Monday 29 October 2018

Another day, another drive

A few weeks ago my sister and I had plans to do the part of a route we had started in February. However, the day had been quite advanced already and in the end we opted for Armagh instead. This past Saturday however, we were both off and we decided that now was the time!

The rain disappearing over the Mourne mountains
As neither of us actually lives along the route, we had to do a bit of driving to get to the point where we finished the last time around and when we got there, the first order of business was lunch. Then we had to get some yarn (come on, you know me) and then we finally got in the car to start our drive. 

Trying to skim a stone
We drove all of 5 minutes before pulling over and stopping. We were going to the beach just outside Newcastle (Northern Ireland). After all, the weather was fantastic: sunshine and cold. Wrapped up warmly, we made our way to the beach. Where we realised there were some heavy clouds gathering in the distance and they seemed to be heading our way. 

Sure enough, the rain/hail started pretty soon after that, but it didn't last that long, so we were okay. Not too soaked anyway. In the end we spent about an hour outside walking through the dunes and on the beach. Then however, it was back to the car. We were there for a drive after all!

We drove a bit further, saw something we liked, had a quick stop to take some photos and drove on. I saw a lighthouse and thought it was striped white and red, just like they should be! My sister however, thought it was striped white and green. Well, when we finally got close, it turned out, neither of us had been right! It was more waspish looking. 

St John's Point lighthouse
We couldn't get into it, as it was private property, but we were able to take some photos from the outside. We drove on, saw some more things we liked, took more photos and then we got to the ferry. Where we had to pay cash. Which we had. Just not.... enough! Oops. Fortunately the attendant was okay with it and he gave us a ticket to pay later (ie Monday to Friday), which my sister will do tomorrow. 

We were a pound short!
We continued on, but we realised that the route was taking us a very long way round and we had to get back to Belfast, so in the end, we cut our route short and got to Belfast at around 6pm. First off: dinner! Which proved to be a bit difficult, as there was waiting everywhere. Anything from 20 to 45 minutes. We picked the twenty minutes wait, had a lovely dinner and left on time to get to the theater. 

A Victorian bath house
Because the end of our evening was more culture! We were going to see the Ulster Orchestra playing movie themes. Psycho, Harry Potter, Gremlins, Indiana Jones and several more. A good day followed by a good night. 

Sunday 28 October 2018

Photo on Sunday 2018-27

Well, we thought it had some beauty to it...

Monday 22 October 2018

You've got mail

To be returned eventually to the writer/family of...
As I live in a smallish apartment now, and several boxes of stuff are still lingering downstairs in the garage without being used, I felt some culling was needed. Like the box of letters.

I love letter writing and receiving and have done so since the early 1980's. At first it was just my cousin and I who were firm correspondents. Then a couple of school friends were added as I moved away to another town. And by the late 1980's, I had friends from Austria, Belgium, France, Morocco and South Africa. Some of them I had met in real life, others were through one of those pen pal agencies through school.

These will eventually be scrapped
When I started working abroad, I met new people and with some of those I also struck up a letter friendship, most notably Marion from Germany. She was a diligent writer, telling me about her family and her friends and her life in general, which was eventually mostly indoors as she was morbidly obese. Out of all the friends, she stuck around, others fell by the way side in dribs and drabs, never to be heard of again. 

Then came the emails and the smart phones and letter writing was changed forever. Why bother getting pen and paper when a quick email will do just as well. But where I kept the letters, I never kept any emails! 

I say I kept the letters, and I had. From 1983 every letter I ever received I kept. And took with me to whatever new home I would move into. Be it in Norway or Northern Ireland. But enough is enough. So, on Friday I grabbed the box containing the letters and took it upstairs. Determined to sort those letters out. Of course there were letters there I wanted to keep. The ones from Marion for example and the ones from my cousins and family (siblings, parents, grandmothers). But the rest? 

The top letter was from South Africa. He had a very distinct handwriting.
Old school friends, pen pals from South Africa and Austria, Japan and France: they all ended up in the laundry basket for recycling. I had to take out several letters, just to see who they were from, as I didn't always recognise the handwriting. 

There were some surprises though: Brazil and Egypt. I didn't know anybody there, so they probably sent me one letter, I sent one back and that was the end of that. An old school friend lived in Australia and New Zealand for a while. I had a pen pal in Japan. Old work friends from Italy and France who happened to be in Switzerland or Spain. And of course the Netherlands. So many from the Netherlands. 

