Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Guardian of Rosslyn Chapel


Now if I were to stumble upon a post with as its title 'the guardian of ...' (fill in the blanks: some old chapel/castle/manor house), my gothicly inclined mind would immediately think of something out of an M.R. James tale. You know the thing: ghostly guardian set to watch over some ancient treasure, a warning to the curious etc. Yummy spooky stuff.

You might also assume that the guardian who is meant here, is a member of some sort of secret brotherhood (read the Da Vinci Code, have you?) or maybe, as we're talking Rosslyn Chapel and its alleged Mary Magdalen connection, even some sort of angelic protection. 

You are going to be sorely disappointed.  

When Fab and I finally went on a trip to Scotland together last year (after having discussed it for only, say, 10 years or so*), we both agreed a visit to Rosslyn Chapel was an absolute must. Its many mysteries had long intrigued us. Even in the era B.D. (Before Dan).

It was therefore with considerable excitement that we finally entered the magic temple, ready to take all of its wonders in.



We gave said wonders our undivided, awe-struck attention for a full 45 seconds.
Then we spotted him.

Curled up into a solid ball of black fur, a cat was fast asleep on one of the benches along the outer walls. Despite all the clanging and banging that was going on outside due to the restoration work, he was obviously in a deep, deep slumber. Might have had something to do with the fact that, in true feline fashion, he had secured the best spot in the house for himself: a comfy cushion right underneath a big heater lamp. Clever kitty. It was bloody FREEZING rather nippy in there.

And so it was that we met William, the Rosslyn Chapel Cat.


Picture not taken by me but found here.

William, a handsome black tom with a white bib and a couple of white socks, lives close to the chapel and saunters in at every possible opportunity. He likes to stroll around and find a good place to position himself in, either for a nice nap or for his daily dose of admiring glances and sweet sweet love from chapel visitors. I think I want to be him in my next life.

If the builders of Rosslyn had envisioned to create a temple for the brotherhood of man, they would have been mightly pleased with The William Effect. Fab and I had not really been able to connect with the rest of the people on the tour yet, a group of rather shy and introvert Chinese people. Now we were all exchanging delighted smiles and nods, and murmured words of appreciation to each other. And we took it in turns to shower our attentions on William doing his Sweet Sleeping Kitty routine.

We only managed to pull ourselves away from the furry object of our affection when the next batch of admirers was queuing up to be allowed admission to him. A big burly Irishman then scooped him up, cooed sweet nothings into a fluffy ear, and subjected him to vigorous strokes. Yep, I really want to be that cat.

Oh well. Back to the chapel itself.

Yes it is gorgeous. It is mysterious. It is splendiferous**. You should all go.

My most lasting memory of the place is obvious though.

To me, William, self-appointed Guardian of Rosslyn Chapel, is definitely part of its magic. May he guard it for many years to come.



Again, picture not taken by me but found here.

Pictures of Rosslyn Chapel are stock photos from Shutterstock.
I was a good girl and did not take photographs inside the chapel cos it wasn't allowed.



* Bit of a recurring theme for us but we're working on it.

** Always wanted to use that word in a sentence.



Monday, 29 August 2011

Sluggishness the sequal


My already very comfy sofa feels even better knowing that I've earned the right to lie on it. EARNED IT. I'm going to have such a pert bottom before long. And I'm going to be so very bloody sore tomorrow.

I just wish the little voice would stop whispering we've earned a treat now.

Shedding the sluggishness




For about a week now I've been feeling unbelievably slow & sluggish.*

Don't know whether it's the change in diet, the fact that the hols are over, or the humid weather, but anyhoo: major case of bleh. And I've been giving in to it. Oh yes. If you would have seen me lying on the sofa you'd have thought I was trying out for Sloth of the Year.**

Now I don't know whether the weekend with Fab has anything to do with it, but underneath the layers of sluggishness is this sudden feeling of determination.
I KNOW! It freaked me out too!

And so, I've decided to slip into something more comfortable (not the frilly lacey kind of thing) and get my ample arse into gear with some exercise. Yes. It's nothing short of a miracle.

Of course the little voice in the back of my head is now whining: noooooooooooooooo.... We're too tired. We've been working hard. It's too humid. We deserve to flop down on the sofa and take it easy. We deserve some Welshcakes with our tea.

Let's see if I can produce some happy endorphines to shut it up. Chances are I will faint halfway, but I've got a bit of padding to guarantee a moderately soft fall.

The little voice tells me sulkily that if I happen to see a big bright light, I'd better not go towards it.




* In a weird coincidence, my terrace has since a week been inhabited by a whole tribe of snails. And I'm on the fourth floor. What the ... ??

