Monday, 23 November 2015

Online Paralysis

 Up till now , renewing my passport has always been fairly routine  .
 But I've just read the new instructions for those , like me , who live abroad ... and apparently it's no use going off to the Consulate any more . Whether it's a cost-cutting exercise or not I don't know , but these days the staff appear to have more important things to do than deal with incompetent old bats trailing in from the provinces to clog up Reception . Even telephone enquiries would appear to be discouraged .
None of this is helped by the fact that this latest passport-photo-to-be makes me look like someone a vampire might reject  . I'll have to elbow my way into my G.P.'s surgery this week and hope he remembers roughly who I am and has a signature to spare ... Perhaps I should ask about my unnatural pallor while I'm there .
I suppose the proponents of online everything 24-7 will say that with a computer/IPhone I wouldn't need to leave my house  . But it's like internet banking or increasingly elaborate remote controls for the television or ...horror ! the new c.d. player ... it's just a complication . I prefer talking to PEOPLE . 
Still , it would appear that when I've finally completed the online application successfully and been granted a new passport , it will be delivered by courier ... and they're still human , aren't they ?  

Monday, 9 November 2015

With Cauliflower and Motets

I had a free day on Saturday and  plans !
Nothing huge , just a Book Sale and then a quick visit to the local Porcelain museum and their exhibition of Popular 20th Century ceramics  ( I thought it would be fun to see how much of it rang a bell ! ) .
 The sale was in the big church nearby that has an entrance exclusively for royalty ... and a  'trade'  entrance round the back for the rest of us , which had been been gussied up for the occasion .

Friend and I had been to a Brocante fair there a couple of weeks ago and , with difficulty , resisted carrying everything home so I was rather hoping to be tempted by loads of nice vintage books and mags .
 All money raised was destined for a South American charity , the volunteers were all charming , the church looking nicer each year as the restoration of the pre-Reformation wall paintings reveals more surprises from under the whitewash , and the coffee was good but ....
The stalls only had the usual endless copies of well-worn bird books , gardening books , 1970's cooking with margarine books , Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer in Frisian  , Teletubbies board books , twenty year-old dictionaries  and the odd antimacassar pattern  . Still , I did find something I liked on the CD stall so at least didn't leave empty handed  , though not having made a noticable difference in South America , sadly . It had started pouring and the winds were picking up so I just went home and left the ceramics for another day .

A big bowl of Madhur Jaffrey's Gingery Cauliflower soup , some raisin bread , my new CD

the last few chapters of Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ( highly recommended ) , some desultory knitting

the storm raging outside and the prospect of Doctor Who later ... made for a  very nice Saturday afternoon indeed .

P.S. Can't resist including this advertisement just I've seen  for a dog coat from Pets Place ... an Oasis-style parka to keep your dog extra cosy on walks this winter ... but surely most dogs already have fur collars of their own ?

Sunday, 25 October 2015


Minion chocolate flakes on bread and butter

colouring in , chocolate milk , Ceebebies , banana yoghurt and wooden frogs

 Monkey Town , whirling robots and singing dinosaurs , chocolate sauce , "Can you lick your elbows ?",  Bagels and Beans' make-your-own hot chocolate and topping it with squirty whipped cream , a red rabbit who's apparently really a bear

 Knock Knock jokes , halbardiers and crossbows , theocracies and Ghengis Khan , the Apollo programme and how to make cheese , glowing smiles and roaring tantrums , Animal Inside Out  at the Natuur Museum , "Why-ee ?", Discovery Science , the wooden elephant on wheels and a Dalek jumper , and "I must admit Granny , you have a very nice flat ".

Which is now a rather empty flat , minus two little boys aged 8 and 3 and their parents .

Thursday, 15 October 2015

First Pom-Pom Of The Season

We'd been warned . Winter was on its way . Even Monday's paper got in the mood  .

Bushes full of berries , making even the car park look festive . Skeins of geese were arriving already . Siberian swans had arrived ... not just one as in England , but dozens ! El Nìño was doing its thing . Somewhere in the Amazon a butterfly fluttered . But this morning it was confirmed , winter was here ... I saw a bobble hat cycling up to the college.

It's time to stop stabbing celery and carrot sticks into pots of hummus and living on cottage cheese ... it's braised beef , baked apples and coconut muffin time again . 

And it was definitely time to stop padding about the flat in bare feet . The Rich in Years slippers were nearly ready . I'd assembled and blanket stitched the first one ... time to try it on . TahDah !

They lived up to their name ... in the '50s the average woman of pensionable age probably did have a bunion or two . The slippers are the oddest shape !! Tight round the toe and hugely wide round the big toe joints , loose enough round the ankles to allow for swelling and breathtakingly warm  , they are Tardis-like in their ability to whisk one back to the end of sweet rationing . Anyway ,  they didn't get their promised pom-poms ... instead I pimped this one up with a glittery bow and gave thanks that I never have to blanket stitch another thing as long as I live .

