Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Welcome to hell



Just another day at the office.

For the devil I mean.

Obviously I would not like to suggest for one moment that MY job can feel like being trapped in hell and subjected to slow and refined torture. Like having your brains sucked out through a straw.

Not for one moment. No sir.


Monday, 19 September 2011

The Wonders of Wheelers of Whitstable




I love finding places like this.
Of course I wasn’t the one to actually find it. My mate KT took me there this weekend, having discovered it herself as she puts it ‘over a million years ago’. I’ve come to learn that in KT lingo that means about 20 years before.
It is the renowned Wheelers Oyster Bar in the lovely coastal town of Whitstable in Kent. People from all over the area and from other parts of the UK flock to it, hoping to secure themselves a table.
I had never heard of it. I must admit I had never even heard of Whitstable.
This of course puts rather a dent in my usual know-it-all smugness.  But anyway.

I love, nay ADORE this place. Wheelers both appeals to my taste buds and my love of all things quirky. And let me tell you, restaurants don't come much quirkier than this.

The facade is painted in a bright, candy-floss kind of pink. In Holland we would refer to this particular hue as 'Tooth Ache'. No seriously. Inside it is tiny. TINY. The main dining area can only seat about 14 people and a full house means it's SNUG. Then there are a few seats in the front area by the counter. A few stools in front of a shelf, nothing more. That's where we were seated. And we considered ourselves lucky to be able to squeeze in.




Oh and did I already mention that Wheelers doesn't have a drinks license? It's strictly bring-your-own-booze. Not to worry though: there's a handy store just opposite the restaurant. I have to say it feels deliciously bohemian to walk in with your own bottle under your arm! In case you're wondering: a lovely chilled Prosecco. Yum.




The quirkiness doesn't end here. Oh no. Because guests who feel the need for a short stop in the smallest room are also in for a surprise. You can't reach the toilet via the restaurant itself. You have to walk around the block to a dingy little alley way and so approach the restaurant's back plot. A proper outhouse therefore except it does have running water. Phew. I'm very particular about where I go potty.

And then of course there's the menu: nothing more than a few grubby pages with grease stains, stapled together. But on it you find such a fantastic array of dishes!

We had the best squid I ever tasted. And the best crab cakes. The best pan fried John Dory. And the best, juiciest, most succulent and plump mussels. To DIE for. My only regret is we didn't have enough room anymore for the oysters in guinness tempura. The roasted scallops. The hake roasted with parma ham and red pepper and chorizo puree. Sigh. Did I mention they do gorgeous pudding too?

Needless to say Wheelers already won many an award in its 155 years of existence. And it deserves it. Did I manage to get the message across that the food is truly outstanding?

And the atmosphere can't be beaten. We had the best live entertainment sitting at the counter chatting to the lovely staff and to the locals who came in for take-away. We didn't quite know however what to make of the guy who sat down with us munching his way through dish after dish, talking incoherently to no-one in particular and walking out for a few moments after every new order. It wasn't till after he had done that a couple of times that we discovered he went out to 'talk to the wife' who was 'sitting in the truck too shy to come in'. Someone needs to explain the concept of take-away to him. And good husbandly behaviour.  

I guess you can tell I fell of the diet wagon in a SPECTACULAR way this weekend. But I'm sure you'll agree that if you're going to break the rules, you'd best do it right.

Right?


Monday, 12 September 2011

The most amazing library in the world


I love books. LOVE books.

That's why it would be my ultimate interior design dream to have a house that boasts its very own library. The old-fashioned kind. You know the thing.

Wooden book cases. Row after row after row of books. A mezzanine with even more of them. Big comfy seats to curl up in. With a book of course. An old writing desk. A globe or two. Not to mention a fireplace with a cat snoozing in front of it. Perfection. Oh and someone else to dust the place for me. Obviously.

In all, not entirely unlike these images.








But wait. Did you notice anything out of the ordinary about this particular library?

Have a look at the next picture and you'll see what I mean.


This, my friends, is the Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor or the Lesser Thürkow Library.

Make no mistake. This is not just a well-executed doll's house. This is an actual library. All the books you see are real. Miniature books that do not exceed the official standard of 76 millimetres (3 inches). There are about 2000 of them. 

