.

Tigger was very macho, and most of our guests (as well as family) were a tiny bit afraid of him. He had the nasty habit of hiding just around the corner of the kitchen, and then swiping at your ankles when you passed him with your hands full of dirty dishes. He used his nails, too. Told you, macho. He never did it to me (Ha! Still proud of that!). And was a big softy when it came to snuggling up to the kids.


He kept all the other neighbourhood cats out of our garden, and dogs as well. But he had a soft spot for our dogs. First Freya, and then Gina. He would share their basket, and snuggle up to them as well.


I don't very often get sentimental, it's not in my nature, but when I look at those old photographs they bring tears to my eyes.

Just look at that face. I'm me. I'm cat. I'm ruler of this house.
And he was. And I miss him to bits.

Our dovecote. It blew down a couple of years ago, and we had to rehouse the doves.

And here we are in the present again. No more doves. No more Tigger. No more rodents. But still old Gina and Viggo the Magnificent.



Friday, 21 February 2014

Do you like swans? Then let me introduce you to ours.


We live very near a large communal park pond, so are used to seeing waterfowl. I am not afraid of the mute swans, but I do respect them, as their heads are on a level with mine when they stretch their long necks.
I'll tell you about an adventure we had with a big male a couple of years ago, but first I'll show you 'our' swans.
They've had a mild winter this year, so we haven't had to feed them up, but they've got good memories and know that we feed the birds. So every day they waddle up to our garden gate and see if there is anything tasty within their reach.


This couple has been together for years. They like the birdseed which has been scattered by the doves, who are very messy eaters.

It's a pity there is no soundtrack with these photos, as they were both making noises to me: a mix of hisses and fluting sounds. 

Viggo, big butch tom that he thinks he is, felt the need to show them that he comes first in the Koopman food chain. But the swans weren't impressed.

Right. The Swan Tale. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Some years ago, in the Springtime, a lonely male mute swan was trying his wings over the pond. He was young, he was looking to show off to the females in the pond, and he had been circling for quite some time.
I don't know what happened exactly, but what I do know is that my neighbour was just coming out of her front door to pick up her kid from school. And our show-off swan misjudged his pass over our roof, and flew slap-bang straight into their gutter with an almighty crash, lost it, and fell onto the head of my neighbour. Who screamed loud enough to make me come running to see who was killing her.
She was on the ground, with the unconscious swan on top of her, and practically hysterical. But unharmed.

I ran to get my husband, who lifted the swan, and took it to our back garden, whilst I helped my neighbour. She was okay, and quickly left for the school, and I went to see what was happening with the swan.

Theo had put it on the garden bench, and we debated whether to call a vet, or the special 'bird lady' we know in a village nearby, and who has helped us out with injured birds before. But the swan opened one eye, and then opened the other eye, and looked at us. So we decided to leave it alone for a bit, to see what it would do.

Within half an hour it sat up, and sat very quietly on the bench for another 15 minutes or so. And then it hopped onto the ground, and took a leisurely tour of the garden. When it passed the gate, I opened it, and the swan walked out. His head was as high as mine, and as he passed me he looked me straight into the eye and mumbled something. I like to think it was  'thanks, bye'.
C Wibe Koopman Photography







Thursday, 20 February 2014

Update on Jodymoon ~ The Antidote



Hi. A while ago I blogged about a Dutch band I consider to be bloody good: Jodymoon.
They've just uploaded one of their old(er) songs, and I thought I'd be bold and let you in on the secret.

What secret?

This secret. Jodymoon is superb. Sssssssshhhhhhhh! Keep it to yourself and enjoy the music.

Happiness is not a destination - it's a way of life


I have got the photo from the Internet (where else?), no idea where this placard was used originally.
But that doesn't really matter. What matters is what's written on it.

Whilst we Dutchies have won yet another 5 medals for ice skating yesterday, the news brings me images of a burning Kiev. The contrast couldn't be any greater.

