Sunday, 29 May 2011


Yes, I know I look a bit weird, but I was looking into the sun!
The other day as I was driving back from PE to school, the girls in the front wanted to do an interview with me. Well, that was fine with me and I even decided to answer truthfully (I have been known to tell children I was related to Santa Claus and that I was 734 years old). The first few questions were asked by one girl and were about my name and my age. And then she didn't know what to ask anymore. Fortunately there were several other little girls who did. So, here are some of the questions I got:

What is your name? Mara
How old are you? 39
Do you have a husband? No (even in this day and age, that is usually one of the first questions children ask)
What is your favourite colour? Pink for a car, yellow for flowers, blue for sweaters
What is your favourite music? Dolly Parton (they didn't know who it was, but the teacher was going to show them later)
What do you do when you are not working? I watch television or films or I spend time on the internet
What is your favourite film? Well, anything Christmassy
Do you watch Christmas films in the summer? Of course, if it is really hot, a nice wintery film might help cool me down

When we had arrived at school, I asked them whether I would now be in the school paper and they said no! Hm...

Friday, 27 May 2011

Well, hello there!

No, my little computer still serves as a stable for the trojan horse and my big computer is still slow, although I did manage to make it a bit faster by defragmentatingating(?) it yesterday. Which was very necessary!

Anyway, my week has been quite busy and I didn't find any time to get my little one to Kyhan (which is my local computer shop), but today it's quiet at work and before leaving for my afternoon shift I will take it on a little trip to town and drop it off.

My week was busy with school trips and such like. On Monday I killed a mirror, so I am probably looking at seven years of bad luck (oopsie), but I also did buy a lovely catty ornament by Villeroy and Boch. I know it's not Belleek (my favourite china/porcelain), but it's still quite nice. On Tuesday five busloads full of four and five year olds went to a large playground, where we found about twenty other buses as well, all loaded to the rooftop with four and five year olds! It was nice however, since I managed to speak to a colleague who I get on with really well.

Then on Wednesday I had a group on board who made so much noise it was incredible. And the teacher didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary! There are times when I am quite jealous of those people who need hearing aids: I would have loved to just turn them off! Yesterday was another quite easy day which nearly landed me with half a case of beer. With the emphasis on the nearly, since one of the passengers was already busy getting all the beers out of the fridge again. Sigh.

Today is the quietest day of the week. For me anyway, since I had to do a school run. And when I arrived this morning in the village where we start, there was nobody left, so I drove back home again and got my cats some fresh kitty litter.

Right now I am enjoying all the songs of this year's Eurovision (I bought the cd, mmm) and I have just finished some of the financial things I needed to do. And I am pleased to say I am within reach of the money I need to make the move: 91% of the total needed. Two more months and a lot of selling more and I will be over. Lovely!

I will be by shortly (either today or tomorrow) to visit all your blogs, but since my big one is still on the slow side, it might take a bit, so please do excuse me!

Thursday, 19 May 2011


A while ago I was away for a week without access to the www. Then a few weeks ago I was ill and couldn't really bear the www. And this week it's the turn of my little computer to be trojan horsed and I dare not use it.

So, please bear with me while I work on my large laptop that is soooooooooo slow! My small laptop will be going to the shop tomorrow (if I make it back on time) and otherwise next week.


Sunday, 15 May 2011


Today was the day my family met again. Out of the 52 possible family members, 49 showed up. From the oldest who is nearly 70 to the youngest who is only one month old. The last time we had a big family reunion was four years ago and babies from then were now actual children! We've also had some additions in the form of new babies and partners, which is always nice.

All week the weather had threatened to throw a massive spanner in the works. After weeks of dry warm weather, this week the weather changed and more and more rain was coming in. But apart from the one big shower which lasted all of two minutes, we had a lovely sunny and dry day. There was a lot of room both inside and out, there were footballs, bubble makers and pavement chalk for the children and enough food and drink to feed a small army. And I should know, since I went shopping for it all yesterday! Two shopping trolleys that were overflowing!

