August 2008


says dorothy, clicking her red shoes together. Of course, she desperately wanted to go home.. and i desperately wanted to stay. I really did not want to leave the Netherlands. I’ve fallen totally in love with the country, the inhabitants.. each time i visit, i fall a little more in love with it, even with all the drawbacks (like not speaking the language, and the bloomin stairs).. i know i’ve seen the nicer parts of Holland, and that there are parts of the country that, like the UK, no one in their right mind wants to move to. But even with all that, i look around in the UK and i really wonder what this country has for me any more, other than my family and my friends.

Other than all that, i actually came home feeling refreshed and raring to go. well.. mostly. I’ve picked up a cold – i always pick up a cold when i fly, in fact i started to get it the day before we left, and the journey home wasn’t a pleasant one – drippy nose, sore back, cramps, and fighting lethargy.. i ended up sleeping on the trip from Liverpool Airport to Manchester city center (probably a blessing). We had the olibollens before we left, with coffee (this was for lunch, and was after a good breakfast of croissants, ham and cheese, and coffee, of course). Michiel did the final packing; i ran around taking photos like a madwoman. After we got home, J (who was dog/flatsitting) left fairly quickly, he had a date, we said hello to a deliriously happy puppy (and got fairly licked to death in the process) and set about unpacking and sorting the flat out. I knew if i sat down and relaxed with a cup of tea i just would not get back up again so i stripped the bed (where J had been sleeping while we were away), remade it, hoovered the flat, and got everything unpacked in fairly short order. Michiel concentrated on getting the computers sorted out, i also pulled up the garlic (which needed doing badly – its now drying in the kitchen) and after that Michiel went to get food – we ordered takeout pizza – which we ate while watching The Tudors. I crashed into bed fairly shortly after that.

Saturday involved shopping. It was also my birthday! I treated myself to a new jumper, skirt and top from the catalogue shop up the road (but i did so in typically frugal fashion – the lot only cost me £11!), and had a variety of birthday cards from friends and family. Sez posted me some chocolate, a smelly giftset (with lovely jasmine scents.. gorgeous), some cardmaking stuff (always handy, that!) and a pattern to make a winter jacket with (so i can make mine, then make one for her. LOL). i had a few text messages from people, which was lovely too. Michiel cooked for me that evening – spaghetti carbonara, so all round i had a lovely day, although having that cold wasn’t too nice.. i think its starting to break some now.

Today i started work on the photos. I’ve loaded the photos i took on day one up to flickr, and messed around with the picnik facility, which enables you to do some truly cool things with photos – i’ve saved my amended versions in the “Conversions” set if anyone wants to have a look. I’ve still got loads to post up, i went through all the photos today and deleted from the blog directory on my computer any photos i didn’t want on the blog (e.g. photos of people who haven’t consented to be on the blog, or anything that invades other people’s privacy) as well as the photos that just didn’t turn out very well (we all have them!) and got the numbers of photos down from just under 550 to 288. so it’ll take me a while to get them all loaded up.. !!! If you want to look, they’re all in the “Netherlands” set, but for now, here are some of the best ones, or what i think are the best ones… (which do you prefer?):

isnt it a picture? this, believe it or not, is at the end of the canal that runs past the bottom of Michiels parents house, about 200 yards away from their house..

isn't it a picture? this, believe it or not, is at the end of the canal that runs past the bottom of Michiel's parent's house, about 200 yards away from their house..

me, on the bridge by the windmill, all relaxed

me, on the bridge by the windmill, all relaxed

more behind the cut…..

(more…)

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we decided not to go to Amersfoort yesterda. By the time we’d gotten up and breakfasted it was rather late to do that, and still go to Amsterdam to meet up with the friends, so we decided to take it easy instead. We caught the local bus to Leiden (chatting with an old lady at the bus stop who first spoke to me in dutch, and when i apologised in English for not speaking Dutch she said, all cheerily, “that’s okay, i lived for 27 years in Scotland!” and we chatted away for a while!), pausing at various stalls and shops in the market in Leiden (Michiel bought me a very nice faux diamond ring), and admiring a stall with lots of indonesian foods – yum! – before we stopped to have a greek snack – Giros Pita, which is a pitta bread filled with tzaztaki (or however that’s spelled), lamb meat, onions and salad… it was gorgeous, but i couldn’t finish mine, they’re surprisingly filling, but Michiel was in absolute nirvana, he’d waited a long time for those!

