Thursday, 29 December 2011

Dutch watery landscape

Yes, it is a land of lakes and rivers, ponds and pools. Went by train from Amsterdam to Maastricht on Christmas Day; a quiet grey sky much of the time, the leafless trees black against the the pale silvery light, the rich green fields stretching off into the horizon. All flat; little patch of land beneath a huge high sky. Very soothing to watch as the train zips along.
Seeing the three grandchildren together for the first time is simply fascinating. They are sooo different. But bond very well. Will try to attach pix. No, they are still in a file sent by Daniel!
Nathan, aged two, pronounced "Baby Yara" most convincingly; he stroked her head gently and she was very appreciative!
Isaak talked about pirates and dinosaurs and constructed a galleon from a Playmobile set...
More later...

Here are some pix of the last evening in Ostia before flying northwards. A wonderful sunset -- we walked past the bird sanctuary and met a delightful Italian lady (from Rome) whose son is studying Agriculture at Wageningen Uni. We sent him "groetjes".

The Italin word for sunset is "tramonte" which would translate as something like "through the mountains" -- I find "beyond the hills" also acceptable...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

no white Christmas...

We are back in Amsterdam where it is surprisingly mild and not raining or snowing and indeed -- a blue sky, forsooth!
Had a wonderful final sunset evening in Ostia

This is how it wasn't (pix from a year ago!!)
Last night beautiful concert of Christmas songs performed by group known as Les Quatre Bouches -- highly recommended.
And today much sorting out of post -- David hasn't been back to Amsterdam since he sailed away in June, southwards on Stroemhella.
Tomorrow down to Maastricht to celebrate Christmas and families -- all three grandchildren together. Really looking forward to this.
We set off early and hopefully not in the rain! Bearing four bottles of Italian vino rosso di Toscana.
Etruscan memories...
Had supper with Heather, back in our 17th-century Amsterdam house, reminisced about Italy, and wished days of peace and hope for a troubled, turbulent world...

Saturday, 17 December 2011

the wild sea storm

Happily, we took the train (that is, one that WASN'T on strike) on Friday afternoon, to arrive in Follonica (on the Tuscan coast)and although the wind pounded and howled and beat upon our windows -- on floor 20 -- all through the night, at least the bed was firm...
The wind seems to be dying down now. Sometimes, I have my sneaking doubts about living all the time on our dear boat...
I picked up a nasty infection (most likely on the plane coming back from Dubai...) resulting in a chesty cough and cold in the head, so spent all day in bed.
All this travelling by train is excellent for my Italian -- we had a fascinating talk yesterday with the six people in our compartment. Of course, the merits of the late ex-prime minister Mr B came up for discussion, and charming young lady in our carriage (aged 16) assured us that there were many good things about him, also about Mussolini.
Viva Italia, is what I say...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

harbour in the storm...

Back in the Porto Turistico di Roma. I arrived in the morning, and had my first cup of caffe machiato in the bar just across from our pontoon. Viva Italia. And played my new CD of choruses from Verdi operas (sung by the chorus of La Scala, Milano) to get thoroughly back into the atmosphere...
David got back (after little detour to Paris for Samir's PhD ceremony) late last night.
Our boat Stroemhella was duly praised for remaining watertight and unshaken even though reports reached us in Dubai of three-metre-high waves...
It is still a little strange for me to be living on a boat (though always David's dream) but if one has to (!!) this is a very fine choice -- and an excellent place to be. There are still some exhibitions in Rome that I'd like to visit before we fly northwards for Christmas.
See photos of Stroemhella:

Something seems to have gone slightly amiss with the uploading of these pix -- so glad to find technology has its blips!
Tomorrow -- or some day soon -- I shall make a batch of bread on the boat, in the baking-tin specially designed to cook on top of the stove (in the absence of an oven). David has already performed this feat, apparently with great success.
Ah, pix returned to correct size, so I'll upload a few more, closing with romantic low-sun version:

I am learning to live deep into the present (the carpe diem story, only not so much seizing as simply breathing... ). This is aided by the nearness to the open sea -- I walk along the waterfront gazing out at the clouds, the light, the wide space, the uncluttered horizon. Even in wild and windy weather it has a quietness.
Too many words, still far too many words (there is a story about that phrase, in connection with my translation of Dutch into English. Usually English produces more -- short -- words, due to the nature of the language. A translator of Dutch into English is paid by the number of words in the source -- in my case Dutch -- language. But one of my clients didn't know this and thought I was intentionally 'upping' the number of words in my translation, in order to acquire higher pay. So I was criticized for using 'too many words'. I should add, that was many years ago...)
So I should stop now...
Tomorrow we go to Follonica, in Etruscan country, to visit Italian friends ...