** Naturally only a cat could really ever win that title.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Le weekend: totally zenned out


As I thought, Fab has found her true calling.
I so like being right. Happens to me quite a lot too.

Now all I need to do is decide on the decor of my personal working pyramid.*
I'm thinking rose quartz floors. Or maybe fluorite.
I quite like the idea of sea green with splashes of violet.
In any case, it's going to be très chic.

* Not telling you what that is, no. Go book a workshop with Fab instead.
She does good cake too.


Image made by me in ppt then saved as a jpeg

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Angel


She believes.

She believes that angels really do exist.

That they can and will help us with anything. If only we ask.

She has a dream.

She has a dream to teach people.

Teach people to work with the angels. Teach them the tools to lead an empowered life. A life of love, joy and abundance.

I'm proud, honoured and thrilled that she will be teaching me this weekend. 

Not that she still has to convince me that angels really do exist.

I already know one.


Image is a stock photo from 123rf.com


Friday, 26 August 2011

Gollummy





My gollummy tendencies so acted up when I spotted this photo.  

You know the thing: we wantssss it, my precioussss.....

I haven't got a clue where this is, apart from the fact that it has to be Dutch.
The step gables are a dead give-away for one, and the funky shutters.
And that gorgeously over-the-top turret with its onion dome.



Isn't it just the most divinely quirky little mansion you've ever seen?

I've already decided where the master bedroom is going to be. And the library.

Oh and I'd best get me one of those red & white checked picknick blankets for afternoon tea and reading sessions by the water.

What was that you said?

I don't even know where it is and I might just be slightly low on funds?

Details dahling, details...


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Delight?




Have a guess what this is supposed to be.

I’ll give you a clue. It is NOT the result of the shameful mating of a washing machine and a skipping rope, as I originally thought.

Any thoughts?

I’ll put you out of your misery. This is a contemporary take on ‘The Garden of Delights’. Yes, I do mean Paradise. Heaven. The Good Place.

Are you slapping your head now saying ‘Of course, why didn’t I see that?’

I didn’t.

I'll elaborate. This is a contemporary take on the fountain in Jheronymus Bosch’ painting The Garden of Delights (painted circa 1502).



I don't know about you, but if I were to die (at age 127, in full use of my faculties, still drop-dead gorgeous, after a rump in the hay with my 5th husband), I would expect, as a moderately good person, to end up in Heaven (if there is such a place - oops, my chances have just gotten slimmer). Now if I were to end up in THIS place, I would strongly suspect to have taken the wrong exit.

The reason for the city council plonking this thing in front of the Sint Jacobskerk (St. James’s Church) is that the building now houses the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre. Jheronimus Bosch (also known as Hieronymus Bosch or Jeroen Bosch) being the city of Den Bosch' most famous son.*

I'll admit it, I'm fascinated by the thing. It's so monstrously quirky that it's actually quite fun. The contrast with the austerity of the church building couldn't be bigger. And if it isn't fantastical enough as it is, the fountain can also produce steam instead of just gushing water. Isn't it just the most absurd thing?

Plenty of people I know use other adjectives when describing it though.



* This doesn't mean that the majority of the town folk has even the slightest idea who he was. I could so join that programme Grumpy Old Women.


Photo of hideously cute fountain taken with iPhone, photo of painting nicked from Wikipedia.



Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Back in 1966...


... mum looked like this.

And if I had I recent picture of her (mum being one of those tiring people who hate having their picture taken - I'm one of those too incidentally), I could show you that she is still gorgeous today at age 62.

But no.

She won't budge.

Let's just say stubbornness runs in the family.


Gefeliciteerd mama




Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Curse of the Welshcakes



To S.C. from E.


WHAT have I ever done to you?

I repeat: WHAT have I EVER done to you?

And oh, please DO enlighten me: WHAT exactly did you NOT understand when I said 'I so do not need another addiction'?

My Welshcakes have arrived today. The Welshcakes I didn't quite know how to get my hands on until SOMEBODY thought it necessary to provide me with the address of Welsh Cakes Online. 'You could always try these' he said innocently. HAH!

You, SIR, have been sent by the gods to try me.

Look at them. Just LOOK at them.




They are golden. They are moist. They are buttery without being heavy. They have survived being in a box for 8 days* without developing any kind of staleness.

Oh and these, let me tell you, are the small ones. Do they look particularly small to you? Makes you wonder what size the big ones are. Let's please not find out!

In view of yesterday's determination to get rid of the wobbly bits, I've only had TWO.
Yes, applause IS in order.

It took all of my willpower and then some, but I managed to put the rest of all that golden loveliness into a tin. I then put the tin in a hard to reach place. Just so I can't sleepwalk my way over to them tonight (I swear that's how I've put on many a pound).

