Saturday, 31 March 2012

Another one

Tower Bridge. Photo taken during same trip last year.
As you know I was away last week (to Normandy, which I loved) and this coming week I will be away from home as well. To London this time with the same school as last year. Actually this is the fourth year I will be driving them to London. Which I love. I even made it into the trip's booklet, albeit with a bit of a bad photo. Although my friend Pepperfly (who is responsible for it) told me it would only be a pleasant surprise if they then saw me in real life. Hm, not convinced...

Anyway, today I will be spending doing the laundry, getting food for the monsters and making sure their litterboxes are nice and clean and fresh. Not forgetting to unblock their pathway to them, otherwise I will come back to another case of sofapoop (not a good way of coming home I can tell you). Talking of monsters, Wuppie is retreating a bit into himself. His ear is bothering him a bit because it has become completely swollen now. According to Pepperfly (two mentions in one post, I mustn't overdo it), it can take up to a month to drain away again. Poor mite.

I will be taking my baby with me and hope the wifi in the hotel we always stay in is better than the wifi last week. That way I might regale you with fantastic stories about London. Or something else of course.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

'Three'

This week's prompt is 'three' and it took some thinking to find a three I was happy with. I could of course have posted a photo of three of my cats, but in the end I opted to go for a less obvious 'three'. Now, as you of course all know, the Dutch flag consists of red, white and blue and in Dutch we will also call the flag the 'three-colour'. So, here it is: the national flag of the Netherlands.

The flag is mostly flown by government buildings and the such and there are only a few other times when the public fly the flag. Most notably on the birthdays of the Queen and her immediate family, Queen's Day (April 30th), Liberation Day (May 5th) and at half mast on Remembrance Day (May 4th). When a family or street or even village have something special to celebrate they fly the flag. When someone graduates a schoolbag is added to the tip of the mast. An orange banner can be added for any Royal birthdays or Queen's Day.

This is my twelfth entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Monday, 26 March 2012

On to the beaches!

Pointe du Hoc
On the same day we visited the small village of Ste Mère Église, we also visited the German military cemetery (see post of two days ago) and in the afternoon we went to Pointe du Hoc. Here the Germans had dug in, built bunkers and put up a lot of anti-aircraft guns, canons and what have you.

The look-out bunker. At the bottom of the photo is the look-out bit
And they must have been incredibly surprised when all of a sudden they see all these boats coming out of the storm right up to the beach (D-Day wasn't a nice day, it was very stormy and a lot of the allied forces were very sick on the crossing). Of course they immediately started firing and killing the 'enemy', but the Americans still managed to get themselves on top and in the end they succeeded in conquering the Germans in that area.

View from the look-out bunker. Imagine the surprise!
When you look at the area from above you can actually see all the holes in the ground made by canons and guns and tanks and so forth. (We saw a film a few days later that actually had some footage from above) Several of the bunkers still more or less stood and we were able to go inside and see where the Germans tried to get rid of those pesky Americans. There was one bunker right overlooking the ocean, where the wooden ceiling had been burnt, which must have been quite frightening for the men. Other bunkers were severely damaged by bullets and grenades and stuff.

Some tank or other would have been here
The area was quite large and the boys and girls on board of the bus didn't have nearly enough time to see all. Only a few managed to find a way down to the beach again and if they would have had another hour or two they wouldn't have minded one bit! Which definitely made a difference to the museums we saw: ten to thirty minutes. Tops!

The memorial to the American Rangers

Sunday, 25 March 2012

To hang or not to hang...

John Steele (well, a dummy) hanging from the church
The first stop we had in Normandy was on Tuesday morning. We were headed towards the small village of Sainte Mère Église, not far from the Atlantic coast. On the fifth of June 1944 a fire broke out in one of the bigger houses of the village and as the Germans and French were putting out the fires, all of a sudden they saw parachutists of the American 82nd Airborne Division. Of course the Germans immediately started to man their guns and started shooting at those parachutists. Some died, others escaped and one of those parachutes landed on the church, where he got stuck.

One of the stained glass windows of the church
John Steele was the unlucky soldier who had managed to get himself stuck on the steeple. As he hung there, fights broke out underneath him in the church square and one bullet actually hit him in the foot. He decided to play dead and hung there a further two hours, before the Germans finally got him down. When they saw he wasn't dead, but very much alive, they took him captive and he became a prisoner of war. However, during the next few days, there was so much mayhem and chaos, he managed to escape. He rejoined his company and he lived to fight in both Belgium and the Netherlands. He passed away in the United States in 1969, aged 56.

The film 'the Longest Day' remembers the night before and of D-Day and John Steele features in it as well.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Did I have fun?