The grown-ups all chatted to each other, talking about jobs, my emigration plans, the new baby, the new baby that is still on the way. There was laughter and of course there were also some tears. I had organised a relay which failed spectacularly (everybody started at the same time) and in the afternoon there was a serious game of football (the proper version with a round ball) going on between several of my cousins with a few children in it as well.

Unfortunately I didn't see a lot, since I was one of the organisers and the word delegate doesn't seem to be in my vocabulary. Although there was plenty of help from the aunties and cousins and even if some were grumbling a bit, they did it in good nature. So, all in all, it was a great day.

For obvious reasons I will not place any photos of my family on here, although the photo at the top does show my cousin who helped me with the groceries.


My sister is here. And the main reason she's staying with me and not with my parents is the European Song Contest which was held yesterday. It might also have something to do with the amount of moving around to find a bed when she would stay with my parents due to my brother and his family also staying with them last night. All because of the Big Family Reunion today!

The Moldovan Entry
But I wanted to talk about the European Song Contest or ESC for short. Because yesterday, for the first time in years, it was finally about the music again and less about all the acts! Don't get me wrong, Moldova still sent garden gnomes on acid and a unicycle, Estonia was doing magic and the Ukraine had a good song, but an even better sand artist! France had sent a tenor who actually sang in (shock horror) Italian! And the Italians were back after a gap of 14 years and nearly did the biggest stunt of all by finishing in second place! Ireland sent two hyperactive twins who wore leggings (not a good move) and sang about lipstick and Sweden had a heart throb, including dimples in both cheeks, who ended up third.

The Irish entry
Of course this doesn't count all the numbers that didn't make it to the grand final and lost already in one of the two semifinals. The Netherlands of course (seven times in a row), Belgium with an awful a-capella song, Belarus sang about Belarus and the first semi final I didn't even see, so I don't know what atrocities didn't make it (Portugal was bound to have been one, judging by their dress sense).

But the winner in the end was Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic with a sort of forgettable ditty. They were happy to have won though and according to Graham Norton who commented for the BBC, they were one of the few who actually had the funds to organise the biggest party of the world next year due to their oil reserves!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

I don't know

I hope you are not angry with me! Because I know for a fact more people had commented on my last post, than the two it says right now. I didn't delete them (I only delete from weirdos and I don't think you lot are that far yet), so they must have been lost in cyberspace!

Mind you, I couldn't get on the blogger all day yesterday due to something or other, so it might have to do with that!

Anyhoo, yesterday was spent doing a very early shift and a very late shift. I started at half past six in the morning and finished at nine in the morning. And then, some joker planner had decided that it would be fun to do make me start again at 8pm and finish at 1.30am! Of course I didn't agree with how 'well' that worked, but never mind, I did both shifts.

The early morning jobby was the school run and the late night one was a concert run. One of the Netherlands biggest Dutch singing stars is Marco Borsato (yes, of Italian descent) and he gave four sell-out concerts in Arnhem. We arrive with a load of buses to get all the concert goers back to the station or the parking lots within one hour. And indeed, after only two runs (and a little detour), the place was empty and I could go home again.

The song at the top is one of his songs and it was actually the first one I ever heard. It was already hugely popular at the time and I was amazed at how people reacted to it. So, for all you Dutchies out there reading this blog: enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


This is the former rectory (now restaurant) at Wimpole Hall in England. And this house would be my dream home. Beautifully symmetric, not too large and certainly not too small. Because I would love to have a seperate room just for my books (and my dvd's), a large kitchen, a lovely living room and a couple of bedrooms so I can have guests to stay.

One day...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Might be a gross post. Scrap the might...

Yesterday Sophie introduced a new move: sliding along the floor on her bottom. It looked quite funny, but to her it was a necessity. Because her poop was stuck!

Cats tend to eat grass to make them vomit. Which they then seem to do indoors with abandon and not at all outdoors. But Sophie had decided that she might train to be a cow and had not vomited. So, the grass had travelled to her colon and needed to be pooped out. But grass is long and while half of it came out with the poop, the other half got stuck inside. Which in turn produced the new move, because she couldn't get rid of it.

