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...

Thursday, 31 August 2017

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 came true: visiting the village where Jane Austen lived and worked for the last years of her tragically short life, Chawton.


Jane Austen's cottage, Chawton

It turned out to be a wonderful visit. The Jane Austen Society had restrained itself and used taste, and refrained from turning it into a sugarcoated tourist trap.
We took our time wandering around the rooms, and read the plentiful information provided. There were lots of original furnishings to look at, and one of the things we liked the most was the small round table Jane used to write her books on.
The role of her sister Cassandra was documented very well, and we realized for the first time that it was Cassandra who made it possible for Jane to write in peace, by taking it upon herself to run the household.
One of the charming cottages in Chawton village.

It only took us ten minutes or so to walk up to the manor house, and it was
fun to walk in Jane's footsteps, so to speak, as we knew she used to
visit her brother's house very frequently.



In her cottage we learned that although Jane herself is buried in Winchester 
Cathedral, her mother and Cassandra are buried in the village church, near 
the manor house that used to belong to Jane's brother Henry.
So we decided to visit their graves, and leave a tiny floral tribute for Cassandra.


The manor house
This house now belongs to an American literature enthusiast, who has turned it 
into a library
and study centre for Women's Literature.
The atmosphere in the house was wonderful, and the garden charming.

After an extremely pleasant day, it didn't take us long at all to drive to Salisbury, 
the capital city of the county of Wiltshire.
I had visited this city before in the Eighties, and found to my pleasure that the old 
centre had not changed hardly at all. We found a lovely B&B along the  bank of the 
River Avon, The Rose and Crown, overlooking the water meadows.




Just as we walked up to Salisbury Cathedral, the setting sun lit up the spire, and we 
vowed to visit it properly first thing the next morning.


I have visited plenty of cathedrals, but for my daughter this was only the second, 
and (after the Sacré Coeur in Paris) the first one in England. She was charmed. 
We liked the cloisters especially.

Only three days into our trip, and we were having a wonderful time, despite the 
unstable weather. This being the same old - same old weather we have in The 
Netherlands...so we took no notice of the sudden downpours.


I would like to leave you with a page out of the visitor's book in Salisbury cathedral. 
Amongst the prayers and thoughts about sick spouses, a child's dreams for his future
 and giving thanks, there was a  prayer that spoke to me.

Next time, I'll tell you about our visit to Stonehenge and Lacock.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Viggo's Blog: Hot Summer Nights

Hiya fans, Viggo here.
Did you know that my woman left me for a fortnight? I was shocked! But then again, that young guy looking after the house wasn't stingy with the crunchy nibbles, so me and the brat were okay, I guess.


Do not trust appearances!
I was on the bed first, and the brat plunked himself right in front of me, the nerve of that young tom!
Anyway, as I said, me and Bowie had the house to ourselves for a fortnight. We have a saying in my country: "when the cat is away, the mice have a party on the table". In our case: as our woman was away, us cats ruled the house. I got extra food out of our sitter by waking him up very early, so he gave us nibbles just to keep us quiet...hahahaha, sucker.
I would like to share a photo with you. My woman took it in Bath I believe.


See that? My hero is in that picture! Middle left. See him now?
It's The Cheshire Cat. You know, him of "We're all mad here" fame. In my country he is all but forgotten, so I was so chuffed to see half a shop window devoted to his adventures.
I tried to tell Bowie about him, but that silly youngster is too impatient to listen. All he cares about is running around outside and showing off to the other cats.

And I want to show you something else.


See that? A black cat! On top of that column. And what a handsome cat he is! It is in one of those stately homes, or manors, that my woman is so fond of visiting. She loved this one, it is called Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, and it was filled with wonderful stuff.She told me there were lots of animals there, in paintings and statues. The English have got class. They know our value.
Right, well, time for my nap.
Oh, by the way, what about his then? I want one!
Ta-rah!


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 uncertain for a long time), I realized I really wanted to take a trip to Wiltshire, England. So I did.
Please come along.


