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...

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Viggo's Blog: Free At Last!

Hello fans, Viggo here.

See that?!
I'm OUT!
Hence the frightfully bad shaky photo. I ran towards the camera, you see, just because I could.

There, that's better! That is me, sitting on the windowsill - on the outside, mind you!
My woman had thoughtfully provided my new birds with some bread crusts, and I was waiting for them to find a flypath to the table.
So far they haven't appeared, although I have seen them when I am on the inside of that window...silly feathered nitwits.

Thought I'd bring you up to date on our situation here.
My woman has turned into frenzied screwing machine. Ahem. That sounds awful, doesn't it? I mean: she has become very handy with a screwdriver. Shall I give you a list of what furniture she has screwed over the last couple of days? Ahem. That sounds just as bad.
Oh bollocks, I will not. One picture tells a thousand words, right?

See (that gorgeous cat on) that lovely gleaming TV cabinet? She made that. Amongst many other things.

So, things are definitely looking up! I have refound my freedom, and I have explored the rooftops of all those sheds around here, and have met my new neighbour to the left, who shooed me (I said: don't you shoo me, strange woman, but she refused to listen). To the right of us are two fearsome dogs, so I have only reconnoitered from the top of their shed.

And the neighbourhood is fine, I must say, much less fireworks then in the old one. That resembled a war zone from Dec 30th onwards. Here you have the occasional mild 'bang', but I don't mind that. Gina does, she's such a wuss, do you know she takes special little pink pills for anxiety? My woman hides them inside bratwurst, honestly, Gina is such a baby. And I don't get any!

Okay, time to say cheerio then.
Hope you all will have a lovely New Year's Eve!
Speak to you soon, XXX


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Viggo's Blog: Ho-Ho-Ho!!!

Good morning to you, from both Viggo and Song :-)

Hello fans, Viggo here.
My woman has asked me to say a few words, as it is fitting to mark this occasion, namely our first Christmas in my new home.
The thing is, she has taken a new photo of me on our new table, but has mislaid the cable yet again... So you will have to make do with an oldie but very goodie of me. I'm sure you won't mind! I am good-looking, am I not?

Don't mind Viggo, he is a bit full of himself as usual...

Do you have to say things like that? If you keep saying things like that I'm not certain I want to continue this joint venture!


Yes, right, where was I?
Oh...a few words. Harrum!
Dear fans. Thinking back on the last annus horribilis, (Would you believe auto-correct changed this to hornbills? Stupid computer) I would like to stress that we are fine! My woman can be a bit sentimental and emotional, but there's nothing to worry about. She still feeds me (and smelly Gina) and keeps her fridge well-stocked. She also still showers. So, no worries.
How can I look forward to a new, better year? I have decided to ponder about joining Twitter. What do you say?

Gosh Viggo, do you really think people are waiting for you to start sending them tweets?

If you keep interrupting me you might as well give this speech yourself, woman!
Yes, I really do think there will be interest in my tweets! After all, the internet is the best medium for cats these days. I took heart from the Belgian people tweeting cat photos by the thousands last month as a reaction to their army briefly invading Bruxelles. Besides, I have to keep myself busy during my incarceration.

Viggo explored his new garden yesterday, folks.

Whoah! She let me out for exactly 5 minutes and rushed to get me behind bars as soon as I tried to escape.

He immediately left the back garden and ran into the alley, so I simply had to get him back, as he knows nothing around here and there's a road...

Let's not go into that!
So. Keep your eyes peeled. Twitter!
Oh...yes, and ho-ho-ho to you!!!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Viggo's Blog: Help! I Am Being Held Against My Wishes!

Hi fans, Viggo here.

Call the Cat Rescue Services! I have been unceremoniously dumped in another house! I am stuck here!
My woman says I should not be such a pussy, and that it is only for a fortnight at most, but I cannot get out!
Every time she takes that old smelly Gina for a walk I try to sneak in between the dog's legs, but the woman keeps me back every time. She has even stuck her wellington in my face!
She has put a litter tray in a room upstairs, the shame! I have to bury my stuff by digging it in. Never mind that she says she has bought the most expensive Canadian litter tray stuff and that she might as well have put in nuggets of gold instead...It is undignified!

