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Arrival

August 23, 2011

Here’s the first view of our new homeland:

First View of Oz

Of course, having made it this far, we thought we were nearly there.  Little did we realise that we still had approximately 5 hours’ flight over an empty and barren wilderness to go.  We had already spent 12 interminable hours strapped in a plane playing Bejewelled and watching Water for Elephants during the first leg of the flight.

Upon arrival at Singapore’s Changi airport, 15 and Husband made for the free Wifi lounge, whilst 12 and I headed straight for the deluxe showers at $8 dollars a pop.  12 complained of a headache and nausea but I assured him, against my better judgement, that after a good warm shower and some decent food he would feel a lot better.  Why didn’t I just take heed of the small dissenting voice inside my head

Once ensconced in our respective beautifully clean and shiny cubicles with designer tiles and gleaming white sinks, I realised, upon hearing 12 coughing through the walls, that I should finish showering and get out as quickly as possible.  Forget the long, hot soak under a steaming jet of water – things were getting nasty next door.  Taps were off, underwear rolling up as it was hurriedly dragged on over still-wet skin and the door unbolted as I yelled at 12 to come in my cubicle whilst I finished dressing.  Too late as the poor boy ran in and simultaneously vommed Niagara-like directly into the polished-like-a-mirror basin, leaving long slithery clumps of Singapore noodles and chicken draped over the taps and filled the sink with a heinous-smelling brown liquid that had nowhere to go due to the undigested lumps clogging up the drain hole.  It was vile in the extreme and there was nothing we could do about it except tell the lady in charge, say ‘sorry about that’ and run away as fast as we could.   I haven’t felt so ashamed in a long time.

Not to worry – once we got back to the techno-nerds, 15 decided she wanted to visit the new airport butterfly enclosure, which the two of us did, whilst we left Vom-boy sleeping curled up in a chair, watched over by his Daddy.

It was very hot and humid in there but well worth it to behold sights such as this:

Flutterbyes

Four hours after docking at Changi, we were on our way again, racing through the skies towards Melbourne, where we landed another 8 hours later.

Ah, after 20 hours in the air and approximately a full 24 hours after the first take-off, we finally made it!  The excitement was bubbling just under the surface but we had to run the customs gauntlet first.  Just as I never believe that any aeroplane on which I am travelling will ever actually make it to its destination without falling out of the sky, I really did not believe that we could just turn up at Aussie immigration, passports in hand and say “Hi, please let us in.  We’ve come to live here.”  What if they turned us away?  We would have no option other than to fly back to Holland where we had no home, no car, no school and no jobs left!

As it happened, immigration was no problem at all; not even a single eyebrow hair was raised.  Customs, however, was not such a pushover.  Due to Husband having confessed to carrying prescription medication in his suitcase, the four of us were hauled out of the suitcase queue and lined up against a wall, our baggages arranged neatly in front of us whilst the most cute and enthusiastic hound sniffed excitedly around our bags.  Everything declared up front and nothing further discovered by the olfactory organ on a lead, we were very politely invited to enter Australia.

And so, here we are, about to embark on our biggest adventure in years.  More later!

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Silent Sunday – Shaved Pussy

August 14, 2011

Silent Sunday – There’s a snake in my boot

August 6, 2011

Silent Sunday – Delft

May 22, 2011

Must Have Shoes

December 17, 2010

How about these then, eh?  Stylish or what?  You should try running upstairs in them.

I’m wearing them on New Year’s Eve, along with my wet suit and matching neon orange woolly chav hat and gloves.  That way I can go straight from the Randall’s party to the New Year’s Day dip in the sea!

You’ve heard of ‘ oven-to- table’  and  ‘ day-to-evening.’

Well, this is hip-wear to dip-wear!

Aren’t they gorgeous?

A Bloody Hell

November 14, 2010

This week I had my second annual appointment with the company doctor and nurse, the comedy duo who were the star turns from my previous post: Nurse Ratchett and Doctor Dearth.

It was just as traumatic an event as the last one, only this time, instead of being appalled by the nurse’s total inability to extract any blood from my bulging veins despite poking around in my arm like a prospector digging for gold, I became enraged.  I mean totally furious.

When, yet again, not even a single drop of blood spewed forth from the syringe into the waiting vial, and she swapped to the other arm for a retry, I still managed to be terribly English about the whole thing despite the menacing temper serpent stirring deep within.  I bit my lip and managed to conduct myself with decorum.  The snake did not uncoil.  I  remained composed and calm throughout, although I was keenly aware that she kept glancing anxiously at my face as she poked and swept the pointy end of the needle around and about inside the flesh of my elbow.

“Does it hurt?” she asked me, at least twice.  I couldn’t bear to look her in the eye for fear of actually snarling at her.

“Is the needle in the wrong place?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“No. Yes, it’s strange. You have such beautiful, big veins, I don’t understand it.