Newfoundland Memorial Park
the trenches are in a zig-zag formation.
I got that very same question on Thursday, as I was leaving the American cemetery. Quite a strange question really, since cemeteries are not really big on the 'fun' front. Awe, yes. Overwhelmed, yes. Sadness, yes. Fun, no! So, I set him straight: no it wasn't fun, but it was very impressive to see. As were all the other graves and cemeteries we saw and passed during the week. Some in the area where WWI raged (around the river Somme), some in Normandy for WWII. I think we must have passed about 100 cemeteries big and small, both German and allied.

We visited two cemeteries and a memorial (which also had some graves, but I didn't see them). The cemeteries were German and American and the memorial was Newfoundland Canadian. The memorial was in the Somme area and had been preserved with trenches more or less intact: not completely, but the outline and some of the depth were retained. The German and American cemeteries were in Normandy and were both impressive. The German because of the stark and dark colours they used: antracite grey. It didn't look that big, but since there were two to five people to a gravestone it held over 21,000 men! Most of them between 18 and 22! Not nazis, just ordinary boys and men who had been ordered to fight for something they might not even have believed in. Of course there were also some higher ranking men who definitely were nazis.

The American cemetery didn't show the ages of the men, only their state of origin and their religion. Most Christian, some Jewish. And because they used larger white crosses (or stars of David) and only one person to a grave, it looked absolutely massive. I don't think I even saw a quarter of what there was. And the overwhelming thought was definitely: Why? As one of the teachers said later on the bus: one group of men from oversees come to a beach and fight with the people on the beach to get on. Another group of men from Germany are on a beach and fight with the people trying to get on to keep them off. Ridiculous!

Deutsches Soldatenfriedhof La Cambe
The flat stones are gravemarkers. Under each marker are 2 men


However, I did have some fun though. The kids were really nice and friendly and I talked to several of them over the course of the week. And because I was the only one speaking French, I had to help out several times in ordering drinks, because the serving staff at the first hotel barely spoke English. Especially if they wanted something more specific. The teachers were nice too and one of them had done the whole trip a few weeks earlier which was a great help as he knew where I could park etc. I had looked it all up though and I think I had to ask him once!

I had been hoping I would have a day off today, but alas, in just over an hour I am to leave for a small day-trip. So, I will tell more tomorrow!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Quick update

Just a quick update to tell you that I am having a good time: I've seen thousands of graves, museums and army stuff and a doctor and a hospital. The doctor for myself, the hospital for one of the passengers. Not to worry though: I am fine and the passenger is okay (not fine yet). I do have some medication I have to take now, but only until tomorrow. When I am going home again.

The group is a nice group of young men and a few women, all in their late teens. They are courteous, friendly and can stand at attention really well (they should, they all are in a civilian military school). I have taken lots of photos except yesterday when they spent the morning cycling (or falling off in the case of the hospital passenger) and the afternoon at a cider farm (when I took the passenger and one of the teachers to the hospital).

I will be back on Saturday and will then tell all. But I just wanted you all to know I am doing fine, enjoying the great weather and being impressed by everything I see.

'Green'

This week's prompt is green and I knew exactly which photo I was going to use for that. Unfortunately it wasn't scanned in yet, so I will use another 'green' photo. And I think it qualifies quite nicely. After all: I am in green!

The photo was taken during my summer working for Club Med on Sicily (Italy) and we were doing a circus show (can you tell?). And I was just clowning around. As a matter of fact, I can't even remember exactly what I was doing in that show, but it did involve a trampoline at some point. I think...

Anyway, this was my eleventh entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Off to see the world

First of all I have to start with Wuppie of course. Well, his ear is now as big as it can get and filled with blood again. According to everything I read and what the vet said, it's a matter of letting it go its course, ie: the blood has to drain away naturally again. I think it is bothering him somewhat, since it's blocking his hearing a bit. But then again, he has never been one for listening attentively to me...

Linette deserves a mention of course as well. She is doing fine. She has found a new place to sleep: on my shoulder! That way, I can move about a bit and she will still be comfy. *Sigh*

War cemetery near Ypres (Belgium)
But of course talking about my monsters doesn't explain the title of this post. On Thursday I was told (not asked, told), that I will go to France on Monday morning. For five days. Normandy to be exact. So, I spent all day today (well, about three hours) looking at the routes and at where we're going. As long as I know the word for cemetery (cimétière) I will go a long way I think, because we will be visiting museums and cemeteries and Omaha beach. Most of it to do with WW2, some with WW1. Even though the destinations are pretty grim, I am looking forward to it, since I have never been to Normandy before and have wanted to for quite some time.