We invested in some fisherman’s friend after that (the tzaztaki was rather garlicky!) and caught the train to Amsterdam, where, after a bit of phone hacking (Michiel had borrowed his dad’s mobile to call our (English) friend, who was in Amsterdam on holiday, to make arrangements to meet up – only to find his dad’s mobile was blocked to international calls.. argh), we managed to reach P (our friend) and arranged to meet at the National Monument outside the Dam. We duly met up about half an hour later, went to a nearby bar, where i ordered a black russian. For those who don’t know, a black russian is tia maria, vodka and coke – normally you get a lil bit of tia maria, a lil bit of vodka, and a whopping great bit of coke, right? my glass arrived, 2/3rds full of tia maria and vodka… and a coke bottle next to it. errrrrrrrr…. these guys are trying to get me drunk!!! I ended up borrowing another glass from the bar, and splitting the booze between 2 cokes, but boy, that bar doesn’t believe in half measures!! We stayed there for a while, drinking and chatting, mostly about IT geekery and slackware… Amsterdam being Amsterdam P was rolling a joint, and being curious (aka nosey) i watched him. i noticed he took weed from two different bags, and i asked why – seems that weed can have different effects, and in order to get a nice feeling you have to combine the different types of weed properly. Now that, i didn’t know. I thought weed was just weed, you know? The bar was a great one – it was decorated by souveniers from all over the world; licence plates from all over, football scarves (Dad: they had birmingham city, but not villa or the baggies.. such a travesty!), and various types of foreign money over the bar, from american dollars, canadian dollars, to scottish pounds and indonesian notes.. quite wonderful. I could’ve stayed for ages just looking around the bar itself. However, it was not to be – P got a call from another mutual friend, T, who we’d arranged to meet, and we set off back to the Dam to hook up with him.

We were sat outside a little cafe when T showed up, drinking coffee (they had the most gorgeous smelling orchid arrangements on the tables there), but we soon finished those.. P and T wanted to find a coffee bar: for the uninitiated, you cannot smoke tobacco inside bars in Amsterdam any more, like the UK, the Netherlands is officially smoke free. If you want to buy weed you have to buy it at licenced places: coffeeshops. You can still smoke pure weed in these coffeeshops, but you’re no longer officially allowed to smoke tobacco there. Anyway, we found one of these coffeeshops in the red light district (or if it wasn’t in it, it was very close to it), and P and T led us in. I’d never been into one before: on our last visit to Amsterdam, neither of us were terribly interested n going into one – for Michiel, he’d grown up with this so there wasn’t the excitement about it that many people have, and for me, well, i’m just not interested in that stuff either (i don’t even like getting drunk). This particular one was very dark, the walls were painted black, with .. well.. graffiti would be the best way to describe it! Thousands of people must have written upon the walls and ceilings with everything available – pens, pencils, spray cans, you name it.. just, everywhere you looked, was the scrawl of graffiti. It was quite cool in a way, and certainly the intense smoky atmosphere, darkness and closeness made it feel very womblike, something that was helped by the loud music and strong beat. we ordered drinks (to smoke there, you have to buy a drink, even if you have the weed already) and found a seat – i fell into mine, and damn near struggled to get out again, it was that comfy and soft!! At first i was rather tense, looking around, i suppose my mom would’ve described it as a den of iniquity, people nearby were smoking through a wierd looking contraption – which on researching on wikipedia turns out to be a bong – and there was this very relaxed atmopshere, so i soon relaxed with them and sipped on my drink, a lemon and ginger tea.

After P and T had drunk their drinks and had a cigarette, we all left to find a bar that served alcohol, but after one more drink, Michiel and i decided to call it a night, and parted company with P and T. We went back to Amsterdam station, got a kroket (croquette, it might be called in the UK) and fries (with the mayo, naturellement!) and legged it to the train, and sat happily eating on the train as we sped back to Leiden. We changed there to get back to Alphen aan den Rijn, where Michiel’s mum kindly picked us up from the station.

