Friday, 30 September 2011

I missed my sister

A lovely and quaint hotel in Beiseker
In the past I have been on several holidays with my sister. We went to Belgium and Luxembourg, we went to Ireland, we went cycling in the Netherlands. We think very much alike, we like a lot of the same things and we know each other quite well. And I missed her today. Because I knew she would have just loved what I got to see courtesy of Kay! It was absolutely stunning! I had heard about the Alberta Badlands, but hadn't really seen any photographs, so didn't really know what to expect. Which of course was right up to Kay's street, since she was watching me closely to see how I would react when I saw the Badlands.

A coulee
We started off driving through farmland. Mile after mile of corn grain (which had been harvested by the way): yellow fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. And after a while those coulees started to appear. Hollows between the fields where nothing was planted or harvested. Probably because it would flood during the spring when all the snow would melt and it would take a while to drain away again (this is purely what I am thinking, not what I know). And I thought those coulees were beautiful and tried to take photo after photo.

The Badlands
But I was quite stunned when I saw the badlands. It was like driving in the mountains but completely different. Because where the mountains push up from the earth, the badlands are basically below the earth. Over tens of thousands of years of rivers flowing and eating away at the sides and natural erosion eating away from the top, the prairie that once was had great wide valleys running in it. You could see the layers that make up the earth, you could see the coal (coal mining was very prominent during the early and middle part of the 20th century) and it was so unlike anything I had ever seen.

A hoodoo
Part of that erosion had also created the hoodoos. Basically it's the outside that is being eaten away by rain, snow, wind and unfortunately in more recent years humans, while at the same time, the top which is made of rock stays. Until the whole hoodoo has been eroded and the rock falls off. The ones we saw were a lot bigger a century ago and I guess that if people were to come back in a hundred years time the would be gone altogether. However, we also saw new hoodoos being formed! So, it's not all bad.

Me holding on tightly on that supsension bridge
Another thing we did was go and see and pass some bridges. The first bridge was a suspension bridge. I had never crossed one before and I can't say whether it was a success or not. It was very windy and even though I was all alone on that bridge, I held on tight with both hands because it was moving and swaying! And then we went to see the eleven bridges towards Wayne (a small village). They are actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for some reason (the most bridges on the shortest stretch of road covering the same river?), so we had to go and see them. As we were nearing the 9th bridge I happened to see a Dutch flag! The odds...

I might even get to work here some day!
After having crossed all eleven bridges we decided to go and have a bite to eat at the Last Chance Saloon. And when I asked who lived in the house with the Dutch flag, it turned out to be the owner of the Last Chance Saloon, whose mother had come over from the Netherlands in 1926! Anyway, we had a nice meal (buffalo burger) and a nice chat, I left my details and got some details back and then we drove back to Airdrie because Kay had to drive home again as well.

From its mouth it was supposed to be a great view of the Badlands!
There was only one little drawback to the day: I couldn't get into the largest dinosaur in the world (in Drumheller), because the stairs had just been painted and weren't dry yet! So, I will have to come back some day...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

I need to get myself a dog!

One of the many freight trains we saw
Even though it was quite chilly today and we even had some rain en route, it was absolutely gorgeous in the mountains. Our first stop was a little lake on our way to Banff, where Lindy (who is Kay's dog) was able to roam about a bit. After that we drove on to Banff where we had another stop and a little walk around a government building with a nice garden. But the main stop was Lake Louise. A tiny village with a massive hotel on the side of a nice turquoisy lake with a glacier.

Getting married on the side of a very chilly Lake Louise!

Kay had warned me this morning that it might be cold today, so I had put on a nice thick sweater and I was glad I had listened! Because it was quite chilly in the mountains, especially near that glacier! I would have loved to put on gloves, but since they are at home in the Netherlands, that of course was out of the question. After a lovely walk and a lot of photos, we made our way back to the car and drove back to Banff for a bit of (belated) lunch.