Oh yes -- Thank you Jeanette and Dan for the Norwegian chocolate left on Stroemhella -- a happy greeting on our return .And enjoy Malta!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dubai, arriverderci...

Last day in Umm Sequeim... Organizing the packing of bags to eliminate hand baggage (to conform with Easyjet stipulations). In the background Judy is reading to Isaak, after his morning at school. Yesterday Judy and I collected eight books at the Dubai Library -- all reckoned to appeal to a four-year-old ("Mog's Christmas" and suchlike...). This morning David and I attended a tour for tourists at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding -- SMCCU. Our tourist "guide" was a young woman form London, married about 20 years ago to an Emirati, and convert to Islam. She explained some basics to us -- very clear and entertaining.
Our flight from Dubai leaves at two in the morning, but before that we have a party at Nathan's creche, and then attend the dress rehearsal of Judy's choir -- both pre-Christmassy events.

I hardly need to say that the sun continues its glorious habit of shining! and the white waves crash upon the white sand, and the warm air caresses the skin. So naturally, somewhat sad to depart...

Monday, 12 December 2011

like an ever-rolling stream...

Time is running out...Just two more days and we leave Dubai.
I enjoy it so much being with Judy and Christiaan and the boys; and of course exploring with David. It is all very relaxed. Is this the blessing of old age???
It's been quite a busy time with all the activities at the boys' schools. Isaak has a Dutch lesson once a week, and also a swimming lesson (see Facebook for pix of Isaak swimming).
David is busy editing book and gathering info for article about tidal energy that he plans to write.
I have been reading the International Herald Tribune for my news intake. Today report about three Arab women who have been jointly awarded the Nobel prize for peace.
And much about the wobbling euro...

Meanwhile the boys explore their particular worlds.
Isaak constructs a lighthouse taller than himself; Nathan is a Wise Man with a crown. He listens while I sing...

sundown in Dubai

Two misses -- we saw the most magnificent sunsets, one in the desert -- flaming red as the sun sank behind the bare rim of sandy hills; and the next day over the sea, with the Burj Arab turning black against a brilliant darkening sky. Alas, I'd left my camera at home. So the next day made some attempts -- see here. But more in the watercolour version than the glorious oils!

David and I have taken up the wont of strolling along the beach at sundown -- we always meet interesting people -- often couples in need of a photographer to record their presence in Dubai. I take the camera while they pose. Last night it was a couple from Pakistan now working in Saudi Arabia. Interesting talk -- and the previous evening a young couple from Hyderabad, now living in Toronto. Forever eternalized (we hope): that moment on a Dubai beach, that December holiday...
Yesterday David and I walked along to where there is a shipyard and classic dhows are being built -- beautiful wooden boats, with long shallow keels.
The sun sinks fast. soon the sea is just a dark soughing.

 And back home to yet another delicious supper. The grown-ups eat after the tinies have gone to bed. This leads to enlightened conversation...

Saturday, 10 December 2011

the edge of the desert

It was not the great silent awesome empty space of some deserts.
It was really bumpy duneland with bedraggled bushes and criss-crossed by tyre tracks.
But the children adored it -- space, sand and dried goat droppings -- what more could they desire.
They occupied themselves for several hours.
We set up a tent in strong wind -- which then considerately died down.
We lit charcoal burners and warmed up the baked potatoes and the (pre-cooked) sausages threaded on a skewer, and chicken wings and hamburgers.
A feast was spread out upon the collapsible tables. Almost nothing got spilt, though sometimes the lemon squash tasted a little sandy...

