Tuesday, 30 June 2009

X is for...


Connexxiontours

Yes, I am cheating a little bit, but the abreviated form used within the company is often xx-tours, so I'm not really cheating.

Anyway, this is the company I work for and the coach you see in the photo is actually 'my' coach (or tourbus). Not mine in the sense of I own it, but mine in the sense of I drive it most often.

I've worked for this company for over ten years now and apart from a few months when I wanted out, I loved almost everything. Some trips are of course more fun than others, but over the whole I've no reason to complain about this company. I get the pay I'm owed at the end of every month, I am provided with a uniform and the work itself is varied. I mean, going abroad without paying a penny, seeing lots and lots of different things and meeting tons of people: my idea of a job as close to perfect as I can imagine.

The one thing bothering me about my job is something the company cannot solve for me: European Driving Laws. Nowadays you almost have to have a university degree in mathematics to calculate the amount of driving that you do. However, I try to make it as easy as possible for myself and have been lucky so far.

Now, I do travel a lot outside the Netherlands (at this time I'm probably heading over to Ireland via Holyhead in Wales) and for any European readers out there (and readers from further afield if you ever find yourself in Europe): if you ever see a coach like this, just have a little look to see who the driver is. If the driver is a woman and blonde at that, there's a fair chance it's me. Come and have a chat! I would love to meet you!!

For more x words, please check out: ABC Wednesday

365


When picking a day in the future at which to emigrate, I felt that my birthday would be a good day. It's smack bang in the middle of the year: six months over, six months left to go. That however also means that today (my birthday) is also the day on which it is only one year until I want to emigrate.

My funds are increasing steadily. I've now got one sixth of the amount needed. It's slow going, but that's what you get when you get sick kitties and new computers! The world wide recession seems to be on its way out, although some people say it still has to get worse before it gets better (please let them be wrong). The job market in Alberta, Canada seems to still be quite thriving, which is good.

Will I leave the Netherlands on my birthday next year. I doubt it. But I hope that by the time my 39th birthday rolls in, I will know more for definite.

Old


It's one of those days today. It just crept up to me. I never really noticed it coming and all of a sudden it was there!

I should have known a while ago. I looked at my arms and felt they looked old. Like my mother's arms. My hands have started to get a bit wrinklier. My hair is still okay: not a grey hair to be seen! But whether that's due to my natural (and not so natural) blonde colour or because I don't have grey hairs yet, I don't know.

And because my arms looked old a few weeks ago (while looking at my face in the mirror, I don't. Not really), I decided I would treat myself with a nice new computer. An itty bitty one. Preferably in pink. But alas, the first one I got, was in ivory. Lovely colour on the outside, but a bit too black on the inside: it kept shutting down on me. Extremely annoying! So, I exchanged it. And now I have a lovely navy blue one that goes perfectly with my uniform. Not too black inside fortunately and I might even be able to use the internet while away! Wouldn't that be good? Keep you informed of all my escapades during my trip?

I want to get to 120. Years that is. And as of today, I've only got 82 years to go!

Happy birthday to me...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Busy


Well, the new computer is working (finally), albeit slow. Most of the laundry is done, though the laundry basket is again filling up quite nicely. The ironing is nearly done, only a few shirts left to do. I still have the coach to clean/finish, my suitcase to pack and my Irish information to grab. Because tomorrow I will be off to Ireland.

I am not really looking forward to it. Another ten days away from home and this time I will be driver/guide/doctor/nurse/mechanic/psyciatrist/counsellor all in one! Further more, there will only be about twenty people on the coach. That's not enough. The perfect number is about 30-35. That way, there is enough room to change seats and not get into arguments, but there's also enough people to hook up with. With twenty people you usually get little groups that stay little groups. It never becomes a cohesive group.

I'm also looking forward to it. After all, all the photos I have are the ones other people gave me and I would love for some I made myself again (NEVER hit your computer: you WILL loose!). And Ireland is always beautiful. It's a country full of colour. Unlike Germany where you will find green as the main colour. Extremely boring after a while. But Ireland: it's just bursting with colour. Nature gives you red (fuchsia), orange (mombresia, not yet blooming), yellow (gorse), purple (rhodondendron, not blooming anymore). And the Irish themselves give you every colour under the sun. Beautifying commitees (yes they exist!) seem to have found no place in a country that can put bright orange and bright turquoise next door to each other. And for fun they will put a poisonous green coloured house on either side!