Nor did I.  Especially when a sudden, small jet of blood shot out and landed on my skin as the needle plunged in for the second time.  Still, though, no blood in the vial.  Could she have gone all the way through the vein and popped out the other side, I wondered?

I shall spare you further details of the awful half hour spent in the dungeon of torture at my place of work.  I did complain to the doctor about the nurse’s inability to extract blood from me during both of my annual visits, though.  I felt like a human pincushion.

“Well, that can happen.  Sometimes it goes easily and sometimes not.  She’s experienced, so it can’t be that,” was her typically non-committal Dutch-style response.

Turns out my boss had the same experience last year and, showing her mettle to the full, refused to allow the nurse a second attempt when the first prick failed to yield a result.

That’s the attitude I should have gone in with: You snooze, you lose, nursey.

Hungry!

November 9, 2010

Whenever I cook up a new recipe that we like, I copy it into to my little blue book.  I’ve had this book for years now and its pages are getting rather full and sticky, so recently I asked Husband to seek out some sort of virtual recipe storage that would never get ripped, spattered or greasy.  Being the technical whizz that he is, he came back with a few options and my final choice (although not for the name, believe me) was We Gotta Eat.

WeGottaEat.com is like a big, cooperative foodie blog.  A blogging kibbutz.  I now have a username (Purplejake, of course) and my own pages where I store and share all my recipes.  If you go there and search for a particular user, and that user happens to be me, then you will find yourself inside my own, personal, virtual recipe book!

This has proven to be quite useful for sharing certain recipes that are oft requested by friends and family.  Now I can just send them the link to the scrummiest banana cake ever or brownies that will make you think you have died and gone to heaven, or an indescribably lush lamb tagine.  Oh, and I always try and remember to give credit to the original source (or sauce, ha ha.)  Only a few are my own creations – most are adaptations of something already in existence.

Ironically, when I’m using one of the old tried,-tested-and-liked recipes, I still revert to the original, sticky, hard-copy version.  The laptop and the kitchen don’t really work together for me – clicking a button with a bolognese finger or splattering the screen with over enthusiastic whisk debris is counter productive whilst being productive at the counter even if, as I look down at the keyboard now, I am horrified by what I see lurking there in those dark crevices.

Cooking for special occasions has always been a pleasure once the menu is selected, unlike the daily grind of producing a palatable and well-balanced meal for a family of four.  If I had a minion who would select the meals for me and then do the shopping, I wouldn’t mind so much.

Nothing compares to the misery of trying to get creative whilst maintaining a healthy balance with kids’ lunchboxes, though.  In fact, I have given up and both offspring suffer from the most dismal lunch boxes imaginable.  Here is a good blog if you have non-fussy eaters and are looking for some lunchbox inspiration  (and I’m not talking about Lynford Christie) although if you are like me you may run the risk of suffering a severe case of Inadequate Parenting Syndrome after visiting the sumptuous pages.  I swear that blog actually gives off the aroma of freshly baked bread!

And finally, to finish on a positive note, here is one of my very own artistic creations made for Eleven on the occasion of his 4th birthday.  Fourteen, (Seven at the time) always maintained it was wasted on him and I should have made it for her.  Ah, that’s my girl!

Atomic

September 30, 2010

This was the slightly disturbing view through the passenger window driving home from France recently:

The picture I first saw was far more alarming than this as the big chimberly producing the mushroom cloud was obliterated by a roadside bush- the photo was taken several seconds later after I had scrabbled to find the camera.

I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask Husband, who was driving at the time, to do a U-turn.

What is it with cupcakes?

September 24, 2010

How did they come to be so fashionable?  How on earth did that happen, and who is responsible?

Don’t get me wrong, I love cupcakes.  I love the look and how they taste and frankly the more icing the better but why have they suddenly become so popular amongst adults?  Surely they’re a children’s item, usually made by cooks shorter in stature than your average kitchen demon, and most of their charm is due to the fact that they end up looking as though they were made by someone who hasn’t yet achieved full manual dexterity.

The guilty pleasure of eating cupcakes has always been assuaged somewhat by the fact that Little Darling cooked them and it would be churlish and rude to refuse one when offered.

All of which goes some way to explaining my stupefaction at their newly acquired designer status.  Isn’t it just a teensy bit ridiculous that cupcakes can even be fashionable?

I find I’m humming ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy now, all due to the fact that a certain little girl I know used to think the lyrics went thus:  ‘Picture this we were both cup-caking, banging on the kitchen floor…’

This got me thinking about ridiculous fads and fashion items – you know, upside down Christmas trees,  poo catcher pants, gold-laminated teeth, drinking urine, eating placenta, 4×4 cars here in the flatlands with their beautifully smooth roads, colonic irrigation and the Atkins diet.  Oh yes, and reality TV, but that doesn’t really count because it’s everywhere and you don’t have to part with your hard-earned cash to get it – not directly, anyway.  I mean, hands up all of you out there who actually saw an upside down Christmas tree on display and thought  “Ooh yes, very stylish.  Must get one,”  and then handed over a wad that would have been much better spent on 3 bottles of bubbly for breakfast on the big day.