The sun dropped through a blaze of scarlet and orange. The full moon rose and cast long shadows. In the distance orange lights from a Berber (tourists in the desert) camp lightened the horizon. It was not a lonely desert. A perfect outing for small people.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas in Dubai

Yes, very curious and counter-intuitive!

But here come the Christmas trees... while outside the sun blazes...

Rose and Judy helped Isaak and Nathan to hang the coloured decorations and affix the star.
Meanwhile, Judy has baked a superb-smelling cake -- fruity and nutty, and trickled rum into it once it was cool. This will be transported to the Netherlands, for festivities on the 25th.
No goose to be seen...

the rocky desert

Today we have an expedition into the Dubai desert.
Originally we planned to sleep over -- wonderful idea, only the silence and the stars...
But tomorrow there are Christmas activities here in town -- so postpone the sleepover for another visit.
Thus, smeared in with factor 40 suncream and bearing many bottles of water, we shall shortly depart.

The sun is as ever with us, the birds twitter jocundly (nice word, so glad I could squeeze it in!) and nearby the muezzin summons the faithful to one of the many mosques -- it is Friday.
Other faithful are attending services in the many varieties of Christian church -- everything from Roman Catholic to Pentecostal.
Not only is Dubai multi-ethnic, it is also tolerant of a great variety of religious faiths. And women don't have to have their heads covered.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

"Stroemhella" our home...

Thought I'd attach a few pix of "Stroemhella". She is an aluminum-hulled yacht, built in Hinderloopen, Friesland, by Aluboot. Her first owner was Dick Koopmans and she features in his book "Van Spitsbergen naar de Azores", under the name Jeantine IV.
We bought her in 2009 and she was rejuvenated in Hinderloopen during the following months.
When we left Turin (Torino) in September 2010 David began getting the boat's interiors in order.
We sailed a few times on the IJsselmeer, admiring the boat's stability.
We kept her in the water during the winter of 2010-2011 -- for a while she was encased in ice.

Early summer 2011 we moved her to Enkhuizen.
More work on her interior, and learning to cook on her extremely safe paraffin stove (two-burner).
At a later date David even baked bread in the specially-adapted pan which cooks on one of the burners (there is no oven).
In June, together with my cousin Steve, David sailed / chugged down from Enkhuizen to Amsterdam.
There, after many trials and tribulations (and having been joined by our good friend and crew on many a "Mitigator" voyage, Lucas Kuys) the expedition to the Mediterranean set off...
I will add some stories about my adventures in June and July 2011 in Santiago de Compostela, and with the boat on the Canal du Midi.
Now jump to early September 2011 when David arrived in Ostia (Porto Turistico di Roma) where I joined him in September and began a new life as the captain's wife (!!).

Sunset pic of the marina in Ostia, mare poco mosso:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The birthday of Sint Nikolaas

Either yesterday or today, 6 December, the birthday of the saintly bishop -- there appears to be a little uncertainty...
Many of the delightful songs sung in the Netherlands around Sinte-Klaas-time tell of the howling wind and driving rain. Not a sign of that here in Dubai, of course.
We drive to collect Isaak from school, under a, well -- not-quite-blistering but still pretty-powerful -- midday sun. The small children are collected by parents or nannies and whisked into cool cars.
Along the boulevards the sprinklers labour valiantly, combatting the desert drought. There are oleanders, bougainvillea and busy-lizzies and many small bright flowers. And in the distance the desert haze.

Monday, 5 December 2011

my grandsons

This is for family and friends
Recent photo -- a little blurry but reveals their enormous charm.
Isaak was 4 years at the end of August, and Nathan turned two at the end of November.
I have many wonderful stories to tell about them of course! Great being a granny...
So here's a pic:
They fill my days with joy!

Torinese memories

Just before coming to Dubai we spent a week in Torino (Turin to some) where we lived between 2006 and 2010. And grew extremely fond of the city (first capital of a united Italy) and its splendid arcades and excellent restaurants, trattorie and above all, the cinema Massimo's which showed goldie oldies and a generally excellent diet of international films.

