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!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are Those Whiskers Frozen...Or Are You Just Pleased to See Me?

"Yez, you may admire ze magnifizent whiskers....
 Yes, it's snowing again. It was one of those Sunday mornings when you stumble out of bed semi-conscious, open the curtains and fall back into bed from the sheer shock of the blinding whiteness outside. Perfect excuse to bury your head under the covers and sleep another half hour. At least, that's my response to snow.

Once I had braced myself with sufficient coffee it was time to venture out and join the bunnies in the back yard, clear the paths and dig out the car. Actually I quite like clearing the snow; it's a nice way to slowly wake up for the day, clearing neat little paths to the garage, the gates, and the footpaths around the section. Top priority is a 'thinking spot' for Punky Muffin and Dumpling to plop their butts; they dont'mind playing in snow but prefer not to sit in it.

Dumpling still gets a kick out of digging in it and was soon covered in snow, his whiskers caked. They don't feel the cold - it only snows between about 3 and -1 degrees - and it's obvious how well insultated they are because flakes landing on the fur are easily shaken off and don't tend to melt, so they stay dry. Here's some pics of my snow bunnies having fun. Enjoy!

Action Bunny flees the scene!

Monday, January 28, 2013

People Are Awesome...Yes Indeed!

This is an awesome video showing people being...well, awesome. I've posted a similar one before, they seem to be an annual occurrence. It's four and a half minutes that will have you gasping, laughing, and saying....."AWESOME!"

Monday, January 21, 2013


A story which popped up on Facebook recently that I'm sure you'll enjoy...

"In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Louisiana State University .

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same fucking elephant.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Sigh. Sometimes I really get sick of talking about my work. Don't get me wrong, I find being the editor of a magazine about nuclear power generation really interesting. It's just that some people seem to equate it with selling my soul to the devil. There is a lot of ignorance about nuclear power and most people are happy to stay ignorant, which I find a bizarre trait.
Don't worry, I'm not going to try and convince you of anything; I don't promote nuclear energy, just rational discussion based on facts. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but ignorance is just stupid. As is scaremongering. The technology is not perfect, however I'm more worried about the devastating effects of climate change in the coming few years if energy hungry countries don't use it. If you apply your objections to nuclear power to other energy technologies the results may surprise you. See if you can make it to point 3 below...I bet you'll be shocked. And maybe start wondering about where YOU live.

A preliminary report has found no observable health effects from last year's nuclear accident in Fukushima...Presenting to the UN General Assembly, UNSCEAR's chair Wolfgang Weiss said that preliminary findings were that no radiation health effects had been observed in Japan among the public, workers or children in the area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This is in line with studies already published by the World Health Organisation and Tokyo University that showed people near the damaged power plant received such low doses of radiation that no discernible health effect could be expected.

Figure above: "Nuclear energy is among those energy sources producing very low levels of carbon dioxide emissions from their full life cycle. It is closely comparable with renewables such as wind, solar and hydro in this respect."
Source: World Nuclear Association

"...the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy...
As a general clarification, ounce for ounce, coal ash released from a power plant delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage."
Source: Scientific American

Truth can be stranger...and more eye-opening...that the fictions many people willingly believe.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boy Humour

Sometimes the gender gap yawns wide in our house. It's not easy being surrounded by testosterone, and the types of jokes they prefer occasionally leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, we recently had to find a new piano teacher and I was happy to latch onto a local guy willing to take on the boys. His last name is 'Poppel' and for some reason the boys found this hilarious. We were at the dinner table when I told them this, and almsot immediately Niels said "ok, everybody say his name straight after each other."
So there sat the 3 of us saying the name, and predictably this is how the conversation ended:

"...poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel, poppel. PENIS!"

The two of them practically fell of their chairs in hysterics.  Boys.....