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August 17, 2010

Last week our beach hosted an international fireworks festival, a competition between six different nations.

On Saturday night we decided to go and watch it and, as it had been a beautifully warm and sunny day, we took a blanket (for sitting on the sand) and two bottles of beer (to slake our thirst.)  Saturday was the turn of Germany to slug it out against the Netherlands; the first at 10.00 p.m. and the second, the host nation, at 11.00 p.m.  Each display lasted 15 minutes.  For various reasons that I won’t bother boring you with, we only managed to make it to the 11.00 showing, so parked up the bicycles and found ourselves a suitably romantic space on the sand.  The display was somewhat underwhelming in nature but I totally enjoyed the whole experience.

We have recently acquired a novel semi-independence which means that we can go out without planning and paying for the services of a baby sitter, all thanks to the fact that Fourteen-and-Three-Quarters has attained a suitable (and legal) maturity and is now tasked as resident child-carer.

It was wonderful to sit on the warm sand with the sounds of the sea beside us and the black sky all around us.  The fireworks were beautiful, though some would and did say, not spectacular but I found them quite magical all the same.  Some even burst outwards into heart-shaped cascades of red sparks.   Now that’s clever – how do you make an explosion heart-shaped?

The whole experience was lovely, mostly because it was an hour of Us-Time spent sitting on the beach together, chatting late into the evening, enjoying each other’s company.  That’s something we haven’t really done since pre-children days.

I’ve always dreaded the thought of our baby birds flying the coop and leaving us with a quiet, empty house.

Now I can appreciate that there might be a positive aspect.

A Jaded View

August 15, 2010

This is the view that greeted me each time I went running on holiday.

Nary a dog to be seen nor Dutch phlegm attack to be heard, and certainly no brown, steaming curls to step in and then trample around the house!

One day a car passed me.

By the end of our fortnight, the sunflowers had started to wither and lose their exuberance.  They must have known we were leaving.


August 10, 2010
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Something we all enjoy for lunch in the summer is moules marinieres but for the first time this year we noticed that a lot of them seemed to have been invaded.  Was the crab the mussel’s lunch or vice versa?

No matter, they all ended up on our plates, although the mussels harbouring guests were gingerly put to one side.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

August 7, 2010

Today’s post has for its theme the letter ‘B’.

This is because I have a bountiful supply of photo’s for you, all of which feature subjects beginning with that very letter.

First on the agenda is our sweet little Bat, who flew into our gite on the first night of our holiday.  Once we had managed to flap him out of the door,  a second one appeared.  He was dispatched in much the same way as the first, after which, a third appeared.  Perhaps they were all one and the same Bat, because this one was very tired and landed on the stairs in a perfect Batman logo shape, where he remained motionless.  I had a large glass ready to place over him in order to catch him but couldn’t do that whilst his wings were spread so wide so instead went to look for the camera.

‘Wife!!!’ pleaded husband from behind the sofa, ‘Please, just catch him and get the shot later.’   So I did and here it is.

Note the bubbly cork clearly visible through the glass!

The second ‘B’ item is another unusual creature: a Bloody Big Beetle.  This guy was out for an evening constitutional, actually just crossing the road, veritably strolling along.  He was very handsome and shiny.  A few nights later, whilst sitting outside enjoying the warm evening, another one of these carefree creatures suddenly landed with a kerthunk behind me on the ground and then proceeded to rear up onto his hind legs, spread his glossy carapace and fly upwards and forwards directly into the wall.  With a loud crash he tumbled to earth  like the clumsy and ungainly beast he was and spent the next half hour repeating the whole process.  He must have had such a headache.

We decided he was flying for the light on the wall beside the door but couldn’t make the steep angle of the incline.  He ended up scrabbling along the base of the wall until the found the door and spent the rest of the evening knocking into that trying to get in – all to no avail, thank you very much.  Just like with our friend the Bat, I don’t much fancy getting one of those caught in my hair!!!

The third ‘B’ on today’s agenda is Boat.

There’s not much explaining required for this one, just that those knees belong to Eleven and I love the water in this photo.  I thought something soothing might be a good idea for those of you with a low tolerance of the two previous pictures’ subjects!