And now I'm looking for other victims. I still have TWENTY-TWO deliciously yummy not-so-very-small Welshcakes left and I have no intention of being the only one succumbing to them. If my goal of looking the tiny delicate flower I really am can be achieved a bit more easily by fattening the rest of you, then I'm all for sharing.  

I intend to take as many of you down with me as I can. 

Not YOU though, Mr. S.C. from E.
YOU are not getting ANY. Serves you right for leading me astray.



* I could have already had my hands on these last Thursday if it wasn't for the fact that:
  • The letterbox turns out to have a ridiculously tiny slot
  • The mailman kept coming when I was out instead of following his regular schedule. Should not be allowed. What is the world coming to.



Monday, 22 August 2011

Shrinking Miss Sacha


After 3 weeks of indulging in every possible food whim (and believe you me, I've got me plenty of those - I even picked up some new ones along the way), I've decided it is time to make a Change.

Yes, I know you heard it all before.

It's just that I'm really tired of looking at all my gorgeously pretty size 8 outfits in the wardrobe that I can't possibly fit into anymore. Bursting at the seams is an understatement. That would imply I would actually still be able to get into the friggin' things.

Unearthed the bathroom scales this morning. Just about the only thing in the house with a nice layer of dust on it. It blinked at me and groaned 'are you SURE you want to do this?'

And then it was my turn to groan.  

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Home is where the Hearth is


Isn't she just gorgeous?

The moment I started looking for a new home, I knew it had to have one of these. Had to. Non-negotiable. If my new home didn't come with one of these already, I was going to make absolutely sure to have one put in.

Doesn't a fireplace just give you the ultimate homey feeling with its warm glow? To me, it represents Instant Cosiness. No matter how bleak the weather is outside (and trust me, Dutch weather scores high on the bleak-o-meter even in summer), a fireplace, a comfy sofa, a nice hot cuppa (or a sparkling cold glass of prosecco) and a good book or happy banter will soon chase all the gloom away.

I remember we had a fireplace when I was little. Ah, the smell of the burning logs, the crackling sounds, the warm reddish glow all over the room... and the cat dozing in a pose of ultimate bliss and relaxation right in front of the fire until we were sure he had to be half cooked.

Sadly, I couldn't have a real wood-burning fire in this home. Would have been a bit tricky on the 4th floor of a new apartment building with no chimney or a venting duct. But: every cloud has a silver lining: MY fireplace comes with a REMOTE CONTROL. Isn't that just deliciously decadent??

Just picture it: coming home from work, kicking off your shoes, flopping down on the sofa, one press on a button and voilà: Instant Cosiness. Bliss I tell you.

Of course my ultimate dream when it comes to fireplaces is to have this huge gorgeous old house in the woods or by a pond with its own library and a huge fireplace. But until I'm the self-proclaimed Lady of the Manor, my current fireplace absolutely does the trick.

Of course I still have great plans for it. I'm on the lookout for the perfect mirror to hang over the mantle. I'm going to have to do something with bookshelves. Oh, and it still needs a cosy rug. And a gorgeous man to have a glass of wine with on said rug. Plus the other thing, obviously.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Boo


Bet you thought that when you saw the tomb stones in the picture with my last post that you were going to be regaled with another ghost story.

Sorry kids. No can't do.

I've been told by my weekend guest that any and all ghost stories are off-limits for the remainder of the weekend.

This after I scared the crap out of her on Friday night with my tales of the Llandaff Ghost Walk. Hadn't even gotten halfway through the stories yet. Was just really starting to get into it you know. Oh well. What can I say? The Gwrach-y-Rhibyn strikes again.

The fact that I said the light in the fire place seemed to conjure up the ghostly image of a face didn't help either.

I know. I can be so evil.


Picture is of a gargoyle at Llandaff Cathedral. Taken with iPhone then edited with Poster app.

Romantic hero revisited


'You know how fine ye are to me, Robert MacGregor?' she said.

Couldn't have agreed with her more. Liam Neeson cut a fine figure in a kilt. VERY fine. Oh, and Scotland looked nice too, yes.

I doubt the real Rob Roy would have recognised that story as his own. Although I daresay he would have been mighty pleased with Jessica Lange for a wife, the saucy wench. Yet, in spite of knowing it to be a highly fictionaI account I have to admit that somehow, the swaggering figure of Liam Neeson got stuck in my head as THE image of the legendary Scotsman. Yes, I know. Not even Scottish.