For 4 years in the Eighties England used to be my home, and London used to be my hometown. But when I lived and worked there, all I really did was work...there was no time to visit other parts of that wonderful and beautiful country. During the years following that period, I've compiled a list in my head of all the places I had wanted to visit, would I have had the money and time.
Wiltshire was one of those places.
So I worked out a road trip starting in Harwich, taking in a piece of London as my darling daughter was determined to visit Hampton Court, and then working our way down to Wiltshire.
This first installment will tell you about the first two days we spent in the UK.

The first night, straight off the ferry, I had decided to stay the night in a b&b in Colchester, as I didn't want to be driving in the dark, on the left, straight away.
As little said about that b&b (The Grey Inn) as possible...it was old and decrepit and had a second life as a shagging-by-the-hour place - we heard everything through the walls...
So, for the second night I decided to treat ourselves to a wonderful b&b in Richmond, called the Rose of York, overlooking the river.



The weather was wonderful, so the first day, after driving around the West route around London (I don't bite nails, but could've! But I did fine, really, and for the rest of the holiday the driving was a doddle) and checking in, we took a lovely walk along the Thames after descending the hill.


My daughter was amazed that the river water washed over the quay at high tide, making the walk very slippery. (In my country folk would have thrown up a dam!)
We walked all the way up to Teddington, and then back again and visited Ham House.

It being a lovely balmy night, the riverside was teeming with people having a drink, or pottering about in boats, or taking a walk, like us. For  a Dutch girl it was a very nice initiation into English after-work customs. She saw businessmen in their shirtsleeves, tie loose, proper coat tied to the back of their bikes, cycling home along the towpath at breakneck speed. But also how many people enjoyed each others company outside on a Tuesday evening.

The next morning we took a bus from Richmond Hill to Hampton Court.


Unfortunately the weather turned, and would not turn again...So the rest of our holiday was spent watching rainclouds gather, googling the dry spells and dodging the raindrops.

It was my fifth visit to Hampton Court, but my daughter lapped it all up and they practically had to evict her when it closed.


All in all it was a very good start to our road trip. We had a lovely vegetarian dinner in The Slug and Lettuce in Richmond, watched the now deserted towpath gleam in the rain, and were looking forward to driving West towards Jane Austen country the next day.


The sunset was amazing.

Next post: Jane Austen's village.

Long Time No See...

Morning folks!

You have been wondering where I've been...yeeesssss, you can admit it ;-)
Well, I have been on holiday. So there.
I need to get myself sorted out first, and every day there's the taking care of my Mum...so time is rather precious.
BUT.
New installments of my travel adventures will be posted VERY VERY SOON.
So keep your eyes peeled!


Monday, 10 July 2017

Viggo's Blog: This, that and the other about this cat's life.

Hiya fans, Viggo here!
Boy has it been long or what? Life in the fast lane here!


I've been extremely busy. Ever since my woman has taken to politely asking me and Bowie the Brat (he is!)whether we would like to go out at night, it's been all go, go go.
Bowie has all kinds of friends, and he usually simply vanishes down the street when we walk out, but I am a mature tom, so I have my routines down pat.
First I walk down to number 28 to see if their front door is open, and if it is, I know my way to the kitchen as they keep the food for their old cat down there. But that lady sometimes forgets I do that, so if I'm really lucky she leaves some titbit out on the counter. I'm partial to a nice rasher. But I don't dismiss a nice greasy frying pan either.
Then I walk down to the corner house, to see if their front door is open. They've got a silly golden retriever who is a very sloppy eater, and I quite like his nibbles.
When all doors are closed though, I usually walk down the street to see if any of my mates are around. Mate usually hangs out underneath the bushes on the corner, and Big Black has a favorite garden seat a few houses down. I haven't seen that bully Nose for months though, and good riddance!