August 6, 2010

They were a slightly recurrent theme during our French holiday which, I am afraid to say, means that I want to share their beauty with you!

I spotted this one on the way to Saintes, a pretty town not far from Cognac, which we were visiting for the day.  It caught my eye, alone and resplendent as it stood in the middle of a field, and on the way home I asked Husband if he would stop for me.  The sun was so bright that I actually could not see whether the tree was in the photo or not.

This amazing canopy of spider-like parachute trees is to be found in the centre of Saintes, in the park that flanks the river.  Standing straight and proud, like soldiers ready for inspection, they were obviously planted to provide shade f0r happy park perambulators.

Do you know what species they are?

And this is the road leading to the two donkey village that leads to the one donkey hamlet that was our home for the duration of our holiday.  Doesn’t it look magical?  This photo makes me think that at the bottom of the road, around the corner just out of the picture, is an enchanted castle.

My mother would call this Fairy Lane.

My World

August 5, 2010
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Making vinaigrette recently, I had put all the ingredients in the bowl ready to mix when I suddenly noticed what a beautiful arrangement they made.

The recipe was passed down from my French grandma and comprises:  red wine vinegar, peanut or sunflower oil, finely chopped spring onion, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper.  It’s the real deal.  Delicious.

It looks other worldly, don’t you think?!

Stuff ‘n Nonsense

June 11, 2010

Wow, have you seen this?  None of my holiday vids can match it.

It’s really time to post again, despite the recent lack of creative inspiration on my part.  I want to move on from the last post.  Not because of the subject matter per se – I do feel really strongly about it which is why I was irked enough to post in the first place but because I usually avoid making observations that could be classed as political or militant.  This is generally a politics and religion-free zone, as am I…

Now then, since we have been Dutchside, I have hardly ever taken a book out of the library although it has been known once or twice.  Something I have been pondering recently is why there was nearly always a pubic hair secreted somewhere between the pages of practically every library book I ever borrowed – especially noticeable in the university library.  Does that happen to you?  It makes one wonder what people get up to when they’re dipping into a bit of literature.

Something else I have been mulling over is why StellaCat loves to lick the  sweat from my skin when I come back from a run.  My thoughts have turned running-wards recently probably because I haven’t actually been running for the last 6 weeks or so due to a boring old injury that decided to resurface.  She likes the taste of the salt, I suppose – the cat, that is.  That’s pretty disgusting, wouldn’t you say?  Just have a sanitary drink of water out of your bowl, schtoopid.  Mind you, Fourteen had an observation that topped my feline one in the gross-out stakes.  She said that her drama teacher sweats semi-circles under his man-boobs!!  Eee-uw – that’s wrong on so many levels.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, bad mother that I am.  Ten has officially left the building, folks.  Eleven has moved in to replace him.  Goodness me – you lose concentration for 5 minutes and suddenly your children have grown up and moved out.  It is scary how quickly time races by these days.  Where have my babies gone?  Eleven is a little string bean – all sinewy and somehow lanky without being tall with, as my sister put it, these great long feet on the end of his legs.  It’s true – he’s only two sizes smaller than me at 36.  That’s his shoe size by the way, not my age.

Wake up to the 21st century

May 30, 2010

If you listen to, watch or read the UK news, you cannot fail to have heard the report that has surfaced recently about the murders that have taken place in Yorkshire of three women.

It makes my blood boil every time a news item appears on this case because the media cannot help themselves from referring to the victims as prostitutes.  Not women, just prostitutes.  Here’s an example, taken from the May 31st edition of The Times Online:

Knives and hacksaws have been found in a river where police divers recovered the severed body parts of a prostitute allegedly murdered by a serial killer.

She is first and foremost a woman; someone’s daughter, sister, mother or wife.  What is the obsession with the fact that she worked as a prostitute?  It’s an insidious judgment, an unvoiced yet blaring insinuation that walking the streets for a living somehow made her a lesser being, perhaps even diminishes the crime a notch or two.

I feel for the families of these poor women.  The media should hang their heads in shame.

Educating Rika

April 13, 2010

The scene:  Sunday afternoon, Husband and I, in the video shop.