I took off all the stamps, bound to make somebody happy with them and if not: can always be thrown out. But some of the stamps I kept. From every country I got letters from! I then stuck them on a piece of paper and the plan is to get it framed. Just have to find a frame now in one of my other 'to cull' boxes. 

Oh, and just for a game: can you spot the five royals? Have you found Hachi? Did you see the two different teddies (Brom wants to know)? And can anybody tell me who Olivia and Frederick are?

PS: the address shown on the last photo is an address I lived at over 20 years ago! No point in sending me mail there, but if you want my current address to send me a letter or a card...

Sunday 21 October 2018

Saturday 20 October 2018

The circus

Last night my sister and I made our way to Belfast. The circus was in town. Not just any circus either: Cirque du Soleil. Neither of us had ever seen them, so we didn't really know what to expect.

Well, what we got was stomach dropping acrobatics in the air, on trampolines, on the floor. There was a guy with a diabolo who was just amazing. A contortionist where I wondered whether she would ever be straight again and some fantastic clowns giving us a love story. 

This last photo is of my favourite act. She is just hanging off his neck and he is just holding on to some ropes. No safety nets or anything! 

Photos by my sister.

Thursday 18 October 2018


All of us drivers out there know that parking on the motorway is not allowed. So, when I saw this lorry yesterday afternoon, while I was on my way to Glasgow, I knew it meant trouble. Well, no. It meant TROUBLE. See, it hadn't just parked. It had parked on top of one of the side barriers and there were lots of police cars around. There was also an ambulance and a large tow truck.

Of course the traffic on their way to Glasgow wanted to see what had happened and slowed right down as well, causing me to get to Glasgow a bit later than I had wanted, although still on time. I did not have any passengers returning with me to Belfast and left a minute after I was due. I got to the motorway in good time and then... I joined the queue. 

Normally, I should be able to get to a certain point in about 20 minutes. In heavy rush hour traffic it should take about 30 minutes. Yesterday it took over an hour and a half! Even if I went flat out (which I am not allowed), I would not make the ferry back by any stretch of the imagination. 

Instead I took my statutory rest (after 4,5 hours driving we have to have a 45 minute break) about half way to the ferry, after which I continued to the ferry, where there was a two and a half hour wait before I could finally board the same ferry I had taken in the morning. I had a small dinner, it was nearly midnight after all, and then put my head down. Normally I would read or knit or both (yes, at the same time), but I needed the sleep more. 

By the time I got to my own bed it was 3 in the morning. What a day. Fortunately, before all this came to pass, I had already had a change of plan for today. Instead of the normal Glasgow run I was put on another trip, which starts much later in the day. They must be psychic in the office!

PS: why on earth am I always drooling when taking a nap. I don't recall ever drooling when properly asleep in my bed! Or is it just me?

Monday 15 October 2018

A lovely autumn afternoon

As I was off yesterday and so was my sister, we decided to go for a nice drive. However, as we could only start out after one in the afternoon, we felt that picking up the Mourne coastal route where we had left it last time (during my stay here in February) would take too long. Instead we decided to stay closer to home and visit Armagh, a lovely cathedral city at less than half an hour's drive.

The drive itself is quite uneventful, but since we had changed our aim from driving to visiting, that didn't matter overly much. When we got there, we parked at the protestant cathedral at the top of the city and walked down to the city center. Of course, it being Sunday all the shops were closed, but the park would be open and we headed that way.

From the park we had a lovely view over the cathedral. And as you may not quite be able to see in the photo: it was on the same height again as we were, because the park is on a slope as well. The bit of the park we saw wasn't that busy, mainly to do with the bike race going on further down in the park. We did get some lovely views though. One of them being two squirrels chasing each other round the trees. No photo of course: they were too fast and too far away.

I did however get a lovely photo of the path we were walking on. It is one of my favourites of the day, beating the one of the cathedral! I did take another one as well, which is a bit gloomier, but I just love this one. 

After the short walk we arrived at the main bit of the park with a children's playground, a small garden area, the stable block (with facilities fortunately) and the main house. Formerly the Archbishop's residence, now City Hall, from what we could gather. We walked back to the city again and finally read up on the old Friary. This is the only part still standing and from what we could deduce, it was the church part of the Friary.

Once back in the city center, we decided to get a drink, which turned into Sunday lunch with a scrumptious dessert. Yum! It was a lovely afternoon with gorgeous weather and great company. 

Wednesday 10 October 2018

So, where's my sister from then?

We may look alike, but we are not the same. Not on the outside...
... and not on the inside
On the same day the results of my mother came in, both my sister and I got our results as well. They varied, which to me sounded very strange. Surely as sisters we should have the same DNA! My sister works with DNA and such, but could not give me a proper answer immediately. She knows, but needs to put it in simple person talk for me.