Husband and wife Guus and Luce Thürkow had been passionate about books for as long as they could remember. So much so that they made their profession out of them. They used to own a book antiquariat and publishing house The Catharijne Press. Their specialisation: miniature books. 

It had always been the Thürkows' dream to have a library worthy of their collection of miniatures. And one day they just decided to make it happen. I like it when people do that. Could do with some more of that myself.

It took several craftsmen three years to build the library. It was modeled after some examples of 18th century libraries in private homes and after the old university library of Leiden. The attention to detail is stunning. As is the atmosphere it evokes. This isn't the largest collection of miniatures in the world. But it is definitely, beyond any doubt, the one most perfectly housed. And the envy of collectors the world over. 



I was invited to the Thürkow home twice to admire the library. The second time I took my fellow book lover Fab along, as I knew this would thrill her too.

Even though I'd already seen it once before, I still couldn't help gasping as Guus proudly swung open the cabinet doors. And in spite of me knowing it was there (you're going to love this Linda), I almost squealed with delight when he once again opened the SECRET DOOR and showed us the hidden section. Housing the erotic works obviously. How utterly amazing and fabulous is that? I would almost want to shrink to miniature size myself (bit of a wish for me anyway) to take possession of the library. I'd hide my stash of forbidden choccies and biscuits behind the secret door of course.

I have to say though that no one took more delight in his library than Guus himself.

With reverend hands he would take out his most prized possessions, the unique items of which only one single specimen existed in the world, and tell their tales. The ancient seal. The clay tablet with the legal deed. The vellum pages with the most exquisite calligraphy. The books especially produced for the library. 

It was Guus' dream to fill the Bibliotheca Thurkowiana Minor with only unique, one of a kind books. But he knew it wasn't going to happen in his life time, as Luce and he were only capable of having 6 of them produced and published a year. It is after all an expensive and very time-consuming thing. 


Sadly Guus was right. He would not live to see his dream for the library fulfilled. He died earlier this year, after a short illness. And with him we have lost a most remarkable man. 

Of course, he would say of himself: you have to be a bit mad to do this kind of thing you know! 

Which ties in brilliantly with the patron of the library Luce and he chose: 

Don Quichote de La Mancha. 


Every time Don Quichote would storm off to fight his windmills, he would shout what is now the collection's motto: 

Ellos son gigantes! They are giants! 

Can you think of a more perfect motto for this most extraordinary library and its wonderful books?


Pictures not taken by me but found here and here




Sunday, 11 September 2011

Of love, loss and longing... 10 years since


The hardest bit for me to watch today is the loss and the longing of those left behind. I don't want to imagine what it must have been like to say goodbye to a loved one in the morning, and then to have to watch those heart-rending images later in the day. The hours of uncertainty and the despair when a sign of life failed to come. Those people who jumped. Oh my God, the people who jumped. Were they recognised by their families as they leapt to their death? I so hope they were not. To know that their last moments were filled with such despair, it's just too much. 

And yet it is also comforting to know that this day isn't just about remembering terror. It's also about love. Love that lasts and that can't be destroyed. Whatever type of idiot thinks violence is the answer. Wherever in the world, because let's face it, tragedies as these happen every day and often fail to get our attention. The events of 10 years ago, as the Madrid and London bombings, just bring it closer to home as it happened in the West for a change. 

On a day like today, let's stop and remember all those who fell victim to senseless brutality. 

Listen to the late great Eva Cassidy's version of Autumn Leaves, a song of love, loss and longing.   






Saturday, 10 September 2011

Dinah Washington already sang it...




What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday was not absolutely fabulous. In fact, yesterday did not even make it to the list of not-so-great-but-quite-passable days.

I was working on the Mega Big Ultra Important Presentation. The one that is supposed to win me brownie points for its ultimate cleverness and jaw-dropping finesse.

I did not quite manage to get in the flow.

For yesterday, you see, everyone apparently needed my Undivided Attention for whatever emergency or calamity they themselves were plagued with. Yes, apparently I DO have ‘sucker’ written on my forehead. This all might explain why I didn’t do what I would normally do, which is save whatever I am working on every 10 minutes or so.  