Will you look at those hind legs? Bowie still hasn't stopped growing...Thankfully I weigh at least three times his weight. That makes a huge difference when we mock fight for being alpha male in our house. He's quite relaxed about that...usually he submits and shows his side to me, just like in the photo in fact. And he always shows respect when we accidentally meet.
Oh...and I have been in a proper night fight some weeks ago. The black female from the other corner suddenly attacked me from the alley. I swear she had no cause, must have been pre-mating season! She made such a racket that my woman left her bed to come rescue me (not that I needed rescuing, I had it all in hand!), but I couldn't prevent the nasty feline tearing my ear. What? Oh...okay, yeah, so I screamed a bit. My woman says she recognizes our voices anywhere. Anyway, that torn ear gives me a very suave look, a bit bad-boy, you know. I quite like it, myself.
Bowie has asked me to tear his ear as well, but I refused. He can get into his own fights, right?


Right, time to visit my bowl.
Take care, tar rah!


Monday, 26 June 2017

Dementia...scourge of our time.

Good afternoon to you!
It's been a few weeks and, after some deliberation, I am going to tell you why I haven't 
blogged my usual happy hippy rambling/gardening/music blogposts.


The thing is, and boy oh boy is it a THING, that I am the caregiver for my increasingly
 muddled 89 year old Mum.
She is a widow; I am her only child. Thus I have been thrown into the life-altering
 situation that I have become the mother of my mother, so to speak. And as I am 
writing this to you, the word 'reluctant' is screaming for attention in my brain.
For it is. I am. Reluctant mother to my mother. 
The little girl in me feels that this is sooooo unfair. I should not be mothering my 
Mum, I want to be mothered myself (from time to time, as life is pretty hard for a 
single menopausal lady with two kids and two cats to take care of). Never mind that 
I am almost 59 myself, I can still access that little girl deep within me, who didn't want
 to pick up the pieces for my mother when she was 36 and depressed and I was 6 
('unfair'!) and now realizes that if I don't pick up the pieces no-one else will.

Yep. Not a very attractive character trait, I know! And to put your mind at ease, I do 
do it, I do pick up those pieces, and do the daily shop, and talk to all those professionals
 who suddenly have a role to play in my mother's life (and thus in mine), and dress her,
 and bathe her when necessary, and give her her medication, and tend her garden, and 
listen to her asking me the same question over and over and over.

When I started realizing that something was seriously wrong with her memory, it was 
2015, and no-one wanted to believe me. Hey, this was my strong, creative, still driving 
her car all over the place mother, right? Opinionated, strong-willed, often stubborn and 
frankly not very flexible in her way of dealing with the world and all those tiresome people 
in it. But also talented, and in her way very loving towards me and my two kids.
I kept alerting people around me that she was changing, that she sometimes did and 
said weird things. But people frowned at me and remarked that she seemed the same to 
them. So what that she suddenly kept the cloth napkins in the fridge...that wasn't 
life-threatening, surely?

Until November 2016. I took her to the cardiologist for a new pacemaker, after a year of 
Mum canceling appointment after appointment with said lady, because she 'didn't see 
the point'. The new pacemaker was put in and my Mum consequently lost her mind.
In December I was phoned by various neighbors, acquaintances and the valued cleaning 
lady that my mother was acting strange. That she had lost her way on the way to the shops 
(5 minutes by car). That she didn't dare to drive any more. That she let the mail pile up
 without opening it. That she didn't tend her beloved garden. That she had told my ex 
husband that she never saw me or the grandchildren (whilst coming to dinner every Sunday).

I decided enough was enough and took her to the GP. Who at first mumbled something 
about her being 89, what did I expect. But then admitted that she hadn't reported for her 
diabetes checkups for some time (1,5 years, it turned out!!!). I instantly lost all faith in him. 
But in my country it is a hassle to get another GP, so I gritted my teeth and decided to 
work with what I had got - so asked him for a referral to a Geriatric specialist and got it 
in February.
It took until April for her to have time to see my Mum.

In the meantime I shopped around for help. And felt like Gretl lost in the woods of all 
the rules and regulations regarding a person with suspected dementia. I need a referral 
for absolutely everything my Mum needs. Incontinence diapers? Ask a referral from the
 GP. Zinkoxide for the decubitus wound on her bottom? Ask a referral from the GP. A 
place at the day centre for people with memory problems? Ask...etcetera. A taxi to get 
her to the day centre? Ask...etcetera. A personal alarm button she can use when she has
 taken a fall? GP.

