Saturday, 29 September 2012


 It was my Birthday on Thursday. During the morning, much to my surprise, my eldest granddaughter arrived with her husband and 2 year old son, carrying a cake for me. I just never have birthday cakes. This was made to resemble a patchwork quilt, all made in 4 colours of fondant icing impressed with patterns to indicate that it was a patchwork quilt, not just a quilt or bedcovering. Round the edges are buttons, which Alex, Diana's son, was intrigued by. I don't own a tin that would take a cake this large so I've kept the cake carrier for the time being.
Here's the pattern of the 'material' used on the quilt.

An old school friend, the only one I keep in touch with, sent me this nice gift of flowers. 'I think someone's sent you an orchid,' said the postman...We've known each other since the 1940s when we were both at Grammar School and Yvonne would just scramble into Assembly by the skin of her teeth!  I phoned her later to say Thanks and spent almost 1 1/2 hours chatting, which we just don't do! It's only recently we've been emailing rather than sending snail mail letters.
In the evening Stuart, Helen, James and Sarah took me to a local Chinese restaurant which we have all used before. It's practical for me as, being a vegetarian, there aren't many places round Aylesbury which do a choice of items for 'us'. The table was covered with dishes yet there was nothing left for a 'doggy bag' as I think we all had Hollow Legs!

 Sarah had asked a friend (17 years old!) to make me a Birthday Cake and Knitting was chosen as the theme. I haven't even started that one yet and I understand it's chocolate inside...
The family had also given me this pair of lovely turquoise/jade/kingfisher shoes, which are exactly the same style as the red ones I bought earlier this year. Sarah had recently asked whether the red ones were comfortable and, as I said Yes, they decided to buy the 'other' colour which is still available for a week or two. Sarah still works in Oxford Schuh shop once a week so knows what's still in stock. She worked in the Southampton branch for 3 years when she was at Uni and is now back with the Oxford shop for a day while she works in an office...
A friend I taught with is now a guide at Waddesdon Manor and gave me an A4 book with gardening topics on the cover so I can end this year with a new book, ready to begin next year. I'm getting rid of the pond as I can longer look after it properly, that'll be the main item in my new Gardening Diary.
Some of the plants have already gone - Diana's husband fought with a water lily and managed to get it out of the pond, cotton grass went, too and some water mint which had grown roots into the mud. The fish will be fun to catch....
I enjoyed my Birthday as I also had emails from blogger friends wishing me Happy Birthday.
What a lovely lot you are!!!!!

Monday, 24 September 2012


It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday so I thought that, as I've finished the Holiday blog, I'd get back to what I usually blog about - in this case, the garden.
The catmint is still flowering well, crammed between a cornus and a bracken which help to hold it upright.
Kathleen Wheeler clematis is still flowering, resting on the stalks of Jacob's Ladder for stability. I know just how it feels!
How out of season is this? Almost October and yet there are a couple of buds on the delphinium...
 Everlasting sweetpeas, which I tried to make ex-everlasting many years ago but since they're in among the stems of a New Dawn rose that's why they survive.
 A fuchsia magellenica bought for me many years ago by a now-deceased friend which has been quite late is starting this year but is now going well. The green 'stalks' on the r. hand side are the cut down remains of fennel, as far as I could reach at the time.
 This hydrangea is really a white one but is gradually turning pink. It's grown so much this year! In the spring there are daffs poking through the first new growth.
A sad specimen of foxglove, the last in the garden this year, but I hope there will be plenty of them next year.
 Leycesteria formosa with the hanging 'earrings' of flowers which turn into berries which blackbirds like to eat. William Leycester was the Chief Justice in Bengal during the early 19th century, according to my A-Z of Plant Names.
 Some water mint, also coming to its end. Literally, as I am going to dismantle the pond. Since I now have an electric fence round the edges which is 3' tall to stop the cat next door 'fishing', it also means I can't get to the water level to clear out weed, pick out dead leaves or try and scrape up as much duckweed as I can, so - it'll have to go. I'm just waiting for Stuart to get a home sorted out for the goldfish and I'll try to get them caught, bagged up and transported the half mile or so to the stables and their new home. Then I can try to get the plants out, start scooping out the water and catching what's left of the fish, probably all the black ones which are so difficult to see! I should say 'we' rather than 'I' as I shall rely on Gillian to help.
 How silly is this? Poppies in bud! These are usually out in June. Below is one already in flower though today, as it's raining, it probably won't be much good by the morning.
 A visit from my friend last night but I do wish it'd leave the grass alone. Not much point in tidying up the grass as it has been so dry the roots have no purchase in the ground. This is just outside the patio doors
 and this is my old compost heap, well scratched over. Doesn't look so bad in the photo but it makes walking a bit dangerous for me. I'll get the dustpan out and throw it all back again; it's also so dry.
But I feed the badger so can't grumble too much, the holes just make it so uneven on the grass that I'm scared of losing my balance.
Ho hum, Bernard!!! 