So, if my posts are a bit non-existent next week: it has all to do with my trip. I will be gone for five days and I will take my camera so I can show you all. Au revoir!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

'Food'

When I read this prompt, I knew it was going to be an easy one. At least finding a photo of food in my archives, picking the final one would probably be more difficult. In the end I picked several, because I couldn't pick!

The first photo is of a stand outside a restaurant in Rome, Italy. The empty plastic folder should have contained some leaflets, but was empty when I took the photo.

The second photo is of my favourite summer desert: a big pavlova filled with lovely strawberries and raspberries. I actually made this one myself! I am getting hungry for a slice again now...

And the last photo shows two of the many racks filled with peccorino cheeses, a cheese made of sheep's milk in the Rome region. I took this photo on the same trip as the top photo. During that trip we actually visited several farms and food preparators, we also went to a mozzarella farm and a radish grower. It certainly was different to churches and museums, although we did visit those as well.

This is my tenth entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Monday, 12 March 2012

It was worth a try!

Left ear up, right ear drooping
When I came home this morning carrying the pet carrier, I think Wuppie knew what side his bread was buttered on, because he made a beeline to anywhere but me. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but this one he had sussed within a second flat! Unfortunately for him of course I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and stuck him in the carrier anyway. (Yes, I am a big meanie)

It only needed to stay on for a week...
At the vet's it was our turn to go in almost immediately and after quite a thorough examination of eyes, ears and heart, the vet still hadn't found any sign of an ear infection. She thought the hematoma might also come from a scratch, but couldn't find any signs of that either. Anyway, she got the syringe out, drained the ear of its blood and then proceeded to tape the ear to his head. That way he couldn't impersonate Dombo anymore (ie flap his ear). It needed to stay on for a week and if it came off before then, I could replace it myself.

I DO NOT WANT TAPE ON MY HEAD!!!
No medication was required and with a very sorry kitty I left the vet's clinic again. I took some photos as we got home and then I let him loose to show his 'war wounds' to Linette. By the time I came into the room about a minute later, he had gotten rid of most of the bandage! So, I decided to get rid of it completely and replacing it is probably not such a good idea either, because unless I have him in my sight 24/7, it will be off again before I have turned my back.

So, now he has a flat ear again, but the chances are, it will fill up with blood again. Surgery is not really necessary right now, but I will have to stay vigilant. Silly Wuppie!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cauliflower

Miaow
So, I phoned the emergency vet and told him my, or rather Wuppie's story and here is his view on things: it is as I suspected an ear hematoma, most likely caused by an ear infection (which would also explain his dizziness a week ago). He would shake his head because of some minor pain and that's probably how a blood vessel burst, flooding the space between the two flaps that make up his ear. An operation can be done, but it would have to wait for several days up to a week for the blood to partly drain away naturally again, because they can't operate when the ear is bleeding. But if it goes away naturally the only reason to do an operation would be cosmetic.

Which brings me to the vegetable in the title. When the blood has drained from his ear again, the ear will not return to what it was. Instead it will look like a shriveled up ear, much like a cauliflower. And I am not forking out money for that, after all, it's cosmetic and he is not a showcat! So, there it is, a veggie cat in the making!!

Oh, and before you all yell: but what about the ear infection? Tomorrow morning I will make an appointment with the vet to have that seen to and probably get some anti-biotics.

It twitches

The it in the title refers to Wuppie's ear. It twitches. A lot. And when I touch it, he shirks away. The ear is being held flat to his head. And it's warm to the touch, warmer than his other ear anyway. And when I felt it again this evening, I realised it was thick as well, and containing fluid!

According to the great book of knowledge called the internet, the most likely problem would be a hematoma. Something that happens more in dogs, but hey, I never said he was clever and if he thinks he is a dog, that could explain the hematoma. The question of course remains: how and where did he get the hematoma? Yes, his ears are always dirty, but everytime I have them checked by the vet, he or she tells me he hasn't got earmites. Yes, he tends to scratch his ears, but then again, he has been doing that for over thirteen years now! Besides, I haven't seen him scratch his ears an extraordinary amount lately and come to think of it, not at all today.

Anyway, I feel a phonecall to the vet is in order for tomorrow, hopefully he or she can get it sorted, because he isn't necessarily in great distress, he is not comfortable either.

He keeps me on my toes, that's for sure!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Present and accounted for

You might wonder where I might have been over the last few days, but don't worry, I have been working (the joy) and being at home. However I didn't much feel for spending time behind my computer, hence I didn't spend time behind the computer.

