Saturday, 28 February 2009

Boat

When I was young, my parents didn't have a car. Well, not all the time anyway. So, whenever we visited my grandparents, we had to take the bus to the station (10 minutes), then the train (90 minutes) and another bus (45-50 minutes) plus all the waiting in between. I nearly always got sick on the last bus, because a. I refused to sit in the front which would have been better but was absolutely thorougly boring and b. the road to my grandparents was quite a winding road, since it was on a dyke next to a river. However, that route was quite a nice route, because it went through several villages, you could see the river nearly the whole way and it had a boat on dry land. You knew you were over halfway when you saw that boat.
The boat probably used to sail on the river Lek, but had long since given up that function and was now lying on dry land. People were living in it and there even was a garden. In my memory it was quite big ànd it stood alone. So, today, when my sister and I returned after visiting my uncle, I wanted to see that boat again and take a photo.

I saw the boat again and I did take that photo. It was smaller than I remembered and there was a house next to it. But it was still there!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Feline Friday 1

I took this picture just over a year ago. It is of Mathilda, although it's hard to see (I know my cats though). She always gets up the roof of the bicycle shed when she gets the chance to go outside. She doesn't get that chance very often though, because there are still some weirdos in my neighbourhood who like to give 'treats' to neighbourhood cats. Those treats consist of bathing sponges baked in fat and then thrown out. Cats love the fat, but while eating also eat the sponge: which is not so good for them and can kill them! Fortunately my cats usually come back home within about thirty minutes and I've never found anything weird in their mouths (not counting the toads)!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Stocking up

I will be busy today. I have to go to the hairdresser's, I have to buy catfood (and lots of it), I have to buy human food (and lots of it), I have to get an external hard drive (I don't want to be caught out again) and usb-sticks. I probably need some more things, but I figure those out when I realise I need it.
So, as soon as I've finished my sandwich with white chocolate butter (yummie), I will get on my bike and head to town.
I will spend some money!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

F is for...

Famine
I've been to Ireland quite a few times now and I love the country. It's nature is so green, beautiful and different where ever you go. But Ireland isn't just nature, it's also culture. And its culture is formed in a large part by the oppression by the British. Midway through the 19th century a major (potato)famine hit the country. According to some British leaders, it was all just nonsense: 'Walk it off' kind of stuff. But of the by then eight million Irish, only four million remained. Starvation, illnesses related to starvation and for the lucky ones who did survive: emigration. This picture I took in Dublin a few years ago. It's the Famine Monument and remembers all those who didn't make it.
For more F entries please check out: ABC Wednesday

Monday, 23 February 2009

Oscar

After last year I vowed never to watch another Oscar ceremony: it was so boring and the 'supposedly' funny who-ever-it-was, was SO not funny. At least I didn't think so. But when I heard that this year Hugh Jackman would be hosting I thought: I will give it a go. He is definitely too cute to miss...
So, after a hard day at work (driving back from London), I had to wait until the middle of the night before it started, but was not disappointed when it finally did start. Hugh Jackman was brilliant (and very very very cute). Singing, dancing ànd presenting. Great job!

Now I have to admit I've not seen a single film that was nominated. I would love to see Benjamin Button and The Reader sounds interesting as well, but that will have to wait a while, so it will probably be a dvd soon. Therefore my knowledge of the nominated films comes from magazines and television shows about film. It didn't matter though: I thought this year wasn't half as boring as last year, the dresses were beautiful (I loved Kate Winslet) and the speeches were short enough. So next year, I will (if possible) watch again...

London

Well, I'm back from London. Where only two weeks ago, England was more or less covered by snow, this weekend it was a far and distant memory. It was beautiful weather. Sunny and quite warm, 14 degrees Celsius. The hats and scarves were immediately replaced by short sleeved shirts and on a couple of occasions even shorts (must have been Americans). The picture is of crocusses in Hyde Park. The daffodils were also coming up, but not blooming yet.

On Saturday morning I had to do a tour of London, giving out information about history, use etc etc. In the afternoon I was off and could do my own thing. And at night I had to do a light tour, which is quite silly really, since half of the buildings and monuments aren't nicely lit or lit at all!