I felt sorry for her though and got myself some tissues and went after her. I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and was able to get the blades out completely. Which was a stinky, smelly and dirty thing, but what can you do? I washed my hands thoroughly afterwards! I hope she has learned her lesson, but I doubt it somehow.

Told you it was gross...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Friends and family

Last night my friends came over for a lovely chat and tea and scones (I provided the tea, C provided the scones). We don't see each other often enough and that's mainly due to, well our lives really. Pepperfly is a teacher, C is a ticket controller for the railways and I am a busdriver. So, finding some time where the three of us are off at the same time, is quite an undertaking. But we managed it last night. And it was nice as always. We chatted, drank tea, chatted some more and more and more and all of a sudden it was a quarter past ten. And then we chatted some more and it was twenty past eleven before they finally left!

And today gave another little plus, this time on the family side. I received an email from my brother who (as you may know) is a neurologist and his wife is a gp. He was quite surprised by the way I had been diagnosed with sinusitis and had sent me a long email with a lot of information about sinusitis and the proper way to diagnose.

On that topic: I am feeling better and I will start work again tomorrow. The fever has gone and the headache is barely there anymore. So, thank you all for your best wishes and your advice.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

You are fired! And then what?

The Manor House Hotel, seen from the lawn
Since I told you all about my job as a receptionist at the Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe (England), I bet you would like to know what happened to me after I got fired.

First of all I need to set the scene of course: the manager of the hotel had called me into his office at the back of the hotel. Nothing glamourous at all, just a tiny little office guarded by his secretary. I was asked to sit down and then he told me about the complaints and how they could not keep me on at reception. I was of course shocked and also quite outraged: why had nobody said anything sooner so I could mend my ways? I never did receive a satisfactory answer to that, probably because he wasn't my biggest fan in the first place, but he did continue to say that: 'even though I don't feel that you would be suitable for reception over here, we would like to keep you working for this company. So, where would you like to work?'

Excuse me? Was he offering me a job in the hotel he just sacked me from? Well yes, he did! In retrospect I think it might have something to do with the fact that me working the front desk and him being out in the front so often and us meeting quite often wasn't something he wanted. However if I were anywhere else in the hotel he wouldn't be running into me every day (and before you ask, there was never anything more going on than mutual antipathy). I think he gave me a few days to think about it.

The restaurant
Needless to say I did some severe thinking. First of all: did I want to stay at the hotel? And that was a yes. And second: where did I want to work? I went over all the different departments in the hotel in my head. Housekeeping: nope, getting up early every morning and having to turn down the beds every night didn't appeal to me at all. Gardening? No need really, there were already three gardeners and they could handle their work with ease (although speaking of the gardeners, every Christmas I would be invited by the head gardener Tom to have dinner with him and the other two gardeners). Kitchen then and become a chef? Godfried of Bouillon no! Having to deal with the head chef from reception was bad enough, having to deal with him in the kitchen would be hell! Besides, I didn't want to be stuck on peeling potatoes and carrots every single day!

In the end I decided on the restaurant. Become a waitress. I would work from 10am to about 2pm and then again from 6pm until the last guest had left. I would set the tables, fold napkins, polish silver and glasses and serve food. I got into quite a few fights with the head chef, he made me blush even more often (and before you ask: no, there was never anything going on between us, apart from reluctant sympathy) and basically enjoyed my life as a waitress.

There were weddings, Japanese coach parties and the occasional VIP, the worst being Mr Orzabal from Tears for Fears. Not that he wasn't nice or friendly, his problem was he would arrive on a Sunday night at about a quarter to nine! And the kitchen would usually close at nine. Our one night where we might actually get off early and he had to spoil it!!