And do you know what is bugging me as well? I can see all kind of cats walking past my jail window. There's a red&white one which looks interesting, young and feisty. And an old black&white one who looks over the hill and boring. And a sexy white one I wouldn't mind getting to know a lot better. And a grey one who looks as though she gets kicked around a lot. And they all stare in at me. How utterly humiliating. 

Obviously I make my demands known. At night I howl a bit, and jump onto my woman's face a couple of times, and pull her hair, and scratch the doors. But she pretends she can't hear or feel me. 
There's a garden at the back of this house, but it might as well be on the moon.
I miss my fish!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

They've Got Geese Here Too!

Hi there, nice to see you again!
My last post was about moving house, and I told you that one of the things I was going to miss tremendously would be the geese gaggling their way across the sky over my old house every morning and evening.
Well, have I got news for you!
I have greeted the geese over my new home already!

It's debatable if these are geese, they could be swans, but I like the picture, so.
But, anyway, they've got geese here too, and their sound brought tears to my (otherwise contented) eyes.

The move went smoothly. Three days was all it took. Right now I'm waiting for the electricity provider to get back to me, 'cause I don't want to be disconnected over the holidays now do I? That would be rather sloppy.

Viggo wants you all to know that he is pretty upset (the understatement of 2015) with his woman. He is in detention for at least two weeks, and does his utmost to escape.
I'll upload a photo of his face a.s.a.p., I just need to find my cable...
I need to find a lot of things. Not in the least some peace.
Working whilst moving, or moving whilst working AND having to grade papers is NOT good for a person, I tell you! 

But alright, I mustn't complain, everything has gone well so far.
Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Finally! Moving House - Happiness is not the destination - it's the way.

Good evening, my friends.
This will be the last post written from my old house. From tomorrow onwards, Viggo the Macho, my offspring and I will be living in another house right at the other side of the same town in The Wetlands.
So it is with great anticipation, and huge tiredness (after all, work at school simply must go on) that I will be packing the last couple of boxes.

Viggo is not that concerned; he loves boxes and has sniffed, bit and scratched almost every single one by now. He spends his nights on top of the box which appeals to him most at that moment, so all of them now have a Viggo-shaped indentation. 

We will be painting and moving in first, and will keep moving Viggo between houses for last... Him jumping out of the van and disappearing is a recurring nightmare... Him going walkabout and trying to find his way back to his old home is another... I lost a cat that way once, who tried to walk back, had to cross a motorway and was killed.

But, let's look on the bright side, right?
This post is to tide you over; I don't know how soon my new internet account will be up and working. The ads say "immediately", but I am wise to the world of providers by now. Let's hope soon.

Isn't it weird to be doing everything for the last time since 23 years? 
(Viggo shouts I shouldn't keep asking rhetorical questions)
Yes, it is weird! Some things I will miss (the geese honking their way across the sky every morning and evening), some I will not (the neighbors' parties).

So, wish us luck?
(Oh, shut up, Viggo!)
Hi fans, Viggo here!
Damn, I now understand all these comfy boxes are to be moved! I loved it in my house these last couple of weeks, all kinds of hideaway places and boxes and a lot less hoovering than usual. Me, having to "be moved" ? Not on your life! I am not, stress NOT, getting into that van. I refuse! She can promise me kilos of crunchy nibbles, I don't care.
The last word has not been said on this subject!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Viggo's Blog - Let It Snow!!

Hi fans, Viggo here.

My woman tells me that there's a huge climate conference in Paris, France at the moment. She says it is to do with my weather.
Yes, sure, it is your weather too, but basically it is more my weather, 'cause I'm out in it for most of my days and nights, and I bet you're not!

Don't know about your experiences, but over here in The Wetlands it has been raining for weeks now. The water in the rivers and other waterways is extremely high, in fact it is only just in the waterways (as opposed to the waterways becoming simply 'ways' - meaning they are flooding the surroundings).
Now, I don't swim much, but I'm wet all the same all the effing time! It takes me ages to groom, and my woman bans me from her bed.