The following conversation took place in English because, although we live in Holland, we never, ever watch films with Dutch dialogue and anyway it sounds stupid if you combine the two by going up to the counter and saying “Goeden avond, hebben jullie ‘The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee’ alstublieft?”

So, where were we?  Oh yes, in Videoland, standing empty-handed at the counter, waiting to be served.

Sales Girl (sitting on the back counter, eating an apple and swinging her leg, clocking that we didn’t have a DVD box in hand): Can I help you?

Me: Have you got ‘An Education?’

Sales Girl: Erm, yes, some.  I mean, what?  I left school at 16…


Captain’s Log: First Encounter with Mothership

March 16, 2010

That was the year I first met Mothership.

I gatecrashed her 18th birthday party and will never forget the torpedo dress she wore to celebrate – a hot pink, devilishly tight, torpedoed boobs, quim-skimming  number.  Eat your heart out, Jean-Paul Gaultier – Mothership got there first.  The original That Dress.

I say I gatecrashed but was actually invited by another gatecrasher, namely Kazhaz (referred to in the The Big Apple post as APF, the one with the Aunt Sally makeover) and I don’t think she had met Mothership before either.  I also remember that Kazhaz wore a sack that night.  For my own attire, I had borrowed some ripped jeans from her that were probably nicked from some ex-boyfriend.  They were eight sizes too big so were gathered tightly around my waist at a flatteringly high 80’s level with a thin belt.  Sounds attractive, no?  I wish I had a photo to show you.  I think I was also sporting a John McEnroe-style perm at the time. Even more enticing. Obviously another wardrobe crisis for me if I was borrowing from friends again.

I remember being highly impressed by two things that Mothership did that night:

Firstly,  she told me that her cat had died of Cat Aids, which I didn’t even know existed;

Secondly, and by far the more impressive of these two points as far as I was concerned, she offered to lend Kazhaz and me her car to take on our pending road trip north.  Wow.  That’s generous to a fault.

Anyway, I started this post the same night as The Big Apple, what with a whole trunk full of memories having been unlocked and hadn’t been back to it until I saw Mothership’s slightly petulant (in the nicest possible way, of course) comment.  How could I further delay?  But this will have to do for now.  It’s just a taster, a tease.  I don’t want to give it all away yet.  Just like the youthful Mothership of the 80’s, I hope to leave you with your appetite whetted.

Remember: less is more – just like the pink torpedo dress.

Blog Stats

March 10, 2010

Sometimes I look at the stats connected to this blog.  They show me things like how many people have visited today (12), the total number of hits (3,172 – wow!) and the busiest day, which was Tuesday, 5 January 2010 with a grand total of 177!  My numbers are pretty low (I only have a small handful of faithful readers) so when I see 177 hits in one day, I have to assume it was some sort of spam, most of which seems to be filtered out very effectively.

The small handful of dedicated readers I mentioned has probably shrunk to a pinch or a teaspoonful since my complete lack of posts during the past month.

An endless source of wonder and amusement are the search terms that have brought people to my pages.  Imagine going to Google and typing in ‘lump on vagina wall,’  ‘fat beauty queen,’ ‘naughty birthday cake’ or ‘Frida Kahlo eyebrows,’ for example, and ending up here on Are You Receiving Me? !  Not to mention ‘funny pubic hair’ or ‘four eyed snowman’ or ‘does giving dogs bananas help them not to….’ – very frustrating that last one as it was too long so I don’t know what giving bananas to dogs may or may not do. The dog and banana link is quite obvious to me; the lumpy vagina and the funny pubic hair are slightly more enigmatic.

The Big Apple

March 1, 2010

Way back in July 1988, I travelled to the US to work as an Au Pair.

OMG – I had just landed at JFK airport.   Even the name was exciting!  Although I was going to be working for a family in Virginia just outside Washington DC, all of the au pairs who had rendez-vous’ed at Gatwick and then been flown en masse across the pond were taken to a hotel for three nights in hot and steamy Manhattan.