However, there is one other thing I am really looking forward to: meeting my sister for the first time in several months. She's living in Northern Ireland and will come down to Dublin for one evening. Completely serving her own needs of course: she needs to offload something, but that doesn't matter, I've got enough room on the coach!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Camera Critters 3


As seen in Avignon, France a while ago. I even saw one with a little girl on it. Being pushed and guided by her grandfather to stay on the right path!

For more critters from around the world, go to Camera Critters and join in the fun!

Phone


While I was out shopping yesterday, my phone rang. It was one of my colleagues. But, since it was a day off, I wasn't in the mood and didn't answer. He phoned a further 13 times yesterday! This morning he phoned once more and again I didn't pick up my phone. I've turned the setting to silent, so now I don't even hear it anymore! Whenever I try to reach him on his day off, I can't and now he wants to bother me on my day off? I'm not having it!!!

I know the reason he calls. Probably something else to do with work. The planning isn't doing a proper job, the hours aren't paid properly, blablablabla... He has a point, he is mostly right and I have to admit, he does a great job for us as well. But the way he goes about it is driving me up the wall. He is right, they are wrong (they=company) and that's the end of it. He sounds like a petulant child at times and it gets annoying fast.

So, I don't pick up my phone this weekend. I've got four days of freedom in which I will not answer my work phone. Bliss...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Me and my boss

Arriving at the garage yesterday afternoon (around midday), I found the whole lot empty of coaches. Not even around the corner was there a coach to be seen. I immediately phoned my colleague who had been in charge of exchanging coaches and buses that day. But he told me that the coach I needed hadn't been finished with yet and he therefore hadn't brought it back. I then phoned my boss. Here is more or less the conversation as it passed:

Me: There's no coach here!
He: I know, it wasn't finished this morning.
Me: So I'm off now? Couldn't I have been informed?
He: Well, it was changed late yesterday afternoon and you might have slipped through the cracks. Sorry for that.
Me: So, I can go home now?
He: Yes, sorry.
Me: Good, no military band then for me today.
He: Why not, you have to start at two.
Me: THERE'S. NO. COACH. HERE!!!
He: Oh...
He: ...
He: ...
He: You can't come here for it?
Me: That would take too long, I will never be at the base on time!
He: I'm getting on the coach right now and we will exchange somewhere in the middle!
Me: In other words: I have to work this afternoon anyway!

In the end we exchanged some twenty km from the base, I made it on time and the airconditioning gave up!

What a day...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Feline Friday 17


It's hard enough making my bed (it's a king size) without the so-called help of my monster Wuppie! But he felt he was helping, albeit himself!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

W is for...


Watchtower

A few years ago I did a trip through the Frankenwald area of Germany. An area in former West-Germany bordering former East Germany. There were still quite a few reminders of that period in German history. An ugly tower near the hotel we were staying in which was used by West-Germans to wave at their friends and relatives on the other side of the border, large fields without any boundaries (or so it seemed) on the Eastern part, drab grey houses (still) and this tower.

Germany was divided in two after World War II. Berlin was part Russian, American, British and French. The first part was Eastern, the other three Western. But not only Berlin was divided by the so-called Iron Curtain. The rest of the country soon followed. The border ran through villages, rivers and wooded areas and of course caused a massive upheaval on both sides.

The border was 1381 kilometers (858 miles) long and was mainly used to keep East-German citizens in instead of West-Germans out. The borders with Poland and Czechoslovakia were not fortified, since those countries were considered 'friendly', but even for those countries you would need permission.


The border runs through the indentation in the woods in the distance, continuing for miles and miles!

Basically the border consisted of a wide stretch of open land which in later years were also fortified by minefields (anti-vehicle and anti-personel). It was hard to cross those stretches, but even if you managed to do that, you weren't out of the woods yet. The towers were placed at certain distances, and the people guarding the border didn't hesitate in using force(read fire-arms). The fences were made higher over the years and were almost impossible to cross. But even with all those problems facing people, they still tried to escape. If they did manage to get across, they were granted West-German citizenship automatically.

In 1989 the border was finally broken and people from both countries were free to travel between the two states. A year later, the two countries were unified and that signified the official end to World War II (yes, really!). Most of the hated Iron Curtain was taken down within the year following its opening, but some parts remained. As a reminder. The photo at the top shows one of the watchtowers, the second photo the look from the watchtower. The towers would be placed at intervals of about 1 kilometer and the border guards would be able to see each other quite clearly.