It now has gotten to the point where I am juggling my demanding school work
 around the appointments for my Mum. I drive to her house every day, to check up 
on the professionals 
who check up on her. For she still has her wiles, my darling mother. She blatantly lies 
(except she doesn't do it on purpose, I suppose) about all kinds of things. A shower? 
Yes, she has taken a shower (not), she has taken her medicines (not), she has already 
eaten (not).
She cancels appointments I make for her with her welfare in mind. She refuses to use 
her rollator.
And at the same time she endlessly tells me she couldn't do without me, she wouldn't 
know what she would do if I would not take care of her.

Next week we go on yet another trip to the hospital. For the poor thing has breast cancer 
as well...
Hopefully the Geriatric specialist will tell us that we get Mum a referral to a psycho-geriatric 
home. My Mum would be safe there, at least. For it is my everlasting worry that she will 
keel over and break her hip or hit her head.
Until then, and this can take months yet, it is up to me to help Mum find her way through 
The Land of Dementia. 
The pebbles that helped Hans and Gretl out of the woods, are the pebbles of humor that I 
doggedly keep throwing on the path behind me. For my Mum can be funny as anything - 
she has developed a taste for beer (she, who has always deemed beer drinkers 'common')
 and  thinks nothing of pouring half of it in her discarded glass of  sherry in a restaurant, 
taking a huge swallow and then gives the shocked waiter a beaming smile and gushes that 
she simply loves this food and does he come there often?

Right. I will now have a beer. Tomorrow is yet another day.


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Urban Hike: Heenvliet Castle

Good morning to you!
Last weekend I fulfilled an old wish to visit Heenvliet Castle (Kasteel Ravesteyn).



We have two castle ruins on my tiny islands of Voorne-Putten, one (Burcht van Voorne) on Voorne and one (Ravesteyn)on Putten.
Both had been slowly and silently falling apart, providing stones and bricks for neighboring farmsteads, until folk realized in the last century that having a castle on your doorstep was rather special, and created societies to save and upkeep them.

Ravesteyn is private property, but a couple of times a year they open up their 5 acre garden to the public.



And a very nice garden it is. There is a respectable collection of statues and art in the grounds. Most of the modern variety that either makes me smirk or sigh with incomprehension, but some of them I liked very much indeed.



Would have loved to take this baby home with me! Way above my budget though...Six monthly wages worth of it.

We took a leisurely ramble around those 5 acres, and as it was gorgeous summer weather it was a pleasure to be able to walk in the shade of large trees some of the way.


I don't know if you are familiar with our native trees (probably not, and I don't blame you), but we have a lot of willows (both ordinary and weeping) due to the sogginess of our ground, and horse chestnut, beech and oak, but a lot of birch and poplars as well.

From time to time we caught a tiny glimpse of Ravesteyn, where most visitors stayed in the vicinity of the refreshment tent, so our ramble was quiet and we could enjoy the beautifully kept grass pathways on our own.

It turned quite hot, so I was happy to catch some shade from time to time.




You probably are not familiar with the geographical history of my part of The Netherlands either, so I'll give you a quick lesson (ever the teacher, sorry, professional deformation I'm afraid).

We are a land ruled by the sea.Actually most of my country, and especially the part I live in, is one large delta. In the olden days, the sea would shape the many islands in my part of the country, and travel was mostly by boat. Either in between the islands, or on the islands, as narrow boats were used as transport on the many creeks and rivers.
This made this part of the country rather difficult to rule. Large armies had no business here, they got lost in the marshes.



In the middle of this old map you see the islands of  Noord Voorn (or modern day Voorne) and Putten, with Heenvliet in the middle. (Below is Zuidt Voorn, nowadays called Flakkee, and glued to small Goeree on the left!) Not so important, all those names, but it does give you an inkling what the problems were in governing this bit of country.

Castle Ravesteyn was home to a clergyman called Angelus Merula.