The purpose of our three day sojourn in the most exciting city on earth was to be trained in the art of child and baby management.  (Three days?)  After half a morning’s tuition of how to play games like ‘peek-a-boo’ with baby and a blanket, my newly-acquired-on-the-plane Au Pair Friend (APF) and I decided that we knew it all already and if we didn’t we could wing it, so skived off Babycare Class and headed out into the land of yellow cabs, steaming manhole covers and the Empire State Building.

Actually we headed straight for Bloomingdales, (it was something we had heard of) and immediately through the revolving door Au Pair Friend was persuaded into the Clinique chair at the cosmetics counter and given a real 80’s makeover, with bright blue eyeshadow and big lips and eyelashes.  She looked like Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge by the time they had finished with her.  I cracked up laughing every time I looked at her and the reaction she got when walking back in just before the end of ‘How to make mush for baby’s lunch’  was really something to see.

Browsing the cosmetics counter whilst waiting for APF, I did actually buy a deep petrol-blue eyeshadow that I still have and still occasionally use!!  Hmmm, that would definitely fail the latest UK craze of going through women’s makeup bags and telling them how far past its sell by date everything is.  I doubt even Clinique makeup has a 22 year shelf life.  Mind you, worse than that is an Estee Lauder blusher bought in all innocence when I was or 16 or so.  I had used my mum’s as an eyeshadow and decided I liked the pink-eye effect so headed out into town to purchase my own.  I had never even heard of Estee Lauder at that stage, so didn’t realise the extortionate price I would be charged once I reached the cash desk.  It cost about £5 and I was too embarrassed and shocked to put it back and wouldn’t use it at first (too scared) and then too worried I’d use it all up.  I still have that blusher, although the hinges on the lid have broken.  Not bad though for 29 year old hinges!!!  I think that blusher and eyeshadow will probably outlive me.

Return travel to baby classes in a yellow cab was deemed a must, although not before a large salty pretzel had been consumed from the street vendor followed by the largest ice creams in the most amazing array of colours and flavours topped with the most amazing warm caramel sauce.  The pretzel vendor actually tried to overcharge us, taking us for the gullible tourists that we were but we were onto him and felt incredibly smug not to have been caught out. The pretzels were good.  Mind you, we could have licked the pavement sidewalk and thought it tasted good, we were so smitten.

That first night in New York’s Roosevelt Hotel was an eyeopener.  Sorting ourselves into ‘sleeping groups’  in the very impressive lobby area, we really thought we had arrived.  Once we got up to our box room on the eleventy hundredth floor however, our excitement diminished only slightly and it didn’t fade that much more during the sweltering night when we realised that the air conditioning was not working in our room, or perhaps installation didn’t reach that high up in the hotel.  Being both English and naïve, I opened the window to let some cool night air in.  Of course, there was none; only hot, sticky ribbons of suffocating air mixed with pollution, blaring horns (The City That Never Sleeps) and wisps of excitement.

In the morning we were all whisked off to a greasy diner (not unlike the one in Frankie and Johnnie, if memory serves, although ours was a lot dingier with nasty brown decor) and fed something called hash browns with bacon and syrup all on the same plate!!

Memories of the rest of that first visit to the Big Apple drift in and out of my hazy, ageing head. Well, we are talking 21 years ago.  Just think, the two children who were the lucky recipients of my childcare skills are now 23 and 20.  The younger one only entered this world one week after my arrival at her family home.  Not only that but a third one came along a year or so after my departure.

It transpired that although APF was in Maryland (in a place called Chevy Chase – named after the actor, of course…), a totally separate state to Virginia where I was, we were both a 20 minute drive from each other and downtown DC.   We spent a lot of our time that year discovering the US together, even taking trips to California, New England, Massachusetts and, of course, back to New York for New Year’s Eve to see the ball drop – and I don’t think I’d be ruining anything for anyone by mentioning that technically the ball is lowered (on a rope) not dropped.

That was the start of an amazing year that left me breathless.  I had the best time and the most fun and met such an array of totally brilliant people. The most unexpected things would happen any old time, like the day I went down to some anonymous metro station and bumped into Muhammad Ali on the platform.  He had about 6 security monkeys around him and would shakily sign a religious pamphlet and hand it to you if you asked for his  autograph. And yes, I did.

