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...

Friday, 2 May 2014

Absence of Vanity

The 3rd "Ity" from the 18 compiled by the Swami.
And the first one that poses a frisson of doubt. Omnia Vanitas, right?

According to my Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary Vanity  means 'too much pride in your own appearance, abilities or achievements'. Or, more deep, 'the quality of being unimportant, especially compared with other things that are important' (the vanity of human ambition in the face of death).
The last one is the easier: if you ask me, anything is unimportant in the face of death, except death itself and how to avoid it.

Vanity. Yes, most definitely one of the less attractive human traits. And at the same time almost accepted as a given. Look at all those selfies on FB and Instagram. "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you"; Carly Simon sang it 40 years ago and not a lot has changed, really, has it?

If you practice absence of vanity, is that feeling at peace with yourself? Or is it synonymous for humility, the quality of being humble?

Am I vain? Hm. Absolutely where my appearance is concerned. I would never (ever!) go to the supermarket in sweatpants, or without combing my hair. And I wouldn't been seen dead in a bikini these days. And I've invested in far too expensive L'Occitane moisturizer only yesterday.

How about those abilities and achievements, then? I'm not vain about those, surely? I'm much too insecure for that. Although I am proud of the books I have published. Is that vanity?

If you want to achieve absence of vanity, does that mean you have to walk around make-up less, or can we take care of our appearance, make ourselves attractive, without it being vanity?

According to Wikipedia (thanks, guys!): 
In conventional parlance, vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th century it did not have such narcissisticundertones, and merely meant futility.[1] The related term vainglory is now often seen as an archaic synonym for vanity, but originally meant boasting in vain, i.e. unjustified boasting;[2] although glory is now seen as having an exclusively positive meaning, the Latin term gloria (from which it derives) roughly means boasting, and was often used as a negative criticism

Vainglory, what a lovely word. It sounds too sweet for its meaning. Futility- now that is a word to work with! When you have reached my age (almost 56), you come to realise it is futile to want to look as gorgeous as your daughter. Vanity in the looks department sense is a waste of time and money. You can botox yourself to the extent that your face looks like a wrinkle-less mask, but your hands will always give you away instantly.

What do you think? Should we rebel, and revert back to our natural state of being? No more hair dye? No more anti-wrinkle cream? Ban all dieting? 
Let ourselves go, like most men of our age do? We would achieve absence of vanity, perhaps. But also absence of joy-de-vivre. I do like my L'Occitane, I do.

Beautiful Hellevoetsluis - 2

Last time I showed you a corner of the Kooistee; this time I'll show you another corner of my suburb.
We are on the edge, our street is the last one of the Kooistee. When we walk the other way, 'away' from the streets, we can easily reach the sea arm called the Haringvliet.
This is of a totally different beauty.
We used to live overlooking this stretch of water, and sometimes I still miss the view. I like to walk to the water in Summer and watch the boats.

Hellevoetsluis, naval port on the Haringvliet.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A New Serial: Beautiful Hellevoetsluis!

This evening I had a short discussion with my daughter. Her argument was that Hellevoetsluis, and especially the part of Hellevoetsluis we live in (called the Kooistee) is ugly, or un-attractive at the least.
To prove her wrong, I took her for an hour long walk. In the rain (poor girl). To show her that the Kooistee may be a working men's suburb, but that there is beauty here.
This is the result.
And I thought that I would show you some more pictures from time to time, to prove that even the Kooistee has its merits.

These photos are from one and the same corner, on the Orion. A very early rose and  three kinds of clematis.
Our route this evening. (Google maps): Left on Trambaanpad, right on Mandenmaker, right to Nijverheidsweg, left to Kanaalweg, left to Orion (took 4 photos on the corner), left to Nereus, right to Dierenriem, straight on to Trambaanpad.

Next time I'll show you another route. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Beating the Rain - how does rain affect you?

After a gloriously sunny week, where you start to believe it will always be this lovely outside, we are back to the grey cloudy skies and rain from time to time. Ordinary Wetlands weather. I haven't dubbed The Netherlands 'The Wetlands' for nothing!

It made me wonder: what does rain mean to YOU?

Is it life-bringing, do you await it with impatience, like I know some people do in the South of India? My dear friend Smitha Pai has been known to beg for the rains to start... A concept so alien to me that it always makes me laugh when I see her writing it down.

Over here in The Wetlands people are divided roughly into three categories:
1. they hate the rain
2. they don't mind the rain, but prefer it not to rain too often
3. they are indifferent to the rain

People from category 1 save up their money in order to flee to the South or even Asia at every opportunity. I know many folks in this category. The weird thing is that they come back with tales of monsoons in Thailand, or rainy season in Florida or the Caribbean and this rain is apparently in a different category all together. (Less wet?)

People from category 2 are the ones who, ever optimistic, buy lounge sets for their gardens, but include huge umbrellas. Better to be safe than sorry, eh? I belong to this category myself, and have a porch next to my house with a heater. We have been known to barbecue under this in the pouring rain, with thick sweaters and the heater on. But honesty begs me to admit that two years ago, when it rained all through the summer holidays, it drove me nuts. And I fled to Portugal for a fortnight.

