Thursday, 28 May 2009

My latest gadget

I'm posting this from my new gadget: an iPhone. I was't really looking for one, but my original provider has been bought by another and they offered me the phone for free if I stayed with them at the end of the contract.

My previous favourite telephone, Precious, is not out of the picture yet, though, I've still got a couple of books to read from her memory. Right now, for instance, as I prepare to take a bath. It's easier than bringing a book.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

places I remember: Delft

Every week, I’ll write a little piece about the places I’ve lived or visited, based on my own feelings, thoughts and memories – and most likely a bit of history.

Little MJ from number eight lived hereDelft, The Netherlands - Delft is where I spent my formative years - and more; between moving there with my parents when I was two until moving to Gouda last November, I’ve lived in Delft for just over 34 years. But not that many of my memories from that time are tied to locations. Perhaps because of all the time I spent there, which made all the other places more ‘special’.

Foreigners (all of my three or four readers) may know the town for it’s pottery, Delfware being one attempt (of many around Europe) at imitating Chinese porcelain before the secret to making porcelain was known in the western world. It also has a pretty mediaeval inner city, with canals, a couple of old churches, a city hall etc. And the monestary where our patris patriae, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, was assasinated in 1584. His misgivings about the place turned out to be correct all along, even if for the wrong reasons. (William didn’t like the Old Church tower that loomed over the monastery, something went wrong in building it and the tower is slightly tilted towards it.)

William was buried in the New Church, although the man who probably wrote what was to become (as late as 1932!) our national anthem, Filips van Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde, was buried in the Old Church, together with a handful of heroic admirals and of course Johannes Vermeer. (Hardly any – if any at all – of the shots you see in Girl with the Pearl Earring is from Delft, although I did hear hear from my mother at one point around the time that it was being made that a film crew was shooting in the inner city.)

The crypt underneath the New Church is still in use, but is only opened for members of the Dutch royal family. Most recently in 2004 for Prince Bernhard. A couple of years earlier, after the death of Prince Clause, this gave me a rather peculiar dilemma. I lived in Delft, which was partially cordoned off and I worked at De Kuip, the Feyenoord stadium, which was being used as a staging area for the military and veterans lining the route. Fortunately I was going in the opposite direction than the mass of people both on my way out and back home.

Of course trips to these locations were a given for schoolkids in Delft. At the monestary, which is now Museum De Prinsenhof (the Prince’s Court) you can still see holes in the wall where the hit the wall after going through the Prince. They look impressive, but I don’t doubt they’ve been widened by many fingers over the years (they’re behind glass now).

‘my’ kerbWhen we first moved to Delft, we lived under the smoke of the factory where my father worked, in a quiet little neighbourhood. Not too long before I moved away from Delft I went back and took some pictures. There were four blocks like the ones you see in the picture above, with fields between the first and second and third and fourth. It was as quiet as I remembered it, although there were more cars in the little side-street that we used to play “stoeprand” (kerb-stone) in than I remember. Of course beyond the pavement one side was completely empty because the old church building has been torn down since and not yet replaced.

It’s strange, I’ve been trying to recall strong emotions, but I still can’t. I seem to have glided through what may amount to between half to a third of my life without taking notice. I didn’t fall in love there, I didn’t form any lasting friendships with anyone in Delft, it’s all a bit of a fog. That’s not to say it’s the town’s fault. Just that the period of my life was fogged over. At least it was in Delft that I finally came to my senses too.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Ten Top Trivia Tips

Ten Top Trivia Tips about SubtleKnife!
  1. Moles are able to tunnel through 300 feet of SubtleKnife in a day.
  2. Ostriches stick their heads in SubtleKnife not to hide but to look for water.
  3. Japan provides over thirty percent of the world's SubtleKnife supply.
  4. South Australia was the first place to allow SubtleKnife to stand for parliament.
  5. It takes forty minutes to hard-boil SubtleKnife.
  6. Over 46,000 pieces of SubtleKnife float on every square mile of ocean.
  7. The canonical hours of the Christian church are matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, SubtleKnife and compline!
  8. There are more than two hundred different kinds of SubtleKnife.
  9. Peanuts and SubtleKnife are beans.
  10. SubtleKnife can last longer without water than a camel can!
with thanks to David

Monday, 18 May 2009

Daddy's girl

I blame my father.