The people on board were a nice mix: the three oldest were nearing 80 and the youngest was about 13. Everyone had a good time: either shopping to their hearts content or doing the sights. Of course the lovely weather helped a great deal. Spending a whole day in London while it's bucketing down with rain is not something I recommend.

In May I will be showing my parents (and sister, but she's come with me before) and a lot of friends London. I'm looking forward to it...

Thursday, 19 February 2009

No pink

Well, the pink has gone. Not that I didn't like it, but it wasn't really what I wanted after all, so when I found a site that had those lovely side backgrounds, I couldn't resist. Now, the only thing left to do is find a new title picture. The roses are really pretty, but roses are definitely not my favourite flowers (deep red carnations are) and so a bit out of tune with me. But I don't really know what to put in its place yet...
Hmmm

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

E is for...

Eye! The London Eye to be precise.
I took this picture in 2004 when I took my goddaughter A. to London for a few days. It was overcast for most of the time we were there, I embarassed her on a few occasions (I only was about 40 pence short in small change, after counting for about 10 minutes), but we had a great time anyway. We went on the Underground a lot, we took a touristy trip, we visited the London Dungeon, we went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the theatre (BIG hit) and of course we went on the London Eye.
I hope that despite the embarassing moments, she remembers our time in London well...
For more E-words, visit: ABC Wednesday

Monday, 16 February 2009

C'est le ton qui fait la musique

Picture scene 1: after unloading eight passengers, three people are standing outside my coach, two of them are smoking. I tell them I want to move out immediately and after a few seconds the oldest of the lot comes up to me, telling me her son has to poo, the toilet is full on the coach and deal with it!
Picture scene 2: while still driving, a woman comes up to me: excuse me, my son has to use the bathroom, but I've heard the toilet on the coach is full. Would there be a possibility to stop at a petrol station?
Now, in both situations the little boy had to use the bathroom and in both instances the boy would have had that chance. However, the mother used scene number 1 and in the end the boy went behind a tree.

The woman who told me to find a solution, will make a complaint. Because it was my fault! Now, let me explain: the toilet on a coach is small and has a small sceptic tank. Once it's full it's full. We have a clearance to empty it at our company, but you can't just empty it everywhere. I started driving at 7pm, after my colleague had driven it all weekend going to Paris and back. And the coach was full! So, who is to blame? And emptying it out anywhere? No chance!

Everyone is always saying about how young people have lost their manners: I wonder where they've got it from...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

500

Ever since the start of the new year, I've been counting down to my birthday next year. Not that it's a special birthday (I will be 39), but because it's exactly in the middle of the year and I want to move to Canada by then.

So, one night I sat down and made a calender. Just strips of paper held together with a piece of string. On the strips of paper I have noted down all the days from now until June 30th 2010 ànd I've noted the number of days still to go. Every day I cross one off and today, I've got 500 days to go!

Five hundred seems like a lot to me right now. Since I've started less than 40 days have passed and it's going sooooo slow! That might have something to do with the fact that a. there's still 500 days to go, so it seems a lot and b. I haven't been working a lot lately, so the days seem a lot longer than they would if I were out working day after day.

Don't get me wrong: I don't mind the easier times right now, I know it will change soon enough and I will pray for a bit of peace and quiet.

Five hundred days to go. Mind you, it's not as clear cut as that. I might not find myself a job before then, these economic bad times haven't only hit in Europe, or I might actually find a job way before then. Either way, I felt I needed a focus date and that became my 39th birthday.

Five hundred days to go...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Eviction notice!

I can take a lot, but I have been known to kick people off my bus for several reasons: fighting, not sitting down (on the coach), being too drunk to get on without help, being very rude to me. Lately I haven't been doing any kicking off, but this morning I had to actually get away from the steering wheel to actually throw someone off. Physically! I got him by the neck and walked him out the door of my bendy bus. He had just gotten on, didn't say good morning (mind you, most youngsters don't nowadays), didn't show a bus pass and apparently had no inclination to do so any time soon and didn't respond to anything I said.