It was therefore to be expected that when visiting Rob Roy's final resting place at Balquhidder Kirkyard, tall, robust, ruggedly handsome Liam would be the image to pop up. Not my fault entirely though. The setting at Balquhidder cooperated nicely with the romantic notion.

When we approached the kirkyard, the sun broke through the clouds and shone upon the grass and the stones. It was like stepping through time to an era long gone. I remembered reading about how the Celts had called this a 'thin place', where the boundaries between this world and the spiritual world are said to be minimal. Fairy knolls can be found nearby, and on the hillslope just behind the church, fires used to be lit at Beltane and Samhain in honour of the old gods. To bring warmth into the households of Balquhidder in the months that followed. Truly an enchanted land. And a fitting resting place for a Scottish hero.



Our driver and tourguide had let us wander over the grounds by ourselves just a short while before rounding us up again. It wasn't till his little flock of sheep had gotten safely back on the bus that he gave us his take on Rob Roy. You'll have to imagine the rich brogue in which it was delivered.

'This Rob Roy bloke now, he wasn't anything like the tall handsome fellow in the film, that Liam Neeson. Oh no! To begin with, he is known to have been a very short, wee man. He did however have very long and muscular arms. And of course the ginger hair that gave him his name, but not just on his head. A very hairy man he is supposed to have been, our Robert MacGregor. Very hairy indeed. So come to think of it, he must have looked something like a small orangutan.'

A. Small. Orangutan.

Well. That's it then. I will never think of Rob Roy the same way again.

Naturally that didn't stop me from enjoying a re-run of the film the other day.

I mean, it's still Liam Neeson in a kilt. Phwoar.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

The scent of a home part 2


One thing I forgot to mention in my last post on the scent of a home.

Purists be warned. You may want to have a lie down in a darkened room after you've read this. Or stand by an open window taking in deep breaths.

Alright, here goes: I've lately become quite addicted to certain fragrances for the home.

No, I don't mean those nauseatingly sweet fragranced candles. And God forbid, I don't mean stuff like Febreze or Oust either. If you need to cover up smells in your home, do something about the cause of the smell rather than mask it. Alright, yes, maybe a small spray of Oust when your cat has just done its business.

Nope, my latest must-haves for the home are in an entirely different category.

First of all there's Yin, the new 'calming bed & body mist' by Rituals. I admit it, I fell for the pretty packaging (very zen). But it's DIVINE. I find it both uplifting and relaxing. I love spraying it over my bed before I go to sleep, especially over the pillows. I also love spraying it in the air and then standing in the descending mist (I lately saw an episode of Miranda where she did just that - but she used Febreze so that's something else entirely. Really).

What does it smell like? Er... Organic White Lotus and Yi Yi Ren. Yes, I know. Fat load of help that is. Try it anyway. 

And then there's my favourite: a spray of orange and cinnamon oil. Two of my favourite fragrances combined, and it makes for the ultimate uplifting blend. Unless you hate the smell of oranges of course. Or cinnamon.  In any case: I happen to love it.

But here's the snag. Guess what I just read in a book on aroma therapy?

'Be careful with the use of orange oil or cinnamon oil when you're trying to lose weight. Both of these are well-known for STIMULATING YOUR APPETITE!'

A-HA! I knew it! Not my fault at all then. Can't help my cravings. I'm not weak. It was the oils. Makes perfect sense. Absolutely.  



Photo taken with iPhone, then given a Sunsetter filter.


The scent of a home



It takes a while for a house to smell like a home. For what smells like home to you.

I almost ended up not buying what is now my new home. The first viewing did not go particularly well. And yet I had been studying the pictures of this apartment on the internet for weeks. It was in the area I wanted to live in. It had the exact dimensions I was after. I loved its main features. I loved the potential it offered to make this my dream home.

And yet, when I first walked through that orange door, I almost took a step back in disgust. The smell was horrible. The air was thick with the stench of cheap tobacco*. I'm afraid I made a rather acrid remark about it to the real estate agent. That wasn't the only problem though. Beneath the tobacco there was a stale sort of sub-smell. It breathed unloved and uncared for house. There was an almost hostile feel to it.

It took me weeks to decide but I did buy it. For all the reasons I mentioned earlier. But I knew it would take a lot of effort to make it feel and SMELL like home.

For two weeks I came in every evening to open all the doors and windows and let the fresh air in. I scrubbed every imaginable surface. And then started all over again. And again. I placed atomisers with essential oils. I went through just about every recommendation in my now dog-eared copy of Denise Linn's Sacred Space.

And then the workmen came in to re-plaster the walls and ceilings. Obviously after they'd left I needed to start airing and scrubbing and cleaning all over again. Still I didn't regret my earlier efforts. When my furniture was finally moved in, it was moved into a house with a neutral scent. And it no longer felt hostile. It almost had a feeling of expectation over it.