Nowadays the whole of the East-West border, both in Germany as well as between other Eastern and Western countries is a very special place. Because of its relative solitude from 1945 onwards, animals and plants had mostly been left alone and have created a haven with some rare species amongst them. In recent years, environmental groups (mainly from the Eastern countries) have worked extremely hard to make the whole former border a national park and they are succeeding quite well. So in the end even some good has come out of that bad period.

For more information about the Inner-German border please check out this Wikipedia article.

For more W words please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun.

A walk in the woods

I don't often take walks. But last night the weather was so nice, the area was so tranquil and it was still early, so I decided to take one. Only around the hotel mind, but still, it was a walk. During my walk I came across several lovely sights and since I had my camera with me, I can show you in the wide wide world as well...


You might be able to understand from the arrows and the numbers that this is sort of a signpost. The funny thing about this sign however was the hidden nature of it. It's clear the information office of Bad Helmstedt wants its guests to be able to find their way around, but you have to find the signs first. And if this sign is anything to go by, I don't hold out much hope for the other 11!


Doesn't this little house just make you think of Hansel and Gretel? Or the little cottage in 'Mandy' by Julie Edwards Andrews. There were only two windows that I could see and both of them quite high up. The house itself was situated about 50 meters from the road and this was the only way to see it.


When I made my move towards the wooded area behind the hotel I saw an awful lot of those piles of firewood. And all of those piles were covered with tarpaulin or plastic. I had never seen them like that before. I mean, I have seen firewood piles before, but always near the sheds of houses, never in the woods they came from!


A little more joy and less battle
A little more goodness and less envy
A little more truth always
And a lot of help in case of danger
A little more 'we' and a little less 'I'
A little more strength and not so weakish
And a lot more flowers during life
They are wasted on the graves

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Camera Critters 2


As seen in Camden, London several weeks ago.

For more critters from around the world, check out: Camera Critters and join in the fun!

Airforce Days


In the Netherlands all armed forces have their own respective day(s) where they show Joe Public what it is they do and what material they use for that. A few weeks ago it was the Army's turn, during the past two days it was the Airforce (the Navy's will be in July, but I doubt whether I will be there though). In stark contrast to the Army, the Airforce is a lot more visual and oratory. For one, most of their equipment is in the air and those air 'machines' can make an awful lot of noise. Deafening on occasion!


Of course not all of the flying machines shown in these photos are used in the Dutch Airforce. On every air-show you try to get foreign squadrons to do a show as well. I'm not sure which ones were flying during the past two days, but I heard colleagues talk of the French, so they were probably there. On the first photo you can see a stealth bomber. Not in use anymore, but restored and now only flying during shows. The second photo shows several helicopters and the one on the left is carrying a jeep. I wouldn't want to be in it, for fear of throwing up!


On the second photo you can also see a few buses and coaches. Because I wasn't there privately, but on a job. I had to ferry visitors back and forth between airbase and train/bus station. During my breaks I was at the 'spotters' area and was able to take a lot of photos. On day two I had the short trip: only 30 minutes back and forth. I was really lucky, because a lot of drivers got stuck in severe traffic. A trip that would normally only last 35 minutes took up to two and a half hours!! Those poor passengers! I'm not sure what the airplane in the third photo is, but I heard talk of a Dakota, so if anyone is more knowledgable than me on this subject...


One of the foreign squads doing their tricks. It was good fun to watch and we were lucky with the weather, although I wouldn't have minded it to be a bit warmer! On day two especially the clouds kept on coming in and occasionally even obscuring part of the shows!


From the spotters place where we were based during our breaks and waiting to relieve other drivers, we had a bad view of the base itself. But when I got home and put this photo on my computer, I found it was actually a US plane! Thank you camera...

Saturday, 20 June 2009

So tired!

I am so tired right now! I hardly know what I'm typing, so I will keep it short. Tomorrow I will post some photographs I took yesterday and today at the Airforce Days. But I can't be bothered to get all of them sorted now. I will just go to bed early and tomorrow I will post, iron, wash and prepare for yet another two-day trip. This time to Germany!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Yawn

Nope. I'm at a complete loss. I don't know what to write about. My day was okay, spent it watching very fit young women and men dive into the pool (military pentathlon) and had a chat with some of the German swimmers when I drove them back to base. In the afternoon I picked up some very sandy blokes, drove them back to their base and then I went home to vacuum all the sand.