You would think that, as the parent of an aspiring writer - serious literary novel writer, mind you - he could have had the consideration to be a catholic bishop (or at least a priest) or a fire-and-brimstone minister instead of a mild-mannered lab technician.

Mild-mannered lab technicians, like photographers and journalists of similar character, can aspire to be superheroes at best; they just don't spawn best selling authors, let alone critically acclaimed ones.

I was daddy's girl, I had a blissfull, wonderfully incident-free childhood and I still haven't forgiven him for it.

Happy birthday, Dad, I love you.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

you don't scare me!

This message is brought to you in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia.

places I remember: Scheveningen

Every week, I’ll write a little piece about the places I’ve lived or visited, based on my own feelings, thoughts and memories – and most likely a bit of history.

Scheveningen, The Netherlands - I was born in a mansion in the posh part of Scheveningen. Not that my family were posh – it was where the maternity clinic was housed. After being kept there for eight days (I believe that was the rule for both mothers and babies in those days) I was taken to the fifth-floor walk-up that was my parents’ first home (fourth floor if you’re European).

Just ten days old, all bundled up of course, I would be taken for walks out on the boulevard in a November storm. It’s difficult to tell whether my fascination with storms is due to nature or nurture, but either way, I obviously inherited it from my parents. When I was older, I would stand between the window and the curtains at night when I was supposed to be asleep and watch the rain, clouds and lightning. Only a couple of years ago my mother told me that she and dad would often lie in bed with the windows open to do the same thing.

I don’t remember anything from the time we lived there, we moved to Delft the month I turned two, but until recently most of the family on my father’s side still lived there, so we did visit. Mostly I remember the street my grandparents used to live on – there was a church right across from them, and behind that was a school playground. But we weren’t allowed to cross that on our own because the street was too busy.

By the time I can remember, the backroom had been opened up to join with the front room, leaving only one bedroom and another small space that was now in use as hobby-room, so I could never figure out where my grandparents and their five children slept. Even knowing what I know now, it must’ve been cramped – but they were pretty well-off.

Originally, Scheveningen was a fishing village in the dunes on the North Sea coast of The Netherlands, but it has long since been swallowed up by the government residence, The Hague. They managed to maintain something of a separate identity, though - I once heard a saying that ‘The Haguers are the jellyfish the Scheveningers threw over the dunes’, of course I couldn’t possibly comment – and those in-the-know will recognise my last name as a typically Scheveninger name.

My paternal great-grandmother wore the traditional dress of Scheveningen (click on the pictures for enlargements). Looking back I think it’s a shame I didn’t really connect with her, but she was ancient, hard of hearing and used to sit in the corner of my grandparents’ front room holding court with the adults. I don’t think us kids running around amused her. Generally were said hello, were given something to drink and then sent to the bedroom to play on the Atari.
She always wore a black skirt down to the feet, white underskirt, black shoes and stockings, black apron (for widows and on Sundays, every-day wear was blueish-grey stripes, or possibly checks for work – clogs were work-wear too), a long-sleeved, buttonless blouse (also black for her, but traditionally they could be coloured, usually in pastels) and a shawl that almost completely covers the upper body. In fact the ends were tucked into the front of the skirt. The white fabric or lace cap was held in place by an ‘iron’ (usually silver) and two pins. The ends of the iron are decorated by two “books” on the forehead.
I got completely distracted writing this part, researching the traditional dress and even finding patterns for the skirt, the apron and the shawl. If only I knew someone who can sew! I guess I could start with the shawl, I know they were sometimes crocheted or knitted – I’ve seen it on my great-grandmother. I don’t want to wear them full-time, but I’d like a set so that I can when I feel like it.

