Wednesday 29 May 2019


Empty buses today
On Tuesday there was a national strike in the public transport sector in the Netherlands. A strike to focus people's attention on the retirement age which is being put up to 67 (and beyond) and they want it frozen at 66. Fair enough.

I am a member of a union. I was before I left for Norway, I was in Norway and I have recently become a member again here in the Netherlands. I think it's important as it has done so much for working people in the past and will hopefully continue to do so in the future. 

I drove my bus on Tuesday. On a public transport route. Me and my colleagues were the only ones. We were not busy at all. At some point somebody who cycled towards me made no-no-no movements with his hands. I shouldn't have been driving, I should have been on strike.

The thing is however, I don't work for the public transport company, I work for a coach company and they were not on strike. Which would have meant I would have had a hard time getting strike money. Besides, did I completely agree with what they were striking about?

Well, no. Yes, the age of retirement should not go up indefinitely. Personally I think 67 is fine or 66 for that matter if they do get that sorted. But the fact of the matter is that it will be most likely that I will have to work beyond that anyway to get any sort of decent pension. What with me having worked abroad, I have what they call over here a pension deficit. I am still not sure I will be getting any money from Norway, I know for a fact that I won't be getting anything from the UK.

But even that is not what is causing the biggest deficit. It's the fact that I work for a temping agency. If I work, I save up for the state pension. If I don't work, I don't save. There are apparently more jobs than applicants right now, yet it is still very hard to get a steady job. Which in turn influences my pension, my ability to get a loan, my ability to get a mortgage, my ability even to rent certain homes. 

I also don't know from one week to the next how many hours I will be making or how much money will show up in my bank account. It makes life very uncertain and I am not the only one. Several of my colleagues have lost their jobs (downsizing a favourite reason) recently and have had to retrain as a bus driver. They are at the bottom of the pay grades (I am at the top, which is at least one good thing). They do have mortgages, families, obligations. But no certainty about their pay check. 

I don't want to work until I am 69 or beyond. But I feel that the unions would serve a lot more people a lot better with a fight over temporary work and how long that is allowed. Jus' saying...

Tuesday 28 May 2019


I dropped people off here, but never got to visit...
On Saturday I had to work. Something that happens on occasion (well, more often than that really, but that's not the point). I had finished and I had parked my coach where it was supposed to be. I went inside, hung up the keys, had a small break, had my digital time card read and realised I had left my lovely blue bottle on the coach. 

I grabbed the keys to the coach and the entrance pass and left the building. I opened the coach, found my bottle, closed and locked the coach and opened the door to the ... I didn't open the door to the building. I had taken my digital time card instead of my entrance pass! Oh no. 

It was Saturday. The company is located on an industrial estate where not much happens on a Saturday evening. My phone, my car keys, my house keys, well basically everything was in the building. I. Was. Not. 

Fortunately I saw a gentleman at an other company on the same estate and he was willing to lend me his phone. The only number I knew off by heart was my colleague. Who would phone somebody to come and help. Or better yet, I could try and gain entrance through the ambulance services that are in the same building. If I couldn't, I had to ring him back. 

I knew I had to be on the other side of the building. So, that's where I went. Ah, a gate. I walked the other way around. Yet another gate. I then had to walk all the way around the outer perimeter of the building to get to where I wanted. I rang the doorbell, explained the situation and five minutes later I was reunited with my things. 

Lesson learnt: look at what kind of card you take with you. Or better still: take the whole lot with you!!

Friday 24 May 2019

Miss Oswin gets excited


Well, finally! I have wanted to tell you about what's happening to me for about 87 days now. Don't worry though: nothing bad has happened. To me...

First things first though. I am allowed to go out nearly every day. Sometimes I stay out all day, not coming back until it's dark, other days I come back in all the time. You have to keep two-leggers on their toes you know! 

A few feathers and some down
One day I came back and Mara petted me and said: not good! So, I stayed quiet while Mara figured out what was wrong. It was a tick! Yuck! But Mara and Oma removed it and I have been completely okay.

The other day though, I was allowed out and was having a grand time and when I came in, I had something else with me: a baby bird! And I was not going to let go. Mara and Oma were quite devious however and in the end I was locked in the kitchen with Oma and Mara did something to the bird. 

When I was let out of the kitchen again, she said the bird was alive, but there were some feathers missing and there was some blood. I wasn't allowed outside again to give the birdie a chance. The rest of the day Mum Dad was chirping and chirping and chirping to get her young to follow her. The following day I was let out again and immediately Mum Dad started chirping again. Until I went in and Oma shut the door. Mara says she thinks the bird has survived and is recovering from the ordeal. 

Today I am not allowed to go out though. And they used the sucky thing as well. I had better rest up for my next adventures then...

The left side was caught between the jaws of doom (Miss O's teeth)
but it was taking food (worms) and fluttered up a few branches afterwards

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Life and things

I have started this post several times now. Each time I think: this is going to be it and then I am a few sentences in and realise: no, this is not going to be it, and delete the whole thing. 

To be honest, I don't really know what to talk about right now. Yes, there are thoughts in my head and things in my life, but the thoughts haven't formed properly yet and I am not (yet) willing to talk about them. The things that happen in my life are basic: work, home, television. The occasional visit to the cinema or theater. 