People from category 3 slog through downpours in their shorts and stoically dig their potatoes whilst the puddles slosh over the rims of their shoes. I admire them!
Last  August I met a young guy (in shorts, and short sleeves, on sandals) on a Rotterdam street while the rain poured from his face, and he had a sopping wet towel wrapped around his neck. I burst out laughing and he burst out laughing as well, and it made my day.

Rain can be very erotic.
One of the defining records of my youth is the one (I believe it was Barry White, I'm not sure, I'll look it up) where a woman tells the story of walking in the rain with the one she loves.  You hear the sound of the rain, and people calling out to each other, and car doors slamming, and somehow this is so intimate that it made me (12 at the time) long for a lover of my own. (And it made me want to learn how to play the bass, something I am doing now that I am in my late fifties. Just listen to the last part of the song - a bass lick to die for!)

Obviously rain can be nasty.
No need to tell that to people around my parts. Rain, especially combined with storm, is something to be reckoned with. We do take our weather very seriously over here. People pay huge amounts of money to get themselves a good storm insurance.

Today we have actually been warned that the weather could become bad. So far all we've had was rain. The bearable kind.

Monday, 28 April 2014

4,000 readers - Let Me Brighten Up Your Day!

"Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life"

This is what we in my country call "tegeltjes-wijsheid" (wall platter wisdom), and the shops are full of those wall decorations at the moment.

I have the one I started this post with hanging on my living room wall. To remind myself (and my family) that it is no use at all to keep living in the future, because "when I am....(fill in the blank yourself) THEN I will be happy" is a waste of precious time. It is NOW that you should live for. And if you can make now a happy time, in however small a way, perhaps even for just a moment, then you have achieved something worthwhile.

You, in Thailand, in Sri-Lanka, in China, in Sweden, in France, in Germany, where-ever you may live, you brighten up my days by reading Rays of Light. Writing is an urge, for me. This blog has taken the place of the diaries I used to keep. With the big difference that now I write things that will be read by others. So I censor myself. And this restriction is a positive thing, as it forces me to keep looking at the bright side.
Sure, I do have my darker moments (and blogs), but I'm certain you will understand. I am human.

This girl is an image of the girl I am deep down. And there is a girl (or boy) like this hidden deep within you too.

So this is my thank-you to you all reading my blog this time. Do visit (and read) again!
Until next time! (And don't forget to check out the musical link down below!)



Good afternoon to all my regular and-not-so-regular readers!
Last week I started blogging about "The 18 Ities", inspired and challenged by Happinez Magazine.
This week's post is about Regularity.

The fact that the same thing happens again and again, and usually with the same length of time between each time it happens.
The fact that  something is arranged evenly or in an organized pattern.
A thing that has a pattern to it.

Regularity means a lot of different things to me.
The first thing that comes to mind is that there can be both peace and boredom attached to regularity. There is a certain predictability, thus peace (you don't have to think about it), to having to travel to work at the same bus every day. Meeting the same people at the bus stop. Seeing the same people at the tube platform, where everyone predictably takes up position at the same spot every day. At the same time it can be boring as hell.

Regularity is going to the toilet for a bowel movement at the same time of day every day. If you, like me, have experienced a period of troubles in that department, you know how wonderful it is to be regular in that aspect.

Regularity is going to the same holiday destination for twenty years in a row (why do people want to DO that????), often sleeping at the same spot as well. It provides a feeling of security, I guess.

Regularity is trying to write a blog post every day. Or every two days, or every week.

Regularity is having your period every 4 weeks, instead of having to wait with baited breath whether you are having one or if you are with child. In these days of birth control this is hardly an issue any more, but I can remember my own adolescent years, when birth control  for most girls meant being careful.

Regularity can mean having the same argument about the same issues with your spouse time and again.

To me, regularity is all around me in my garden. Lots of flowers and leaves are patterned very regularly, but so are the wings of butterflies. It is the opposite of chaos. It is connected to tranquility. 

What does it mean to you?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tired But Content - How are You?

This is the day after the night before...
And I am winding down after a hectic week at work and the birthday party for my kids. 
We had fun, our friends ate all the kebab with saté sauce, and the mess was minimal (always nice).

So what did I do today? I cleared that minimal mess in the house and then spent some peaceful hours in the garden clearing out the weeds from in between our cobbles.

See the difference?
This is my mindfulness exercise which I practice numerous times every Spring. If I do this a couple of hours every day, I will have cleared the entire garden in two weeks.
Many of our acquaintances have pronounced us MAD. But we like our cobbles. They are old-fashioned, and have been salvaged from the old road which used to run from Hellevoetsluis to Den Briel before it was tarred. 

I was too tired to do more cooking, so went to get a take-away, and look what I found on the little square where the local chippy is:

Honestly. Some people have a weird idea of fun... There's bikes in every tree, can you see?

Time to have another cup of tea and some left-over cake.
See you!