Thursday, 20 September 2012


I was prompted from Holland the other evening that I hadn't finished my holiday blog, so here goes. I'll try and make this the last one!
We all went to the bazaar at Beverwijk one Saturday.  It's an enormous site with several halls with all kinds of items. We'd gone to visit a specific area for some shopping for Teresa.

 This is the main walkway - all pedestrians - passing various stalls selling, well, all sorts of things, while they are making their way to another building.

 We had an errand to fulfil for Stuart then went to 'the Turkish Market'. The smell was very nice! These spices are sold loose and what lovely colours!It was the most brilliant area, colourwise.

Fruit galore...

I had no idea fresh dates look like this!

It's not only Milton Keynes which has concrete cows!! We saw these as we were leaving. Incidentally, as at Het Loo, we paid two entry fees, one for Jonathan, one for me - and Teresa goes free as she's a pushing the wheelchair.
Another day the two of us went to Alkmaar to shop and have a look round. A very nice clean carpark just at the edge of the shopping area but I kept forgetting that you should stick to the sides of road, not walk along it as I often do here as the road can be in better condition than the pavements!  This was the only day we had rain and that wasn't for very long. One road had these typically Dutch houses - the building on the right has an interesting crest at the top.

The lions are 'bottoms up', not the usual stance for supporters but it seems that the architect or builder had a disagreement with the client and got his revenge by showing his annoyance, reversing the lions.

The ice cream outlets are amazing - 20 or so different flavours, choose one, two or three different flavours in the appropriate cornet. They do a roaring trade, too. We bought ours then it began to rain.
The rain was pinging into the canal and the people who had just boarded the canal trip boat (under the trees on the right) disembarked in a hurry. Teresa and I found an awning and waited under there.  When it slowed a litle we ventured on, then, as it began again, took refuge under the counterbalance of the bridge where we were joined by several more people. You can just about see the raindrops falling from the counterweight.
While we waited I took photos of the Waag, a very large, imposing building situated on a big cobbled square where the cheese market is held every Friday - it had been a Weigh House and previous to that was a chapel.
Here's the picture on the top of the building... 
I spotted this little girl in her Spanish dancer's dress with her Mum - a lovely fat plait!
Did some shopping and then had lunch in a restaurant Teresa had used before. The meals are e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s, much too for me; I had just about found the tagliatelli under all the vegetables and that was enough for me so 2/3rds of it was left. What a waste! There was a storm, with thunder and lightning, that evening and it rained heavily but we were indoors so it didn't matter.

The next day we all went to the island of Texel, the largest of the string of islands off the north coast, taking the ferry. By the time we'd  queued for the loo and gone up to the deck (in the lift) the ferry was docking at the island - a very long trip! The island has its own breed of sheep... as you can see from this colourful shopping bag bought on the ferry on the way back.
The black sheep is, I think, the shape of the island.

We'd asked a shopkeeper in Alkmaar, who was American, could she recommend a good patchwork/quilt shop. Yes, she said, there was one on Texel - but, disappointingly, it wasn't very good when we got there though perhaps for a very small town it was OK.
This is one of the shopping streets crossed at the top by another street with more shops. There are plenty of sheep toys, mascots and decorations hanging outside most of them. Quite a mix of small shops, including one craft shop selling wools, material (!), and all kinds of 'crafty' items. It was the

