Tuesday, 31 August 2010

G is for...

Gendarme

When I was a child and/or teenager we sometimes watched French films starring Louis de Funes. He was a famous French comic actor and made many films, usually playing some bumbling something or other. He made several films about 'le Gendarme de Saint Tropez', showing his failure to control the town, his wife, his daughter and the other gendarmistes (is that a word?). He had to deal with female gendarmistes (I've decided it is), nude sunbathers and aliens. His daughter had a beau (to stay in French mode), his men fumbled along and there would always be a few nuns in an old renault screeching down some hill.

Of course, that view of the gendarme isn't correct. They usually don't have to deal with aliens (not sure about the rest) and they do fine work. Now, you might wonder who the gendarme are. Well, I asked a lovely policewoman in Paris and she told me they were the military policeforce among civilian populations.

They have the same rights and duties, plus a few added ones, mostly the military themselves. They do border checks (in the Netherlands anyway), guard the Royal homes (again in the Netherlands) and accompany military formations en route to wherever. Not all countries do have a gendarme, but here are a few that do: Italy (Carabinieri), Spain (Guardia Civil), Netherlands (Royal Marechaussee).

For more G-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Photo taken May 2010, in Paris, France

Monday, 30 August 2010

Monstrous Monday 11

It would have been nicer looking if there had been one on the other armrest, but they didn't want to cooperate.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Funny feeling

Sunset in Hörsten, Germany

That's what I have. A funny feeling. A funny feeling that summer is over. I should have known with the sniffles a few weeks ago. And of course the amount of rain causing soppy socks last week was also a big omen. Yesterday I put my sweater on for the first time in months and last night I put an extra blanket on my bed.

I like the autumn. Really I do. It means a stop to the unbearable heat of summer, beautiful autumn colours and fresh winds. It means thick socks (dry if you please), sweaters, extra blankets, hot chocolate with marshmellows and Christmas around the corner. But it also means rain, wind, cold and difficulty to get up in the morning.

*Sigh*

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The (drowned) fool

In my search for a perfect dessert, I can add another one on my list. The fool. Strawberry fool to be exact. Now, for this dessert you don't have mix to exact measurements, it depends on your own taste.

Ingredients:
250 ml (1 cup) ready made custard or vanilla yoghurt (which isn't as sweet)
125 ml (1/2 cup) whipping cream, sugar to taste
250 gr (2 cups) strawberries, sugar to taste
100 gr (1/2 cup) crumbly biscuits or 100 gr cubed madeira cake

Preparation:
1. Remove stalks and slice the strawberries, pour in the sugar and leave for about half an hour.
2. Whip the cream with the sugar until not quite stiff.
3. Mix cream with the custard/yoghurt.
4. Take serving bowl and pour in the creamy custard. Next take the strawberries and pour them over. Top with the crumbled biscuits.

Alternatively (to get a drowned fool): take the cubed madeira cake and put on the bottom of the serving bowl. Pour the creamy custard over and top with the strawberries.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Soppy socks and other mishaps

It was not a good day today. The first mishap was not my fault. If my boss gives me the wrong address to start work... Fortunately my brain was working at 8.30am (doesn't always happen, I admit) and I asked. So, I got to the right address and was even in time!

The second mishap couldn't really be thought of being my fault either. Since the first address wasn't right, I could easily believe that the second address was wrong as well. So, when the teacher told me I had to go to the first address, I happily complied. I then drove back to school, where the headmistress told me I had dropped the first group off at the wrong address.

The third mishap? Not really my fault either. Can I be to blame for all the rain that was coming down today? It wasn't even cats and dogs. It was tigers and wolves, ferocious and scary. Well, not exactly scary, but there was a lot of water. Big puddles. Hard to miss when walking to my parents' home. So, I arrived at my parents' with soppy socks. Awful.

Of course the day was not done yet. As I was driving towards my last job of the day, I took the route I usually take when coming from home. But I wasn't home, I was at my parents'. Which meant I was taking the long route to the job. Fortunately I was in time, so I could pick up annoying people.

After I dropped the annoyment off, drove back to base and cycled home, I wanted to get my feet warm again. I had taken the soppy socks off at my parents' house and had been barefooted in my shoes. So, when I took my wet shoes off, guess what: blue feet!

To top the day off? Sophie throwing up again. It's a good thing I've got tomorrow off. I think...

NOP 7

You could be mistaken in thinking this is a church tower. But it's not. It is in fact a (former) watertower. We call it the Poldertoren. It's octagonal and it's the result of a contest for architects. This design won and was subsequently built. Right at the top there is a 'carillion' or Glockenspiel, which is not solely for churches in the Netherlands.