You can see where this is going. Catastrophe dead ahead.

In spite of constant interruptions, I was working doggedly on and things were starting to take shape nicely, quite nicely indeed, when my screen went black. I won’t bore you with a detailed account of my frantic attempts to retrieve a full day’s work. Suffice it to say that the result was: ‘computer says NO’.

I was not feeling very zen when I finally made it home last night. So I decided to cancel all plans for Saturday and have some ME time instead.

Bliss.

I had the longest lie-in this morning.

Followed by the most heavenly candle-lit rose-petalled milk bath. No seriously. The stuff came out of a jar but it still had rose petals in it. And milk. I was feeling very Cleopatra, except I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have had to clean the tub afterwards.
Rosy and refreshed I went into town for some retail therapy and treated myself to some of my favourite teas and a lovely scented candle. All for more zen moments at home.

And then this rather dishy fellow with a plate of canapés standing outside his deli shop tried to tempt me with some of his wares. I bravely declined, smiled apologetically and explained I was trying to lose some (rather a lot of) weight. To which he replied he didn’t see why as I looked so very appetizing as I was. Bit of a strange choice of words but still flattering and let's not forget the man is in the food business after all. I still declined sampling any of his goodies though. Key word in last sentence is ‘any’ in case you hadn’t spotted it.

So yeah, I was feeling good and at peace with the world again when I came home, kicked off my shoes, made myself a nice cuppa and decided to check the internet for a second.



Only to find that my favourite Home Blogger had not only left a lovely comment on my blog but also featured me on HER blog.

I is feeling very zen at the moment.

Now if only the little voice in the back of my head would stop reminding me I have some chocolates left in the bottom left drawer of the kitchen.


Thursday, 8 September 2011

The shakes


I was sitting at the dining table this evening, enjoying a cup of tea with no biscuits and some light reading (which just happened to be a book of classic ghost stories), when my chair started to wobble.

Wobble. On its own accord. 

And I thought to myself:

What is this? What just happened here? 

And it wobbled again.

I then started listening for the sound of a freight train. I already knew though that a train couldn't really be the answer as I would hardly even hear one of those while sitting indoors, let alone feel its vibration.

I was quite puzzled. For a moment I thought I might have had some sort of dizzy spell but I soon discarded that idea - as I was quite certain I hadn't moved but the chair had!

Hmm.

What other explanation could there be?

Given my reading material my thoughts did for a moment go in a certain direction, I admit, but the thing is that it's much easier to ALMOST believe in ghosts when you're standing in some dark and eerie place. In my own cosy apartment: nah.

And then something flew up against the window.

Yeah, alright, my heart did miss a beat for a second but then I got up and went outside on the terrace to see if the poor stupid pigeon was alright. It was - just a bit dazed like the last time it did its kamikaze routine. I left it some muesli. It thanked me by crapping all over the place.

And now I've watched the news and the mystery is solved. It was an earthquake.

An actual earthquake - 4.5 on the Richter scale. In Holland.
First time we had one that I actually noticed. Huh.

I guess I'm just a teensy tiny bit disappointed that there really was a rational explanation for the riddle of the moving chair. And I know I'm going to really really regret those words if my bed starts to move in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Dream


At first I thought the universe was plotting against me.

Because seriously, I pay a visit to Etsy again for the first time in months and the home page throws a picture of mail-order brownies at me.

You read that right, mail-order brownies. With me still on the monster diet. With me loving the chewy fudgy chocolatey delight that is a brownie. LOVING it.

No fair. I would almost venture as far as to say this one was below the belt.

Not that I didn't click on the link of course, in an act of self-torture so very common to those voluntarily deprived of food. And to my surprise I did not end up feeling sulky and sorry for myself! Yes. I know that surprises you too. 

This does not mean of course that I have seen the light and that raw veg has replaced chocolate as my idol. I mean, seriously. It's just that the story BEHIND the brownies was so empowering.

It's the story of a woman who fought and overcame cancer. And who decided after that experience that she was no longer going to dream about what she'd rather do in life. She was going to take action to fulfill her dream instead. And that just happened to be baking cakes. Sounds like a perfectly good dream to me!