Today we relaxed some, had a leisurely breakfast before heading into Alphen aan den Rijn for the afternoon to do some shopping. Mostly presents for people but we did get some Olibollen (which we’re having with coffee tomorrow morning), and an icecream – i had stroopwaffel and chocolate flavour… very very yum! Michiel’s Mum treated us to a teapot – i’ve always loved the teapot she has, which is a vacum flask as well, so it keeps the tea warm, and holds a large amount of water (a full kettle’s worth) – and a box of various fruit teas to go with it. We also went to Aldi, which is a different Aldi to the one in the UK, we got some nasi goreng packs there, packs of mainly spices which i can do what we call “lazy nasi goreng”, and its a good meal, with some fried eggs ontop and sambal mixed in (and one Michiel loves). you get 6 packs of spices in a box, for 99cents, which is a very good deal, so it works out to around 12p per meal, if not less (for the spices part i mean). After that we drove home, then we walked up to the local supermarket to pick up some things – Calve mayo (the famous mayo to have with fries!), kejap manis, which is indonesian sweet soy sauce, stroop, which is dutch pancake syrup, a sort of spaghetti carbonara mix, which again Michiel loves – i think we got about 8 packs of that, some chocolate sprinkle breakfast stuff for sez… oh various things. Oh, and vocking wurst! Its pronounced ‘vocking vost’ (i kid you not), which had me in absolute fits of giggles the other night when they were telling me about it. Its a sausage, liverwurst, i suppose a little bit like pate, you can cut it into slices and eat it as it is, or spread it on bread. Its gorgeous, but the name.. oh dear. Apparently Michiel’s mum lived near the family home as a little girl, and all of Michiel’s family is crazy about the stuff (good thing i like it too then, really, hmm?).

we’ve had fun packing tonight, trying to get everything into the suitcases, under the prescribed weight, and without risking breaking anything, but hopefully we’ve managed it.. Michiel is very good at packing, in these circumstances i just put everything on the bed and leave him to it. Tomorrow we’re flying out at around 4pm, and will probably get home around 7pm.. we’ll be unpacking, sorting things out – and i have around 500 photos to sort out – this is going to be fun!! still, hopefully then i can write down anything that i’ve missed, and then its a case of getting back to normal.

I’m going to miss the Netherlands. Its a wonderful country, i really do recommend it to anyone who wants to visit, especially if you get away from Amsterdam (i mean, its okay to visit, but unless you like the stuff its famous for, i’d go elsewhere) and spend time with the dutch people. I can’t wait to come back, but i think it may be a while before we do, sadly..

anyway. see you all back in the UK!

The weekend was very very hectic; yesterday even more so! let me see if i can backtrack some..

Friday: as i said in my soundbite, we spent the day at Michiel’s parent’s home, alone, except for the trip to the shops to get some food for dinner. It was a lovely day, we didn’t do much, just rested up because we knew the weekend would be heavy on us both.

Saturday: a small family party was held for Michiel’s dad at Oma (Michiel’s grandmother)’s house. Basically various people would visit during the day for coffee & apple pie, or stay for a proper meal – various aunts and uncles of Michiel, on both his parents sides*, Michiel’s sister & her husband.. it was a lovely day, as i said in the soundbite, very tiring but a good day for all that.

Sunday: another family day, although this one didn’t start till afternoon: Michiel’s sister and husband brought their two girls round to visit. they were very taken with their “Tantie Kethie ALL the way from ENGLAND!” (or at least, the older one was, the younger one doesn’t care about England at this point, but boy, she’s cute). The older one, S**, was very shy at first, but we swapped presents (we gave S some children’s makeup, and F, her 18 month old sister, a bracelet on stretchy elastic – apparently she loves them, loves wearing ropes of necklaces at the moment! – and they gave us a Dutch apron, and a dutch teatowel – apron for me, since i do the cooking, teatowel for Michiel, who does the cleaning!) and S put some sparkly stickons on me, and proudly counted to 10 in English. that and a good play session with lego broke the ice, even though i don’t speak much Dutch and she doesn’t speak any English, we got on okay and she wanted to sit next to me at dinner (wasn’t so interested in Michiel, he’s just boring old Uncle Michiel, she’s met him before, she likes the sparkling new Tante.. !!!). F on the other hand was much bolder, and until S claimed me, was quite happy to toddle around – we toddled to the end of the drive (she’s still none too steady on her feet and prefers to walk around holding to things – either a table/chair or the hands of the nearest grownup) where i picked her up and we pointed at the dog (honje, or “ruff ruff”) and various other things, then went allll the way back where we sat on a bench and we looked at the motifs of animals on the back of the benches and i made the appropriate animal noises. I loved spending time with them and its reinforced the desire to have children of my own, i don’t know when or if, that will ever happen. ah well. We also spent time chatting with the rest of the family, catching up with Michiel’s sister, and the aunt / uncle who we visited last week also came with their two teenagers, so it was a big family gathering that sat down to eat a large chinese takeout meal in the evening – gorgeous food though!

