maandag 30 maart 2009

Seven things that should not happen in a supermarket!

You place a packet of white, fluffy, sweet smelling marshmallows on the belt at the checkout, and the checkout girl picks them up and smells the bag before passing them through the price scanner. No! Don’t do that! These are my marshmallows – they belong to me – even the smell belongs to me, and I’m not sharing it!

You are packing the scanned articles into your shopping bag when the same check out girl passes the bag of white, fluffy, sweet smelling marshmallows to her colleague on the next checkout so she can smell them too. No! don’t do that! These actions are an invasion of my olfactory ownership!

You have chosen a beautiful bunch of fresh, crisp, green asparagus and on getting to the checkout find they are not priced. You stand waiting while the checkout girl rings for a price. While she waits for an answer she absent mindedly fondles the lovely pointed firm tips of my asparagus, stroking and caressing them, feeling the ridges of the buds under her fingers. No! don’t do that! I am planning a superb entrĂ©e with these asparagus tips, they will be delicately poached until just tender, then served dripping with butter on a pristine white plate. How can I serve them with confidence when I know your hands have been all over them?

You get to the checkout with a selection of fast food; microwave goodies you are going to serve on those nights when you just have to eat and run. The check out girl picks up a packet of microwave spare ribs.
“do you like these, then?” she holds them dubiously, as if the pack were a dead sea creature served by south pacific islanders as a prelude to a cannibal feast. I don’t have to justify my food choices to you! Your job is to scan these items, take money and give change. Not judge what I and my family eat!

You are walking past the frozen food section when you meet someone you have not seen for months, a brief “hello, how are you?” develops into a blow by blow account of her divorce from her alcoholic husband; the recent death of her boss at the workplace; and the subsequent stressful restructuring of the company. Forty five minutes later and I’m wondering how it is I don’t have the technique to guide this overburdened woman to a secluded coffee corner, rather than blocking other customers’ access to the frozen peas.

For the next few weeks every time you visit the supermarket you see a certain persons ex husband in the wine and beers section, and take a detour each time to avoid him!

The person behind you at the queue for the check out says “hallo.” You turn and recognise one of your daughter’s old school teachers. You say “hi, how are you, I have not seen you for ages!” and she launches into a detailed description of her burnout and retirement from teaching, which continues as you both leave the check out area, standing another thirty minutes are she goes though the positive aspects of her burn out. My technique is getting better, we did manage to have some of our conversation in the relative seclusion of the supermarket car park.

donderdag 19 maart 2009

how to buy a horse in Holland part 2 (by Jolanda)

this is Wahid, the horse we looked at on wednesday. He lives in Noord-Brabant, that is right at the belgium border. we had to drive at least 2 hours before we got there. I thought he was beautiful. and he rode wel. but mum and i both did not ride at the same level as we usually do. We were very careful and were a bit uncomfortable. not because of the horse, but because the owners were watching us. Next time we go mum said that I should ride him for a whole hour and do some jumping too. Wahid was very gentle and very sweet too. the only thing was that this horse was very close with his owner. he followed her like a puppy. which can be good but can make it very hard for us to bond with him.

zondag 1 maart 2009

How to buy a horse in Holland - Part 1

We’ve been talking about buying a horse for years, the top present on Jolanda’s wish list for “Sint” was always “a pony” as she got older and bigger, the type of pony changed, from “Shetlander” to “Welsh” to an E pony. She no longer believes in Sint, but this year, when her “Droom Paard” became an “Andalusian stallion” advertised on and available in Friesland for a mere eight thousand euros. We started to look seriously at more practical options.
But I cannot blame the pressure Jolanda has put us under, I won’t deny that owning a pony was always my childhood dream too, and I am a firm believer in “living your dream” even if it does take forty years to achieve!
After we discussed it as a family, and John admitted that he had no arguments against the idea left, and getting advise from people we trust in the local horse fraternity; Jolanda drew up a list of what she wanted in a perfect horse, and got the green light to trawl the net for horses.
She’s a clever girl, and did not only look on one site, but compared with marktplaats, and found a really pretty 4 year old gelding on offer on both sites, for different prices! We decided to contact the people advertising on sporthorses, and got an appointment to see it yesterday.
We got up bright and early and set off for the stables which were about thirty minutes away. First impressions were really favourable, the farm and stables looked really professional, and as we walked through the line of stalls to the office, we passed some beautiful looking horses.
The girl showing us the horse was great, with the sort of laid back, calm approach to riding that sets you at your ease.
In real life the horse was really pretty, quite small (thankfully) and nice eyes. I have never even thought of what you look for when you are buying a horse, but he was rugged up when we first saw him, and I really wanted to see him “naked” so to speak!
He did not disappoint, although we noticed he had a really slow amble as he walked though to the saddling up area. As the girl was getting the tack, I started to run my hands over him - with no idea what I needed to feel for, but it was obvious that his muscles were really soft; the ponies we know work out each day, and they are fit, with firm muscles.
Before he was tacked, she let him loose in the arena, and he had a great run around, he looked lively, but Jolanda thought he seemed to put his feet down heavily.
We had been chatting all the time with the girl, and she was really open in her answers, but when I asked if he was known to buck, she sort of ummed and muttered that all young horses have that in their character.
She saddled him up then, and she rode him first to show us what he could do – it was not so much – he might be zadelmaak (broken in) but he was all over the place – did not even stay on the hoofslag (round the edge of the arena). It took her ages to get him into canter, too. We saw the buck he gave as he cantered from E to B. By the time she was finished she was the colour of beetroot, and sweating!
Jolanda was brave enough to want to try him out, (I would have done it for her, honest!) so popped her hat on, took her coat and scarf off, and hopped up onto him.
She took him round a couple of times in trot; and did a few circles, and changes of direction. Before she went into canter, the girl suggested Jolanda should try him with spurs, and fixed a pair on her boots – Jolanda has never ridden in spurs.
We kind of both thought there would be problems with cantering, but as I was on the ground filming, and Jolanda was about 20 meters away on a horse, we couldn’t really discuss it.
She popped him into canter and he kicked the skirting boards, so she tried again and he went into a series of bucks, trying to get rid of her. I did not get that on film, as there is something incredibly scary about watching your 12 year old daughter fighting an angry horse.
However, she rode it out, then got a nice canter out of him finally. When they finished, she was really tired, and he was too!
So he’s not the horse for us, I don’t like the bucking, and Jolanda found him hard work to ride, and couldn’t imagine having to train him from zero to where she wants to get him. Looks aren’t everything as they say!
He is not really a good first horse, but to someone who wants the challenge, he would be a great buy.