I could talk about the upcoming European election (we vote on Thursday which is strange, it's normally on a Wednesday), but I haven't got a clue who are in it and who to vote for. I will do some research tonight, so I know the ins and outs. Somewhat. 

Other than that? Not much. Although: 216 days until Christmas!

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Eurovision again

On Sunday I posted several songs that I liked during Saturday's final of the Eurovision Song Contest. There were two acts that I didn't post, one because it was not my taste at all (the Icelandic entry) and one that I will not be able to post anyway.

One part of the final is always the interval act. After all the performers have performed their best (ahem), it is time for the European, Israeli and Australian public to vote. By phone or by app. It takes some time. Once the time allotted is over, the votes need to be counted and verified to make sure there are no mistakes. 

Now, during that time you could of course put the screen to black, go to commercials or something. You loose your viewing public within seconds and that is of course not wanted. So, over the years the organising countries have come up with the interval act. A local children's choir, clog dancers, a compilation of the winning songs of that country. Anything to fill the time and as with the main show: sometimes hair pullingly bad. 

Sometimes though, the act outshines the show itself. Like when Ireland had to organise the contest after it had won the year before (when they had also organised it due to a win the year before that). It was 1994 and they were looking for an act. In the end they ended up with a troupe of dancers. If you have heard or even seen Riverdance : They started at Eurovision.

Mostly though, the interval acts are as I said before: anything to fill the time. Then a couple of years ago, Sweden had to organise and apparently had enough cash lying about to hire a big star: Justin Timberlake did (part of the) interval act and was brilliant. He was funny, he was nice, he was a showman, he was a singer, he was spot on!

This year it was Israel who had to organise the contest and someone decided to hire another big star. One million dollars later and Madonna had agreed to come do a few songs. She would do an old favourite (Like a Prayer) and a new song. It started off well: the set looked good, the performers looked good. Then she opened her mouth and the whole thing came crashing down. Atrocious. Serhat, the artist performing for San Marino, had been off-key during his performance, but he sounded like one of the Wiener Sängerknaben compared to Madonna!

Fortunately the second song was lip-synched, preventing more bleeding ears. 

Yes I know, Marlene Dietrich is no longer with us, but she would have been perfect!
Everybody knew and loved her, friend and foe alike.
However, my question is this: why on earth do we have all those foreign (read American) stars. Have we not got any good performers from Europe? Queen are British and even with the American Adam Lambert, they would be a good choice. U2 are Irish and quite well-known. Enrique Iglesias is half Spanish. A-ha is Norwegian, Roxette is Swedish, Aqua is Danish. Even the Netherlands can boast some really decent performers which I bet would be able to do a better job than Madonna. Just a thought to this year's organisers...

Sunday 19 May 2019

No Photo on Sunday today

As those of you who have followed me for a while know, I am a big fan of Eurovision. Basically the biggest music contest in the world. Watched by a lot of people from all over the world. The premise is easy: make a better world through music. Especially when it was first thought of back in the early 1950's. 

Through the years the songs have varied a great deal. A lot of songs have passed through, some absolutely beautiful, others toe curlingly bad. I mean nails on a blackboard stuff. The past few years the voting has become a hot topic, as has the quality of the music/songs. Last year was a return to form though: good songs. Israel won and this year Europe (and Australia) all trooped to Tel Aviv.

I know that those of you who live across the pond are not able to watch the youtube clips I post, but it is well worth a try to try and find them, because they are... memorable. 

The contest nowadays consists of two semi-finals and a final. Each semi produces 10 finalists, making 20, plus the 'big five*' and last year's winner, totaling 26 countries in the final. The first semi was on the whole pretty awful. Apparently most of the performers sang off-key at one point or another. 

My favourites were San Marino (very off-key, but very fun) and Slovenia. My hate-moment was Iceland which had sent a death-metal group dressed in BDSM in a raunchy sex-club. Waders were big too, no fewer than two had the full version and one had the just above the knee version. Australia had a fairy princess chased by dementors. On sticks if you please! Portugal was off the scale as well with weird clothes and plastic beards. 

The second semi was a lot better, for a start, the Netherlands were in it! But also Dirty Dancing by Switzerland, Russia with visible underwear (he had a great song however), Croatia delivered a man who got his wings (literally), Moldova decided to go back to the past and got the sand artist from several years ago out again. Norway had a joiker to join them in a very catchy song. And Sweden sounded like it has sounded for a few years now: good, but same. 

The final was on Saturday and I had bought the snacks for myself and a friend and her children. The lists were ready and off we were! Most of the songs I had seen already of course, but some were new (see below). Germany had a song about sisters and I kept thinking: Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby did a better job! Israel looked a bit sinister, Italy was modern and okay yet not my favourite. Iceland (yes, they had made it) was even worse the second time I heard the song. San Marino (yes, he too), was still off-key, Russia's underwear had been addressed apparently as I did not notice it. His song was still good. 