The Remonstrants are Dutch Protestants who, after the death of Jacobus Arminius, maintained the views associated with his name. In 1610, they presented to the States of Holland and Friesland a remonstrance in five articles formulating their points of disagreement with Calvinism.[1]According to 2010 statistics, a 6,000-strong Remonstrant community remains in the Netherlands. There is also a single congregation in Friedrichstadt in northern Germany.[2] 

Source: Wikipedia.





Merula was a remonstrant, and thus persecuted by the ruling Calvin order. Ravesteyn was confiscated and Merula ordered to be put to death by fire. It didn't work though...he died of a heart attack just before they put him onto the pyre. The ruling Calvinist burnt his corpse anyway.
Voorne remembers him though, and in nearby Den Briel a school and orphanage, and many island streets are named after him.



Kasteel Ravesteyn is lovingly kept up, but when it comes down to it, not much more than four roofless walls, where you need your imagination to see a castle. I did find the resident hare though.


We ended our ramble in the refreshment tent, and very lovely fresh cakes were served there!
All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon.

The nitty-gritty:
You'll find Heenvliet on the N218 which starts in Rotterdam. Heenvliet itself is a small village with a charming village centre in typical Dutch style, with the 16th century centre surrounded by a moat. It has some fame as a horse market village.
It will take you an hour at most to visit it, and be sure to check opening times for the castle!
Remember this is cattle country, so cattle flies are around in summer (take precautions if you are allergic).
It would be a very good idea to combine visiting Heenvliet with visiting nearby Den Briel (also on the same provincial road). And please look up my urban hike through Den Briel.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this post. Until next time!

Monday, 29 May 2017

All Gardeners Unite!

Good morning to you!
This glorious sunny morning (the fifth in a row, we Dutchies don't know what has hit us!) I would like to share my passion for flowering plants with you all.

Begonia 'Angel' in my tiny garden.
When I was a teenager, I watched my Mum on her knees in her (very large) garden, and I can remember thinking I couldn't see the attraction. At all! Of all the boring things to do!

But when I moved into my first very own house when I was 28, the gardening bug attacked. I looked at the tiny neglected plot in front, and thought I should "do" something with that. So I dug it over, and nicked some wild rosebushes from our local dunes (money was tight. Come to think of it, things haven't changed in that department), and accepted some seedlings from my old downstairs neighbour, and was chuffed to bits when the children of my street voted my flower bed the best.

Then, at 34, I moved into my very first actual house -with-a-garden, and went wild. Amongst the unpacked crates and boxes were dozens of seed trays, the entire house smelled like a greenhouse and family and friends coming round to view the new house were bewildered and asked if all that earth around wasn't bad for my (9 month old) son.
I adored my garden.
But alas. After 27 years the marriage failed and I had to leave my garden behind.

Campanula
And here I am, in a temporary garden, which I inherited from my landlord and is user-friendly (as he complacently informed me when I signed the lease) - meaning filled with evergreen shrubs, two ailing Japanese acers and just day lilies and alchemilla by way of flowers.
I have no funds to spend on my garden to speak of; so what to do with this rather green-on-green greenness?
My solution was pots. For, as I convinced myself, the money spent on flowers in pots is well spent, as I can simply take the pots along when I have to move out again.

Lobelia


So in between all that green (you can just see the lilies and leatherleaf in the photo below left), I have now dotted my flowers.
I have added ferns (I love ferns, they remind me of England) and splashed out on Campanula and Hydrangeas (that last was a bad choice, although looking good. But it needs constant watering; my soil turns out to be parched in that spot).
A friend surprised me with a box of Spanish daisies, which are everywhere.
And yesterday I bought some French pelargoniums to replace the pansies, who are on their last legs by now.



Before work, I take my first cup of herbal tea outside and water my plants, and the world is at peace for a few blissful moments.
And I think that is the essence of gardening for me.

One of the flower boxes


However sad I am, with stuff going on, with the violence in the world, I always recover when I am amongst my plants. They comfort, and bring joy. 

Fuchsia and the violets
Yes, we do have rain, and lots of it usually.

So there you are. Everyone should start to tend a garden, and the world would be at peace. Easy-peasy solution to heal the world :-)




Have a good day (in your garden!)