Nowadays it houses the Information office and a restaurant. And you climb to the top to see the view (which I have yet to do).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

How does John Splinter get through winter?

That's a saying we have in the Netherlands and basically boils down to 'how and where do you get stuff without having to pay for them'. And that was the question I was asked a few times regarding my 'groceries'. So, here goes...

As a busdriver I do a lot of different types of travel. Last week I did one of those festivals. Load up, drive, drop off, drive back, start over. Hour after hour. And the people responsible for the whole thing going fine issued packed lunches. Well, I didn't get my packed lunch until half way through the afternoon. When nearly all the other buses had already left. But, there was still a whole box of packed lunches left.

Perfectly good apples and bread rolls and nice orange/carrot juice. Of course you can throw it all away, but that is just wasting good food. So, I took it home. To be used and enjoyed at a later date.

Over the years I've been the lucky finder of packed lunches, umbrellas, a towel, a mug, a sweater, hankies, an mp3 player (that I threw out), money (five cents today), books and a camera. Now you know: that's how Mara Splinter gets through the winter.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

F is for...

Felines

Mexican Margay kitten

I love cats. All types of cats. Be they big or small, cute or ferocious looking.

They always have grace, they always have an air of arrogance about them.

'We don't care too much about you', is what they all seem to be thinking, be they domesticated or wild.

They have great colouring and patterns.

For more F-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun.

Photos were taken May 2010 in 'le Parc des Felins' near Paris.

Stupid stupid stupid

I could have walked twice with my groceries that I didn't buy (don't worry, I didn't nick them, I got them fair and square and completely for free). But after a few beers I needed to go to the toilet. Badly. So I got everything in at once. The bag with brown cheese rolls. The bag with white ham rolls. The bag with raisin rolls. The bag with apples. And the bag with 3,5 liters of juice (nearly a gallon). All hanging from one finger!

The result? During the 30 seconds walk from shed to front door, that juice nearly killed my finger! By the time the door was opened, the bags were dumped on the floor and my coat was off, my finger felt decidedly bad. Deadish. Numb. And now, nearly a day later, the tip of that finger is still feeling strange.

Next time? I leave all the groceries and head straight for the loo!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Monstrous Monday 10

THIS IS MY HOUSE! SO GO AWAY!!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Laughter

Pepperfly with the remains of dessert: mars mousse, blackberry mousse, vanilla mousse and white chocolate brownies, recipe to follow soon...

We used to all work for the same company, selling coffee, tea and snacks on the train. And then I left to become a busdriver. And Pepperfly left to go back to school. My sister left to also go back to school and my friend C left to become a train attendant (she would have been the one with the egg in the olden days). Soon after the company we used to work for folded! It was in the cards...

But we stayed in touch. And we went to the sauna (the all nudy variety, very liberating) oh, every three to four months. Women's troubles, pregnancies and jobs permitting. And when the sauna was out, we would do something else, like going bowling. Until my sister left to a job in Northern Ireland and she didn't feel that coming back to go the sauna was worth the money. Ever since we haven't been to the sauna anymore. At least not all of us together and not even the three of us. But we wanted to stay in touch nonetheless, so earlier this year Pepperfly, C and I decided to do something together again.

During the spring we all made one course for dinner and spent the evening having fun, but this summer we wanted to go to the sauna. I had asked for the day off, Pepperfly is a teacher and has ridiculously long holidays anyway and C had the day off as well. Brilliant! Then my grandmother's funeral threw a spanner in the works. So, out was the sauna and in was dinner. And because my sister had come over for the funeral she was able to come to dinner as well! Suprise!!!

C was teased because she put the dressing on the salad too soon (she always does), Pepperfly made a really good vegetarian oven dish (without mushrooms of any sort, so mmmm) and I made dessert, since I am good at dessert. And after nearly 13 years of knowing each other we finally made a photo of the four of us. With some difficulty I have to add, but it was made (and will not be shown to protect the innocent others).

We had good food, good laughs and a great fun photo. A great way to end not such a good day!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Tears

It was funny and sad and full of tradition. It was funny to see my cousin W. tear her husband away from the youngest daughter and go to the oldest to start condoling. It was funny to hear a telephone go off while we were waiting for the non-family to leave the grave. It was sad to hear all those stories and memories about my grandmother. It was strange to see a grave marked with my father's name, while he is still very alive.

The songs were well chosen by my grandfather and grandmother (when they were still alive and well). The talk the minister gave was good and I was very happy to learn that he had known my grandmother in person. He wore a proper shirt and tie for the occasion because "she had phoned me one day to say how pleased she was that he was wearing a proper shirt and tie in church". She was one for the good and proper.