Now, I say him, but it could have been a her, I didn't think it was polite to lift the cat's tail in front of everyone!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Certificate

In the ten years I've been a busdriver, I've received three certificates of a "damage-and-traffic-fine free year of driving". The first time I had actually hit an Irish car that year, so wasn't really entitled to it, but my boss couldn't be bothered to get it changed. The second year actually was good, but last year once again, I had had some damage. Not much and nothing compared to what that bus had to endure a few months later: total loss and the driver unfortunately lost his life.

But, I know that next year I will not receive my fourth certificate, because today, thanks to some idiot who put his car within an inch of my coach, I had some damage! Fortunately I'm really quick in filling out the insurance form, but still...

I'll be glad when this week is over!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

D is for...

I've been reading a few blogs lately that have a returning theme every wednesday: ABC is for... I thought it was a great idea and will post them as well from now on. So, here goes!

D is for Dublin

I love Ireland and have been there about a dozen times now. And every time I went to Ireland, I went to Dublin. Sometimes only for about three hours, sometimes about six hours and once actually two whole days. It's home to Croke Stadium, where the big hurling matches are played, Guinness, Trinity College and night-time scare tours including how to rob a grave. I never went to the bar in the picture, but there's time still!

Old rope!

The day went well for me. Right up until the point where I was going home. I was driving along, radio on with lovely 60's music (it's 60's week). All of a sudden as a lorry passed me, one of the side hatches flew open! I slowed down immediately and parked halfway on the grass. I put on my safety vest and went outside. No chance of closing the hatch again. At all! So, I got the coach moving again at a snail's pace and moved to the nearest emergency spot. There I started the process of removing the bar that held the hatch in its place. I was hammering away while traffic was swishing by at a speed of about 50/60 miles an hour!

The hammering didn't work. I got the spanner and managed to get the top loose. But unfortunately the hatch still didn't close. I couldn't get the bottom loose, but help was at hand: the ratcatcher! He tore the bar off and the hatch could close. I locked one side of the hatch, but the other side didn't have a lock anymore. In the end we used a piece of rope. I had to go back to the mechanics to get it fixed properly. In the process I was home nearly an hour and a half later. My hands were filthy, I was quite cold and my clothes need a wash!

On the bright side: nobody got hurt and no vehicles were damaged.

PS: the ratcatcher is someone who goes around the countryside, especially near dykes and levies, to check on holes made by muskrats that might damage the structure ànd cause flooding!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Photos

A colleague of mine has taken quite a few photos over the past few years and when I lost all my work related photographs, he offered to put a lot of his on a cd for me. Today he gave them for me and I've just gone through them. Faces of people who don't work at the company any more and some who aren't even alive anymore. And an occasional photo of myself, which was great.
So, especially for me: Mara the busdriver. The early years!


These pictures were taken during a summer barbecue at a former colleague's place. The thing in my hair was a cause for much ridicule and I was actually forced to have it burned the week after. The mechanic did however give me money to buy a new scrunchie, as long as it wasn't as gaudy as this one! I was sorry, because I loved it!
A picture of me during the first staff outing. It wasn't organized by me then, I only started the year after. We went to one of the Dutch islands and scared the designated driver of the day by telling him we would miss the ferry back. It was also the day I finally got my contract: indefinitely! I was a happy girl that day...
This is the very first bus I ever drove on. It was horrendous! The gear stick was very hard to use and after only one week, my shoulder felt like it had been through the wars. After a while though, I got used to it and was fine. The airconditioning was a Belgian one (window and roof hatches opened). One day the bus wouldn't start and was jumpstarted by a bunch of colleagues pushing it. That same night it wouldn't stop and I had to stall it! It was sold six months after I started working for the company and I got a better coach!

Across the speed humps

Whenever there's two drivers doing the same thing because the group is too big to fit in one coach, there's one who will lead and one who will follow. Both yesterday and today it was my colleague who was up front, which in one way is great, because I don't have to decide what route I want to take. On the other hand, with all the traffic lights, speed humps, roundabouts and other traffic, it can be quite tricky to keep the other coach in sight. Especially since the colleague I'm talking about is one for the shortest route. Which hardly ever involves motorways...
Today was another one of those days. This morning we left together, but after only a few miles, I had to struggle to keep him in my sight. And then he took the route: littered with villages (30 or 50km speedlimits), speed humps and roundabouts. Awful!