The picture above is part of Panorama Mesdag, a 14-meter-high (46 foot) 360° degree painting of Scheveningen, the dunes and The Hague. It was painted in 1881 and has a circumference of 120 meters (131 yards). Click on the picture to see the whole thing.

It is said (I can’t find confirmation) that the word Scheveningen was used as a shibboleth to identify Germans during World War II, seeing as they can’t pronounce it correctly. Nor can most others, to be fair.


If you love puppies - and who doesn't? - you MUST visit Willy or Won't He?, where Willym has some marvellous videos of Nick and Nora.

I didn't really get the name reference, I have to admit, but somehow the fact that they had a terrier named Asta makes me suspect I must have seen at least one of the Thin Man movies. I should investigate...

Here are a couple more pictures of my favourite puppy, Kayo:

how to climb a park bench

you can wake Kayo in the middle of the night for his food

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Russia's Gay Disgrace

It wasn't that much of a surprise, but the gay rights demonstration in Moscow has been violently broken up by police. Organisers hoped that having it coincide with the Eurovision Songcontest might give them some protection. But Russia's not ashamed to lose face over this. Guess there wasn't much to lose. (Not with me, anyway...)

British activist Peter Tatchell was arrested again, fortunately without getting beaten up.

Tatchell's tweets

two more reasons to stay home

the family dogs

I got a call from my mother, asking if I'd be home tonight so that they might come and have a cup of coffee on their way back home. I'm practically in the middle between their home and the breeder's day that they attended today. The oldest of their dogs, Taeke, has been a dad several times over, so he gets to pose with his offspring, and a judge looks at him etc.

It's good to see Mum & Dad of course, but it's also a delight to get to play and cuddle with the dogs.


He'll be ten in December and has been an grandfather since around his last birthday. In three months, his owners wil be grandparents too. I presume my sister-in-law and the foetus are doing well, as they're off on holiday in England at the moment. Of course Taeke has been behaving like an old man since he was a pup. I was teasing my parents by saying that at least he didn't look like a grandpa, to which my mother answered "You should see him when he has to go out for a walk in the morning." To be fair, I would probably feel the same. Ten minutes to the station is enough for me - and I get weekends off.

He loves to push up against me and cuddle. And when he lies down at my feet, I like to rub behind his ears with my toes. When I'd stop because I got distracted, he'd lift his head and look at me with such hurt in his eyes. Speaking of eyes... They were surprised at the show that he has no sign of cataracts whatsoever. Apparently it's not a surprise around age five and almost to be expected when they reach eight.

When I still lived at their house in Delft and they'd visit every few weeks, he'd always be the first out of the starting blocks, generally moaning and whining whilst he had to sit down at the doormat and have his feet wiped (no matter the weather, this was something they always had to do, so that they'd never get the idea to just run in with muddy feet). Then as Mum would give the command "vrij" (free) he would storm off and launch himself at my legs (I'd make sure I was braced for impact), as if he were trying to push through them - and I don't mean through the middle.

He guards the attention he gets jealously. When you're bending over to cuddle Kayo, take care that Taeke doesn't stick his head in. Especially since he's wont to throw it up suddenly. His head won't hurt nearly as much as your jaw! Not that he's angry, if you tell him to go away he'll sit back and look sad, he craves attention and this is one of the few impulsive things he does.


Kayo is his half-brother, they share the same father, and younger by two years. Where Taeke is broad and sturdy and always calculated, Kayo is narrower, inquisitive and much more impulsive. He has several nicknames that attest to this, such as "Haantje-de-voorste" (someone who's always first in line), "Aagje" (from "nieuwsgierig Aagje", a term for a very curious person) or "Helikoptertje" (for the way his tail wil spin round furiously, threatening to either come lose or lift his backend up in the air, when he's enthusiastic about something - which is often).