Even writing this down is boring!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

In the navy...


Two days of doing nothing while still getting paid? Brilliant!!! Just please: don't give those kind of days to me too often, because they are so! incredibly! boring! Even if you do have time to go to the beach, watch a naval demonstration and see lots of nice naval men (not interested in the women).

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

V is for...


Vesuvius

The Vesuvius is a volcanic mountain in Southern Italy. It's known best for the eruption in 79 aD which covered Pompei (which you can see in the foreground) and Naples (or as it was then known Ercolano). Pompei was covered in ash and people were suffocated to death. There are some really good accounts as to what happened on that fateful day, most notable by a writer called Plinius (the younger I believe), who was in Pompei, but managed to get out on time and saw the whole thing unfold while on a boat.

People in those days didn't know what a volcano was. They had never heard of one. The mountain smoked on occasion and there had been earth quakes as well, but the idea of a mountain spewing fire and ashes was completely novel to them and didn't enter their brains for a second. When the mountain finally erupted, most people thought it was angry gods and one in particular: Volcan, the God of Fire.

The Vesuvius hasn't died yet, there is still a very good chance of a massive eruption. In 79 aD there were plenty of people living in its vicinity (death toll then ranges between 10,000 and 25,000 people), in 2009 the death toll could be many times that number. Pompei is a small town adjacent to the old site and about 25,000 have their home there. Naples is many times bigger and according to official listings, nearly a million people call Naples home. It could be a massive disaster!!

However, when I was there, the mountain was quiet, no smoke to be seen, other than forest fires in the area and people climbed all the way to the top to peer into the crater. It's quite a steep and horrid road to get to the parking lot, but it is definitely worth doing.

For more V words, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

PS: I promised in my U-post last week to post a photo of me in my bikini-uniform. Scroll down to Monday and you will find it!

Monday, 15 June 2009

As promised


While I worked for Club Med on Sicily during the summer of 1992, this was my uniform. A bikini and flip-flops! Most of my colleagues within the mini-club wore shorts and t-shirts, but since the temperatures regularly rose to over 35 degrees Celsius and I was out and about with small children all day, this was my option. And the big boss never complained, even though he had a slight preference for short and chubby (I'm neither short nor (in this photo at least) chubby).

That summer saw me grow up fast. When I arrived I spoke hardly a word of French and was quite happy to share my room with a German girl. After a while the children started arriving and my French improved a great deal because I had to use it every day. In June I was asked by my boss to become the head-honcho for the Shoopy Club. From then on I had to deal with complaints, programs and shows regarding the 4 and 5 year old children. I loved it. There were three of us constantly at the Shoopy Club: me, the Italian Monica and the German Jochen. We had so much fun together and I unfortunately lost touch with both of them quite soon after leaving.

As I said I also had to deal with the shows. Every week there would be a Mini-Club show held in the big top (circustent) and the children had to perform between one and three small acts. And as long as I was told how to teach those acts I was okay. As soon as I had to think of them myself, I was rubbish, resulting on one occasion to being cussed out and yelled at in front of about 20 colleagues and over 100 children! I roared back and from then on, I was never spoken to like that ever again. Tell me in private or don't tell me at all!!

At the end of the summer I left: very thin (I was probably a bit underweight as you can see in the photo), very tanned and very grown-up compared to when I arrived. It was a good summer and I do sometimes miss it quite bad: the camaraderie and togetherness of everyone being in the same boat, singing REM songs at midnight while eating spaghetti with a teaspoon and despite being constantly tired, the amount of fun we had.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Messy and loud


Spending several days with high school students aged 14 to 18 has never been my idea of fun. Even if during the last few months I've had several good experiences with people of that age. So, leaving on Tuesday morning with a coach load of 14-16 year olds and going to London for four days was not on top of my list. On entering the coach though, I realised they were a quiet bunch who didn't really look as though they would be much trouble. Famous last words!

The reason they were so quiet was soon made clear: most of them had hardly left the place they lived, let alone the country! They were so nervous and tense it was incredible. Fun as well. But after arriving in London, I also realised their quietness hadn't in any way gotten in the way of them messing up the complete coach: it was awful. Fortunately all the children have hands at the ends of their arms and four of the boys were put to work (equal opportunities: four girls had to take the luggage out of the coach).