Let it snow, I say!!

Snow is fun. Yes, it is cold at first, but it smells lovely and clean, and it makes a delightful sound when you jump a mouse in snow. And I adore watching it fall from the sky.
I have told you this before, but in case you suffer from early onset dementia I'll tell you again: I am convinced Kate Bush is half cat. And she has recorded a wonderful song about snow, which says it all.
Nice friendly cat that I am, I have provided you with a link. Enjoy!Snowflake
Until next time, Tar rah!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Viggo's Blog: Congrats to Me (and My Woman)

Hi fans, Viggo here.
This post is to commemorate the fact that my Blog is entering its 3rd year tomorrow, Nov. 24th. 


So, I thought long and hard about what I could do to celebrate, and the thought occurred to me that the thing that would please you most, would be a photo of me.
So here it is. This is me in a sunny spot on the clean laundry.

This is a weird month...
A two year anniversary (I think I deserve something, don't you? Like...I know, like some nice fresh expensive crunchy nibbles!), and a move all within a couple of weeks of each other.
My woman is packing cardboard boxes and she says that I am not to customize them...Spoilsport!

Oh...go on, admire me once more. This is me in one of my favorite spots in the garden. I will miss that spot! It had just the right temperature and airflow.

Right. Next time I write you a post it will be from my new domicile. Until then,
tar rah!

Monday, 16 November 2015

'The Son' by Jo Nesbo - A Book Review

Whilst I'm still reeling with the aftershock of the events in Paris, I've decided to finish the book review I had in mind for you for last Sunday. Life does go on...fortunately, for most of us.

What I want to recommend to you for some exciting (and medium light-) reading, is a book by the Norwegian writer (and musician) Jo Nesbo.
I have read the Vintage Books 2015 edition, with an excellent English translation by Charlotte Barslund.
Jo Nesbo has been published in 48 languages, and his books have been topping the charts for years. So it's a bit strange (for such a hungry reader as myself) that 'The Son' was the first novel I've read by him.
But certainly not the last! He has gained himself a fan!

This modern crime story unfolds in Oslo, and I am not (oh no, not not not) going to give away the plot.
But what I do want to tell you is that Nesbo's characters are so very true to life that I had the feeling I knew them. He is one shrewd and observant judge of  human nature, and gives his main clay footed heroes their own distinctive voice. One of the most memorable ones to me (but that surely has to do with my profession as a teacher) is a young boy, Markus. But also the tired jaded policeman Simon Kefas is very well portrayed, and so is one of the female characters, Martha.

Nesbo tells the tragical story of a man and his son using many people's viewpoints. It is as if you are standing in someone else's shoes every new chapter. Obviously the son called Sonny, the entire book pivots around him, is present in almost every chapter, and is an anti-hero if ever there was one. There are subtle references to that other anti-heroic son, the one from the Bible, without it getting annoying or overdone.
There are some rather gruesome scenes, so do not attempt it if you are a bit squeamish or if you have a phobia for dogs. But it doesn't get too detailed or blood-and-gory anywhere. If you can stomach Kay Scarpetta, you absolutely will be able to stomach Sonny Lofthus.

Nesbo has written many other novels. I know what will be on my Christmas list!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Good morning to you.
How are you this morning? I hope it finds you healthy and peaceful.

This is the Place de la République, where my daughter and I saw the concert to celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela two Summers ago. As multi-culti as you can get, with everyone (all colors and all religions) enjoying the music and lovely summer evening.

It breaks my heart to hear and watch (on TV) what is going on in Paris right now.
It is only 3 hours away from where we live. Another country, yes, but one whose values we respect.

Through this humble means of a blog post I want to tell the people of Paris, and of France at large, that my thoughts are with you all. 
Courage, mes amis!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

How to give an instruction?

Good evening!
Today was your typical day at college; yawning (somewhat smelly and sometimes even hung-over) young men mixed with fresh-faced bright-eyed peppy young men and everything in between.
I love my job, most of the time.