I wish we could take that placard and hang it up, high in the sky, above our poor, stricken, confused, fucked up world. 

And mean it.

Whatever religion you bow to, I'm certain that somewhere in your holy books there is a line which goes something like this: treat others how you would like to  be treated yourself.
I would like to add this: treat others with kindness.

It's very fashionable to be mindful, over here in the West. Hence the title of this post.
But how can you be mindful, happy, fulfilled, content, when there is a lack of kindness in your life? Or, to turn it around: how can you NOT be kind to others and yet expect to be happy?
So, I'd like to amend the title:

Kindness is not a state of being for wusses - it's a way of life


Right. Frightfully righteous lecture over. Next time I'll post something comfortable again, I promise!
I'll leave you with a link. Lyn Collins - Think (about it)  :-)





Wednesday, 19 February 2014

You've done it! - You've clicked 2,001 times on Rays of Light. Here's my thank-you gift for you.

Thank you for reading my blog!

You have NO idea how happy you make me by reading the little stories I upload almost every day. And especially YOU, Dianne Overbeeke, as you've just pushed the ticker past the 2,000 mark.
What gives me such a kick is that people from all over this world are interested enough to click on my blog, simply by looking at a #. And thinking: oh, I'd like to read about that.
 It means that we are all connected.
Yes, Russia, we are connected. Yes, South-Korea, South-Africa, Australia, India, far away though you may be, we are connected. Yes, Canada, we are connected. And New Zealand, just saw you appear this morning, hi there!

And my European readers who share this continent with me: we are connected. 
Spain! How are you? Ever since I visited your country when I was a child of 5, I've loved it.

I am very happy that we are "in-tune" so to speak. And hope our virtual relationship will prove fruitful, colourful and beautiful. Tot de volgende keer!



I've been pondering a suitable thank-you gift for you all (I believe in bestowing gifts).
The last time I gave you a recipe. I think this time I will give you a song.
You'll find the link below this post.










Live in the Moment

My darling cat Viggo just told me he wants food and he wants it NOW.


He has a very effective way of communicating this want: he demolishes that which has my attention at that precise moment.
So it may be my newspaper, or my box of tissues, or he bites my Mac, or - in this case - he hurtles pieces of my centre piece all across the table.


Look at him, looking innocent.

I always observe my pets with interest, as they have the ability to totally live in the moment. Mindfulness in motion. Or in immobility, as the case may be.

Take Gina. After a rainy start of the day (she was safe in her basket, no need for walkies, thank you), the sun is now out, and look...she ambles into the garden and searches out the sunniest spot.

I will have to take her walking soon though, otherwise she will demonstrate her wish for a pee in the copse by digging a hole in my flower bed.

Meanwhile, halfway through my spring break: I am still winding down from work. 
I read, I attempt to get a blues lick into my fingers (don't say anything, thanks. Taking up the guitar at age 55 is a challenge, to put it mildly), I look at the flowers, I look at the pile of washing and quickly look away, I idly wonder if my son will be satisfied with just potatoes for dinner (no!)....and the day just passes.
And it is bliss.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Almost there......Have a good day, you all! I know I will!

Good morning to you, over there in sunny warm Thailand.
Or in cold, dank, wet England...hope you are still keeping dry feet over there?!

I had a look at my stats, and I suspect I will be reaching the 2,000 readers sometime today or this evening. Yay!!! 
(You cannot see my face, which is a good thing as I just walked my dog without combing my hair - it was an emergency according to Gina -  but I have this huge grin plastered all over my face!)

Look what I bought myself, to celebrate life....


Sweet, eh?!

LIFE HAS NO MEANING WITHOUT MUSIC

MUSIC IS THE SOUNDTRACK TO LIFE

Two quotes for you. I could've thought them up, but I haven't. Do you know who has?
Kudos to you if you do (I know, but I cheated; they were on the box my guitar came in)

Have a great day, and "speak" to you soon!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Walk Off The Earth - A Love Letter.

