Friday, February 26, 2010

Losing It

I have been contemplating the nature of loss these past few days. Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve lost something, sometimes it may have just been misplaced, and sometimes when we lose things, they stay lost forever.
Hubby and I recently had our 12.5 year wedding anniversary. Now that is going to sound weird to anyone who isn’t Dutch, so let me explain. The Dutch have the rather quaint habit of celebrating their six-and-a-quarter, twelve-and-a-half, and twenty five year wedding anniversaries. The relevance of these dates escaped me entirely until my husband demonstrated just how important he thought they were in the most perfect way; he presented me with a diamond ring. Suddely 12.5 years assumed a whole new significance!!
Not just any ring either; one from my favorite jewellry designer, Georg Jensen, with three diamonds set in a white gold band. I like to think of the diamonds representing hubby, Niels and Carl, and I absolutely loved the ring the moment I saw it.
So we were talking about loss. Specifically the loss of things. Some things we don’t mind losing too much; a book that was boring, sunglasses that were scratched, a bike key when you know you’ve got a spare. Sometimes losing things is very inconvenient, such as a wallet or a mobile phone. And of course some things are really distressing to lose; your passport when on holiday, the address of an overseas friend….the diamond ring your husband just gave you.

That’s right. I was drinking my first cup of coffee last Friday when I glanced down at my hand and realized my ring was GONE. Disappeared. Vanished. In absentia.
Loss definitely sharpens your focus. Whereas the day up until that moment had been full of life’s background noise, plans of what to do and jobs needing to be done, suddenly all that disappeared as the world turned black and my brain imploded. The sane thing would have been to quietly and discreetly start looking for it. So obviously I immediately yelled “OH MY GOD WHERE’S MY RING??!!!!”, thereby alerting hubby to the fact that (1) I was a wife so careless that I would immediately lose the most expensive piece of jewelry he’s ever given me, and (2) quiet and discreet are clearly not my best character traits.
I won’t bore you with the following scene but you can imagine it. Frantic searching, enforced tidying of any place I had been in the last 24 hours, all made worse by the certain knowledge that this had happened because I had taken the ring off and left it somewhere. It couldn’t have fallen off, the fit was perfect. This was all my fault. I ended up flitting between the three locations in the house I keep hand cream; kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, certain that I must have taken the ring off to moisturize and forgotten to put it on again.
In the afternoon I had to go to work to doa telephone interview with someone in the US and I suddenly remembered: I have hand cream at work! The ring will be at work! It will be sitting on my desk or computer waiting for me!
Pushing visions of cleaners pocketing my ring as they dusted my desk to the deepest recesses of my pooling grey matter I sped into work…to bitterly discover it wasn’t there. Panic was replaced by those other buddies of loss…grief, frustration, and a feeling of literally being sick. My head was pounding, my stomach churning, and it seemed entirely possible I might cry. Pulling myself together I grabbed by digital recorder and sat down for the interview, trying to focus on the nuclear energy market instead of my ring, symbol of love and commitment, gone forever. I would like to be able to tell you that I rose above it, that I was able to put the loss of a thing into perspective; nobody was hurt, worse things happen, it could be replaced…but I couldn’t. A wise colleague who listened while managing to look both sympathetic and appalled (not easy) sagely suggested I go through yesterdays events backwards until I found the ring.
Hubby called to see if I’d found it, and about then I realised that sooner or later your body runs out of adrenalin and a good cry seems like the best option.
I slouched home to find he’d searched the house without success, but he was still putting on a brave face. I probably looked as bad as I felt so he kindly decided not to say anything. Remembering my colleagues advice I went up to the bedroom, pulled the covers off the bed (again), and was about to resume the search somewhere else when I thought to lift up the mattress...and there it was. Having left it on my pillow or the duvet the night before, the ring had slipped down between the mattresses. Relief, joy, more tears....and happiness that I won't have to wait another 12.5 years to wear a diamond ring on my right hand. Few feelings in life are as sweet as having rediscovered something loved, lost...and then found again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy 6th Birthday Carl

Yesterday Carl finally turned six. I say finally because for him the wait, the suspense, the seemingly infinite number of days before 20 February rolled around have been an agony. Every nght for the past month he's asked "how many days left now?" when I've put him to bed at night. How long a year seems when you're an almost-six-year-old. The excitement reached it's peak on Friday, the day when he could celebrate at school. I love the photo above - even though it's blurry and side-on you can see the smile that never left his face all day.