So, in a bid to increase my comment statistics, I am hoping to elicit suggestions from you, dear reader, as to what you think should appear on the all-time list of ridiculous things that a good many of us have bought that we really shouldn’t have.

Oh, and by the way, if you bought and actually wore any poo catchers, please please please post a photo…  I challenge anyone to look good in them.

The Seismic Shift

August 24, 2010

This week it’s back to school for Fourteen and Eleven.

Oh lordy, now we’re talking.  All the other parents of school-aged children will appreciate what that means.  Gone is the idyllically late getting-up time of 7.30 in order to make it into work for 8.45.  There will be things to do and prepare and this includes helping Eleven along with his morning ritual.  By that I mean chivvy him along when he stops to redesign one of his Geomags creations 2 minutes before the bus is due and he hasn’t even got his shoes on or cleaned his teeth, let alone walked to the bus stop.

On top of that, there are things like lunch box preparations, clothes needing to be ironed, the store cupboard to be stocked with mini apple juice boxes and a plentiful supply of individually wrapped waffles and part-baked rolls to be ever-present.  Not only that, but I must, I mean really must buy some new clothes for Eleven.  His current wardrobe extends to too-short trousers and T-shirts that he has had for two years or so.  The shoe situation is even worse.  School requires two pairs of sports shoes – one for indoor activities and for one outside activities (keep them separate so as not to sully the beautiful floors in their two enormous sports halls with something as unsavoury as mud or wet stuff ).  During the school holidays when his (totally inadequate and overpriced) canvas shoes of a certain stellar brand were discarded for being too small, his two pairs of trainers have become his regular footwear of choice whenever we are going anywhere that requires a lot of walking or bike riding.  Not only has the indoor pair become totally sullied but he informed me last week that all four shoes are too small.

A bigger shock for me, though, is the fact that Eleven is going to be starting Big School.  Not such a big deal, I would have thought, going by our experience with Fourteen but then she is a girl and the elder of the two and well, just more mature, sensible and sorted.  When she started secondary, the transition was barely noticeable, in that I never had any doubts about her ability to cope or get herself home or deal with anything that may come her way.  A false sense of security perhaps, created by her apparent cool-headedness and practical approach. We were blissfully unaware, however, that she would turn into a young woman overnight.  She went to bed on that first evening the little girl who had grown up with us and woke up the following morning a totally independent teenager.  Luckily for us, three years down the line she still has not acquired the concomitant attitude.  Frankly, I cannot see this happening in quite such a heart-stoppingly sudden way with Eleven.  I don’t even trust him to cross the main road on his own yet, let alone not accept lifts from strangers or be lured somewhere awful by the offer of some sticky sweets.

Perhaps I’m an over-anxious mother looking forlornly at my last baby who is about to take his first steps out of the house and into his own independent world.  No doubt he will excel and I will wonder how I could ever have doubted that he would be hot on his sister’s heels.  It’s just that from this side of the school holidays, I cannot see it.  Ask me in a month.

The other enormous culture shock will be Fourteen’s return to a normal sleeping schedule.  At the the moment she is semi-nocturnal, rising around mid-day and going to bed around 1.00 a.m.  Her bedroom, dubbed The Lair, is in a constant twilight state, with the curtains drawn and the bed unmade.  She would rather have the light on than throw open the curtains and let the sunshine stream in.  Not that we’ve had much of that this month anyway….  No longer will she have breakfast at lunchtime, followed by dinner at 7.00 p.m. and a bedtime snack at midnight.  Thank goodness.  The quantity of sugary breakfast cereal eaten at all sorts of odd times of day has increased ten-fold these holidays.  Terribly unhealthy.  I’m saddened that the summer holidays are nearly over and at the same time I am anticipating the return to some sort of normal routine.   Although the summer seems to have been exceptionally short this time around, the school holidays seem to have been interminable.

Today I took eleven to Glowgolf at the beach, an indoor mini-golf played in the semi darkness where all accessories are neon-coloured and glow under the UV lighting.  Perfect for today’s crappy grey weather, although it was extremely humid and warm today, which led to a suffocating indoor second round.  We were given glo-bracelets and allowed to choose the colour of our balls.  It was surprisingly good fun.  It’s amazing really, when you think about it, the activities in which we will participate in order to entertain our offspring when the weather is bad and all of their friends are away.

All of this fun, though, is not sufficiently distracting to camouflage a certain churning I feel deep in my stomach where pre-interview nerves reside and it’s all to do with the start of term.  I know that we are coming to the very end of something and the whole dynamic of our family is on the verge of big change.  Something intangible and a little nebulous but nevertheless very definite is hovering just out of sight over the horizon.

Fireworks

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.

Alien

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!

Trees

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.