I've now lived in my new apartment for several months. When I open the door, I'm greeted with the scent of freshly laundered linen. A faint smell of wood and of fresh flowers. And a sort of biscuitty, vanilla-ish sub-scent.

It breathes a welcome to me. And it smells like home.


* No, I'm not the delicate whingeing type. I visit plenty of homes where the occupants smoke indoors plus have a whole menagerie of cats and dogs and wot not and it is absolutely fine. This was the pits.


Photo taken with iPhone then given a filter with the Sunsetter app.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ginger



When I wrote my earlier post on my intense dislike of ginger, I did of course only mean the spice.

In no way did it reflect my opinion of red-haired people.

And that includes the catty variety.


Photo taken with iPhone, model a deceptively angelic looking Mouna


Monday, 15 August 2011

Sunday indulgence


Fab and I couldn't find our off-switches at Dit yesterday. So after a massive portion of chunky chips each (with mayonaise yes, in true Dutch fashion), we thought we still had room for pudding. Even though we were already stuffed to the eyebrows.


Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks.

I do hope the rubenesque look will become popular again.

Photos taken with iPhone, then given an oilpaint filter to bring out an even creamier indulgent look. Not that it really needed it.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Careful what you wish for




A short while ago I wrote about my love of ghost stories and ghost walks. And of course I had to mention that with ghost stories, atmosphere was the main thing for me. I said I wanted to actually 'feel myself standing on a moonlit path, knowing the ghostly fiend was approaching.' Um.

Last week I did stand on just such a path. Not so very moonlit actually because of all the foliage. It was a dark and murky path by a stream. We were told this was the very spot where the Gwrach-y-Rhibyn, the Witch of the Tattered Vestments (a more sinister Welsh version of the Banshee), was said to rise up out of the waters. To which she couldn't return without having taken a soul.

I wondered then whether I was the only one thinking the night-time noises around us had started to sound a little differently. Surely the multitude of creaking sounds was just caused by rain drops falling on the bracken. And not by, say, something unseen watching and stealthily approaching us. And that grey shadow moving around us while at the same time keeping its distance was obviously just a member of the group trying to find a better spot to position himself in. Obviously.

This is what the Llandaff Ghost Walk in Llandaff, Cardiff does to you. It spooks you. And not by means of cheap tactics like someone jumping from behind a bush or a gravestone (gravestones aplenty on this walk by the way - mostly of the overgrown, crooked, looming in the dark variety). Nor by using a fake, ghoulish voice (SO tacky that).
 


No, THIS ghost walk is simply story telling at is best, in what has to be the most eerie of settings. The area around Llandaff Cathedral has Atmosphere. And I doubt if there's anyone who knows more about it than Jim Cowan.
As I said, no tacky tricks on this walk. Jim tells his tales in a factual manner, but with a good dose of wit and humor. And he stresses that none of the stories are made up. They are all either part of local folklore or found in historical records and eyewitness accounts.
Whenever possible, a rational explanation is given for some of the sightings. More often than not though, there is no satisfying answer.

This includes some strange occurrences on the actual ghost walks. I have to say it's rather unnerving standing on a particular spot and being told what a certain gentleman saw JUST THERE only two weeks earlier. So yes, I admit it. I did get spooked.


 
And I LOVED it.
Wanted to go again straight away!
In fact, Fu and I did discuss going back to the graveyard that same night. Just to see if we would be equally unnerved without Jim there telling us about all the ghostly goings-on. The only reason we didn't venture on to the cathedral grounds again is that the rain was really pouring down by that time. Plus we had already ordered a taxi. Otherwise we would have definitely gone back straight away. Yep, definitely. Absolutely sure.
So what else can I say? This ghost walk is in a category of its own. Get thee off to Llandaff for a truly thrilling experience! This alone is well worth a trip to Cardiff for. Mind you book the walk in advance or you'll risk being disappointed. And probably best not get a room at the two hotels Jim Cowan mentioned have resident ghosts. Nah, not telling you which.

 

Oh and guess what - he is preparing another ghost walk AND he's writing a book. You know who's going to be first in line for either.
If you've read all the way down to here, you're probably just such a ghoul as I am. And you'll be craving more. So go on, have a look at the below short video of the Llandaff Ghost Walk. You know you want to...






Photos taken with my iPhone (then heavily doctored with various apps).
Video not made by me but effortlessly nicked from the Cardiff History & Hauntings website.


