zaterdag 18 december 2010

Christmas rituals - christmas cards

My mum used to sit down at the folding green baize card table a few weeks before Christmas and line up the cards, stamp books and her address books, ready to send our christmas wishes across the globe.
With her good fountain pen in her hand she selected each card carefully, wrote a personal letter to each recipiant, and addressed the envelope in flowing copperplate. The pile of addressed envelopes grew, as she methodically worked her way through the Australian and New Zealand friends and relatives, then the european ones. even the UK addresses were tackled geographically, London, Lytham and Manchester first, and finally the local mail. There was a regular trip to the letter box to get the cards off before the post deadlines for 2nd class mail was missed, and a flurry of last minute activity as the local cards were hand delivered en route to christmas parties and carol concerts.
She had a ritual which was hard to beat, although over the years I have done my best, through changing times. Sometimes I think her way was the best way.
I begin with good intentions, I buy my cards early. I have my list of addresses on the computer and review it each year to add new, take off old, and generally trim it into manageable propotions. I've just checked the folder marked xmas on my hard drive, and the lists go back to 1999 - I was always a good administrator.
So why are my cards still sitting on the table waiting to be sent?
It starts with printing the labels. Its never been easy, we used to use Avery labels, and do a mail merge in word, and I remember being close to tears as I battled to get the merge to merge, and the printer to print. then John said, "use MS Outlook - it prints the labels automatically!"
But only if you have the addresses in the address list in outlook. for two years, I battled with the program, making sure that each address was complete and the postal code in England was in a different field to the zip code in America, or the post code in the netherlands. Bill Gates may run a global company, but the techies in the design department don't understand that different countries have different address requirements!
We still used to print out the labels, until last year when John got a dymo label writer for his stamps and we can now use that instead. Last year it made things a lot simpler, and it would have been the same this year, except that I forgot that bit of the system, and spent a fruitless afternoon trying to print to the wrong periferal!
I finally got my labels so on thursday I cleared the table and set out my cards. Before I began, I quickly made an apple crumble and put it in the oven to bake, so I had a nice homey smell going one in the room as I wrote my cards. There was a peaceful hush as I worked my way through the addresses, and added little notes to the cards, just like my mum used to do!
An aside here, I used to send a newsletter around because we lived aboard and it was fun to put together a summary of the year, since I have started blogging I don't do that any more, as I figure that people who are interested get to know a lot about what we are doing when they read the blog, and if they are not interested in the blog, they won't be interested in a news summary either!
Anyway to get back to thursday afternoon. By the time the crumble was baked, the cards were well on the way to being finished, and I was pleased as punch. I was late, but not too late, and these cards would not be arriving after new year!
I just needed the stamps from the computerised stamp system in John's office. I worked out how many I needed, and went to print them out, only to find the stamp program was not cooperating with the label printer since I printed the address labels. beaten by technology again, I waited for John the technical wizard to come home and sort things out.
Today the cards were ready and stamped, and then the snow started. Even if I get them into the post box, the postman is not going to pick up until Sunday night!

vrijdag 17 december 2010


Its been snowing all day, and I was really pleased with myself as I finished off a translation before 9.30, then had a SKYPE appointment with one of my clients at 10, spent the rest of the morning tidying the living room and preparing a lesson plan for a student who was coming at 3.00 p.m for a lesson.
There I was all warm and feeling pretty smug that I had been making money without having to join the rat race, when I got a call from Jolanda from the bus stop in Amsterdam saying the buses were not running and she could not get home from school!
So I wrapped up warmly and filled my handbag with mars bars, cleared the snow off my car, and slid slowly down the N247 towards Amsterdam.
The pretty snowflakes that had been falling in Monnickendam turned into a blizzard with white-out conditions as I got past Broek in Waterland, and as I crossed over the Amsterdam Ring I saw the traffic absolutely nose to tail on the motorway. I glided into the bus stop bay, and was greeted by Jolanda and two friends. "Can you give them a lift to Landsmeer, they cannot reach their parents?" said Jolanda.
- Landsmeer is along the Amsterdam Ring in the direction of the immobile traffic jam......
It took me two seconds to say no - but I could not leave the poor things there in the snow, so they piled in and my little car slipped and slid all the way to Monnickendam with three shivering blond teenagers giggling in the back.
Monnickendam looked lovely in the snow, and once the girls got in and warmed up with the Wii, crisps, sweets and drinks they were ready for snowball fights and a sleepover.
As I write the house is cosy, the girls are full of chicken and potatoes, the christmas tree lights are twinkling and they are just about to settle down to a film.
We will work out how to get them home tomorrow - there is a national weather alarm tonight and nothing is moving, not even the police and fire engines!

dinsdag 7 december 2010

Damstede skating day

The Jaap Eden Baan is Amsterdams big outdoor skating arena, It is open all winter. Serious skaters come every day to train in the hope that they will be fit enough to take part in the "elf steden tocht" a grueling race through eleven cities in Friesland which can only be held when natural ice has formed throughout the whole of the netherlands.

Last friday the peace of their training schedule was ruined by the kids of Damstede, who arrived for their annual skating day.

Jolanda and her friend Rosa were there too!

The teachers settled down to their own form of training!