Day two showed that the first day had not been the benchmark for the way they behaved. They were awfully loud, made an amazing amount of mess and had me wondering why on earth I said yes to going on this trip. The teachers agreed on the noise level (too loud) and on day three it was a lot better. And on the day of our return, they were able to behave okay for about two hours at a stretch, after which I would stop and give them fifteen minutes to just run around chasing a ball.

At the end of the journey, the teachers thanked me and wanted me to come with them again next year (yes!) and part of the students came up to me to thank me and/or shake my hand. Because apart from the amazing mess and the incredible amount of noise they could produce, they also had managed to make me laugh and smile on so many occasions. So, am I completely won around to teenagers? Well, not 100% yet, but I'm getting there fast.

Of London I saw not very much, due to the Underground strike. I managed to get some books though (only nine) of which "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" must be the one with the best title! Don't know whether it will be any good, but I will give it a go nonetheless...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Feline Friday 16


I've got some weird monsters. No really, I do! This is Linette and she just (for some strange reason) loves to lick plastic. I don't always catch her, but this time I was able to take this photo before shooing her away.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Home?


I felt a bit sorry for this mannequin when I spotted him/her in the bin. The whole area is a deserted airforce base and looks really desolate. This mannequin must be hoping for someone to rescue him/her from certain death after surviving all those rounds being shot at him/her by practising people.

Strike

No, I'm not on strike. The London Underground is on strike. And that is quite bothersome. To say the least. Because the group I'm taking to London was supposed to be doing everything by Underground today. I would just drop them off at the Tower of London around 10/10.30 am and pick them up tonight at around 10.30 pm. Instead I had to race at a snail's pace through London to get to the parking lot in time for me to rest nine hours (European Driving Laws). I managed, but an hour from the London Eye to Bayswater (it's less than 5 km/3 miles) is just ridiculous.

We did manage to get to Chelsea FC on time though and even London Eye was reached on time! Tomorrow I'm supposed to be doing a tour of the town. Dreading it already!

So, instead of walking through an unknown area of town, I'm now blogging, all due to the (very fitting for today) Underground... Since I'm not going to walk all the way to the other side of the city (I had Greenwich in mind, but that's over 15 km/10 miles). I will have some dinner, buy some books and go back to my coach watching the chaos that is parking lot.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

U is for...


Uniform

I like uniforms. They make you part of a group. For some reason you earn a certain degree of respect without having done anything yet. A uniform seems to give people faith in what you do. In my current job as a coach driver, I wear dark blue woollen trousers (great in Southern France or Italy) or a skirt, a white shirt, a dark blue sweater (or jumper) and a tie. I especially like my tie. I could also wear one of those awful scarf-like things, but they annoy me no end.

The best uniform I ever wore was a bikini and flip-flops during my summer in Italy in 1991 (I'll post a photo some time soon). The worst one must have been the one in this photo. Mind you, it looked nice, but was awful. First of all, the black dress would turn dark grey quite quick and secondly the apron was always dirty. During the summer it would be extremely hot, since you were basically strapped in, during the winter it would be extremely cold, since we also had to do room-service to hotelrooms in the grounds. The apron had two long bands, that had to be crossed on the back and then be tied into a lovely bow.

This uniform was worn by both the waitresses (like me) and the chambermaids, which could be quite confusing. The big difference was, that the chambermaids were almost all above 45 and local, while the waitresses were mostly under 25 and from foreign stock.

For more U-words, please check out: ABC Wednesday and join in the fun

Monday, 8 June 2009

Safety in numbers


Since I felt like a shivering wreck on Friday, I hadn't cleaned my coach yet. Then Saturday was another long day and I didn't feel like cleaning it. And then yesterday it was raining and that definitely didn't entice me to go out to clean my coach. But it still needed to be done and there are no elves in this neck of the woods doing it in the middle of the night for me. More's the pity!

So, this morning I made sure I went to work an hour early. So I could clean my coach. As soon as I had cleaned it (vacuuming, cleaning the windows, changing the coffee water and the toilet water (and no, they are not from the same tank!)), I started driving to pick up the first group. Fourteen schoolchildren later, I was off to my second job of the day. I thought it was a misprint: 4, but it turned out to be correct and yet not. There were only three on board! And then this afternoon another massive amount of people clambering all over themselves to get on my coach: six the first trip, one the second.

Well, 'all' those people at least managed to keep my coach more or less clean. So, when I got back tonight, I didn't have to do much. Tomorrow the coach will not remain clean for long anyway, because high school children definitely do know how to wreck your coach within ten minutes. And since I will be on the road with them for the next four days...