Yesterday (and the day before - let's not go there) were tough days. I blame the pending storm that's waiting just to the North of here. It's due to hit The Wetlands tomorrow, with wind speeds of up to or even over 100 kph. Young adults they may be, but my guys sure do react to weather conditions!

Anyway, today I taught how to instruct. I always try to make this sort of fun as well as educational, with lots of examples from real life and referring to popular TV shows I know they watch, etcetera.
Yesterday (okay...sigh, let's go there for a bit then) this turned into a shouting match and can be written off as a total disaster, causing my math-colleague-and-neighbor to come storming into my classroom through the dividing door, absolutely livid because "he couldn't hear himself speak anymore". This man is a bit of a prima donna, but he had a point. Let's be fair.

What happened? I had instructed (see titel) the class (of 29 guys and 1 girl) to watch a short video about how to turn your smart phone into a security camera and to list all the imperative verbs they heard. Two guys had to write the verbs down on the whiteboard, and the class (divided into two teams) had to write them down too and afterwards help their team members.
The only thing was, I had forgotten to instruct them not to shout...
So, in the heat of the battle, they screamed their verbs to the front; hence my irate colleague.

Today, mindful of my neighbor, I made sure I instructed the other class (I have 7 of them to teach this curriculum to) to keep their gobs shut, at all times, and to whisper their verbs after walking quietly to the front.
This worked. I had fun watching them skulk up to their mate with the marker, and whisper their verbs into his ear. 

They liked my example about a spider (How to weave a web), especially the bit where I instruct them to insert a time-frame ("Time-frame: A couple of hours. Have a beer whilst waiting") but told me my drawing sucks. They are right. It does.

I found this picture on the internet, it is brilliant and has nothing to do with the subject of this post. Still. I feel like that owl sometimes.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Goodbye (by Viggo and Me)

Good afternoon, where ever you are!
This is an Autumnial goodbye of sorts.
I have finally found myself another house, you see. But with a small garden, yay!
This post is to help me say goodbye to my present garden, which I have put in a lot of hours and heaps of love to make it beautiful.

When we arrived here almost 23 years ago, the garden didn't deserve the name! It was a barren plot of land with an untrimmed conifer hedge, a load of nettles and one clump of red tulips. Which has survived to this day, mind, so that were some sturdy tulips!
We started by putting in a liguster hedge and trimming those conifers, and then slowly but surely dug it over, created borders, planted trees, built sheds, put in a greenhouse and finally dug a pond.

Due to circumstances I am leaving this garden, and it is the one thing (although to me it is more than simply a 'thing') that I have trouble leaving behind.

Hi fans, Viggo here!

Yep. It is true. We will be leaving this property in a couple of weeks time. 
I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I will be shot of that Maine Coon, absolutely a positive development. But on the other hand, I grew up here! My woman brought me here as a youngster of tender months, and I walked my first walk outside and caught my first mouse in front of that shed. Not to mention my frogs... I will miss my frogs so much!

But I understand that my woman has no other option. And in fact that I am lucky and should count my  blessings. I could easily have ended up an apartment cat...with only a litter tray. The horror!!!

Most of the plants are already going dormant, but some of them are still making the effort to look their best.
Where I am moving, another part of the same town, I am near the polder as well, so that will be good. And there is a small garden, mostly paving stones but with some shrubs, so I can try to entice the small birds there as well. No room for a pond, but never mind.

She'll do everything to make that garden a tiny paradise for me as well, wanna bet? 
And there will be mice there as well, I'm sure.
She's told me there are quite a few other cats in that street though...I will have to have loads of crunchy nibbles to keep my strength up!

Right, tar rah!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Melody Gardot - Currency of Man (a Review)

Good evening! I'd like to share the album I have been listening to every evening for a fortnight with you.
(Is that a proper sentence? I'm dead tired. Sorry if it isn't).

Melody Gardot caught my attention a couple of years ago, when she brought out the album "My One and Only Thrill" with that wonderful song "Who Will Comfort Me".
I heard it on the radio and I remember I stopped ironing to be able to listen properly. (Now, anything to be able to stop ironing, but that's besides the point) I adored it, and rushed to the radio to catch the name of the singer. They didn't tell it, so I had to wait for weeks to find out who sang this great song.
That album disappointed me at first; I thought it too sugar-coated, and the scatting in almost every song annoyed me. But listening to it a couple of more times made me change my mind somewhat. It is very well-crafted.