After all that, the scoring started. We had been told that the favourites to win were the Netherlands and we started off well: the maximum 12 points from Portugal. After that however it sank a bit and even though we stayed in the top 7, it was definitely not a done deal. When the jury's vote had finished we were in third place, behind Sweden and North Macedonia, but there were only 8 points between number 1 and 3! It was going to be tight.

Then the public vote. Norway had not been a favourite with the jury, but the public loved them: they shot up to first place! Slowly they worked their way to the top until only the last three countries remained: the Netherlands, North Macedonia and Sweden. First up was the Netherlands and they went to first place. North Macedonia hadn't been as popular with the public and went to 7th place. Sweden would need 253 to win. After about five minutes with everybody on tenterhooks, they got their score: 93! 


I was screaming and shouting and jumping up and down! We had won, for the first time since 1975 we had won! Next year the contest will take place in the Netherlands and I can tell you now: by hook or by crook: I will not be in front of the television, I will be at the live shows!! I can't wait!

*The big five are the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. They pay most to the European Broadcasting Union and get a free ticket, straight to the final.

Wednesday 8 May 2019


I decided before I had even moved properly, that I would continue to do fun things like going to the theater and to the cinema. Money permitting obviously. And at this moment there are several films I would love to see in the cinema.

Unfortunately one (On the Basis of Sex) is at the end of its run and is only shown in Amsterdam and I am not going there. The other one (Le Grand Bain) never played at my local cinema, so I will probably not be able to see that one either. For now. The third one I wanted to see however, was playing here. Albeit at really silly times. Like 10.40am!

But, I really wanted to see that film and I saw that last Saturday it was being shown at midday. Not too bad and I decided to go. 

It was not busy. I think everybody would have fit on one row and there would still have been room left over. But what we got to see was a great film. Well, no, it was a documentary, but very well done and almost filmic in quality. 

Peter Jackson (yes, of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fame) did a fantastic job with his crew. Bringing World War I very close. If you do get the chance to see 'They Will Not Grow Old' in the cinema: very much recommended. And if you miss it: wait for the showing on television, the BBC was apparently quite involved as well.

Tuesday 7 May 2019


For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you will know I always suffer from headaches and migraines. Yes, the two are different and yes, I do suffer from both versions. And very much yes, I am fed up! Or should I say was...

Because about two months ago now, I got medication to prevent any migraine attacks. Which meant that in the first two weeks I had an attack! Not good. At All! But since then, I have been relatively fine. 

Yes, I have been getting headaches, but I nearly always know the cause (wind and sun, too little to drink, too little sleep) and either with removing the cause or taking a couple of paracetamol if needed, they pass. 

Then on Saturday I had a headache. One of those that would stick around for three days usually. I took two paracetamols and left to do my thing. And then in the evening I took another two as the first two hadn't helped and about two hours later: no headache!

It's only two months in. I have another two months' worth before having to have my second evaluation with my gp, but so far: I am happy and should have done this years ago! 

Monday 6 May 2019

My step first cousin once removed revisited

A while ago I wrote about my step first cousin once removed (the son of the husband of an aunt of my father) regarding my genealogy research. And how I needed a photo of him and more information as well. 

That was some time ago and in the mean time my family book appeared. With his story and his photo. I was able to contact a cousin of my father's, who happens to be his half brother and in fact, has the same name. 

His information about his elder half brother was very limited. His half sister was not willing to talk about it any more and the little information they had was wrong really. When I told him what I was doing, he was however willing to let me have a photo of his half brother, that I could use as I saw fit. 

But before the story appeared in the book, I had to find out more and I did. Not much above what I already knew, but having a photo to put next to the person on paper was really nice. 

During the past weekend it was Remembrance Day (Saturday, May 4th) and Liberation Day (Sunday, May 5th). And while watching the Remembrance service from Amsterdam, the face of this nearly forgotten person popped up in my head. He never saw any liberation, he died in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp in Burma, as far away from home as he could possibly be. 

To remember him: Jan (1916-1943). 

Sunday 5 May 2019

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Not even

No, I am not even going to apologise for not blogging that much lately. Even if my hours are decent again and the money coming in even more so, especially compared to Northern Ireland. 

Over the last few days I have actually been grappling with that money. Not literally of course, but figuratively as I am trying to figure out what I am owed. Apparently I would be paid automatically, but I didn't realise that and declared my hours. Which means that sometimes I have been paid too much (apparently last week) and sometimes not enough (no weekend bonuses for example). 

It meant having to go through everything, demanding work sheets over the work I have done and trying to get it all sorted. Then I tried to get some mileage money as well and was told that 'I might be entitled to some more than I claimed'. 

Apart from the paying job, I also had the non-paying job and I found it was too much. Yes, after only four weeks at the shelter I gave it up. I wasn't available on the Tuesdays, but I still needed to make five days at work. Which meant six days a week and sometimes even seven! It was too much for me. At some point I will likely do something like it again, but not right now when I need the money more. 

However, the money is okay, I get about what I thought I would and I have started paying off the debts I have. Which makes me feel good. It's not much, it will take a long time, but it's a start. And apparently, that's where you begin!

So, right now it's checking time: hours against pay against what I have on paper. It's going to be fun...

Photos from our recent trip to the zoo