Lake Louise with Lindy

And if you're wondering why I need to get myself a dog (a statement my monsters of course will not agree with on any level): I tended to hold the leash to Lindy for quite a bit and the attention I got from a lot of people was just incredible! Old people and young people and people in between would come up and pet or take photographs or ask questions about her. Of course the attention was mainly aimed at Lindy, but still...

The only moose or elk or deer that I saw!

Now, Kay had promised me(!) wildlife on the way. And we did see some as well. A small pack of dogs crossed the road at one point. And I saw a chipmunk crossing the path at Lake Louise. But the best animal I saw was a moose. Or an elk. Or perhaps it was a deer. Because I basically saw its antlers and that was it. As we were driving along Highway 1 we saw a man stand up on the side railing/barrier taking photos. We of course wondered what he was taking a photo of and when we passed him, I could see the head of a large animal and a large set of antlers. Unfortunately we were too fast at that point and there were some vehicles quite close, so we couldn't stop. Then a while later I saw a sign that said 'watch out for wild life'. I took a photo of it and it turned out to be the French version. Which said: drive with care...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

On the road

En route from Edmonton to Airdrie.
Most of the route was filled with sunshine!
The bed was as comfortable as I thought it would be, but even that didn't help me to have more than 6 hours sleep. However, I felt a lot better than yesterday and wasn't too worried about it. Perhaps tonight another early night and I will be on top form again.

As I was driving up to Airdrie (near Calgary) today I needed to pick up the car. But I didn't read the directions my agent had given me until after I arrived in Airdrie and managed to turn a 15-minute walk into an hour. It was nice weather though, so it wasn't too bad. I had the choice between big bigger and biggest and decided to be modest (as always of course) and go for the ordinary car and not take some huge monster truck out onto the road! My suitcase was rattling about in the boot as it was...

After filling the car up with petrol, which turned out to be a case of "please sir can you help me: what petrol do I need? (there were three different types!)" I made my way down to Airdrie where I arrived about an hour ago. I am meeting Kay here, together with her dog Lindy and we will be staying here for two nights together while she will act as my chauffeur, tourguide and of course friend during the next two days. She is taking me to the Rocky Mountains tomorrow and Drumheller the day after. And then I will stay on in this hotel for a few nights more to give me the opportunity to see a bit of Calgary and hopefully meet up with some immigrants I know from blogs and facebook.

Well, that's it for now. More tomorrow!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Wait a minute here!

The plane from Amsterdam to Chicago
Well, if it had only been a minute I would have been quite happy, but unfortunately it seemed that today I did nothing but wait. And sit in an uncomfortable chair. For hours and hours on end. While my brand new mp3 player packed in half the time!! But I made it in the end. 28 hours after waking up I am ready to sleep standing up, but since there is a really nice looking bed in my room, I think I will be trying that!

Tunnel underneath Chicago airport
I waited for an hour at the airport this morning. Then a further two hours before going through the gate. The flight was over 8 1/2 hours and by hour number 5 I was well and truly extremely fed up with it. Despite the onboard films. And then the biggest horror of them all. I was told that the American customs could take absolutely ages checking everything and it could take hours before I passed from one terminal to the other. It took me thirty minutes. Which left 6 1/2 hours for waiting. But fortunately I was told which terminal to go to. Number 1 and gate C27. Where I dutifully sat for about an hour and then looked at my paperwork. Which said terminal 2.

Pepperfly's handiwork. The kept my feet nice and toasty on the cold plane
So, I asked and was told I had to go to terminal 2. I hopped on a small bus to the other side, got off, asked(!) and was told gate E2a. Which doesn't sound at all like C27. After a lot of waiting I had to go do something for myself and when I returned I noticed that Edmonton was finally listed. Departing from gate F12d. In the end I managed to get on the flight though and after (apparently) quite a rough flight I arrived in Canada just before 11pm. It's now an hour later, I am in my hotel room, knackered to the bone, dirty and grimy and looking forward to my bed. (According to my laptop btw, it's 8am, long live timezones...)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The big C

As my life seems to be getting ever better and going my way, not so the life of two of my colleagues. Yesterday one of them was told that his colon cancer was too much advanced to be healed, it had spread to his bones and blood already. The only thing left to do is slow down the cancer to add perhaps a few more years.