That was also the reason that we were all (more or less anyway) in black, dark grey and dark blue. As it traditionally should be. Another tradition was walking around the church. In the olden days it used to be three times (to ward off evil spirits), nowadays it's only once. Her two sons (my father and uncle), my brother and three cousins that were all named after her husband carried and lowered her into her last resting place.

My whole family was there (bar a few great grandchildren) and even though it was great to see them all, we would all have loved to see each other under different circumstances. I hope we will continue seeing each other and meeting up, now our last common ancestor has passed away.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

E is for...

Egyptian

When I lived in England I didn't always go home to my parents for the holidays. Because doing that meant being the only one home, while the rest of the family was out to work or at school. So, I took several trips within England.

I took the train to Bournemouth one day and stayed in a friendly B&B at the wrong end of town (in this case: the boring end). It was autumn and most people at that time visiting Bournemouth were well over the retirement age. Apart from that the weather didn't really cooperate either and it was cold, windy and rainy. So, when I saw this sign leading me to a Lego exhibition indoors, my mind was made up: I was going to see some lego.

If you have never heard of lego, you must have been living under a rock, but it's basically little blocks of plastic that you can use to build cars, houses, easter bunnies and anything else you fancy. It stems from Denmark (little country in Europe, also home to Hans Christian Andersen) and they have built an entire theme park because of it. Last year James May (from Top Gear) built a life-size house in which he spent the night. Out of lego!

Anyway, Egyptians come from Egypt in Africa. And apart from pyramids, escaping Jews, Omar Sharif and mummies, they had Cleopatra. As pictured above.

For more E-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Photo taken in 1993 in Bournemouth

Monday, 16 August 2010

You've got mail

Remember that letter I received a few weeks ago? The 'strictly personal' one? Well, I finally asked my neighbour about it. Whether she had received one as well. And she hadn't. So, I let her read it (yes, I know, I violated the strictly personal bit, but I already posted it here). And she had no clue as to who they were talking about. Although it might be...

Well, I know a bit more now. Wilma apparently lives across from me, although I would not recognize her in a line-up. And some of the people her children are complaining about are her direct neighbours. One is a nice German couple with a few dogs and one is my awful former neighbour who went to the police about me once on account of my sister playing the radio too loud.

Today I will take the letter and go to the police myself. I don't know whether my name or address have already popped up in any enquiry, but I am not willing to take too many chances. After all, I need a clean bill of behaviour from the police to be able to do my job!

Monstrous Monday 9

Where is Linette?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The sniffles

It looks as if my nose is leaking. Every three minutes I need another tissue to blow my nose with. And I don't know why.

Well, I know why: I've got a cold. I just don't know why now. It's still summer, I've been eating healthy food lately and I've even had enough sleep! Without dreams that are too weird or sleepwalking.

So, I guess I will be leaking for a few days.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Beppe


She was born in August 1918. Married during the war. Had five children. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Lost her husband in the eighties. She was a tall and big woman (not fat though).

She hated cooking dinner, but would sometimes do so for every member of the family individually (even on a farm everybody deserved at least one hot meal a day). She loved doing the dishes by hand. She would always bring sugarloaves and chewing gum or peppermint when she came to visit. During the last few years she suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and lived in a care home. She didn't recognize anybody anymore.

She was the last of my grandparents and she died this morning.

Beppe is the Frysian name for Grandmother

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Queen of Denmark


This is a song I heard on the radio today and I loved it. So, I wanted to share it with you. It's by the singer John Grant (former lead singer of the Czars) and comes from his new album Queen of Denmark. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

D is for...

Daniel O'Connell Memorial Church

This church can be found in Caherciveen, Co Kerry and is the only church in the Republic of Ireland that has not been dedicated to a holy, saintly or religious person. Instead it has been dedicated to the most famous inhabitant of Caherciveen.

Daniel O'Connell was and still is considered to be one of the great men of Irish history. He struggled and fought for equality for both the English (read Protestant) and the Irish (read Catholic). A Catholic himself, he knew first-hand the difficulties of living in a country where the Irish were considered to be inferior to the English. But he had had an education, a privilege forbidden to most of his countrymen and that education helped him in his life to try and end the discrimination. He abhorred violence and has been the inspiration to other great leaders in more recent years: Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King for example.


If you want to know more about Daniel O'Connell, read this article from Clare Library.

For more D-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Photo taken in July 2009 in Caherciveen, Ireland

Monday, 9 August 2010

Monstrous Monday 8

I don't want to go inside. I like it here, thank you very much!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

What happened?