The uniform
The best thing about the job were the hours. You could have a lie-in in the morning and you were off during the afternoon, unless you were serving afternoon tea which was brilliant: nobody looking over your shoulder. The worst part was definitely the uniform. A black short sleeved dress and a white pinnafore with the bands crossed at the back. It looked nice and olde worlde, but the chamber maids wore the same uniform! It was extremely hot during the summer months, where tea would be served outside and so so cold during the winter when you had to take roomservice to the cottages on occasion (which had numbers by the way).

The restaurant team, the fourth person from the left is the restaurant manager
After a while I got a promotion which meant no more afternoon tea service for me and I was allowed to boss my colleagues about. Which was brilliant. But after a year and a half, the monotony got to me and I wanted to get out. I should have asked my boss to get me relocated to a different restaurant, but in the end I quit and went home to my parents.

By the way: when I went to ask the hotel manager for an advance on my wages, he refused. Until I told him I was leaving and he couldn't get the money out of the safe fast enough!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

I think it would be fun to be a hotel receptionist

The Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe
That was the comment Cry gave on my last post. So, is she right... or is she wrong....

When I worked for Club Med years and years ago (well, in 1991-1992), I realised fairly soon that working all week and spending all your time with the guests was on the one hand a great thing, on the other hand, it made me loose sight of the world in general. When I lived in Tignes (French Alps), I didn't know there had been an earthquake in the Netherlands until several days later. And the only reason I knew anything about the Olympics taking place that winter, was because we were smack bang in the middle of it! So, I realised that as fun as the job was, it was time to find a different job. Without children because the next time I would look after children would be when 'I had my own' (yeah right).

Anyway, thanks to a very lovely Scottish chef, I wrote an application letter to six different hotels in England. For some reason one of them decided the letter was good enough and after a further fax and a short phone call, I had a job at the Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe (about an hour and a half west of London). Brilliant!

My very first room, not so glamourous
At the beginning of June, my brother accompanied me by train to the Belgian port from where I would sail to England with my two ginormous suitcases. After arriving in England I took another train, then another (do you know that trains in England drive on the left as well?) and fortunately was helped at Chippenham trainstation by someone who realised it would take me the better part of an hour to get those two suitcases up and down the stairs again! The last bit of my journey was in an Easy Taxi (nothing to do with EasyJet) and finally after a whole day of travelling, I had arrived at my new job! Since I was to live in, the porter made short work with my two cases and carried them up to my room which was decidedly ehm... unglamorous. Especially compared to the hotel itself.

The next day my training as a receptionist started. Since I had been working with children for about 2 years by then, I hadn't worked with computers since leaving school (where I hadn't been very good at it either), so that took some getting used to. All the different words for change (alter, amend and I probably forgot a few now as well), made my head spin, but after a few weeks, I was deemed to be good enough to do a quiet shift on my own.

The hotel I worked in was a four star hotel and there weren't that many rooms (about 25 at the time), however, some clever clogs had decided room numbers was for sissies and had given names to all the rooms in the main house, no numbers, just names. Lordsmere and Horse Tyning for example. The rooms were also all different, not one was the same as the next, which of course made it even more special. When I took reservations, I had to remember what room was which size and what price etc etc, but I managed.

Bored anyone?
There were still some things that baffled me. The question about the Christmas Crackers for example. Asked by a Welsh person on the phone, I didn't have a clue what they were going on about. Wellies was another one. Also, the person at reception had to type and print the menus and the times where I phoned the chef to ask whether he was having me on, are too many to count on one hand. Spotted Dick, Bubble & Squeak: did he really believe that I would fall for those? (By the way, they are both proper dishes, the first being a custardy dessert and the second being heated up cabbage and other veggies, which bubble and squeak, hence the name.)

So, what made me leave and work in the restaurant then? Was it the utter boredom on days where you started at seven in the morning and the first phonecall arrived at seven minutes past twelve in the afternoon? Was it the inactivity of mainly sitting down all day and not being allowed to read or knit or do a crossword? No, I got fired! Yes, you read it right: I got fired! For the best reason ever: my English was too good!! I admit, when I heard that I couldn't believe my ears: English too good??