Monday, 8 May 2017

The Urban Hike: Den Briel

Good afternoon to you all.
I am writing to you looking out on a grey overhung sky, so I am certainly hoping that you are enjoying better Spring weather!


part of the Den Briel ramparts

The poppy was last Saturday, when it was sunny and lovely.
Anyway, I totally ignored the fact that it was grey and chilly and windy and threatening to rain yesterday, when I took another urban ramble. This time I walked around my old haunt, Den Briel (or Brielle as it is also known), to view a WWII event.


The "Americans" 


Den Briel is a famous town, and its fame is based on a long-ago battle. Well, battle...Opinions differ quite a bit, there are two versions, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle I suspect!

The official town council version: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws were defeated in the battle of Den Briel. They were beaten and chased out of the town by the Watergeuzen (noble and courageous seafaring Dutchmen who came by ship), effectively starting the end of the 80 year (!) war against Spain. Encouraged by the example of noble Den Briel, other towns followed and threw out the Spanish enemy.

The historical version now adopted through new evidence: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws saw the changing of the wind, knew they were in for a beating, and fled Den Briel, leaving the town gate wide open for the Watergeuzen (assorted rabble who came by ship)to march into the town, killing and/or maiming those unfortunate Spaniards who were not swift enough.

My version: On April 1st, 1572, Spain had a tough time hanging on to this soggy, wind-flogged piece of land, filled with a troublesome stubborn race of merchants, fishermen and farmers who wanted nothing to do with Roman-Catholics any longer and especially not Spanish ones. It came to blows when the Watergeuzen, tired of being on their ships and in search of food, water and women, decided to berth in Den Briel. The Spaniards lost.

And there you are; you can pick the version which appeals to you most.

Last weekend Den Briel celebrated another war remembrance day, namely the liberation by the American troops in 1945.
Even though I am all for remembering those days (if only to learn lessons from historical events - somehow most governments omit to do this), I suspect this is yet another ploy by Den Briel town council to draw as many tourists as possible. And who can blame them?

Quite a few wanna-be American soldiers, complete with tents, material, heavy rolling material and even anti-aircraft guns, pitched their camp on the town ramparts. I must say it always makes me smile, those earnest fanatical historical re-enacting folk. I mean sincerely smile, not condescendingly!
Piet Heine made a short documentary about the mock battle for Den Briel in 1945; this is the link: Mock Battle WWII 2016


South Gate and Bastion
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Den Briel
the historical town within the ramparts; the route shown is not ours

The ramble:
We started at the South Gate (now less than a ruin), but the actual place where the Watergeuzen entered Den Briel in 1572, and walked along the ramparts, to the "German" camp. Due to the fact it was extremely chilly and there weren't many tourists about (we were their only visitors), they were breaking up camp. 
So we rambled on, stared at by sleepy sheep. 


View on Den Briel from the ramparts, with the Catharijne church

The American camp was next to the North Gate. It was pretty quiet too, but that quickly changed when a long snake of US army trucks and jeeps slowly rumbled in. They had just done a tour of the town. 
I must say this was an impressive sight! Too far away to photograph for me with my iPhone, sorry.




"American" soldier


On the Turfkade, one of the two harbours of Den Briel, there was a war memorabilia market, and that is where we met the re-enactment parade of the troops entering the town. The documentary shows you the aptly named Slagveld side of the harbour (Slagveld means slaughter field).
Personally I thought the Wisteria on the gable of one of the buildings prettier though.


But then I am a self-professed flower geek...
We ended our ramble in one of the oldest bars of Brielle, the Kont van 't Paard (The Horse's Arse), where a band of shockingly young guys played music from the 1940's.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Kont van 't Paerd, Brielle

All in all we walked for 1 hour.
If you would like to visit Den Briel, it is 35 km South of Rotterdam, but due to the always heavy traffic in this part of Holland it will take you an hour to get to it from Rotterdam. Getting there by pubic transport will take even longer.
The town is charming, has some nice restaurants and shops, and the town historical museum is worth a visit.