shop's Birthday and this cake was just inside the door. It says 'The White Angel shop 15 years' and all made with felt! Not the angel on the top though.
We went back to the car and made our way through typical Dutch countryside making for atiny town called Cocksdorp where we went to have lunch - in a Pancake Restaurant. It sells 75 varieties of pancakes, sweet, savoury or half and half. Pancakes are as big as (small) dustbin lids, about 15" across! Since I have a sweet tooth I ordered a cherry pancake, which was four blobs of cherry pie filling, which is the nearest I can describe it, plus a blob of vanilla ice cream in the centre and four squirts of 'cream'; Teresa and Jonathan both had savoury pancakes. Needless to say, I couldn't finish mine, nor could I take away the remains, much to my dismay...well, sort of! Sitting in the shade, lovely!
 Teresa and I had both seen a repeated BBC2 'Coast' programme a few weeks before and she was determined to find the Georgian War Cemetery which was mentioned in the programme. The cemetery holds the remains of  an estimated 470 Georgian soldiers who fought the Germans on the island in May 1945. They were POWs who had been forced to work for the Occupiers or die in a camp so many took this chance of life. Stalin had a strict policy against soldiers who he regarded as traitors - it was to the Gulag or death.
After our lunch the search began in earnest. We drove through the tiny market which was selling craft-y things and a few stalls with 'car boot items' and went to the dunes, the end of the road. In the distance we could see a monument so off we went, Teresa pushing the chair up a long slow slope. When we got there we found it was not the Georgian monument but one, I think ,to the project which had done work over many years on the coastline/dunes here. I have an idea this shape is part of the coastline but the plaque was in Dutch.

I did manage to walk up the wooden steps which led to the top of the dunes and had my only view of the sea when I was in Holland. The beaches are guarded by high grass-covered dunes which I couldn't manage but I'd been pushed most of the way up the slope. The beach was a very large expanse of mud and some vegetation - a huge bay with only a group of people on the shore.

A drunken skyline here, I was being buffeted by the wind which you don't feel on ground level.

We plodded on with our search; Teresa's like me in this respect, you keep going until you get there. So, back to the car and off again. We stopped to get a map from a large, pleasant tourist centre and by dint of driving back and forth - not because it was signposted - we eventually found the cemetery.

It was tucked away in a narrow lane, bordered by a hedge and almost invisible. The gates leading to the cemetery are quite low. As always in Holland with war graves, the cemetery is well tended and neat.

At the far end there is a memorial to the men who died on Texel while fighting the Germans; Georgia was part of the USSR at the time and the Hammer and Sickle are on this memorial, which can just be seen in the previous photo.

There are several of these plaques placed around the walls and appear to be commemorating soldiers buried nearby.

A rose bush has been planted for each man who lies here.

Several people were here when we arrived and as we left another couple turned up, who had found the cemetery just by accident, not because they had been searching for it.

This was my last trip out in Holland so the next day it was back to Schiphol and my Assisted Passenger status. I said Goodbye to Teresa and Jonathan and an hour later (but 10 minutes by the clock) I was back and Heathrow and being collected by Stuart.

Just a few more photos of things which took my notice as we were driving about North Holland -

I was sitting on a sofa with my feet up one day and saw this strange sight(and unheard of in the UK) of a Man from the Council who comes round every few months and pressure washes the rubbish bin and the food bin, all included in the price you pay for the collection service! Something our local councils might copy - I'm joking... Dustbins for a certain set of houses are put out on the appropriate day and the dustman's cart stops only once...what a good idea?
I noticed this huge plant as we were driving to - somewhere - and asked what it was - a recycling incinerator which burns the rubbish and provides electricity for the national grid.

We were passing through a small town called Heemskerk, where I'd stopped to use a Cashpoint, and Jonathan noticed these Commonwealth War Graves Commision headstones at the front of the local churchyard.

 The plaque telling about the graves which are on the right of the row, seven close together, was in Dutch so when I came home I typed it into a translation site and, apart from a few weird translations, says ' It was a cold dark night on the 16th December in the year 1943.

