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, 10 May 2014

Our Garden in May

Hi there!
Thought I'd share some more garden talk with you. Many of you seem to enjoy my gardening chit-chat. It has a high "cosy with a tea cosy" level, so if it is too much for you, skip it.

Here you are; shades of Middle Earth... I adore Nasturtiums. These ones are actually last year's which have survived our very mild winter. I allow it to creep and climb where ever it wants to go. We eat it, too! (If you want to eat some, make sure you wash it though, it's very susceptible to black garden lice).

It has been raining cats and dogs for the last 48 hours, so our large pond rocks are showing their best colours. Do you see that net? We've had surprise visits from the local blue heron...and it ate my favourite fish! The blue b...! 
(Now, before you report me to your RSPCA, of course I know that herons need to eat. But there's a perfectly good huge municipal pond right at the back of our garden, absolutely stocked full of wild fish, so I don't know why that bird wants to gobble up my pet ones!)

Well, here it is, I promised you some weeks ago, and look. Men-high digitalis. 

I don't tell you that much about my husband...It's because he's quite private. But I'm sure he doesn't mind me telling you that one of his pet projects is building bird houses. These two are the ones he's knocked together in a hurry (he's always too busy), but I know that as soon as he really has time to make something more elaborate, it will be looking something like this.

When we visited Canada some years ago we saw the most wonderful bird houses, and he's always wanted to make some.

Okay, enough about the garden for today. Make sure you enjoy yours! And recite this little poem whilst you are weeding :-)

If you want to be happy for a short time, get drunk
Happy for a long time, fall in love
Happy for ever, take up gardening!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Beauty is the Eye of the Beholder! - Sincerity.

Hi there! Did you enjoy your day so far?
Over here in The Wetlands there is a storm blowing... It is beautiful, in a way, but it's a dangerous beauty.
When I walked Gina I saw quite a few trees that had been blown over, due to their crowns being too heavy from the tons of rain we've had all day yesterday.

Today I want to write to you about beauty. And it ties into the 18 Ities I have been writing about for the last couple of weeks. The 4th Ity is Sincerity. And I happen to believe that beauty and sincerity in humans are linked very closely together.
To be sincere, is to be real, and to be true to yourself. And sincere people have a certain glow, an outer aura that shines through because of their inner convictions.
If you get my drift. I like to think that I am sincere. I know I have been called boring because of my sincerity...Well, what can I say? Judge for yourself.

Beauty is complex. You can have the beauty associated with top models, who have beautiful faces and beautiful bodies (and beautiful bank balances), but this beauty can be all show and rather empty.
And besides that, it can give us, ordinary un-beautiful women, a feeling of inadequacy. 
No need!!!!
I am going to show you, right here, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that people, even people with wrinkles, illnesses and/or tottering bank balances can indeed be called beautiful as well.

An example. Look at this photo (taken by Wibe Koopman):

What do you see? A young woman in a field of frothy flowers. Is she beautiful? I think so, I think she's gorgeous, but then I am biased, this is my daughter.
You could argue that she looks cross. Does that make her less beautiful? Would the knowledge that she's a loving person make her look less cross in your eyes? Or the fact that she was explicitly told not to smile?

Another example.

This woman is bald. Baldness is thought of as ugly, unattractive, especially in a woman. In men it is more accepted, especially now that shaving your head is in vogue in my country.
But what makes this woman beautiful? For I think she is! It is the look in her eyes, the slight smile on her lips, her dignity.
This woman has cancer, so she has lost her hair. I found her photo on the Internet (where else), and I wanted to show it to you. It is an initiative which helps women with cancer feel that they are more than their illness. So, in itself, this initiative is beautiful as well.

Here's another example.

Gorgeous, isn't she?
Now: how about this one.