Like most modern music lovers I surf YouTube to find new songs and new bands (and to do research for my own singing). 
There is such a wealth of committed, able, artistic musicians to be found there, it never ceases to amaze me.

A couple of years ago, I clicked "blind" on a cover of a song by Rihanna, because I was researching this song in order to use it at school. The band I clicked on was called WOTE, and I thought what a weird name, not something that sits easily in my ear, so to speak.




But their proper name turned out to be Walk Off The Earth, and their rendering of "Man Down"  blew me away, it was such fun to watch and to listen to. (My pupils, when later asked to compare the original version to the WOTE version, all said that Rihanna is more beautiful, but WOTE was much more fun).

So I clicked on and on, and listened to all of their uploads in one session, spending hours. And golly, are they good or what?! They spend a lot of time on their videos, which are funny, original, and painstakingly edited. And (sorry guys and girls) I often prefer their version to the original one. 
Do you want to see 5 people playing one guitar and sounding amazing? Look for their version of "Somebody that I used to know" (Gotye)

They do play their own music as well, and they do sell it, so check this out!



So, I thought, which song can I upload that will convince you how wonderful this Canadian band actually is? I chose "Royals", by Lorde. The link is at the bottom of this page. 
I love'em.




Sunday, 16 February 2014

What are your passions?

My natural father (who hasn't played any part in my life, to put it mildly) was a good singer, I'm told. My mother cannot sing without everyone wanting to leave the room as soon as possible; crows sing like nightingales compared to her song, bless her heart.



Choir
My step-father sang in the Rotterdam Philharmonic Choir; tenor. The highlights of the choir's year were the Christmas concert (which I was allowed to attend) and the Matth ëus Passion (which was deemed "too heavy"  for a child), and boy, did I want to be in that choir!
"Wait until you are 18", I was told.

But by the time I was 18, I had moved away from home, and the Philharmonic was a thing in the past. I moved on to other adventures, singing in the amateur choir of musicals and Greek Tragedies, and discovered a passion for music.

But it has taken me 55 years to actually start to take singing lessons. Why? Well, they are very expensive, for a start. But also, it seemed so...extravagant. And all those programmes on TV stress that everyone should be a natural, have a natural talent, the less polished the better.
Photograph by Wibe Koopman

Passions
What made me change my mind was the remark by a psychologist who urged me to follow my heart, and look deep within to find my passion. 
I was on the verge of a work-related burnout, and desperately cast about to stop myself from sliding off the edge.
What were my passions? Singing and writing.
Well, writing was easy. Hence this blog.
Singing took some doing. I tried to find a choir, but none were available that would either take new members or took my fancy (I do have standards). 
But, just as I was giving up, I got a leaflet that told me a respected singing coach was taking new pupils. I got information, nearly went into shock over the price, but took the plunge.

And now I'm preparing to sing two songs at a concert we'll be giving in April, and I've joined the choir she has newly founded.

And it's such fun!
I love it!
This evening, she gave me an aria by Händel to practice. My 'natural' heart songs are blues and jazz, so Händel is way, way, way out of my comfort zone! But I'm going to throw myself into this piece about trees from Xerxes, and I'm going to master it.

The bonus is that I've regained my balance for the best part. And following my passions has played a major part in my recovery. I can recommend it. Follow your heart song!






I Did It!!! Thanks for all your support!


Yesterday I told you about my irrational fear of driving our Volkswagen Transporter, didn't I?
Well. I DID IT.
And it was...fine, really. I told myself I was going to drive that car, and I wasn't even nervous...except for one moment whilst driving into the Benelux tunnel.

I took a terrible selfie to prove to you I'm not fibbing, but for some strange reason my phone refuses to upload it to Google Drive and hence to this blog.

Anyway...I'm very happy I took this hurdle, as it means I can drive to my choir practice instead of having to take a bus late at night. Tra-lalalala!

Have a smashing Sunday, you! I know I will!

Those people sending me uplifting messages yesterday...thanks so much!

My 'selfie' to prove it...