Looking back, it seems as though the rate at which time passes was ratched up a notch or two and three or four years were compressed down into one.  It’s true what they say about time flying…

Interview with Ten

February 28, 2010

Back in January, Tara over at Sticky Fingers posted an interview with her children which made me giggle.  Following a sudden rush of blogs that seemed to be publishing all manner of imaginative memes and favourite photos’s/records/recipes, I decided to take inspiration from (read ‘plagiarise’) the one most likely to yield a good result with the least amount of effort.  You can see the outcome below.

Who is Queen of the Netherlands?

– Beatrix.

Who is the Queen of England?

(Pause for thought):

– Wait!  There is no queen of England!  There’s a president – Gordon Brown.  I thought he was dead though, until I was about 8.  Like George Bush – one of those famous people that died.

Who is Barack Obama?

– President of the United States.

When Dad and I go out and Fourteen babysits, where do we go?

– Out for dinner or to see a film  No, hang on, not to the cinema, Dad goes to the cinema on his own most of the time.

What does Fourteen do to annoy you?

– She doesn’t do what I ask.  She kicks me sometimes.  And pinches me.

What do you do to annoy Fourteen?

– I don’t do what she asks.  I don’t kick her, though – only pinch.

Where do babies come from?

– Errr – women’s thing – private part – ok, the front bit – the lower front bit.

If you have children, what will their names be?

– Don’t know because I’m not that old yet.

How much pocket money do you think you should get?  (Currently €2 per week.)

– €3 per week.

Who do you think is cleverest, Mum or Dad?

– Both – they’re as good as each other.  Dad’s better at computers.  Mum’s better at spelling (and Dutch.)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

– Don’t know.  I might be a policeman and chase baddies, or a fireman.

If you could be anyone else, who would you be?

– Myself.

Thank you, Ten, for this post.

England, my England (or: “England, moy England, oo-arrr, Oi loiks it”)

January 27, 2010

Back in April last year we four travelled to England and, more precisely, to Devon, to visit my oldest friend and her family.

When I say oldest, I don’t mean she’s elderly, merely that I have known her my entire life, so it is our friendship that is grey haired and doddery and growing superfluous chin whiskers, not her.

Whilst there, we visited lots of beautiful Devonian countryside and got to eat enormous slices of delicious cake with butter icing.  Tea was served in china pots and drunk from cups and saucers.

Here is the view from the window of one of the tea rooms we patronised in a place called Bimbley Plimsoll:

When we parked the car (on the red cliff to the right of the window) it was pouring the way it does in films but whilst we were inside gorging ourselves on cakes and sending our blood sugar levels through the roof, out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain.

Later the same day, we ended up at another beach somewhere near Verruca St Herbert.  Husband and I walked for an hour along the cliff tops to get there, savouring the views, the fresh air and the absence of steaming canine deposits.  Friend and the assorted offspring made their way there by car and met us on the beach.

Traditional English seaside pursuits entertained the wee ones for most of the afternoon.

The children even caught some Kryptonite which you can see lying by the side of this rock pool.

This cliff was christened by the children.  Hover over the photo to find out the majestic name they selected for it.

OK, so maybe it wasn’t the precise name chosen by the children but surely you see my point?

Anyway, a jolly time was had by all.  The Famous Five-style nostalgic day at the English sea side culminated in a trip to the tacky souvenir shop conveniently situated at the entrance to the beach, where the children were insistent that they really needed us to purchase some hideously over-priced, brightly coloured plastic tat made in China for them in order to round the day off nicely.

Incidentally, on the way home we saw this boat heading uphill into a storm.  I love the colours of this photo, which have not been messed with.

Beware Lanky Strangers in Pointy Hats

January 26, 2010

On a recent trip to the beach we met this hungry man who, even by Dutch standards, could well be described as lanky:

A little later, we noticed that Ten had disappeared.  Try as we might, we couldn’t see him anywhere.  The hungry fisheater offered to help us look for him.  I was about to admonish him for speaking with his mouth full (politely of course, as he was a stranger who had offered to help us) until I noticed just exactly what it was his mouth was full of:

The lanky fisheater had a whole noggin full of happy Ten, who told us the view was amazing from up there.

Honestly, what a headcase.