Monday: we were up very early to visit another member of Michiel’s family. Events meant we could only visit them at a very early hour, so we were up at 5.45 after just 5 hours sleep (at least i had that, Michiel didn’t even get that). After the visit Michiel’s mum dropped us at the main station in Den Haag (or The Hague, to English people) where we caught the train to Dordrecht. Michiel had lived there when he was younger, before he moved to the UK, so he knew the town quite well. When we got there it was quite early still and so i suggested that we go to McDonalds for breakfast, killing two birds with one stone – i’ve always been curious as to whether the McDonalds tastes different in different countries. This was a huge mistake: we had an egg mcmuffin each, and it was vile. really, really vile. i love egg muffins in England, so what was different about it, i don’t know, there was less salt and the cheese tasted different, but that won’t be an experience i’ll be repeating, i think. I don’t know whether it was just a bad restaurant or whether it’s like that in all the Netherlands, but … i’m not keen to find out. After that we walked around Dordrecht for a bit.

Dordrecht sits on the banks of 2 rivers, which combine into one very large one, and as such as a little harbour (or series of harbours) of its own. Its an old town, with lots of old architecture – bridges, merchant houses, and a church – the Groet Kerk (Great Church) with an incomplete spire. i told Michiel i thought it was either incomplete or had been damaged, and not fully repaired and he shrugged – i looked it up on wikipedia when we got home and turns out i was right. (WIN!) There were lots of boats too, including a couple of steam boats (yes, dad, i got photos) which were lovely to see. We stopped for Koffie (coffee) and apple pie on the banks of the river, and ate outside. Lovely apple pie – the Dutch make it deeper than the English do, i think, and put in cinnamon and raisins too, which is lovely (I have the recipe from Michiel’s mom – a closely guarded secret!). After Koffie we walked around Dordrecht some more, got some postcards, then headed for the train station and decided to go elsewhere – we changed at Tieborg – where i had my first experience of public toilets in the Netherlands, i wasn’t too impressed. they’re kind of metal boxes, you put a 50 cent coin in, its dark when you open the door, you have to go in and shut the door (and if you don’t do your business in 15 minutes the door is locked and the police called. i suppose it stops vagrants using it to sleep in). the light comes on, and the toilet and floor is invariably wet. I thought it was very bad housekeeping, but turns out after each person has visited the whole thing is disinfected – something Michiel neglected to tell me! i tried to …. do the business, as it were, without touching the seat, shuddering the whole time (and if i hadn’t been truly desperate i would’n’t have used it) then got out of there, toute suite (as delboy would say). only afterwards did Michiel explain about them. Don’t like them, i think.

After Tieborg we settled on Arnhem first, but decided to get off at Nijmegen. Shortly after we got off the train though i started limping badly – we’d sat down momentarily on a marble wall at Dordrecht, which was slightly higher than my legs, and i think when i got down i banged my knee or something, it was fine then, but after sitting for half an hour on the train it had seized up. Michiel wanted to go home but i convinced him to stay – if nothing else i was hungry! – and we found a kebab shop.

I can’t say much about Nijmegen – i only saw the station and a bit of the centre – but i do want to tell you about this kebab shop! If you’re ever in Nijmegen, go there – the guy in there saw us alright, he did us a shwarma kebab each, which is a kebab where the meat is cut up quite small, with a garlic sauce, in pita bread, with fries and salad on the side.. he gave Michiel a beer too, and by then it was really warm, so we were both grateful for the cold drinks (I got a coke). Unhealthy, maybe, but by god, it tasted gorgeous, and the whole thing came to 17 Euros, which is pretty good going. Its called Istanbul Doner, on Molenstraat, and their website is http://www.istanbuldoner.nl – definetly not to be missed if you’re ever there!