And as I was making the rounds of ex-colleagues who would surely want to know, I talked to our former mechanic. Who happened to be in hospital with half of his skull in another one. Literally! He too had been told he had a tumour (in his brain) and they had given him a year. Fortunately for him it had turned out to be "only" an abcess and they had removed it completely. He was now recovering and hoping to have a complete skull again sometime soon.


Friday, 23 September 2011


As you know I love the Eurovision Song Contest and thanks to my friend Pepperfly I now have more than 1200 songs(!) that have been performed during any of the over 50 contests. There are some proper gems that never made it big.

This is Eddy Friel for Ireland. Ireland had already won three times in a row and RTE (the national broadcaster) was getting in a bit of a financial meddle, since staging a show like the ESC is fairly expensive! So, for 1995 they sent a song that some considered okay, but not brilliant. But I love this song to bits and can listen to it over and over again. Which I sometimes do as well...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Gougane Barra, Ireland
No, I haven't been too busy preparing for my upcoming trip. I have however been quite busy working. Three days of hither/thither, one bad night at a really nice hotel and two more days of school runs. And in the mean time I had to prepare for my upcoming trip. Which wasn't easy. But I know have most things more or less sorted.

The hotels are sorted. The car will be sorted this week. Most of the paperwork is sorted, only a few copies remain to be made. Tomorrow I will go for a haircut and dye-job again and I will have to go to the pet shop to try and find a catsitter for a week, since my neighbour has decided she wants to have a life too and can only look after my monsters for one week! Her timing couldn't be worse (insert smiley here)!

Five more nights and I'm off to the other side of the world. Well, in my view anyway, since I've never been further west than Ireland. I'm getting really excited now...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

About time

It's been rather quiet from my side of the computer. Mainly due to the fact that not much has happened this week. Yes, I had to work, but it was the basic hither and thither driving, so not much fun. Yes, I got caught in the rain. Twice! Both times thinking I would make it in time or that it looked like it was letting up. It did both times, as soon as I had arrived. To make matters worse, I'd started carrying my rain suit with me and didn't put it on!

Regarding the stitch in my side: it has subsided a great deal. Whether that is due to the meds or because it was due to that anyway is of course anybody's guess, but at least I'm not doubled over in pain anymore and don't wake up two to three times a night. It has been replaced by another ache which I know the origins of and I also know how long it will stay (about two days) and when it will return (in about a month's time).

The monsters are all doing swimmingly. Without the swimming of course. They get out whenever the weather is in any way looking reasonable, which isn't that often, and spend their time indoors lying as close to me as they possibly can. It seems they have calmed down a great deal since Sophie passed away.

My preparations regarding my upcoming trip oversees are going fine. I found my health insurance card, cleared my credit cards and will be getting an international driver's license tomorrow. Which is absolutely ridiculous, but I've been advised to get one. What do I know? I was going to take the bus and train to the airport and the same back home, but due to roadworks, the bus doesn't pass my house until December. And walking to the busstation at 5.30am with a heavy suitcase is not really top of my list, so I opted to book a taxi to and fro. That way I get picked up from home so no lugging luggage about at all and it will drop me off at the airport. Since I have to be there quite early, we should even beat Monday morning traffic!

Friday and Saturday will see me at the (almost) annual Airforce Days doing the hither/thither again. But as opposed to other hither/thither trips, you get to see quite a lot, since most of it is up in the air! So, that should be good. Especially since day two will see me finished at about 1pm, leaving some time to actually visit the site myself. Which of course I've never seen (ahem)... Then Sunday more hither/thither, this time runners who will be running from Zaandam to Amsterdam in the so-called Dam to Dam race (aren't they inventive?).

So, there you have it, a little update from me.