Fast forward to today and I got an answer to the conundrum, albeit not from my sister. In short it's like this: Even though you get half of your stuff from one parent and the other half from the other, it doesn't necessarily mean you get exactly half of everything. It is completely random what you get in fact. Here's an example:

My paternal grandparents
Grandfather A is 100% German and grandmother A is 50% Italian and 50% Scottish. They produce child A which is 50% German, 32% Scottish and 18% Italian.
Grandfather B is 50% Irish and 50% Scottish and grandmother B is 100% Italian. They produce child B which is 50% Italian, 36% Irish and 14% Scottish.
Child A and child B have two children. Child 1 is 41% Irish, 32% Italian, 27% German and 0% Scottish. Child 2 is 50% German, 18% Italian, 18% Irish and 14% Scottish. 

My maternal grandparents
And that is exactly what happened to my sister and myself.
My own results show that I am 44% Germanic (mainly Dutch), 34% England/Wales/Northwestern Europe (mainly English), 17% Norwegian and 5% Swedish.
My sister's results show that she is 44% England/Wales/Northwestern Europe (mainly English), 26% Germanic (mainly Dutch), 18% Norwegian, 9% Swedish and 3% Irish/Scots. 
Which means that I am more Dutch than my sister, yet she is more Viking than me.

Me, my sister and my brother
Now, we have a brother as well and were he to do this test, his results will be completely different again, although the results will point out to us that there is a high likelihood that we are related in the first degree (ie siblings), regardless of differences. 

PS: had my sister and I been identical twins, the results would have been the same. And if for some reason the results had been the same now, it would have been a complete fluke really.

PS2: the explanation was given by Marc McDermott, who is the founder of Genealogy Explained. He wrote a guest blog for MyHeritage, one of the genealogy sites. Even though we did our tests with Ancestry, the explanation is the same for all tests.

Monday 8 October 2018

Where am I from again?

Over the past few years I have done some research into my family tree. Finding out about anything from royalty and murder (Mum's side) and religious persecution and Japanese internment camps (Dad's side). 

At one point my Dad asked me whether I knew for certain that some person was our ancestor. Well, no! Then again, how do I know my father is my father? His word does not really prove that much! So, we decided to get a DNA test done through Ancestry. 

While my parents were here, we all spat in a tube and sent it off to Ireland to get it analyzed. And on Sunday the first results came in: my mother's!

The thing we 'knew' from my research (based on other people's research mostly) was that her ancestors came from a wide area in Europe. Starting with Charlemagne and then trickling down, slowly converging on the Netherlands. Would the DNA substantiate that research?

Well, it does! As you can see from the image above. There were two surprises: the first was about the England, Wales & Northwestern Europe bit. On closer inspection it showed that the main focus in that area is England! Where did that come from? I would have thought Northern France would be more likely. The second and biggest surprise for me however was the Scandinavian percentage though: 20% of my mother's DNA is from Norway and Sweden! Vikings!! 

I can't wait for my father's results now and then of course my own! Will my own correlate with my parents' or did the milkman or postman have anything to do with my conception and do I need a completely new research?

Sunday 7 October 2018

Photo on Sunday 2018-25

Yesterday my sister and I went shopping. I got myself five books. I still prefer books over e-reader, although that is a very handy gadget!

And then I got lots of other stuff! Some craft supplies. A lovely jumper. Some coasters and some other assorted stuff. Not in the photos are the footstool and some shelving units for the garage. We had a great day, even if my purse is now decidedly empty!

Friday 5 October 2018


In Norway back in 2013
It's always nice to have friends coming over to stay and do things with. Even if it is only talking a lot over endless cups of tea. And I was really looking forward to this weekend: one of my friends was coming over for a few days. Brilliant! 

She booked the flight. I asked for time off. So far, so good. And then? Then she decided to do something that she had wanted to do for some time. Jumping on a trampoline! Which in itself isn't so bad, but in her case it did turn out to be so. Back aches, trouble walking and even though she rested a lot, it was a severe no-go. 

In the end she had to cancel her trip, due to her possibly having a hernia. This is the second time she has had to cancel her trip, which is a shame, because when I am in the Netherlands, we usually only see each other for a few hours. 

Don't worry: I have made other plans: ironing, hoovering, doing dishes, doing laundry, knitting and tomorrow I will be going shopping with my sister. 

I told my friend though: next time make sure no aunts or uncles are ill and do NOT jump on trampolines!