After the kebab shop we walked slowly back to the station – or rather, Michiel walked, i hobbled/limped, then got the train back to Arnhem. Turns out the train was late so we had to run/limp to another platform, where we boarded the train and flomped into a carriage. we were hoping that train would take us all the way to Utrecht, but it stopped at Arnhem and we had to get a rather crowded commuter train the rest of the way instead of the nice non crowded, with large open windows train we had boarded at Nijmegen. ah well. At Utrecht we rehobbled through the station (Utrecht is a large station) and boarded the train to Alphen aan den Rijn, then caught the bus home, where we staggered through the door, made a cup of tea, and collapsed on the couch. we were both extremely tired, and we’d both fallen asleep on the train on the way home. We had a quiet evening then collapsed into bed around midnight.

Today: has been a day off! we slept late, had breakfast around midday, i walked up to the shops (where i posted my postcards) and did a little food shopping for Michiel’s Mum, and Michiel’s mum cooked us courgette soup (which was gorgeous and is definetly going to be made by me at home) followed by cheese fondue – which was so much fun and really tasty as well.

Tomorrow: Amersfoort, to look around and possibly visit Oma, if she’s home, and then to Amsterdam in the evening, if my knee holds out, to visit some of the guys from the geek linux chat channel we hang out in, then home again. Thursday, shopping for presents, packing and stuff, and more relaxing. Friday we’re home.. where i’m faced with the prospect of sorting out and uploading rather a lot of photos – 401 so far, and there’s some on Michiel’s mum’s camera that i borrowed when my own memory card got full one day, and there’s other photos on Michiel’s Mum’s camera that i want, of family events and so on… and a couple of photos from Michiel’s sister!!! this weekend is going to be heavy with the uploads i think.. !! Anyway, will try to blog tomorrow night or thursday…

* maybe its unique to my family but in Holland, the families of a married couple seem to mix a lot more than my family.. i really can’t see my dad’s mom sitting down with my mom’s brother or something, unless it was a wedding or a christening, or a really big birthday/wedding anniversary, those kind of big events, whereas in the Netherlands, it seems to happen a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, i really like it, the interaction, this feeling that family comes first, but it takes time to get used to.

** astute readers will have noticed that i’ve avoided mentioning anyone’s names in my blog. It seems only fair, i won’t name people unless they’ve given consent to be named. About as far as i will go is initials, no one ever got identified from an initial! You also won’t see photos of other people on this blog unless they’ve consented for it to go on there.

yesterday was about finding ourselves again: like a second honeymoon (except we’re not married so technically we never had the first), we spent time alone in a relaxed setting, and refound each other a bit. we did a little food shopping, i got to try out some dutch. I cooked in Michiel’s Mom’s wonderful kitchen. We both relaxed, in our own seperate ways, then came together for dinner, which was eaten in the kitchen dining room, looking out over the canal, with the doors open, the balmy summer evening… we’ve needed this day for a long time.

today was about love & laughter, hugs and quiet words, tears of sadness, tears of joy, sharing food, sharing drink, sharing ourselves.. sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Family, and the love and joy of that. I feel privileged to think of myself as a member of Michiel’s family too, to know them and to share today with them.

i think i’ve figured out part of what it is i like so much about the Dutch. You see, if you look around the houses here, the architecture, you will see that the majority of windows are very high, in the room (they frequently go up to the ceiling of the room, rather than stopping a bit short of the ceiling as windows in English homes do (all i have to compare it with really). in addition, there seems to be .. i dunno how to explain it, an expectation of privacy. Many people have their curtains open, no net curtains, both at night and during the day, even when the main rooms face onto a main road. the gardens are open to people walking by, and while people might look if they see a neighbour they know in the garden and say hello, there is the expectation of privacy further into the house, regardless of whether you can actually see in. For example, Michiel’s parents house has a footpath between the canal and the garden, a public footpath, that runs from the main road (that ends at the footpath) behind all the houses that back onto that canal, and Michiel’s Uncle and Aunt (who we went to visit today), their new house backs onto a public park, but instead of the end of the garden being marked by a fence, its marked by some very low bushes (so low you could easily step over or walk through them).. and that is it. from the house it is lovely, being able to look out over the park, but people can easily see into their garden and say hello. its a strange way to live and one i would find quite difficult to get my head around. Having said that, space is at a premium here in the Netherlands and so people do live rather ontop of each other, the houses tend to be maximised downstairs with relatively small sleeping rooms. its a very different mindset, a different way to live, i think, and perhaps more community minded.