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Orange above!!

I think the boy in blue says it all doesn't he. The absolute horror and shock that cricket toddler the Netherlands has won from cricket power England. Nobody expected it, least of all the English themselves. Loosing to those cheese eating, dope smoking, clog wearing Dutch? You must be kidding...

For the full story, click this link from the BBC!

Complaint


I complained yesterday. In writing. Because I felt that if you are warned about a visit from traffic police who check up everything from driver's licence to buspapers and specifically tachograph discs, you don't expect someone who works for the company warning you, to tell you you have to go over your maximum amount of driving hours when it's busy! I could see there were hundreds of people waiting to get on board a bus, I knew there were three buses broken down, but still, that wasn't my problem! My problem would be having a check-up by traffic police while in England next week, being fined €900 and being chained up (the coach) because I had broken the driving rules! The bloke looked angry when I told him that, but didn't really seem to care. I later found out several of the other drivers had actually gone over the 4 1/2 hours! I also learned, I hadn't been the only one having words with him.

After my break, I started driving again and as soon as I saw him, I immediately told him I only had until 17.20 when it was the end for me. "Well, we will see about that" was his reply! Fortunately when I told the main person an hour or so later, he immediately told me to take another break. At least he had some sense!

***********

Now the reason for all those people waiting to get on a bus was the Army Days. Every year one of the army bases in the Netherlands is host to thousands and thousands members of the ordinary public who come and see what the army (and airforce, navy and military police) are up to, both in the Netherlands and abroad. It's mostly about the land army though and how they go about their work. Of course it's also a way of 'winning souls'. Like most armies who run on conscription only, it's not always as easy to fill vacancies and days like these help to gain new recruits (although you can't sign up on the day itself) and/or change people's perception about all the armed forces.

Worries


I'm a bit worried today. I've know for weeks now I'm supposed to be going to London next week, have known it ever since I got the A+ phonecall in April. For some reason though, I thought I was due to be leaving on the 8th of June which is tomorrow. And the worksheet I got a few weeks ago, also stated the leaving date as the 8th. And then, last week, I saw I had to do a schoolrun on the 8th. I became really angry immediately, because someone had requested me, I had been promised and now I was taken off the trip. However, the next day I saw the trip was due to leave on the 9th!

Of course if the company makes a mistake, it can not be called my fault, but it has me worrying nonetheless.

Update 15.13: I just had a look at my papers and it seems as if the trip has moved one day! So, I've stopped worrying now...

Friday, 5 June 2009

Shakin' Mara


I sat down in my coach at 07.30 this morning. I got out again at 20.15 this evening! In the mean time I got out only three times, twice to help children get on board, once to get myself a sandwich. I didn't drive the whole time (not allowed for a start), but especially this afternoon it did seem like it. At midday I had to take some children home from a museum (116 km). As soon as they were off the coach, I had to drive another 116 km to pick up some soldiers. Then I had to drive 110 km to their base! I felt like a yo-yo! After that trip I had to take my rest and was hoping for some dinner.

Alas, it wasn't to be, I had to settle for a hot chocolate and decaf coffee. After my hour's rest, I drove home. I did stop on the way though, just to get something to eat, since I was quite hungry ànd there was way too much traffic anyway. Driving home after my lovely sandwich was a lot easier.

Getting back to base I got up and felt my legs just shaking. I decided the coach was clean enough for now (I'll probably go back on Sunday to do the rest), fuelled it up and washed the outside and parked it. And then I cycled home!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Feline Friday 15


Every three months I have to give my monsters a medicin in their necks to protect them from lice, ticks and fleas. I don't have to force their mouths open, I don't have to shove anything down their throat, just put a little bit of fluid in their neck. But for some reason Mathilda hates it. No, that's too soft a word, she loathes it. And whenever I have to give it to them, I have to catch her first, otherwise I can't catch her at all! It's funny to see, because she is the most laid-back of monsters living in my home!

EU


Voting!

Well, I've voted for the European Parliament! I didn't think I would. Not because I don't feel it necessary, but because of work. However, my first job of the day was cancelled and I'm now home, drinking tea. It feels weird though to be voting on a Thursday, in the Netherlands we usually vote on Wednesday! The rest of Europe votes on Sunday, but that is never going to happen in the Netherlands. Religious concerns and so forth... So today the Netherlands (and the UK for that matter) goes to vote!