This is so annoying: I had finished this post completely and was about to stick a photo in, when the whole thing got stuck! So, in a nutshell:

Saturday: last staff party ever organised by me. We went out for dinner and then bowling. I was rubbish! Sunday: day off. Monday: boring work again. Tuesday: I took 48 out of the about 50,000 striking special education teachers to Amsterdam. It took 430 coaches about 32 minutes to clear the parking lot after the event had finished. Wednesday: I had to train someone on the job. Awful! Thursday: I drove for Anouk (Dutch singer) who had a concert in the Gelredome. Friday: today: work. Saturday: tomorrow: work. Sunday: off!

The thing that was worst of this week however, was that it was the week the World Championships Biathlon were held. And I missed most of it due to work. Next time I plan a holiday I will need to check the biathlon site as well.

Oh, and what is with this blogger thing now? It can't keep up with my typing. When it saves (about every ten seconds), it will stop me from typing. Very annoying. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

'Pink'

This week's challenge was pink and I had to go through a lot of photos to find one that contained pink. It might be my favourite car colour, but so far I've only owned a red Panda, a white Mazda and a blue Renault, so no luck there! In the end I did find one though. No car in sight, but a lot of bright pink flowers.

The photo was taken in Bad Kissingen (Germany), back in 2006, during a rather weird trip. The weather was very hot and humid to start with and then near the end of the week it turned and we had some massive thunderstorms and a lot of rain. I like this photo because there's a threat of rain in the background that seems to offset the flowers even more.

This is my ninth entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Sleep-over


My bedroom in Brussels where I was an au-pair
Do you remember when you were staying at your grandmother's house? Or your aunts'? Where did you sleep? Well, I have slept in so many different beds over the years I can hardly keep track. When I stayed at my paternal grandmother's house, I used to share the bed with my brother and later with my sister. And especially in the case of my sister it was quite awful. Since she was six years younger than I was (she still is come to think of it), she had to go to bed way earlier than I did. But the bed we used to sleep in was an old bed and it had sagged terribly in the middle. So, by the time I got to bed, she was slap bang in the middle. The only way to get her out of there was to wake her up: she wasn't happy, I wasn't happy.

My maternal grandmother's was a different story: I used to share the bed with my uncle until I was about twelve and then I either had the single bed or shared again with my sister: a double bed on the floor made up of three small matrasses put together. I can remember actually feeling the floor on several occasions, but that might just be me. It wasn't comfortable by any means anyway.

The very first time I stayed at my friend Janet's place when she was married was a horror: picture those thin foam puzzle pieces that are great as a playmat for children. They do not make a bed! I barely slept and the next day everything hurt. My friend C has a different problem: she has a great double bed I can sleep in, but it is in a room that is very hot and I hate the hot. So, I sleep in a different room on a small single mattrass on the floor. But it's cold in that room which is how I like it.

Loved it!
And then there was the room at Carolina's place I stayed in last week. She had invited me over to stay while I was on my course in Groningen (she doesn't live too far off) and I took her up on that offer. I wanted to see her menagerie for a start! When she showed me the room I was to be sleeping in, I was a bit in awe though: it was a beautiful room with a double bed and its own private bathroom!! Needless to say I didn't wake up with my neck all crooked and didn't have to worry about how I would look in the morning: nobody saw me anyway! I think the only thing that was missing might have been the little chocolate on the pillow, but perhaps that's going a bit far...

Wuppie again

Remember when Wuppie slid off the bench a few weeks ago? If not, read here. Well, yesterday as he was asleep next to me, he woke up and started walking around like a drunk, falling over several times. And again it looked as if he had hurt his leg. When I got hold of him though and touched the leg, he didn't flinch and nothing felt out of the ordinary. I let him walk then and he was walking fine too.

I know he's getting on a bit, but still this is worrying me a bit. I will have to keep a close eye on him. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

'Exercise'

This week's prompt is Exercise and that caused a bit of thinking on my part. Because I am not the most athletic person in the world and to be honest, I don't do exercise. I did in the past, but I never managed to keep at it. However, I have folders filled with photos and I was sure I could find something that would show some form of exercise. In the end I settled on this photo.

Last year I had a local trip that involved 14 boys with spiders in their pants (they couldn't sit still) and 5 men who didn't seem to care much about it. The boys were from Northern Ireland and where in the Netherlands to play a football tournament. They were very good and walked away with first price in their age-group! The photo I show you now actually shows you how good they were: their goalie had nothing to do during most of the matches! You may even have to click on the photo to find him! For any of you who don't know much about football (the one with the round ball): the man on the foreground is one of the two linesmen. He was a bit bored during that game as well!

This is my eighth entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?