It turned out, there had been several complaints about me over a couple of weeks and instead of the manager showing them to me, so I might be able to change my ways, he just brought them all on me in one fell swoop and told me enough was enough. The thing is though, my English is very good. It's English with an English accent and only if you talk to me for any length of time or with specific words, do you realise I am not in fact English. But of course by then the damage had been done, since even if I spoke the Queen's English (well, not quite), I didn't have the English sensibilities to complaints. So, if someone phoned down to complain about their tea being served cold, I would tell them I would note it down and inform the waiting staff. WRONG!!! I should have sucked up to them big time, got the restaurant manager involved, do everything in my power to get the guests happy again. Which is very unDutch and since I am Dutch, it was not something I was used to. Enter complaints against me and me being fired.

Don't get me wrong, I did love my job as a receptionist (apart from the occasional boredom): the dealing with customers, both on the phone and in person. Making reservations for rooms and restaurant. Giving people information about the surrounding area. Handling money. And of course the interaction with colleagues from other departments (most notably the maids and to a lesser degree the restaurant staff).

My clogs
I think it would be fun to be a hotel receptionist again. Hopefully in a hotel where they believe in room numbers and where it's busy enough. A hotel where I would be able to use my language skills and where my English would be perfect as is. Perhaps I will wear my clogs though, just so people know I will not be getting the Queen down to sort out any problems...

Friday, 6 May 2011


Canmore, photo taken from
Slowly but surely my head starts to feel better. The headaches aren't gone yet, but they don't hurt or bother me as much as they did at the beginning. Yesterday I even thought I might actually get back to work sooner than I planned, but last night I let go of that plan, when the headache returned in force!

With the headaches abating somewhat, there is now room in my head again for thoughts and most notably those about my emigration. Last Thursday I skyped with Henk (my agent) and had some news. As I knew (and I told you as well) the chances of me being allowed to stay in Canada as a busdriver were extremely slim, but we would try to gain entrance by me being a tourguide. Well, that's out of the window as well, since the Province of Alberta has deleted that job from its lists. So, no busdriver and no tourguide. The only other opportunity would be receptionist in a hotel.

The positives of that would be the fact that the chances I would get a job in a more touristy area of Alberta (as opposed to Edmonton) would be much greater. Jasper, Banff or (my favourite) Canmore. And the latter being my favourite since it's the centre of all cross-country and biathlon in Canada! Also, the opportunity for growth. There's not much promotion you can make as a busdriver, no matter how good you are. But, as a receptionist, the opportunities are certainly there. And knowing myself, I would be capable of a managerial post. I think so at least. Also, the fact that I am fluent in English and French and German and Dutch and do speak a bit of Italian will help me as well.

But there are also negatives I have to think of. The last time I worked as a receptionist was over 15 years ago. Of course the job in itself doesn't change that much and a new computer system would be easy enough to learn, but it's still 15 years! A second negative is of course the fact that I love driving a bus, although over the past week, I have come to realise that all those weird hours can have a serious effect on one's health!

When I was first told busdriving (and tourguide) would be non-options, I was again thinking of Norway as a second choice, since over there I could start tomorrow as a busdriver! I wouldn't need a visa, only a workpermit (since Norway isn't part of the EU) and I would need to learn Norwegian. But after talking to friends and family I realised that I would then give up before giving Canada a chance. Because I might find the perfect job as a receptionist and live happily ever after. Of course, I might fail in trying to find a job, but then at least I will have tried and given it my best shot. And Norway will always be a good second!

Thursday, 5 May 2011


It's a week's holiday in the Netherlands this week. On Saturday it was Queen's Day, celebrating the Queen's birthday with free markets with lots of junk, concerts, parades, old fashioned games and the like. Yesterday it was Remembrance Day, which is becoming more and more popular with young people as well. It started off as a day on which to remember those fallen during World War II, but it now includes fallen from all conflicts since. And today is Liberation Day, to celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands from Germany. A lot of concerts and festivals all over the country. I should have to work tonight. I called in sick!