Miracle my *bleep*


I used to hate ginger. Hate it with a vengeance. There was something about the sickly sweet smell of it that made me queasy if I got just a whiff of it. Let alone a taste. The trouble was that in a family with part Indonesian roots (that would be mum’s side, dad’s side are cloggies through and through), ginger was revered as the Miracle Root.
I’m telling you, the only thing ginger was NOT credited with, was bringing back the dead. But if some poor unfortunate soul happened to die, certain relatives would be sure to mutter that if only auntie so-and-so would have remembered to take her ginger, she’d still be doing somersaults. Alright, maybe they didn’t say somersaults, but you get the general idea.


My grandmother was a particular champion of the ginger movement. I must have been about 11 when I became her primary target. My offense was that I had oily skin. This was not be tolerated of course. My grandmother sure wasn’t going to stand for it.
Fortunately, the cure was at hand. A hot ginger drink called Jahe Wangi would surely soon fix me. Gran would have loved the word detox. For others that is.


One day mum and I came home to find that gran had let herself in. She was sitting by the kitchen table with a cup of tea and the remains of dad's favourite biscuits*. I had a horrible sense of foreboding as I spotted the carton she had placed on the kitchen counter.

Before mum got a word in edge-wise, gran delivered her little speech, speaking in Capital Letters (something she was particularly good at - and should be for all the practice she'd had with it). It started something like 'Any Good Mother Would Want The Best For Her Children'. Bottom-line was that I should be made to drink the vile concoction at least twice a day, and my offending complexion was sure to clear right up. I'm sure gran threw in a couple of For Her Own Goods as well. I don't think I ever felt such a leper.

With her task completed, gran got up with an air of 'job well done' and made for a triumphant exit, Battleship Bismarck** style. Leaving mum and I behind with the brightly coloured carton containing the supposed miracle drink. I think my face had a delicate green hue by that time.

There are times one can feel so appreciative of one’s parents. It took mum 3 seconds or less to chuck the Jahe Wangi into the bin. 

I've since come to somewhat appreciate ginger - in moderation - and I do even use it in certain dishes myself. I eat things like gingerbread. I almost believed I'd gotten over the intense dislike of the stuff I had in my childhood. So when I spotted a familiar looking carton in my local oriental grocery store, I thought I might see if my tastes had really changed.

They have not. The second I had poured hot water over the grains and the pungent scent rose to my nostrils, I felt my dinner coming up. I had to stand on my terrace for a couple of minutes to get some fresh air. I then went back inside with one hand clasped over my nose and quickly poured the drink down the drain. After which I poured some washing detergent after it. To get rid of the smell.

Any ginger lover is welcome to collect a barely touched carton of ginger tea.


* Dad had the locks changed not too long after that. No really. We take our food seriously you know.

** One of dad's friendlier names for his darling mother in law. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Last Friday - destination Cardiff




Notice board at airport says head over to passport control immediately. No staff at passport control for good half hour until queue is half a mile long.
Trying to block piercing nagging voice of passenger next to me on flight telling friend about husband’s faults. Husband’s main fault seems marrying woman with piercing nagging voice.
Dozing on Stansted express. Need to stop self from going into insufferable-know-it-all mode when German woman starts lecturing daughter about Tower of London, placing Henry VIII in 13th century and giving him 8 wives.
Text from Fu saying she’s off to GP to have sore hand examined. Seize extra time to take DLR to Greenwich for quick errand. Forget for umptieth time to get off at Cutty Sark. Desired stall at Greenwich market turns out to only be there on Sat & Sun.
Fu told can’t help you by GP, go to A&E instead to have hand checked out. Despite clearly visible sling people keep bumping into sore hand on bus.
Get back on DLR and change to Central Line at Bank. Face 2 inches away from girl’s hairy sweaty armpit. Do get a chance to study her tattoo up close. Hairy sweaty butterfly.
Fu not seen by anyone at hospital for good two hours.
Collect case at Liverpool St station to get tube to Paddington. Circle-bloody-line closed. Making mental note to self to check whether Circle-bloody-line even exists as haven’t been able to get on it during last 8 visits to London.
Get black cab to Paddington from Liverpool St station. Tip myopic cabbie handsomely as he thinks I’m 29 and sound British.
Fu told at A&E can’t help you, have a nice painkiller love. Hand should be fine in 3 weeks or so.
Fu embarking on journey from Surbiton to Paddington. Gets told at Wimbledon that District-bloody-line is also closed, get on bus instead dearie.
Weary travelers meet up at Paddington. Fast bloody ticketing machine's cheapest tickets to Cardiff are 189 pounds. Weary travelers join long queue at ticket office instead.
Taking up strategic position near platforms 9 and 10 as last 4 trains to Cardiff departed from 9 or 10. Train is announced to depart from platform 2 instead. Half of people at Paddington make a run for platform 2.
Finally squeezed on train and standing in corridor. Train won’t depart as too many people on it. Nobody moves to get off train. Train finally departs 15 minutes late.