There's that smile again - this time he's standing on his chair while all the kids sing happy birthday, led by his beloved teacher Wilma. He went to school dressed as a pirate, because the treats he shared out were pirate cakes. They looked brilliant, and the idea is from a site called Party Kids. I ended up making 50 of these, 30 for school and 20 for Scouts!!

One compensation was that I didn't have to make the birthday cake this year; the local baker did the honours, producing a dinosaur-topped confection that fitted the bill. I'd had a brilliant idea at New Years when fireworks were being sold; why not save some sparklers for on top of the kids birthday cakes! So I dug out the box I'd hidden away and poked two into the top of the cake. They seemed rather large...we lit the candles and sparklers and started singing Happy Birthday. The sparklers fizzed, sputtered...and then ignitied into flares! Bright intense flames shot up into the air, producing clouds of smoke and a shower of fine ash which descended onto the cake. We quickly pulled the kids back and could only watch stunned as the pyrotechnic show continued. Hubby thought to open the door to try and get the smoke out and I was very glad I'd reminded him to disable the smoke detectors before hand. Once the flares finally fizzled out we removed the chunks of burnt wrapping, scraped off the worst of the ash and continued. The house was filled with smoke and our guests probably all thought I was a complete idiot. However the kids thought it was brilliant and will be asking for a repeat performance for Niels birthday. It had seemed like a good idea at the time...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Slip Sliding Away

Winter just won't let up over here. Temperatures are not extremely low but the ground is still below freezing and wet snow topped with rain a copule of nights ago has reduced many roads, foot paths and bike paths to dangerous skating rinks.
The warmer temperatures also pose a risks to animals and people who have grown accustomed to being able to safely walk on frozen lakes and canals. Click here to see photos and a video (you'll have to endure a 15 second ad first) of a pony being rescued by the fire brigade after falling through the ice - fortunatley the story ended well and the pony survived. The importance of frequently checking on livestock is higher than ever and thankfully this pony's owner discovered him quickly before he literally froze to death.
Even if you choose to stay on dry land the risks at the moment are pretty severe. Today I dared to take the boys to school on their bikes for the first time - big mistake. We discovered that the roads are covered with black ice; an almost invisible layer of thick ice which is lethally slippery. Even walking and pushing our bikes was tricky. The local council seems to have given up even pretending to do anything about it so we're taking a risk every time we step out the door. I still had half a bucket of raw salt in the garage so I've just been out throwing handfuls of it on the cycle path. I snapped one brave kid trying to cycle through - I've seen 3 fall off this morning already (see top photo).
This next photo shows the corner of our street - it looks like there's just a bit of slushy snow and water on the cobbles but this is solid ice up to 3cm thick in some places. I couldn't even walk over it when I went out to take the photo:
In this photo taken further up the street you can get a better idea of how much ice there is; what looks like white snow on the street is the uppermost surface of a thick layer of ice, roughened by traffic but no less slippery. Again, you can't walk or cycle over this at all (I've seen plenty of people pushing their bikes with long faces) and driving is risky.
I heard on the radio that between mid-December and mid-January, 17,000 people have been treated at hospital for injuries caused by falls. That's so many it's worth repeating: SEVENTEEN THOUSAND! The cost of all those accidents is around 6 BILLION euros, money which the insurance companies will recoup from all of us. So why aren't the councils salting the paths and cycle-ways? Because apparently they only worry about the roads, and by now, as you can see, plenty of them are not salted at all. There are several companies in Holland that produce salt, even one only about an hour away, but they simply can't keep up with demand despite operating at 100% capacity. Normally there are 20 days in the year when roads are salted; this year it has had to be done every day since mid- Decmeber.
It also doesn't help that so many people fail to clear the snow from the paths outside their houses, so it eventually becomes compacted into ice. Our rather uninspiring Prime Minister went on t.v. to declare that it was every citizens civic duty to keep the footpaths running alongside their properties free of snow and ice; and then showed hmself up for the dork he is by completely failing to doing so outside his own house!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Thousands Protest Against Global Warming...

...well, you've gotta laugh, right? No point keeping on grumbling about the endless snow...(mumble mumble groan)...