Colouring in red

The weirdest thing though was having to vote using a red pencil! I've never done that before I think. I've always been able to use the voting machines, but apparently they aren't trustworthy enough. So, I used a lovely big red pencil to colour in one of the little circles, folded the ballot paper again and put it in the ballot box!


The ballot box

I'm not sure about the EU though. On the one hand unification between nations is a good thing. Having the same driving laws all over the continent is good, even though the laws seems to have been written by a Latvian gal and a Spanish guy with no understanding between them and no knowledge of either the lorry or the bus business! On the other hand, rules and regulations of a certain country are sometimes snowed under by Brussels (as we call the EU usually), causing friction to the inhabitants of a certain country. So, mixed feelings...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Not so annoying...

My neighbour from across the road getting dressed in front of the window.

And before you ask: I can only see from the waist up! (Which I have to admit is quite a shame)

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

T is for...

Turf

Sometimes probably known as peat, but that doesn't start with a t! Turf is still found all over Europe, although some countries have stopped digging it up now (like the Netherlands). However, Ireland still 'harvests' it, both for personal as well as for industrial use. My sister and I found this little mountain of turf in Connemara (Co. Galway). It was probably made by a local (quite a few still own turf-patches) and that local would use this turf to heat his home. It has a very distinct smell (which I love) and you can smell it in most small towns and villages when driving through.

Turf is centuries old and is made up of old leaves, trees, grasses and sometimes animals and even humans have been found in the peat. Imagine an outside swimming pool beneath the trees. Fill it with clean water and leave it be. Every year, leaves will fall in, bugs and small animals will drown in it and slowly over the years a deposit is formed on the bottom of the pool. That deposit gets thicker and thicker until (after centuries), the lake/pool/pond has become a marsh. Wait another few centuries and you can walk on that marsh without sinking (it's very springy now). The peat can now be harvested. First you need to cut it. The slabs are roughly the same size, regardless of country of origin. Those slabs need to dry out and are therefore left in small groups of up to ten slabs or in small mountains like this one. During the autumn they are picked up and taken home where they can be used to heat the home.

Nowadays most industrially harvested turf is compacted into 'bricks'. This way they are even more energy efficient! Some fields are even used to power electricity plants! If you ever drive through Ireland and see a mountain of turf, don't hesitate to pick one of the slabs up and examine it, you will find it quite dry, even if it's pouring down with rain! You can see the sticks, leaves and(if you're lucky) perhaps even a bug. However, don't forget to put it back, someone has worked hard for it!

For more t-words, please check out ABC Wednesday.

Band practice


The band going through their paces

Part of my job is driving military personnel around. We pick them up at the various bases around the Netherlands and take them to a variety of destinies: amusement parks, military shooting ranges, other bases both in the Netherlands and abroad etc. As soon as I arrive on any base I have to identify myself and I'm not allowed to take any photos. The photos I took of those helicopters were allowed, I mean, if plane spotters (or anoraks) and the press can take photos, then I certainly can. Normally though, I don't take any photos. I don't plan on getting fired, just because I see a lovely butterfly sitting on a tank!


During the break

Today I had to take a band to a sports centre, where they were going to practice. You always see those military bands in tattoos and during official things with heads of state and so forth, but you don't really get to see how they train for that. So today I took up a nice central space in the tennis hall and watched them muck it up! Well, the first time anyway, after that it became a lot easier and it looked massively better!


Detail of a tuba. Look at the Mother of Pearl buttons

Of course it did help for me that I love brass music and they are quite a good band. However, not everyone was playing, some did have their instrument but apparently thought it was a bit heavy (like the tuba or the big drum) to carry around ALL the time. Others didn't even have their instrument with them and just walked around with the notes and the music in hand. It was great fun to watch and good music to boost! I even heard some Tom Jones...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Annoying


I am a huge fan of Doctor Who (the new series) and have watched every single episode at least six times. So when yesterday there was a marathon of Doctor Who on the Sci Fi channel, I was over the moon. But as I watched, there were some things wrong. The show was still fantastic, but there were commercial breaks (!) and worse still: scenes missing!

Then at night as I was watching Jane Eyre on BBC-Prime, they too decided to skip certain scenes. They might not have been really necessary, but why shoot the scenes, show them in the original version and cut them out later? It didn't make sense to me at all and I hope it's not going to be the norm for the future!