Yep. A woman with a beard.  
I can hear you think: OMG, a woman with a beard!! And I must admit, when I saw her for the first time, last night on TV, my first reaction was this: "Oh...really...what's next?"  But then she opened her mouth, and what came out was so beautifully sung that I forgot all my reservations. And her eyes showed that she was singing her heart out with sincerity.
And within seconds I had accepted that beard. As I said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
She is in the race for the Eurovision Song Contest, her name is Conchita Wurst, and there have been countries that wanted her disqualified for being a disgrace. Namely: a transgender with a beard. 
I say: shame on those countries! I see a beauty, who happens to sing the stars out of the sky. 
Obviously I still root for The Common Linnets. But if they cannot win, I hope Conchita will.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Common Linnets - Holland's Hope

This evening is the first round of the Eurovision Song Contest in Denmark, and of course we'll be rooting for our country!

We don't have that good a track record... Last year Anouk did well with her heavy and melancholy Birds song, but she didn't win. In fact, it has been eons since we've won...
Or at least it feels like eons...

You probably do not know this, but Ilse de Lange has been one of our best singers for the last twenty years. And Waylon is a great singer as well, and much under-rated. Now they have combined their talents in an effort to get our tiny country into the finals.

We will be keeping our fingers, thumbs and all 10 toes crossed for them!

Monday, 5 May 2014

My Travels through Rotterdam - Blijdorp Zoo

Yesterday I took my daughter to my roots: Blijdorp Zoo. I was born just around the corner, and this zoo feels like 'home'.

One of my earliest memories is walking with my hand in that of my Grandma as a two-year old, along the avenue with the colourful Aras on both sides.

That avenue is gone, as well as the Aras. Large birds chained to sitting poles is not of this day and age. But the flamingo meadow is still there, right at the front of the zoo, near the old entrance.

Sorry! The 'B' has dropped off.. My Samsung isn't that good a camera.
'Blijdorp" means "happy village", and it has many happy memories for me. My Mum used to take me very regularly, and I witnessed all the changes to this zoo through the years. There has been a huge change of opinion on how animals should be kept in captivity since I started going there in 1958.
The cages, often tiny, have been demolished and changed to more natural habitats, where animals that belong together in the wild are put together, or near each other. And there is an Oceanium, where you walk underneath sharks and manta rays that swim overhead, and where you can stare at two huge and terrifying green eels with very sharp teeth, who stare right back at you.
But it is still a zoo. With animals in enclosures. And often not very happy.
So, instead of the traumatised tiger, or the zonked out lions, or the dozing ice bears and snoozing hyenas, I have taken photos for you of other things that captured my eye. And I have let myself be inspired by the things I remember loving as a toddler.

Here we are: the dell. Now long since changed into the Chinese garden in the 'Asia' part of the zoo. In the background you can spot the temple and bridge, but this spot is what I used to love as a child, and still do. The woodland plants. My grandma used to sigh that she paid good money to take me to Blijdorp and all I wanted to do was endlessly walk along the rock garden rocks in the dell.

And another favourite spot: the tropical greenhouse. This has been changed around as well, and has now been turned into a butterfly garden. It brought tears to my eyes, for my private  jungle, with all the tropical birds there along the pathways, has disappeared. The birds have mostly been rehoused in aviaries, where they can pretend to fly. I used to sit near the Minah cage as a teenager and listen to the birds calling to each other, and dream about life and love.
Now my daughter was used as a perch by a huge butterfly; it was as large as my hand.

Some of the tropical plants are still there though, and the earthy damp smell is the same.
It was extremely busy in the zoo, and the mass of people made us flee to the only corner of the zoo that wasn't that trampled; the Dutch corner, with the meadows, the migrating birds and the sloten. In fact, the landscape I see around me at home every day! Shades of my Gran again: "I pay good money to..." etcetera!

But we enjoyed the elephants playing with the youngster that was born not so long ago (no photos, sorry, too many people standing in front of me!) and the giraffes with their youngsters snacking on liguster leaves in their snazzy new stable.

The zoo is in dire straits, in desperate need of funds, and it shows. The animals are very well cared for, and some of the new habitats are lovely. But on the whole there is a feeling of neglect about large areas of the zoo.
That's a shame. Blijdorp and Rotterdam belong together. 

So if and when you visit Rotterdam, and you need to get away from the architecture, harbour, shops, nightlife and culinary delights, do stop by Blijdorp, for it is still worth your while.
You'll find it not very far from Rotterdam Centraal Station. Go to the back exit of the station and take bus 33. And say hello to the the only owl that I could find.