Without further ado she started her business Taart van Toen (Cakes of Yesteryear)*. And it took off, well, like a dream actually!




Marjolein now runs her business from an old farmhouse in which she bakes, does cake-making workshops, serves afternoon teas etc. But she wants to make some changes to the building to make things even more perfect. And that's where the brownies come in.



She has now started a brownie mail-order service to help pay for all the necessary work. You can either place a one-time order or buy a subscription so that on 5 dates a year, the post man will deliver a parcel of loveliness to the address of your choice.**

This woman is following her dream and she's doing it with BROWNIES.
She has to be my long-lost twin.

I almost signed up there and then for the five-deliveries-a-year brownie subscription. If only I knew I'd manage not to enter my own address.

Sigh.



* Sorry, website is only in Dutch

** She does ship outside the Netherlands



First two photos are from 123rf.com, the banner is nicked from the browniesperpost.nl website

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Stepford the remake?



I think dear dear friend N. who forwarded this to me thought I'd find this really cute. He probably also thought I'd be very impressed.

And of course, I AM impressed.

I'm also a bit creeped out. Am I the only one thinking they look like little robots instead of children? Puppets on a string? Honestly, those frozen fake smiles on their faces make them look like Stepford Children.

Is it me??

Give it to me straight. I can take it. 

But yes, very impressive.



Monday, 5 September 2011

Greenwich Market and a woman on a mission


Her eyes held a silent reproach when I was over at mum & dad's yesterday.

She knows you see. She knows I've been to London three times now without bringing back what she so desires.

When adopted by my parents as a skeletal stray 6 years ago, they immediately set out to spoil her rotten. Apart from truckloads of exquisite food, Poor Sweet Puss was presented with an abundance of cute fluffy toys. With bells. Stuffed with catnip. Shaped like mice.

The cat was not impressed. I swear she tried to stifle a yawn while giving them some polite nudges.

Not that she doesn't like her entertainment. Her favourite thing is to get dad to run through the house with a scrunched up bit of paper attached to a long string. She gives chase with a murderous glint in her emerald green eyes. Live prey is just so much more fun. He rarely escapes unscathed of course.

Then mum discovered these lovelies at Greenwich Market last year.


They are organic cat nip mice in funky fabrics from Refab*. Mum couldn't resist and brought some home.

And the miracle happened.

She leapt. She twirled. She pounced on them. She threw them into the air and then set off on a happy little football match for one. All the while making sounds that were halfway between a growl and a purr. And leaving a trail of knocked over furniture behind her. She may look dainty but underneath that abundance of ginger fur she's built like a rugby player.

I've already been back to Greenwich Market twice to get her a new batch. Not that she remembers. Even though she now has about ten of them in every colour scheme imaginable.

Her eyes tell me she knows I'm going to be in London again very soon. Can you tell she's trying to stare a hole into my forehead?




I do wonder what makes organic cat nip so very special.

And I'm secretly glad I've never spotted sniffer dogs at Stansted.




* I've so far resisted the urge to buy me one of their funky chicken doorstops or their lavender-filled owls


Photos taken with iPhone and no, I still haven't tired of Instagram. Model is again Mouna-al-Arie.   

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Conversations overheard


I was just about to leave the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre yesterday, when an elderly gentleman came rushing through the doors, looking excited and flustered. 

He stormed up to the information desk, looked at a bit of paper in his hand and blurted out what is now in my personal top 5 of best openings to a conversation ever:

'I'm looking for something with a blue kettle on its head!'

I suspect the average person would need some time to digest that remark.

Not so the lady behind the desk (no spring chicken either) who promptly replied, in a rather flirty manner, a mischievous twinkle in her eye: 'Well, I do hope you're not expecting ME to produce a blue kettle and put it on MY head, do you?'

We like her.

When he shot her a bewildered look, she took pity on him and directed him towards the desired image. Because obviously this particular art centre houses such a fantastic array of absurdities that 'something with a blue kettle on its head' is actually by far not the weirdest image or object you could hope to find here. If you thought the Monster Fountain was bizarre, then you're in for a treat.

