Monday, July 08, 2013

The elephant on the border

A couple of weeks ago I drove into Germany to visit a large steel producer and interview their CEO. It’s quite a pleasant drive, about an hour tootling through b-roads in the Dutch countryside followed by an hour of adrenaline packed, foot to the floor, hell for leather flying along the speed-limit-free autobahn towards the infamous Ruhr region. As I was driving along I couldn’t help but wonder why in god’s name they don’t have road signs pointing to Germany! Seriously, you will pass umpteen signs directing you to every pint-sized village near the Dutch border, but Germany? One of the largest countries in the EU? That enormous industrial powerhouse humming and away and paying off the debts of just about every other country in the Eurozone? Nah, don’t need a sign for that.
Conversely as I was leaving Germany I noticed there are no signs for the Netherlands. People, we are crossing international borders here! When I stop to fill up by car I may be able to use my euros wherever I am, but it’s nice to know whether a goedemorgen or a guten morgen is in order. I don’t want to be confusing my worst with my wurst, do I want to top it with mosterd or senf, and a side of zuurkool or sauerkraut? And if things get really complicated, what if I ask for a simple hotdog when I should have requested Würstchen meist in einem Brötchen verkauft?

The Germans probably figure that if you want to get to the Netherlands just put the car in neutral and whichever way it starts rolling down hill, keep going that way.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Niels Wins School Talent Show

Each year Niels school has a talent show for the eldest class, based on the X Factor but called the 'R Factor' (because the school name starts with R). Niels really spent a lot of time practising and knew exactly what he wanted to do...and he won! We were so proud of him! It was a real family effort; I mixed the music for him, Dad drove the car, and little brother cheered from the sidelines. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


File:Playing the piano.jpg

It’s funny how a little trigger can bring loads of memories flooding back. I was driving to work this week listening to a classical radio station when they started playing the violin piece ‘Reiley’, which was the theme for the tv series Reiliy Ace of Spies. In an instant my mind was flooded with memories of practicing this piece on the piano in my bedroom years ago, (yes I had a piano in my bedroom), sun streaming through the windows, French doors throw open to let in a breeze, as my Mum sat on the bed listening and nodding in time to the music. That right there sums up my most vivid memories of piano playing throughout my childhood and into my teens; I must have played for literally thousands of hours when I took lessons from the ages of 7 to 17, yet looking back that is the moment I remember most. Probably because it was repeated so often: Mum loves the piano and was my biggest (actually only) fan. She would sit for as long as I would play in silent encouragement. Occasionally she would offer advice, usually when I was galloping through a piece at 60 km an hour and killing every nuance the original composer had carefully written in (“slow down, Joanne”), but I recall being very prickly to criticism,  and so she usually didn’t say much, just sat and patiently listened to encourage me to practice. It is entirely because of her that I persevered with piano, and while I was never going to be brilliant, I still love playing. A few years ago I shipped that old piano which had lived in my bedroom over to Holland, and had it fully restored. There’s not a single time when I play it that I don’t think of my Mum.
Today my Mum is still the only person I’ll really play for; the boys are having lessons now and Holger isn’t musical, so I wait until the house has cleared (Wednesday evening when the kids are at judo is a regular time), and then I play.
So today I dug out my dusty old sheet music that hasn’t been played in years, pushed aside my Cold Play  and Popular Classics books and dived into my past. Tunes I had completely forgotten about revealed themselves once more, faded and a bit worse for wear after at least ten years of neglect, but I guess I could say the same about myself.
And you know the funny thing? Even though I couldn’t remember some of the tunes, my fingers did. I would tentatively start on the opening bars and suddenly it all came flooding back. The Entertainer, Sweet Bye and Bye, Fur Elise….and pieces that were hot way back when! Hello from Lionel Richie, USA for Africa, To All the girls I’ve Loved Before. Even that old Richard Clayderman piece ‘Ballade pour Adeline’, which for a very brief moment in history made mainstream music lovers think classical pianists could be hot! Even my high school friends thought Clayderman was sexy and would ask me to play that piece when they came over. By the time I was half way through the pile it was time to call it a day. I flicked to the end and discovered one last piece, called appropriately enough ‘That’s What God Made Mothers For’.  Yes, I guess it is.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hyacinth Bucket Calling...

Spotted this sign last week on a trip to England when vising Bridgwater, near Bristol; obviously only the right kind of people are welcome here! I wonder if Mrs Bucket is running the place...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bloody Bloody Winter

I am officially FED UP with it being winter. Just when we thought spring was here - we enjoyed a day of 16 C last week - the birds were singing, the crocus flowers popped out, the bulbs started poking out of the ground - down comes the bloody temperature again and it starts snowing. Teh bloody cold is bloody ridiculous, with the wind chill factor it's minus 10 outside. BLOODY MINUS TEN.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Open Wide!

So that's how it's done...this is Carl enjoying a traditional Dutch treat, a herring. Actually it's a raw herring. As I undersand it, the fish monger basically deheads, guts and scales the fish, and removes the bones. It's then eaten either like this, bite by bite, or if you're feeing slightly less daring, on fresh white bread sprinkled with finely chopped onions. Mmmmm, that would have to be a major Listerine moment!

Carl loves them and he and his Dad often share one for lunch in the weekend. He had me take this photo to email to Holger who was offshore in Brazil at the time, to make him jealous. Go figure!