As i said earlier we visited Michiel’s Uncle and Aunt today (if you’re reading this, B, Hi there!). It was an adventure and a half getting there – we caught a bus to Alphen aan den Rijn, wandered around the shops there, including lunch (fries and dutch mayo, more about that in a minute), then found the train station (it didn’t help that they had moved the bus station since Michiel was last here – most inconsiderate, as Michiel pointed out, at length, and loudly!) to discover that they had also changed the train so that the train station we were going to get off at, even though it is on the same line as Alphen aan den Rijn (pronounced – i think – Al-fen aa-an den Ree-gen), it no longer stops there on the way to Utrecht. You have to stop at a previous train station then get another train to this station. ARgh. so we go from Alphen to Woeden (pronounced veurden), then another train from Woeden to Vlueten where Michiel’s Aunt picked us up in their car. They actually live in Maarssen (I spelled it wrong last night) but Vlueten is about as near to them as Maarssen station is and Vlueten is marginally easier for us to get to.

We had a lovely evening chatting away with Michiel’s Uncle and Aunt and their two children, a 16 year old lad who has grown so *much* since i last saw him, and who speaks really good English, and a lovely 14 year old girl. We got to meet their two cats (I got photos of one of them, who loves to sit at the table, or walk along the backs of the dining chairs as we eat!) and their happy go lucky little King Charles Spaniel. They’d just come back from holiday themselves, they’d gone to Italy, to visit Rome and Pompeii (lucky things), as well as a few other places – the Vatican, the adriatic coast, Vesuvius of course. I got to see the holiday snaps and there were some lovely photos there… i would love to visit there myself one day.

Oh… the food. If you’ve never visited the Netherlands, and you do go, get some chips at some point and ask for mayo. Trust Me.. ask for mayo. the mayo there is smooth, rich, heavier on the mustard than Hellman’s, but.. oh god.. it tastes absolutely fandabiedoziefantasticmeltinthemouthgorgeous with chips. if i eat nothing else here i would be happy with chips and mayo (that reminds me, must pick up a jar of the stuff at the supermarket). There are other wonderful things here to eat as well (and i’ll probably tell you about a lot of them) but.. trust me. chips and mayo. lol.

Dinner at the Uncle and Aunt’s home was lovely: starter with smoked salmon, smoked eel, a sauce (I’m not sure what it was, i should’ve asked, but it was lovely – Michiel reckons garlic sauce) and salad. I’ve only ever had smoked eel here in the Netherlands, and i wasn’t very sure at first but its definetly an acquired taste, but one i’ve come to love. the main course was chicken pieces – wings, legs, thighs – in three flavours, spicy chicken, tandoori chicken and … some kind of indonesian flavoured chicken. More chips, home cooked this time, and more mayo (oh no.. not more chips/mayo!!). Chocolate icecream finished it all off – that, and reebibos tea with chocolate. yum.

Michiel’s parents are away over the weekend – they have gone to stay with Michiel’s grandmother in preparation for a party there on saturday for Michiel’s Dad’s birthday – so we have the house to ourselves tomorrow – yay! – and i get to take over the kitchen – double yay! – and we’re going food shopping – triple yay! – so i is a happy bunny!

Photos today include breakfast (which i described last night), dutch architecture, the cute cat at Michiel’s Uncle/Aunt’s home, and a few shots of their garden too. I even took some of the train – they have double decker trains here! – and Michiel threatened to disown me – he gets fed up with me playing tourist sometimes. But i think he would be upset if i lost my sense of wonder at this country, at discovering new things about his homeland, a sort of.. i dunno. joie de vive.. when you see someone else discovering your country and you see it through their eyes its something quite special…

First off: the bad news: I’m not going to be able to post photos from here. You’ll all have to wait till i get home! The little laptop we’ve got here isn’t up to much, and can’t cope with lots of photos so they’re being transferred to my memory stick as i go along, and I’ll upload the good ones when i get home.