And if you're not a fan of Bosch (I'm still not sure whether I am), then the art centre is still well worth a visit if you love all things quirky (that would be me) or because of the beautiful Sint Jacobskerk it is housed in. So just go and have a look for yourself. I'm not taking any responsibility for your possible nightmares afterwards, mind.






Photos taken with iPhone and then given an Instagram filter

Orange


Not too long after I wrote about my proud ownership of an orange door, I read this post on the colour orange in one of my favourite blogs about the concept of Home.

It made me realise that even though I made the very firm statement that the colour orange now remained on the outside of my home, I did actually have a few splashes of it about the place after all.

Including quite a big one you stumble upon right after opening the front door.


Um. Can't believe I missed that when I wrote my earlier post. The thing is huge!

And there are some other examples. Like the Japanese tea set (only a fraction of which is displayed below) I had my heart set upon for years. It took dad three hours of travel to get it for me for my 30th birthday.


So actually, I'm not an orange-o-phobe.

Not as if anyone who has seen my previous sofa would have ever believed that anyway.

I did like the explanations in Linda's post on what it means if you love or hate the colour orange.

I'm with her. I'm in the middle somewhere too. 

Only the good bits apply to us obviously. 



Saturday, 3 September 2011

A country stroll



I found the perfect way to end the day I thought. The city centre was swelteringly hot today and not a little crowded. A leisurely stroll home through country lanes seemed just the thing. Peaceful. Quiet. Relaxing. 

I was feeling quite pleased with myself and my brilliant idea when I sauntered on to the sandy paths of the marsh lands, just outside the old fortified walls of the city. The sound of crickets. The smell of grass. Butterflies chasing each other. Bliss.



It must have been about 5 minutes into my walk when I realised that I was actually not equipped with the right footwear for a country stroll. My sassy open-toed shoes with the not-all-too-high heels had been perfect for my girlie gossipy tea sesh. For uneven country lanes: not so perfect.

A little while later still I came to the conclusion that the trouble with marsh lands is that there is actually quite little in the way of shade to be found. And that it was still really really hot. And that I had left my water bottle next to my chair.

I had already developed a limp and was feeling parched and not a little sorry for myself when I finally reached my goal. The pedestrian ferry that would take me across the stream and close to my neck of the woods.



Ah, the relief. Normal roads from now on. And a chance to buy me a new water bottle as soon as I was on the other side of the water.

Bit of a pity therefore that the ferry would not come to the shore. Not even after a vigorous turning of the wheel for 5 hot and frustrating minutes. I was left with no alternative but to limp back the way I came.

I hope you like the pictures of my country stroll.














Pictures taken with iPhone then given an Instagram filter.

Friday, 2 September 2011

We are not alone




I seriously can't tell you what kind of text my stupid iPhone's auto-correct made me send this afternoon. And I couldn't possibly tell you what auto-correct came up with when I frantically tried to send another text to correct the mistake. Let's just say I'm glad my friend understands I did not really make him that offer.

I've gone online to try and end the Curse of the Auto-Correct once and for all and I haven't quite sorted it yet. I did however come across this website. If you are struck by the curse too then be comforted: You Are Not Alone.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Some like it... Splott





I love these cards. LOVE them. Don't you just love these cards??

Fu and I were shopping in the arcades in Cardiff when I found them in one of the tiny shops there.




I smiled when I read the first one but after I'd gone through all of them I was grinning like a mental case. Fortunately I wasn't alone in my childish delight - the shop owner joined in the fun. She mentioned some other titles that were sold out (The Grapes of Roath! The Dai Vinci Coed!) and we made up some new ones together on the spot. That's the trouble with these - you just suddenly catch yourself 'welshifying' book and film titles. And I'm not even Welsh!






I was SO tempted to use 'The Llandaff time forgot' for my post on all the eerie goings-on in Llandaff. Felt I owed it to the ghosties and ghoulies though to go with some more sinister creations of my own.

Can't wait till they come up with new cards (believe they've got 16 titles out now -
I want them all obviously). And I so want them to do 'Llandudno what you did last summer'! I didn't make that up myself no. But I would have if they hadn't gotten there first!

What are MY new titles?
Sorry, can't tell you. Still negotiating with the guys over at I loves the 'Diff.


Images of cards pilfered from I loves the 'Diff website.