More people trying to get on train at Reading. Standing position more snug by the minute. Mental note to selves: reserved seating next time.
Half of people on train get off at Swindon. Good leg and elbow work to finally secure seats. Elaborate theories on the attractions of Swindon.
10 PM: Cardiff central station.
10.10 PM: check-in at hotel.
10.40 PM: taxi to Mermaid Quay.
11 PM: only liquid food still available.



2 AM: Mermaid Quay wonderful. Cardiff amazing. All is well with the world.



Cat Walk


I took the scenic route home the other evening when I spotted them coming towards me. An elderly gentleman carrying a cat strapped in a walking harness with a leash! A cat walker!

When they were close to me I presented them with what I thought was a winning smile. Only then did I notice the man’s thunderous expression and angry scowl. Didn’t fare much better with the cat. It had the kind of deadly look on its furry face that only a seriously annoyed cat can have. The look said ‘Don’t even THINK of commenting’. So I figured neither of them would be inclined to a friendly chat.

Our happy couple reminded me of an episode that happened when I was still only a small child. Our cat, a magnificent black tom with a white bib, had gone walk-about for two weeks. By the time he came back home, he was exhausted and filthy and we were pretty sure he had sired at least half of the new litters that season.

My parents lost no time in having him ‘fixed’ (I’m pretty sure cat thought nothing needed fixing, thank-you-very-much), but they were still worried to let him out of the house again. And then a colleague of dad’s suggested he’d try walking the cat on a leash. That turned out to be not the very best of ideas.

Picture a man standing on one end of a hedge or rather, half into a hedge and a very pissed off cat on the other side. Picture man and cat swearing at each other with man tugging leash and trying to disentangle himself from hedge. Picture exasperated man going home after acrobatic and determined cat managed to worm himself out of his straps. Now picture triumphant yet slightly scruffy looking cat returning home 15 minutes later.

The atmosphere was frosty at first, with man and cat glaring at each other. Then puss felt the need for some loving and extended the olive branch by performing his award-winning number Look At The Adorable Cat Playing With His Catnip Sock. A truce was called and the evening ended with cat purring contentedly on man’s chest. Obviously.

I do wonder though what the story was behind the disgruntled couple I spotted the other day. Was this a first and possibly last attempt of the man to teach his cat to walk on a leash? Or did the thusfar well-behaved cat suddenly show his true colours and lunge at the ducks by the pond? Perhaps Tiddles’ usual leisurely evening stroll was rudely interrupted by an ill-mannered dog trying to sniff his furry bum? To which of course no self-respecting cat would take kindly?

I may have to lie in wait by the pond to try and catch sight of them again. A cat walking on a leash – this I’ve got to see! I’ll have my iPhone cam at the ready. I’m sure I’ll get another deadly look once puss realises it’s been caught on camera. Oh the shame of it.


Photos are stock photos from 123rf.com, but the cat does look like our Dear Departed Doppie (1970-1991).

Thursday, 11 August 2011

65 years ago today...




... dad was born.

Look at the fancy knitware nan dressed him up in!
Would the little man be laughing so if he'd known this picture would one day be posted on the internet?



Ah yes, the love of the sea started at a very young age...
I'm guessing (as dad is Rotterdam-born) that this is taken at Hoek van Holland
(Hook of Holland). To Roterodami also known as 'Rotterdam by the Sea'.
I'm not sure the Hook people care much for that name.



Here we go. Look at him being the little gentleman in his snazzy coat
with the double row of buttons. In this picture it's also clear to see where I get
my great big round head with the chubby cheeks from. Thanks dad.



Yes, I'd be looking miffed too if they'd put me in that bath tub on wheels.
No wonder strollers like these were used for smuggling purposes in the war.

...

Obviously the originals of the above photos were not taken by me.
I did however take pictures of them with my iPhone that came out quite well,
if I say so myself.

...

Gefeliciteerd papa





Wednesday, 10 August 2011

London

She says it best.


Hope she got home alright though. And didn't find the place torched.

It felt unreal to be in London - MY London - and realise this was happening at such a short distance. This kind of thing doesn't happen in our part of the world, surely? I know. Privileged. Sheltered. Spoiled.

Woe is me



Great. Just bloody great. Like I really needed another food stuff to get addicted to. God knows I’ve got me plenty of those already – and the wobbly bits to prove it.