Herewith pic of Torino as seen looking across the river Po. And lovely church on corso Casale, opposite about number 190.
We visited various friends and popped into some of the shows in the superb annual Torino Film Festival (like films by Antonioni, Pasolini's Mamma Roma and the latest Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris.) All most enjoyable.
And had a fine meal (metre-long pizza) at restaurant Spaccanapoli on via Mazzini. Nobody needs to tell us why we love Italy...
We walked up the hill to Villa Gualino, where David worked for over four years (and I translated books and articles, in the splendid tranquillity high above the city's roar). Another world about to finish.
The bull of Turin forever spouting fresh water -- many a time we've rinsed our hot hands here, having puffed up the hill in the heat. I've written a poem about this hill-climb, and about leaving below the city's rumore. When I'm more adept at blogging, I'll add a link... I also have a whole heap of pix of Torino and Italy -- some of them are uploaded via Picasa. And other poems/writing too.

Outside here in Dubai velvet dark, soft and warm. The children sleep -- Judy and Christiaan out to a meeting.
Nearby the waves plashing on the beach, traffic in the distance, otherwise nocturnal peace!

The sand, the sea, and the air pollution

Strange place, Dubai. Awake to wondrous light and cheerful chittering of birds. And plenty to do -- this morning the Christmas concert in Isaak's school. He's in Class 1 (Kindergarten) comprising about 40 extremely energetic small people. They sang (mostly a capella, to train their self-reliance, we were assured by the Music teacher) some cheery songs about snowflakes. Really strong sense of disassociation -- outside 28 degrees Celsius. Lovely kids, multi-ethnic, not a child who is not bi-lingual.
Back home I read the International Herald Tribune and genned up about the euro,  the new government in Egypt, the changing attitude of Turkey towards Europe, and many other snippets worth contemplating.
In the afternoon we dropped Isaak for his Dutch lesson at Raffles School, and went to the Mall of the Emirates, an astonishing construction, about six stories high, vastly glassy, and boasting every kind of shop I have ever seen, from Carrefour to Boots, and strongly leaning towards the Italian sartorial elegancies...but also Fortnum and Masons, Selfridges, Debenhams and many such familiar emporiums!
We paused for an elegant refreshment on the top floor, beneath the glass cupola, and above us the warm blue sky.
Had speculaas cookies (delicious; note to all Dutch readers!) and fresh squeezed apple juice.
It does seem true that you can buy absolutely anything here, not just food.

Judy told us about the district where the Indians and Singhalese have their restaurants and food of excellent tastiness at a very low cost.
David and I plan to suss that out soon....

Ah yes -- the air pollution. Somewhat tempered by the winds that blow, but certainly there -- I taste the woolliness on my tongue, and get a headache from breathing the unclean traffic fumes. Few people walk very much here -- the car, taxi, bus and monorail are much used.
I have seen pictures of Dubai in the 1970s and later. A handful of low houses lining the shore.
Now humming with eccentric skyscrapers (largely uninhabited).

This place, scraped out of nothing in twenty years.Well-intentioned but no paradise -- yet...?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Dubai Palm

A curious place. Pretty surrealistic. Castles built on sand, kind of thing...What you might term concrete exaggerations... Lots of lovely sea and sand, and four-poster canopied beds on the beach (on which to lounge).

David and I walked six kilometres home, as a penance...
Musing, and talking when the roaring traffic would permit.

the darlings

It is Sunday here but that doesn't mean a day of rest. So off to work, school and other activities at an exceedingly early hour this morning.
David and I sit in the peace of this marble-floored mansion (Persian rugs on the floor, brought here from my daughter's sojourn in Iran) while outside the small birds twitter -- until the noonday heat silences them.
Attach pix of the darlings -- my grandsons Isaak and Nathan (just some of my darlings, of course!)

We plan a little visit to one of Dubai's eccentricities later this afternoon -- the Palm, artificial island lapped by the warm waves...
(The pix will come when I've found them!!)

Found: Nathan aged 2 (last week) with his present from Sint Nikolaas (alias Santa Claus and not much like Father Christmas)
Rose our friend from the Philippines who is our invaluable help in the house and nanny for the boys.

Isaak demonstrating the height of his Lego tower... (Issak turned 4 in August)