Its been a wonderful weekend. I’ve seen just about every member of my family – at least, of the aunts/uncles and grandparents – its been really good to touch base with everyone.

Just now i’m still at Mum and Dad’s, killing time before i have to leave to meet Mum for lunch. I’ve about an hour and thought i’d blog about the weekend. No photos though, they’ll have to wait till i get back home i think.

Friday was a very busy day. I’d offered to cook a meal for us to take down to my grandmother’s on the saturday; she was just returning from a week’s holiday herself at my uncle’s home in Newcastle, so to expect a meal would be a bit silly, even if she wasn’t 90. We ended up cooking braised lamb with flageolet beans – a delia recipe – which was absolutely gorgeous, espedcially for something a bit more special. I also did an apple pie for afters, following Michiel’s Mom’s recipe (and this time, remembered to put the egg in). That went well. On top of those i also did meatballs for friday dinner – just beef ones, this time, but it went down well with Mum and Dad, served with a rich tomato sauce and spaghetti.

Mum and I also went food shopping at the local supermarket and chatted just about all day, so it was a very busy day, with all this – and then, to top it off, we went to see Dad’s mom, Nannie, after tea, which was a lovely visit. It was good to see her again, i haven’t seen her since last November. Nannie gave me a few things – some embroidery that she wasn’t able to finish (she has carpal tunnel in her hands and that means she can no longer do many of the crafts she used to do), some tops, and a silver chain/locket bracelet that her husband had given her, my grandfather. He’s not a man i ever knew as he died before i was born, and i don’t know a great deal about him – in fact, i’ve only seen photos of him in the last few years. but it was clear this bracelet meant a great deal to Nannie. To go with it were some small silver coins – 10 cent Dutch coins, which are called Dubbeltjes. These date from before Euros, and they were the smallest coins in the world, along with a Russian coin.

Nannie had actually obtained these on a visit to the Netherlands with her “works” (her employer) back in the ’70s, and the men were all given these small coins by the works manager in case they needed to use the outside toilets. However, the men (not wanting to spend the coins, and fitting very well with their “wildplassen” Dutch counterparts) would duck behind the nearest tree instead – and Nannie threatened to take their photographs and put them on a wall of shame at work, if they didn’t give her the coins instead! When she returned she bribed someone to drill small holes in them with the intention of attaching them with links to the bracelet – only never got around to it for one reason or another. Anyway, she gave me the bracelet, links and coins, and said i could either wear the bracelet without the coins, or i could complete the job if i liked. I do like, and i will put them together, as its fitting, kind of.. well… full circle, given that my partner is Dutch, i think. So that’s something i’m very touched by, and i will cherish a lot.

Speaking of bracelets – Mum and Dad also gave me a bracelet at the weekend. This one is quite chunky, made of hemacite, from Orkney, which they brought back from holiday. I’ll try to take a photo of both of these and post here. Its a lovely bracelet which goes quite well with my style of clothing, i think it’ll see a lot of wear. Thanks, Mum & Dad!

On Saturday of course we went to see Grannie for her 90th Birthday celebrations. As i’ve already said, she was coming down from Newcastle that morning with my Uncle & Aunt, and we actually beat them to the house. Fortunately Mum has a key, so we were able to get in and warm the house up for her – we pinned happy birthday ballons to the door, decorated a little table in her sittingroom with confetti and her presents and a helium balloon, arranged some flowers Mum had bought (roses and lilies, her favorite), and got the kettle on ready for them when they arrived. Me being there was a complete surprise to Grannie, she knew Mum and Dad were driving over, but not that i was going to be there and i have to say, when she saw me, she was hugging Mum at the time, and she saw me over Mum’s shoulder, and it was almost like she couldn’t quite believe i was there until i said “hello, Grannie”. “ohhhh!” she said… “I wasn’t expecting to see you!”. She looked so happy, it was worth the work of coming down to see her. We all said hello, then went in for tea and coffee, chatting and exchanging news. Grannie sat happily opening her cards, and we arranged them around her living room along with the cards she’d received while at my Uncle’s house, i don’t think she realised quite how many people regard her so well (and how many knew about this, i think she realised from some of the cards she’d gotten that people had been talking about her, cos there were cards from some people who she didn’t even think knew her birthday was then, let alone how old she was!) so it was something else that meant a lot to her. I spent most of the day with Grannie – it was what i was there for, after all, and in the last few years when i’ve seen her, its been at Christmas and of course, then, i’m running around doing the cooking and so on. This time it was really nice just to be able to sit with her and talk about things, her memories and so on – and because of all the work i’ve put in on the family history and her memoirs that she wrote out for me about 15 years ago, i knew many of the people she was talking about anyway, we looked at photographs and i think she really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Her memory isn’t so good for recent stuff, tell her something that happened yesterday and she’d forget it five minutes later, but she’s still sharp for anything that happened when she was a young woman or a child.

She got presents from us all too – a lovely cardi and scarf from Orkney from Mum and Dad (cashmere too), and from Michiel & me she got chocolates and smellies. I introduced her to bath bombs, she loves bath salts but they’re quite hard to get these days, but bath bombs are essentially the same. I did get a little broken one to show her how they work – i just hope she remembers.

Dinner was a success – the lamb went down well, the apple pie even better. Even my uncle, who has a horror of apple pie since he was a child (something to do with being forced to eat a very badly made apple pie at school, one made with pips and all.. ewww) tried this one – and he liked it, he liked the fact that they were proper pieces of apple instead of the mush you usually get with English apple pie (which is usually made with bramley apples). I even raided Grannie’s apple tree for more apples – half my suitcase is full of them! – which i’m looking forward to turning into yet more apple pie and apple crumble (i do love a crumble, me) when i get home.

It was a long day but worth it, worth it to give Grannie that surprise, worth it to be able to tell her, “Grannie, i love you” (which you can never really say too much, to my mind), worth it to spend the time with her. That’s her real birthday present, that time, and something i will cherish for a long time to come.

Sunday – yesterday – my other Uncle (Dad’s brother) brought Nannie and his daughter, J, around for a cup of tea in the afternoon. D (my uncle) is just back from the States, where he’d spent his holiday driving down Route 66. He had a whale of a time from the sound of things, and brought back a brochure telling you all about Route 66 – it something i wouldn’t mind doing myself, i think, if i ever had the money. Dad’s sister & her husband also came over for tea that afternoon (it got quite crowded round here) and were telling everyone about their holiday in the south of France, they gave me a bottle of bordeaux, which i know Michiel will love! It was a lovely afternoon and good to see Nannie again.

Mum took a bit of time last night to teach me to crochet. It was fun, and i managed to pick it up quite quickly, she showed me where i was going wrong and i think i’ve got the hang of it now. I had her in stitches at one point, i was muttering as i was working, “wrap it over, pull it through, do one extra, wrap it over, pull it through, through the circle, do one extra.. ” and when i asked what was so funny she said she had this image of Michiel yelling at me .. “SHADDUP!” but i don’t think Michiel would do that. Still, it was fun and i’m looking forward to doing more of it when i get home.

well i’ve got to leave in 15 minutes and i still have to brush my teeth. Anything else will have to wait till i get home; i’ve tons of photos to sort out, although most of them are of family and old photos that Mum has scanned, so i won’t share those here, because of protecting people’s privacy. However, i think there are a few i can share, so look out for a post from me in the next couple of days on that.

and yes… i’m making sure i’ve got my tickets before i leave this time!!!