Then Ms Gardot placed a message on her Facebook page; she was looking for people to sing along to a new song of hers, "preacher man", and I uploaded my version. (I'm not good with computers, so these 60 seconds took me hours! But I had great fun.)
Needless to say I kept an eye and ear out for this song. And finally, some weeks ago, the album was released.
While I was waiting for it to arrive to my home I looked at every recent YouTube video of Melody I could find; and to my amazement there are many versions of preacher man. Watching her perform live, my respect for her grew more and more. She is not just a pretty face (although she does have a very pretty face!); she actually is a very talented performer, who has many versions of each and every song she has written.

Currency of Man is much more dark than her last two albums. First of all she sings in a deeper and rawer voice. And the light love songs have disappeared. She sings of pain, of homeless people, of murder, of lost love, of revenge, of heartache (in fact, of all those huge emotions I am experiencing right now - bar murder). But also of compassion.
Those songs are little gems.
Look her up, do! I'm interested in what you think.

Monday, 2 November 2015


Hi there, good evening from The Wetlands.
I hope you are feeling fine?
Myself...I've had the most frustrating day ever (won't go into details, but life was not a barrel of laughs today), and then it is my habit to cheer myself up with 'happy blogging'.
(Do you do that? Does it work for you?) In other words, I look for that silver lining.

And, as usual, I have managed to find it. Look at that! Isn't it absolutely gorgeous?
My Japanese Maple is lovely too, and the Ghost Birch is turning yellow.

I adore cycling through the lanes and streets of my town at the moment, as they are so pretty and everything smells spicy. 
We were lucky with the weather as well, crispy and hardly any wind. When it rains all those fallen leaves are another story entirely...

November is a 'waiting' month, I feel. We are waiting for the first proper gale force storm, waiting for the first real frost, waiting for the first snowflakes to fall.
(Some people are already waiting for the Christmas holidays ;-)

I am waiting for my life to take a turn for the better...
Today I visited all estate agents again (yet again), to see if there was light at the end of my particular tunnel. But no...

I'll hide myself in my cozy room and I'll read a good book. What else can you do, in November, eh?

Have a nice evening!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Viggo's Blog: Why Halloween is Bad for Black Cats

Hi fans, Viggo here.

Do you like the picture? Found it on the internet - wonderful thing, the internet, not in the least because it gives me a platform to talk to you.
And today I want to talk to you about the image of us, Black Cats.

We have a terrible image. And that is so unfair! Just look at me (below).

Is that the Face of Fear? That face which Halloween stories tell you to watch with horror?
Am I so awfully scary to behold?
Is it truly necessary to cross the road when you spot me doing my rounds (to protect my woman and house, I'd like to add, for crying out loud!) Do you actually believe you will have bad luck when you see me (you silly human, you)? Do you really fear I have ESP and the power to influence your thoughts so that you will crash your car? Do you think that women with black cats are witches? Do you secretly think all women are witches? (You have a problem, mate, if you do!)

I want to break a lance for us, black cats.
We are sensitive (as well as gorgeous in my case), loyal, reliable, and good mousers on the whole. (I catch at least one a week). We keep our fur clean and shiny (just look at mine, why don't you?). We purr loudly when happy. We keep out other cats and I keep out other dogs as well (my old Gina can't do that herself anymore, the old fart). We neatly bury our poop (unlike you, huh?).

So, I'd like to put it to you, that if you have a problem with accepting black cats, you are simply a racist.
There. I've said it. Chew on that for a minute.

I'm going to have a little snooze while you hide your head with shame.
See you next time, tar rah!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Oostvoornse Duinen - Wetlands Supreme!

For those of you who enjoy hiking (but walking is fine as well), I have a tip for you that will give you entrance to one of the oldest and most varied dune landscapes of The Netherlands:
The "Oostvoornse Duinen".

The Sea Dunes

It being our Autumn break, I went there yesterday with my regular hiking companion, who used to be 2, 3, 4...and is now 22 years old.

