woensdag 26 december 2007

Tweede Kerstdag

Its traditional to go out for a breath of fresh air on Boxing day, to walk off the excesses of the day before and feel as if the holiday was not totally wasted by us being totally wasted!

My family were dressed and ready to go by 1.15 p.m. - a personal record, and we set of for the coast, in full sunshine and full of hope for the easy trip ahead.

First problem: Satnav was not working, but no matter, I know the way!

Second problem: left hand indicator was not working, no matter, just a new bulb needed, as a fuse was out!

Third problem: the Alkmaar Ring....... Its beaten us more times than we care to remember, and this time was no exception. We wanted to go west, but only ring north was open - so no problem, we go round east and north and we will get to the coast in the end!

25km later and there was a glimmer of hope that we would be able to turn west - but we were much further up the coast than our original plan. No problem - we could go to Schoorl!
We joined the other hundreds of cars similarly diverted, and sat in the traffic for another 20 mins.

Tempers were beginning to fray, to say the least, as we finally made it into Schoorl Centrum, found a car park and paid the parking with John muttering we would need LPG before we tried to go back home.

We walked the 100meters into the centrum to be confronted with the main atraction - A HILL.

Only in Holland would you make a hill into an attraction - cafes clustered at the bottom of the 51meter high sand duin, their teraces were full of parents watching offspring struggle up the incline, and abandoned grandparents stood lonely at the bottom as the rest of the family streaked ahead.

We braved the slope, and it was a challenge after years on the flat, but I was not about to be outdone by buxom blonde amsterdammers in high heeled boots and leather trousers, or four year olds little girls powering up it pushing pink babyborn buggies, so, stopping frequently to admire the view, we reached the top, and had a lovely walk in the dunes and pine woods beyond.
We reached a popular outlook point and glimsed the sea in the distance, but any vague idea we had of actually reaching the beach was nonsense; A map of the area would have been essential, as well as emergency rations, and one of those tents Ray Mears seems to be able to knock up in an instant in any sort of terrain!
We felt quite proud of ourselves, as we found our way back though Schoorl and found the car. It was a relief that we found the satnav worked now, and set it to guide us to a garage selling LPG and through the maze of Alkmaar. The first objective was sucessful, but the Alkmaar ring defeated even TomTom, and we ended up in a garden centre Car Park.....

zaterdag 22 december 2007

Skating in Monnickendam

Its been very cold for the last week, this is the first day of the school holidays!

Winter wonderland

The mist that has been hanging over noord holland for the last week has produced the most spectactular hoar frost that makes our beautiful landscape even more spectactular, here are a few shots I took this morning on Monnickenmeer.

woensdag 31 oktober 2007

April 2007
Arriving in Amsterdam today is chaotic; Centraal Station, and indeed most of the city, is in the middle of a huge building project, the Noord/Zuid lijn – the underground system due for completion in 2011. Chaos does not stop Amsterdam offering an unparalleled tourist experience. The city provides everything from sex to soft drugs and diamonds to dancing; not to mention raw herring, cheese and tulips.

My Amsterdam is somewhat less brash, however. Friends hold art events in cellars or squats; we meet to eat and chat in small restaurants in the Jordaan. We walk along quiet canals on Sunday mornings, where we see no one but a serene transvestite in tweed skirts and beard arm in arm with his wife. We shop in street markets; eat Turkish pizza for lunch in a church reinvented as a grand café. We go to “The Movies” an art deco cinema which serves dinner before the film and dessert after the film ends.

My Amsterdam is intimate and inviting, seductive but paced to my needs and wants. I don’t feel rushed or pressured here, I have freedom to do anything I want, but most of all I can be myself.

Walking on Marken

September 2007
The kindest thing to say about my efforts at exercise is that I enjoy seasonal sport; swimming and cycling in the summer, ice skating in the winter and brisk walks in the spring and autumn. On paper that looks very good, but add in the sporadic nature of my efforts, and you begin to get the whole picture.

Over the last couple on years, myself and a neighbour have walked together, sometimes, once a week, sometimes once a fortnight; over the summer holidays with the kids off school, however, there was no opportunity. This week, we finally decided to walk one morning. The kids were at school and we set off as soon as they were away. We have the advantage of having open countryside on our doorstep, often we set off from home and in a couple of hours have completed a circle walk in the polders around our village. This time we took the car, and drove 10 minutes to Marken, parking on the causeway at the start of the dike ringing the island, our plan being to walk the full circumference of the island.

The sky was milky white and the Ijsselmeer was calm. There was an incredible stillness lying over the fields and the water, broken only by the birdsong. There are small groups of dark green wooden houses scattered around Marken; but I had never noticed how close some of them are to the waters edge; I had never noticed either, the small orchards screened by hawthorn and wild rose bushes. Halfway round the island and we reached the lighthouse; at the end of its spit of land; the sandy beach a resting place for rowing boats. On the path from the lighthouse to the harbour we came across several tiny brown lizards, warming themselves in the strengthening sunlight.

We had seen no one until we came into the harbour, where a few yachtsmen were preparing to sail, an a solitary old man in traditional dress stood passing the time of day with a shopkeeper. It was early; and we had time for coffee in the only café open on the waterfront. And then another ten minutes along the dike and we were back at the car, and home before 11.00a.m. relaxed, happy and feeling as if we had been on holiday.