P.S. I didn't go and have a free breakfast in my pyjamas , I'm afraid . I couldn't quite face it , wearing a bright green nightie with Christmas Pud on the front , as I was

( MD is , for some reason,  responsible for my nightwear and takes a fiendish delight in finding the least flattering . ) .
But anyway , apparently only those under eight wore their pyjamas ... almost exclusively Frozen or Superman-ish .... and Disney-pink's not really my colour .

Thursday, 1 October 2015

I Did Things

Having sat like a blob for rather too long , I've got to my feet and started doing things .

The twice-yearly Fabric Fair's always worth wandering around , for the people-watching alone . Like the rather harassed woman who was buying meters of fleece , tricot and other hard wearing stuff . When someone wondered what she was planning , she just said , "I've got five children " . Everyone winced .
 But I must say , this Autumn , the general impression was rather gloomy . Five hundred shades of grey only slightly livened up by dozens of grey/black/white busy little prints ... for all the world like Italian grannies' housedresses .
This was the liveliest thing there .

"You could perhaps use it as a wall-hanging against a deep purple wall ... " said Friend . We pondered ... and thought better of it .

I've been to the cinema , too . One of my keep-fit class companions , an avid film fan , wondered if I'd like to join her at the Film House and we saw 'Dheepan' , a French film about Tamil refugees in a ghastly drug-infested  'banlieu' in Paris . Hair-raising but beautifully filmed . Next week there's Anton Corbijn's film about James Dean . I could become an avid film fan , too ...

And , having thoroughly enjoyed the BBC 1's Sunday evening's adaptation of Cider With Rosie ,  I was definitely in the mood for even more country prettiness and charm on Tuesday .

The Glasgow Boys had opened in Assen's museum and I was ready to wallow in nostalgia . So , obviously , is everybody else ; it was very busy ,  even on a weekday morning .

  Lots of lambs , cabbage patches and fruit trees , misty hills and glens , pretty children ... with all the rough edges smoothed away .
 Even a sturdy veg. stall , like the one my great-great-granny is supposed to have supported her family with  ... maybe even the same carrots she grew ?

Unfortunately the artist , William York MacGregor ,  is supposed to have painted out his unsuccessful attempt at depicting the stall-holder and replaced her with some onions , so we'll never know .

But , now Autumn has really begun , the local high life is just beginning . I see in the local paper that one of the cafés in the center of town  is going to expand its breakfast menu and , to celebrate , will be serving a free breakfast to anyone who turns up in their pyjamas , this Sunday . I might just  give it a miss ....

Sunday, 13 September 2015


It hasn't been very interesting lately . So much so , I've had time to wonder whether that first sentence should have a comma after 'interesting'.

And to read articles on whether Eating More Than 6 Bananas At Once Can Kill You (  from the BBC online magazine ) . It seems that you'd have to eat more than 400 in a day to reach unsafe levels of potassium , so that's alright then . Then the writer spoilt the whole thing by adding that the levels of radioactivity  , on the other hand , are negligible ,
" Bananas are not so radioactive as Brazil nuts and can be eaten in moderation ."  Well no , that  hadn't been keeping me awake ...

Luckily there's been the odd splash of my favourite colour to cheer me up , including some berries , Mata Hari perching on the wall of our local Bagel & Beans ,  a sunflower , a very nice little boat  and a fly on the other side of a window .


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Catching Up Fast- ish.

It takes a while for things to filter this far north . I mean , we have electric light and vending machines and things , but the first hipster I saw was in London , this summer .
But now there are at least three young men in town with the right kind of beard and cap ,,, and one of them has bicycle clips .
Cold brew coffee hasn't appeared yet but there's a new sandwich shop with 'artisan bread' , which  is a start .
So , naturally, this pair gathered quite a crowd when they started performing a while ago in the square .

We all listened politely and and applauded . A tatooed gent joined the line-up . For a moment we thought he was going to sing , too , till we saw that he was just retrieving his dog .
But before we could all move fast enough , the duo had launched into their second number . Roughly translated :

" He lay under the ground  ,
He lay under the ground ,
He lay under the ground ...

And he didn't mind ,
And he didn't mind ,
And he didn't mind ...

A garden on his stomach ,
A garden on his stomach ,
A garden on his stomach ...

And he didn't mind ,
And he didn't mind ,
And he ... "
Whereupon the woman from the neighbouring organic veg. stall leapt to her feet , picked up a tray of strawberries and ran round offering us all one . The tatooed man's tatooed wife took photos of her husband and dog ...

and I left to do my shopping . 

Though I do now wonder if  I'm quite the person to report on current trends , here or anywhere else . I bumped into a charming young girl this week , who looked vaguely familiar ,
"Oh ", she said , " You used to be my juf in playschool ! " . Then followed the usual catch-up conversation about schools and future plans .
"I'm hoping to go to the Police Academy next year " . Dear Heaven , I'm feeling my age !