The overall darkening in the war years was required were the bombers that evening to be heard but not to see. The squadron of the 115th Squadron of the RAF had taken off from England with the aim of bombs over Germany to pay off. It was almost half past six (7.30) in the evening when the Heemskerk [Dungeons] were startled by a violent explosion.Outside saw a huge blaze of light.
Due to a technical fault was one of the new Lancasters caught fire.By the heat of the fire exploded the bomb in the plane so that the air exploded.Pieces fell into the aircraft over a wide area in the dunes down, near the Calvary, the seven-man crew was thrown out of the plane. None of them survived the crash. The bodies were found, could be identified. On 20 December 1943, the seven crew members buried in this memetery. On December 16 and May 4, this is commemorated and we allow for a       [?moment] to dwell on those who died for our freedom.'
It's an odd translation but I think you can get the gist of what happened that night. The 4th May is Dutch Remembrance Day and the 5th is celebrated as Liberation Day.
At last I've got to the end of my holiday and now it's back to normal (ish)...

Sunday, 2 September 2012


I was nagged by Teresa this morning because I hadn't done another blog about my holiday so I thought I'd better put other things aside and Get On With It!!
For ten weeks in the summer the townsfolk of Schagen who belong to a Folk Lore society, dress up in local Dutch costume, get prams, carriages and other items from the local museum and parade through the streets on what we thought was a set route.
 These people are watching in the direction from which the parade will appear.
And these people were canny enough to get there early and bag places in a local restaurant...
There wasn't much chance to get framed photos as there wasn't much room to see them before they'd gone past. These are just a flavour of the procession. Here's the baker,

and the local band, being driven by a lady (minus her horse!) followed by colourful clowns.

The baby's in an up to date push chair and the man behind on his bike has chickens in the wicker basket. Unfortunately he's missing the basket on the back! I missed that...

It's not just women and children but men take part, too, in appropriate dark clothes.

Young girls on a wagon which we saw some days later in the museum.

I wonder if these children in their clogs represented a class of schoolchildren with their teacher -

Lots of nice horses pulling the various wagons, very well behaved,

and you know what they say, 'After the Lord Mayor's coach comes the dung cart', well, here he is!
This man is the 'clearer-upper' after the horses have passed.
Just a few of the many scenes of the procession which I took on that sunny Thursday.
I can't imagine people in my village dressing up and parading through the streets, even if it was allowed. No doubt 'elf and Safety would intervene...and the Police...
Later, as we were wandering among the stalls lining each side of the narrow road, we found the procession's route had changed and everything, including the leading police horses, was following us. We all crammed ourselves as close to the stalls as we could until they'd passed. I'm not that fond of horses so close - Teresa said the mounted policeman's boot just missed my head, we were that close. The photos I took were mainly of the backs of people and horses' bottoms...
The next day we all went to Zaanse Schans as Jonathan took a day's holiday. I had been here back in the 1970s but it has been much enlarged and is more of a tourist attraction now. Plenty of old windmills, not just for grinding corn but an oil mill, paint mill,  a saw mill for cutting lumber, dye grinding mill and a spice mill. There were old houses, traditional shops,and a trip round De Zaan in a tourist boat to see the mills from the water. 
The houses were traditional buildings moved from elsewhere and now used as shops - painted in what seems to be a traditional green, at least round here.
 This finial is on one shop and shows a beehive, below is another pretty finial.

These houses line the Zaan's banks, mixed in with warehouses from the early part of the 20th century when Holland imported goods from its East India colonies.

Here's one of the factories/warehouses - if you have a knowledge of some German you can guess that this says 'eagle' and. checking on Google, it does. It's not really at this angle, the boat had already passed it!
The boat passed all the mills though I don't know which one this was. Jonathan wasn't very impressed with the 'captain's' English translation of what he was saying in Dutch, saying that it wasn't accurate.
It must have been hot that day, I have a T shirt on!

Teresa and Jonathan went into (and up) the oil mill while I sat outside in the shade and while I was there I took a photo of this happy child, sitting with her father. She didn't smile at all!
I meant to call it A Happy Dutch Child! Mum returned and Dad went off so I called the Mum and showed her the picture - they were Austrian!
This clog shop had plenty of visitors - footwear in all sizes, colours and designs from children just about walking to adults. Plenty more at the other end of the shop, too. A demonstration was going on but I couldn't see it, I was too low down.  Then home.
This is something I missed off the Het Loo trip - would you like to walk on this pavement?
In reality it is perfectly flat, just an ordinary path but cleverly designed to make you think it's all 'humps and bumps'. But quite eyecatching, to say the least...