Friday, 9 September 2011

I'm in stitches

Don't worry: I didn't feel the pea. I just couldn't get down anymore!
And it's not a good thing, because I need ibuprofen to get through the day! Last Monday I woke up with a massive stitch in my side. Which was very painful. During the afternoon I took some pills to get rid of the pain. I thought at first I was constipated, but a few trips to the bathroom soon proved I wasn't. Then on Tuesday it was the same thing. So, I took two lots of ibuprofen during the day. Wednesday and Thursday it was more of the same and I started to get quite fed up with it.

My mum was urging to seek medical help, because it wasn't normal of course. So, this morning I made an appointment and saw my gp for the second time in three weeks. He prodded and pushed, felt and listened and I had to pee in a cup. The pee was good, he didn't feel anything, and it didn't hurt when pushing from the outside. He then prescribed some ibuprofen that I know have to take three times a day. And next week I have to go see him again for a check-up.

Life starts at forty they say. I think they mean Life starts to hurt at forty!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Do I function allright?

In Gescher, Germany for my first trips abroad
Every year I should (with the emphasis on should) have an evaluation talk with my manager. So, when I got my work schedule for this week and saw that I was supposed to be at the office today for a meeting, I figured that was it! And when I asked, he said there were some things to discuss about how I function and all!

Touring through the Netherlands and Belgium for 4 days out of their 6!
Fast forward to today. I arrive after my morning shift and ask him whether we could push this talk up, since I am already there. He says he has an errant to run and as soon as he's back we will start. Then a colleague walks in. He also has a meeting with the same manager. At the same time! Curiouser and curiouser!

One of the many many hotelrooms I stayed in over the years
Well, the manager gets back from his errant and invites me and everybody else in the office to that meeting! By that time I had already cottoned on though, since one of the drivers/office workers (she does both) had congratulated me on having worked for the company for 12 1/2 years. The errant the manager had had to do was to get some flowers for me and my colleague and cake. Yum...

Parked in Winterberg
So, for the past twelve and a half years I've knocked over lamp posts, totalled two cars, hit several other cars (including a porsche and a police car). I've parked in the sand and had to be towed out by a four wheel tractor, I've parked on top of a small pole (not meaning a Polish person). I've lost a few mirrors here and there. I've had Americans, Japanese, Scots, Italians, French, Germans and Dutch on board. I've been to Ireland, England, Scotland, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and of course the Netherlands.

Twelve and a half years. It's like a life time!

Sunday, 4 September 2011


When I was scanning old negatives last week, I found some negatives that most certainly didn't belong to me: for a start I didn't have a clue who the people in it were. But there were two photos on that little strip that I did like and actually wanted, because I had never seen a photo like them.

As you may know I worked on Sicily (a lifetime ago) and did a lot of things: I drove a little electric train and tamed tigers, but I did a lot more as well: I was in shows, both in and out of the water (more on that later), I looked after children from 8am to 10pm and I entertained the guests. When any guests would arrive from the airport of Catania, we GO's (Gentle Organisers) had to welcome them by being happy and bubbly and friendly. We had to clap to a certain song that would sometimes play for over half an hour! Needless to say that song brings back so many memories whenever I hear it. I used to hate that song for a long time: overexposure will do that, but now it's the memories that take over and wondering what happened to everybody!

Anyway, I found those two photos and I had a real close look at them. I think I am in the second photo, somewhere on the right, chatting to my colleagues and clapping when any of the GM's (Gentle Members) arrived. And if you want to know what great song it was that got us so happy and bubbly (Yeah right), it was Volare! Originally by Domenico Modugno and sung at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest, where it came in third! The version I've included is the one most probably used and is done by the Gipsy Kings.

PS: I am definitely in the second photo: I am the 6th person from the right, wearing the white t-shirt and the black shorts.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Oooh, aaah...

Something I learned while driving my coach yesterday: it's not nice to have to listen to a woman in a porn movie. And while at first the men on the coach were making fun and all, at a certain point I found it to be eerily quiet. Apart from the Moaning Minnie of course! (Who moaned the same in German and Italian. They checked!)

Fortunately I had the radio on in the cabin and was able to drown out most of it. Almost...

PS: the photo was taken in 1991 and is in no way a faithful reflection of what happened during the trip yesterday. Well, apart from me being up front that is...