The good news: I’ve already taken 170 photos. Oops. i got a bit carried away with the available opportunities – Michiel’s parent’s home is a beautiful one, and although many are duff shots, there are also many lovely ones that i’m really proud of.

The journey over was okay. very tiring: we left home just before 2pm, went to Manchester coach station, bought tickets (i went free as i have a disabled concessionary pass) to John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, then waited a couple hours for the flight. They’ve instituted new security procedures: if you want to pay £2 each and bypass the queues, you can, otherwise it takes around 30 minutes to an hour to get past security. Bah. There were many very stupid people there – one spectacular example was this really stupid group, a family, who insisted on getting right to the front of the queue for getting on the airplane, even though they were told that parents with children under 5 and a certain other group go first, then group A (which we were), then group B (according to when they had checked in – we checked in just after the checkin point opened). Despite being told they were group B they refused to move out of the way so that others could get through, meaning anyone else had to push and shove past them.. stupid idiots… Michiel shot a dirty look at them as he went through the easyjet final boarding gate and i know he was so tempted to say something, but i’m glad he didn’t, it might’ve caused a ruckus and that we didn’t need.

The flight otherwise was uneventful, although the plane seemed to shake and bounce a lot more than i remember from previous flights, perhaps the weather was a bit rough on it. We got through passport control at Schipol relatively quickly and hooked up with Michiel’s mom, then drove “home”; we were here by 10.30pm, 9.30pm UK time, so a very long day.

Today we’ve taken it easy – chatted with Michiel’s Mom, went for a walk, took photos, had gorgeous 2 inch high steaks for dinner – i don’t really do steak, i dislike the hard work of chewing, so i ate about half of mine and gave the rest to a very grateful and happy Michiel. That was served with new potatoes, green beans and jus from the meat.. lovely.

Tomorrow we’re going to Alphen aan den Rijn, one of the local towns, to do a little bit of shopping, before catching the train to… Maarstn (i think i got that right) to visit with Michiel’s uncle – this is a much younger brother of Michiel’s mum, so he is nearer in age to Michiel than to Michiel’s Mum. He is married to a lovely lady and they have two children, both teenagers. I’m looking forward to seeing them, been a very long time since we saw them.

On saturday is a party for Michiel’s father; his birthday was last week so its a belated party. All the wider family (Michiel’s parents both come from large families) will be there, as will Oma (Michiel’s grandmother, Oma is dutch for grandmother), Michiel’s sister and brother-in-law, and i’m looking forward to seeing them too. Sunday Michiel’s sister may come for a visit here with her children, two girls, a 4 year old and an 18month old, who won’t be at the party, so it’ll be a chance to spoil them rotten – they’re adorable girls. We’re hoping to fit in a visit another day to Oma too, on her own, and on Wednesday there’s a trip to Amsterdam to meet up with some of Michiel’s friends from the Slackware chat channels we both hang out in – should be fun.

Either way, it will be a busy trip – i’ll try to blog as much as i can, for my own memory, if nothing else – but if not, i’ll do my best when i get back – but a fun one.. afterwards, we’ll have to go home for a break and a very relieved to see us jess (who has been left at home with a flat/dogsitting friend)…

just a quickie, cos i want to get an early night.. i didn’t get the blue top finished tonight, so am going to try to finish it quickly tomorrow. Its almost there – just got to sew the skirt to the bodice, put the zip in, and hem it, so i don’t think it will take too long – I’m hoping to get a scarf, scrunchie and hair ribbon run up as well, but we’ll see. However, i also have to iron all the clothes going in the suitcases, pack and do some other stuff tomorrow so even when i do get the blue top finished i’m not sure i’ll have time to take a proper photo of it – so here’s one that at least shows you roughly how it’ll look. I’ll try to get one taken at some point though!

just a rough idea - skirt has to be properly attached (its only held on by pins at the moment), the zip put in, and the skirt hemmed.. not much!!

just a rough idea - skirt has to be properly attached (its only held on by pins at the moment), the zip put in, and the skirt hemmed.. not much!!

we’re flying out to the Netherlands on tuesday, so my next blog (if i don’t get time to blog tomorrow) will be from foreign soil – see you all out there!

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