Well, you all know by now that I've not been feeling on top of the world lately. Don't get me wrong, I am used to headaches, I've had them often enough. And for the first three days I went on as normal. I went to the shops and to the freemarket. I planted flowers and hung up my laundry outside. Until I realised it wasn't getting any better. Besides, the headache was affecting my appetite as well, so I started to feel more sluggish and feverish by the day. And when I finally got in touch with a doctor yesterday, I asked my neighbour to drive me to the pharmacy to pick up my medication.

But that is not the worst part of it all. The worst has to be the absolute boredom! I am not domestic goddess number 1, jellybeans on toast, I am not even in the top 100, but I needed to do several things around the house: the kitchen needed a good clean, the laundry needs doing and outside those weeds keep coming back. But unloading the dishwasher and then loading it again causes me to have to lie down for half an hour afterward, apart from the flaring up of the pain in my head. I normally watch television with the sound on 7 or 8, right now it's turned down to 3 and that's sometimes even too loud. Even Mathilda purring on my chest when I try to sleep is too much for me (she's a loud purrer). I haven't read a book since the weekend, a bit afraid the letters will start dancing in front of my eyes and the internet just doesn't have the same lure it normally does. The only thing left is sit and lie and doze and sleep and nap and do nothing! Which is okay for about an hour but after that it becomes boooooooooring!!!

Right now however, I feel a bit better. The nausea has gone for the moment, so I hope that within a little while I can finish my morning muesli (a quarter bowl). The pain in my head has also abated somewhat, so I thought I would tell you how utterly pathetic I am. Just so you know. I have called in sick until Monday when I will hopefully visit my own gp. Because one week of boredom is more than plenty in my book (even if I don't read anything at the moment).

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


So, I got on the phone to my doctor. Who (as usual) was off due to a holiday and won't be back until next week. I then phoned the replacement, who told me that I couldn't make an appointment with her, because that had to be done between 8am and 10am. When I was still asleep in bed, BECAUSE I AM ILL!!! Fortunately she saw reason after that (mind you, I didn't shout at her) and asked me what the problem was. Well, severe headaches for five days now and no sign it was getting any better. Flu-like symptoms like cold and hot shivers, lack of appetite and throwing up. She asked me a couple of questions and then told me that my medication would be waiting at the pharmacy that afternoon, because I had sinusitis!

So, I went to see my neighbour who was kind enough to give me a ride to the pharmacy and I picked up my prescription of antibiotics. I really hope this will work.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


I've had headaches in the past. I've told you about them as well! When I drink coffee or tea or eat too much chocolate. When I drink too much alcohol, when I am about to get my period and when I'm out in the sun and the wind. But I don't know what's going on now.

For the past four days I've had a headache. Now, I didn't drink coffee or tea and only had white chocolate which doesn't really do much, since it's mostly sugar. I had a few beers on Friday, but I didn't go over the top and got completely sloshed. I am getting my period and even though the weather has been really good lately, I haven't gone out in the sun that much.

But this headache is different. When I woke up on Saturday morning, my neck and head were all hurting and stiff. I took several aspirins that day and they didn't work. On Sunday the situation hadn't changed, so this time I decided to do battle with aspirins and cold cloths (out of the fridge, so really cold). And even though the cold cloths helped for a bit, as soon as I took them away again, the headache came back. On Monday I decided I wouldn't take any medication. But by now everything was hurting, even my hair! I used the cold cloths a few more times to get some temporary relief and at the end of the day I even took a little pill.

Today I woke up with (you guessed it) a headache. I couldn't even bear having my cats on my bed which is saying something! And this time I even winced when I brushed my own hair as slowly and carefully as I could. Fortunately my appetite hasn't disappeared, although chewy food is out right now. Bite, swallow, gone as we say in the Netherlands.

I do hope it will get better soon, I stay out of the sun as much as I can, I sleep as much as I can (I've got a few days off), I even changed the pillows to some flatter ones as I think that might have been part of the problem.