Not a clue, but I will try and write a proper post asap! Or when I feel like it. Or when I finally have scanned the photos I found last week. Or when I win the lottery (which should happen in two days by the way).

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Yawn

When the alarm clock started beeping this morning, I was about to *beep* (insert curse word of your choice) with it. And I had every right to *beep* I thought. After all, it was only 3.30am!

And guess what. Tomorrow, my alarm clock will be beeping at 3.30am. Again! Well, at least it will save me from sleepwalking! I hope...

Photo taken by Carolina at Brinkbeest in English. Thank you so much for thinking of me!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

C is for...

Casemate

A casemate (or casement) is a fortified gun emplacement or armoured structure from which guns are fired. Nowadays the word bunker is used more extensively.

The origins of the word are a bit hazy. It might come from Italian (casamatta: fake house), Arabic (kasaba), Spanish (casa matar: a house where killing takes place), Greek (khasmata: pits) or again Italian (casa matte: dark house). Since casemates were also used as prisons and the lack of light added to the punishment, the last one seems to be the most correct one.

The canon or gun I am standing in front of is in the Casemates of Luxembourg (city) and it overlooks the city itself. We had to climb up a fair bit to arrive at this point, since the casemates are built in the hills overlooking the city, hence the weary look on my face.

More recent casemates are the ones that were built by the Germans overlooking the beaches of Normandy (where the allied forces landed on June 6th 1944).

For more C-words from around the world, please check out ABC Wednesday and join in the fun!

Photo taken in July 1997 in Luxembourg (the city)

I was wrong

There, I've admitted it. I was wrong. I will capitalise it for you: I WAS WRONG!!! And what was I wrong about? Work. What else?

On Monday morning (very early) I wrote about how the worst part of my job must be the waiting. Well, guess what: I WAS WRONG!!! Because it isn't. Not by a long stretch. The worst part of my job must be the waiting while your coach has broken down, you don't know what it is and the mechanic is still on its way and/or trying to fix the problem!

Which was (obviously) what happened yesterday. I might have known in the middle of the day, but it was light out. And I didn't need all those lights on my dashboard. So, I never noticed they didn't work anyway. It wasn't until it was getting dark that I noticed I couldn't see how fast I was going. Or any of the other meters that are quite handy. I asked someone about my headlights and they were working fine. It was only the small lights that weren't. And when I got overtaken on the motorway by a lorry, the driver hooted at me and pointed at the rear of my coach: my tail lights weren't working either.

Which fuse shall we try?

I turned on the fog light, so I would at least be visible and just before total darkness and just before my very last trip of the day, I parked and started to find out what was wrong. I quickly ruled out anything wrong with the lights. For all of them to conk out at the same time? No, I didn't believe that for a second. Next thing on the list was a blown fuse. But that would mean about six or seven would have had to blow at the same time. We did try to replace a few, but still nothing worked. The last thing we could think of was a fault in the switch's wiring. But since I am no mechanic and don't really fancy getting zapped into next year: I phoned a mechanic.

Fortunately the mechanic didn't have far to go and quickly set to work. He also ruled out broken lights and broken fuses and realised it was the switch's wiring. Oh and the lights of the numberplate had shorted out. In the end he had everything fixed and I was good to go! Only an hour and a half late...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Monstrous Monday 7

I saw Up recently. Even though the film was a bit disappointing, I loved the dogs in it. Everytime they would spot a squirrel, they would all face that way. In this photo Sophie reminds me of that.

SQUIRREL!!!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Waiting room

Whenever people ask me what it's like to be a professional coach (tourbus) driver, I tell them it's great. And I mean it. I get to go places. So far I've been to see Rome, London, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Reims (in France's Champagne region) and Esbjerg in Denmark. Now I will be the first to say I've only seen the surface of those places (London and Ireland excluded) and would need a lot more visits to those countries/cities to really feel I know them inside out.

Now, apart from the great part of visiting foreign countries and cities, there's also a part that is not so great. The schooltrips to the same amusement park four days in a row. The staff parties. The rail replacement (I know the pay will have been worth it though). The school runs.

But the worst part by far must be the waiting. Waiting for the group to finally decide that they do want to go on that trip an hour after we were supposed to leave. Waiting for the traffic lights to turn to green. Waiting for a colleague to show up so you can finally, finally (yes, I wrote that twice, it's not a mistake) take over and go home!

Because that's what happened today. I couldn't reach him because his mobile phone was dead and I had arrived at a quarter past four this afternoon to take over. Out of the seventeen buses scheduled to arrive between six and seven pm? Take a wild guess!

If your guess was anything like last bus arriving at half past eight, you would be correct! And I wasn't happy...