When we had the group on board, he wanted to take the smaller roads again, because there's a bottleneck which always causes traffic jams during rush hour. I so didn't want to do that, but in the end I was lucky: he took the motorway and the traffic jam was not too bad.

This afternoon we have to do the return trip and once we've dropped the group off, I will take MY preferred route home: one village, no speed humps and about fifteen roundabouts. About 20 kilometers longer, but it takes the same time to drive it.

Shorter doesn't always mean quicker!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Eel

I love to eat fish and I only ever do so when out to dinner. So, it was a perfect opportunity for me to eat fish when I went out to dinner with my parents a few days ago.

For starters I had a plate with three different types of waterfood (by lack of a better word): smoked salmon in huge quantities, Dutch shrimps (they are small and brownish, but quite tasty) and last but not least smoked eel. It was beautifully presented and it tasted yummie. For the main course I had ordered salmon in sesame seeds and some Japanesy sauce. My mum had ordered the stewed eel and so had my dad. My dad started digging in and loved it, both my mum and I took a few bites, looked at each other and then changed plates: much better! Not perfect though, because I don't really like anything but smoked eel and this was stewed and quite salty, so not my favourite.

Dessert was quite a disappointment. There was a lot of choice for both the starter and the main course including seasonal variations, but for dessert there was a choice between ice cream, ice cream, ice cream and chippolata pudding. And not even seasonal variations, just canned fruits and factory ice creams. Bit of a shame!

We had a nice time though and it's always nice to have dinner with other people instead of on my own (which happens quite a lot, even when I eat in restaurants). And having fish was definitely a bonus!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Weighty matters

Originally the new title of this blog referred to my quite hefty orange tomcat named Wuppie. Having him lie on your feet (yesterday morning), will definitely let your feet go numb.

But not only Wuppie is quite a weighty matter, there are of course also the less physical and more emotional matters that can carry a lot of weight around. Deciding to emigrate is one of those matters and a lot of emotions are part of that decision. Not only on my side, on the side of friends and family as well. Their disbelief (a colleague just the other day), their hope I will decide not to move and all other emotions concerning my intended move. The fear I have of doing the wrong thing just to prove other people wrong. The fear I have of remaining single and ending up a lonely old woman with a gazillion cats. The fear my life doesn't turn out the way I would like it to. But also the joys of family and friends, even if they do drive me around the bend on occasion! The joys ànd anguishes of my job, dealing with strangers on a near daily basis.

Of course all that doesn't mean that I won't be penning any nonsense anymore. Because let's face it: a bull in a china shop is also a weighty matter and can make absolutely riveting reading!!!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Winter


We've had ice in January and now we have snow! Not much, perhaps a centimeter at the most and unfortunately already melting, but snow nonetheless. It started last night and by the time I left for work (9.30pm) the roads were beginning to turn white. The cycle paths were even worse, but I made it. I drove to the starting point and found that even the bigger roads hadn't been salted yet. So careful was the main word.


By the time I had arrived at the starting point and was ready to load a bunch of builders on the bus, the heating on the bus had packed in already. Fortunately I was prepared and had dressed in more layers than ever. After an hour (hard work) and only one little trip I went back home. The main roads were a bit better, because they had been salted, but after wrapping myself up and climbing back on my bike, I found the cycle paths were even worse. They had been salted, but at midnight there's not that many people about, so it was hard going. Staying in the car track made it a bit easier, but it still took me twice the time it would normally take.

Right now, most of the snow is already gone or it has been turned into slush. But we had snow!!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Say cheese!

Well, these are my teeth! They might not win me best teeth awards, but so far not a single cavity!! However, the dentist did see something that had him worried a little bit. When you look at the bottom row, from right to left, you see two molars and then something else. What is the something else? The dentist didn't know, so he sent me to the dental surgeon.
The dental surgeon made short work of the whole thing: you had a molar out when you were a child, then there was a small infection, that healed, but the place of the infection still shows. That's all!
In and out in under fifteen minutes. And because we were in and out in under fifteen minutes, the parking was free.
It was a good day!!!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Pink

Yes, it's pink. Not as pink as I feared, so I want to give a huge thanks to Anvilcloud who gave me the proper code!