I stumbled on these in Cardiff. Well, I couldn’t really have missed them, they were everywhere. They smell buttery. And cinnamonny. A very come-hither type of smell. It lured me to my doom, that’s what it did. I couldn’t help myself.
They’re called welshcakes. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled. They’re lethal. I've heard them being described as Welsh scones but that just doesn't cut it. These are INFINITELY better than scones. They're a sort of flat, biscuitty cakes (for some reason that sounds better than cakey biscuits). And they're divine.




Best ones I sampled are from Fabulous Welshcakes at Mermaid Quay. Adorable little shop but the smell in that place alone is so full of calories I think I spontaneously gained a few ounces just standing there. The lovely lady at the counter said even they still found it hard to not constantly sample their own wares. I believe her. Pity they didn't have a job opening.
And now I'm back in NL and my stock is wearing thin. And I have just calculated that at the very fastest, it will take me 5 hours and 15 minutes from my door to Mermaid Quay to get me a new batch.
I may just need to get me the recipe.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

You do what with it??



Let me be clear from the start: this is not about that joke regarding the Welsh and sheep. Cos frankly, that one is getting really old. I'm sure the Welsh will agree.

Having said that, I do admit that I laughed out loud when I learned a Welsh colleague had been presented with an inflatable sheep for his 50th birthday. Where on earth would you get an inflatable sheep?? Who makes these things??

In case you're wondering: Welsh colleague laughed his head off. Not so his 14-year-old son who was absolutely mortified. Which I thought was just adorable.

No, this is about something else entirely. Have a look at what I came across in Cardiff!




Postcards made from sheep's poo. Can you believe it? I think this is hysterical. AND it's environmentally friendly. I couldn't help myself. I just had to buy them. If you also want some - or if you want a good laugh - go visit the Sheep Poo Paper website.

Now all I need to do is decide who I'll be sending poo mail to.


The cute little lamb is a stock photo of 123rf.com, the photo of the card I took with my iPhone.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Yes sir, I will walk, I will walk with you*



I love ghost stories. Looove them. Always have. Growing up in a household of lovers of books of all sorts, I was still only a little girl when I came across my first ghostly tales. Although, when I say ‘came across’ it sounds like it happened by accident. It was in fact a very deliberate act on my part to climb on a chair, stand on tippy-toes and get my grubby little hands on the books my parents thought unsuitable for the all-too-young.
Suffice it to say that after just a few pages my inner Wednesday Addams was hooked. And has remained hooked ever since. Let me say though that for me, a proper ghost story is not about blood and gore and what have you. It’s about atmosphere. A tale properly told transports you to the scene of the event. You feel yourself standing in that manor house or on that moonlit path, knowing the ghostly fiend is approaching... Atmosphere. That’s the thing I’m after.
Now imagine my delight in first finding out about the medium of ghost walks. Can this be? You get to be told ghost stories AND you’re getting to stand at the scene where they are supposed to have happened? Or where they possibly – insert meaningful silence – still are happening? Be still my beating heart!
As it happens, the very first ghost walk I ever went on to this day remains the best.  It was Ghosts of the Old City led by Shaughan, the master, from London Walks. It was in the winter of ’96 and a slight fog hung over the City of London. From the shadows of St Pauls cathedral a cloaked, hooded figure approached. His face was of a deadly pallor with dark, dark eye sockets...
Shaughan is indeed, as the London Walks website calls him, ‘deliciously spooky’. And atmosphere aplenty on this walk with its hidden streets and dark corners. It won’t do to go into too much detail and spoil your fun if you haven’t already done the walk yet, but I can tell you that my travelling companion in ’96 had a troubled night after our stroll. She couldn’t get a certain image out of her head: Shaughan’s portrayal of the spectre of Isabella, the She-Wolf of France, clawing at her chest in a vain attempt to .. but that’s too much detail already.
Late last year I took the same walk again. I was waiting outside St Pauls tube station (exit no 2, 19.30 PM on Tuesdays and Saturdays, you’re welcome) well ahead of time, looking out for a familiar, sinister looking figure. It was a bit of a shock to me when this rather ordinary looking (sorry Shaughan) middle-aged gentleman in plain clothing was suddenly in our midst. But I needn’t have feared. I should have known that a true master does not need props to deliver a truly thrilling experience.
This weekend Fu and I will be in Cardiff and will be taking the Llandaff Ghost Walk (I didn’t even have to twist her arm, bless her!), which is supposed to be a particularly spine-chilling experience. Will Shaughan be dethroned? I hope to know very soon. If the weather will cooperate that is. We’re talking Wales after all.
* Sung by the ghost of a murdered girl – taken from Martin’s Close, one of the stories of the incomparable M.R. James.  The murderer gets his come-uppance. We like that.

Picture taken by me with iPhone, edited with the Poster app