He's always been a lot more stand-offish than Taeke; even when he was a pup it was 'known' in our family that Kayo wouldn't come cuddle or simply lie against your feet. But I believe he was less so with me than with the others and we did have our cuddly moments as well as lots of fun with rough and tumble (His baby teeth were sharper than any puppy I remember, though). Instead of leaning against you, he loves a good, vigourous rub from head to tail, shaking his fur all around as you go. Then he'll turn a quick circle and present his head again.

The saying about him is that there is never a day that he doesn't make you laugh. He can just look so dopey, especially when he's just woken up. As if he's surprised to be there. Perhaps he dreams a lot. Actually, I am convinced that he can lift his head, look around, get up and move to another spot without waking up altogether.

It's always fun to see them changing spots, it something of an orchestrated affair. When they were in Delft, there were five or six favoured places. They would each find one that was to their liking and sleep there for a while. After some time (the first time after dinner was always quite long, at least an hour) Taeke would get up and move. Then Kayo would look up - giving us one of his dopey faces - and move too. Often to the spot just vacated. This would repeat several times.

The only exception was when the living room door was closed in winters and Taeke decided it was too warm. Kayo never liked being out in the hallway on his own, he has always had a harder time being on his own (either without humans or without his brother, either way would make him nervous). He would go there in summer, but then the living room door was open. And he'd still spend most of his time in the evening near the humans.

I had a quick look - granted, I'm not an optometrist - but there doesn't seem to be any cloudiness in his eyes either. Just because he doesn't always look before he leaps...

Did you know those furry things turn into little stoves when they sit next to you? Lovely in winter, not so much fun when it's already sweltering. I could never explain to them the difference, though. Tonight it was very nice to have a little rug under my bare feet, though.

PS. They're very good about giving me a couple hours' warning to clean the place, but I'm relieved my parents didn't notice the half-smoked joint on top of the stereo...

PPS. This website has many more pictures of them and of Taeke's babies. On the homepage you'll also see our previous dog of the same breed, Arno. Here I am at age ten, helping to pick him:


Friday, 15 May 2009

Latin diplomas

I didn't need the article to tell me what this meant. GEEK!

Originally, diplomas were letters of introduction given to travelers by the Roman government. For centuries, Latin served as a convenient common language among educated people around the world. This is no longer the case. Graduates don’t pull diplomas out of their glove boxes, and fraud is resolved by checking college records. But diplomas are still supposed to convey information, and Latin diplomas fail to fulfill that function. When one Dickinson College alumna recently applied to work at a public school, she had a photocopied version of her Latin diploma returned as foreign and illegible.

Source: New York Times

not going out

cars sailing by

Ten reasons I'm not going out this weekend:

  1. Rain and flooding
  2. Sleep to catch up on
  3. Sore throat, bit of a cough
  4. Food in the fridge
  5. Booze too*
  6. Hair to wash
  7. Stacks to iron
  8. Music to upload to iPod
  9. Movies to watch
  10. House to clean

* I'm drinking Merry's white chocolate Irish cream liqueur right now. It looks just like milk! Even better than the vodka-pretending-to-be-water trick, in my opinion.

PS. Didn't make it on the list - but probably should have - blog posts to compose.


There's nothing too graphic in the following, but the squeamish (especially about certain parts of the functioning of the female reproductive system) may want to look away.

A couple of months ago my closest colleage, Marc, mentioned that he'd been to the bloodbank to donate (actually he does plasma, which you can give more often). He's quite proud that his results to the tests they do (bloodpressure, iron level) are always the same. It reminded me that I, too, have been thinking about becoming a donor for quite some time. There are a few reasons why I haven't, being too busy to think up excuses why I shouldn't drag my depressed ass out of the house and do something for someone else being the main one for quite some time.

I also used to get quite anaemic around 'that time of the month' when I was younger and I'd seen the same with my mother, who was driven to give up in frustration because they would always invite her at the wrong times and then wouldn't let her reschedule, but made her wait until the next appointment. Which, if you're a bit more regular than I am, would mean you still couldn't donate!