My son and I enjoy walking together, and this part of our island of Voorne is our favourite.
It was a typical Wetlands day: misty, damp, grey cloud cover and threatening to rain (and sure enough half-way through it did start to rain and wouldn't stop).

Oostvoorne is a small town, part of the larger municipality of Westvoorne (comprising of  Rockanje, Tinte, Brielle and Oostvoorne). To get there you take the largest motorway (which thankfully still is a two-lane) N218 and then follow the signposts to the starting point of our hike: the carpark next to the Natuurmonumenten/Zuid-Hollands Landschap Education Centre ("Bezoekerscentrum") on the Duinstraat 12a. (Adjacent to the comfortable restaurant called De Meidoorn).


The landscape has slowly evolved over the centuries. It used to be mostly sand dunes, but due to landowners planting tree plantations and acid rain it is now a very green area with lots of trees, shrubs, berry carrying shrubs and grasses and reed beds  as well as sand dunes. In order to keep the grasses in check, large areas have been fenced in (this IS The Netherlands after all) so that herds of sheep, ponies and cows can graze there in relative freedom.

Contrary to what you might think, the bottom line doesn't mean that there is no danger of meeting a wolf, but that you have to keep your dog on a leash. We don't have wolves (yet) in this part of the Wetlands.

My son and I decided to take one of the longer walks; the walk around a dune lake called Het Breede Water. (2 hours)
To get there, you have to take the path to the right next to the education centre and along the attractive lake called the Tenella Plas. Again, this being the Netherlands, there is no danger of getting lost: the paths are mostly signposted by means of coloured arrows. The Breede Water route is clockwise, signposted with a white arrow.

Tenella Plas

Tenella Plas

At first there are still some small farm houses dotted around (much sought-after to live in these days), and the typical meadows that belong to them.

Actual farming is forbidden now though, the landscape has all been given back to 'nature' (which is a laugh, really. It is as well tended as a garden!)

As soon as you have crossed the horse bridlepath, you enter a wet area, so wellingtons are a good option from October onwards. In fact, if we have a wet winter and we usually do, many of the paths are extremely muddy.

You now walk along a sandy/grassy path adjacent to one of the old pine plantations (on your left). To your right are the older dunes, with many berry carrying shrubs which attract numerous birds.

As a girl I always laughed to see the sparrows and blackbirds get drunk on the orange berries of the meidoorn.

After approximately half an hour you can view the largest dune lake, the Breede Water, on your right hand side. There is a viewpoint ("Uitzichtpunt"), from where you can spot the waterfowl whilst they cannot spot you.

Breede Water

Cormorant's Island

In Spring the Breede Water is an overcrowded place, with cormorants, swans, ducks, geese, herons (both white and blue) and spoonbills making their nests there.
Yesterday is was deserted.
I used to take my son's friends around the lake as a birthday treat (picknick), and since his birthday is in April, those boys always walked demonstratively with their noses pinched because of the stench of Cormorant's Island.

This area has so many happy memories for me! I came here with my Mum (and dogs), and then with my kids (and dogs).

To my dismay the favorite climbing tree of my children has been chopped...

Just look at this... This was 12 years ago.
As I said, you walk around the Breede Water clockwise, so at the half-way mark you enter the proper dunes.

This is the closest thing we Wetlanders have to anything slightly resembling a hill (tiny), and it used to be all SAND when I was a girl!

Breede Water from the other side, black pines in the background

I hope you will be able to follow those white arrows, for this is the (only) point where the path is a bit tricky (hard to see), and you could get lost.
Still, you are always in sight and reach of your GPS satellite, so don't you fret!

When you have almost reached the point where you started walking around the Breede Water, you again enter the forest.

The Beeches are just starting to turn

You'll know when you have not strayed when you again reach the Tenella Plas.
Do go and visit restaurant De Meidoorn before you start you car! They do lovely Dutch grub and the ambience is very friendly.

I hope you have enjoyed this route. Whenever you are near - come visit Voorne!

Google Maps pointer: type in Tenellaplas Oostvoorne.