Anyway, my body seems to have settled down in my old age and I'm a bit more stable 'up there' too, so when he mentioned it, I filled in the online application form and waited for a response. After a couple of weeks an information package arrived, without much new information, but saying they'd be in touch. (The only thing I wasn't sure of is which medication I was allowed to take.)

So when Marc said yesterday that he'd donated again (apparently he makes it into a race, such a man thing to do) I told him I still hadn't heard anything and I should probably get in touch. Of course I forgot to get on it immediately, but lo and behold! this morning I received a telephone call and I now have an appointment for the medical on Tuesday. (Because my anti-depressants are not a problem.)

I almost feel like a good citizen now.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

screaming children

I love kids - with barbecue sauce

The title of this blog is not a literal translation of the subject I wish to broach, but it's as close as I can come to capture it.

Right now, outside my balcony, a seemingly endless stream of screaming, "singing", chatting, schreeching, clapping children is passing by in the mayhem that is called Jeugdavondvierdaagse. Literally: youtheveningfourday (event). This means that primary school kids in just about every town go out once a year and for four evenings they walk around that town (on a set route and under adult supervision, of course) for a set distance. It's usually either 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) a night. On the last night they get a big welcome with flowers.

a quiet stroll
(Those orange rucksacks are from the main sponsor, what else but a cheese manufacturer? The coloured smocks are from the schools - probably easier than keeping them on a leash.)

And they seem to be having a ball. I'm trying to send myself an audio file from my phone, but should it fail, believe me, it's not pretty. Imagine yourself trapped in a room with all the walls made of chalboard and a thousand fingernails scratching it. And as it turns out, the route takes them along my street all four nights and past my house several times. Not to mention the fact that they seem to be parking their bikes here whilst they're underway. Yippie.

Apparently still a favourite, as it was even in my day 25 years ago, is the responsive "Daar bovenop de berg" (On top of that mountain):

Daar bovenop de berg
(Daar bovenop de berg)
Daar woont een stier
(Daar woont een stier)
Die geeft geen melk
(Die geeft geen melk)
Maar Heineken bier
(Maar Heineken bier)

On top of that mountain
Lives a steer
It doesn't give milk
But Heineken Beer

These are kids between six and twelve. But they're Dutch kids.

bezemwagenEDIT: so after a short break, they were back, now walking in the opposite direction. A couple of minutes after 9PM it was finished. At the front of this parade was a policeman on a motorcycle, lights flashing and seemingly enjoying himself although I didn't manage to take a picture of him with an amused smile on his face. At the end of this children's crusade came the broom waggon. I just had to take a picture of this lady and when I told her so, she seemed quite taken with the idea.

Only three more nights to go...

Michael Tolliver lives... but what about them?

On Queen's Day, April 30th, K bought a stack of second-hand books at the numerous stalls and blankets that take advantage of the free-market that is declared every year on that day.

He bought the complete Tales Of The City series, the original six books before the recent addition of Michael Tolliver Lives. In fact he bought more than six, as he got a couple of them twice. Of course I pounced on them, because I haven't got (or read) the last two yet.

Leafing through those yellowed pages together, we found the inscriptions some of them bore. They were dated 1981, 1987 and read things like "For X, from your Daddy Bear".

"Dead," K concluded, ever the optimist. But I can't help but wonder how many of the men who held the books I now read on the train to and from work are still alive. And it makes me shiver.

Friday, 8 May 2009


Manhattan Offender offers no commentary besides the title "You depend on your iPhone for everything, including your cocaine dependency." Now I've only just this afternoon opened the box with my iPhone in it - I've got a new SIM-card to go with it and the contract doesn't change until May 22nd; haven't tried the old card in it yet, perhaps I should - but I could get used to apps like this one:

Although I suspect the polished metal back of my iPod Classic might be better for the real thing... ;-)

Home page: The iSnort
Disclaimer: "The makers of The iSnort accept no responsibility if you end up in the iClink, getting iBummed in the iShowers when you bend down for the iSoap."