Friday, February 22, 2008

Gone skiing

Back in March :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy anniversary to me

It's been a good day. For one, I made a 60k placement. It's my first big placement and it feels gooood.

"Ik ga direkt na huis. Daag, jongens. Doooie!" I called to my team mates before hopping on my bike after hockey. It was while listening to the radio on my MP3 player that I suddenly realised - as of yesterday - I have been living in the Netherlands for one year.

I have to admit, it's been a great year. Despite the visa issues, and the relocation issues, and then the visa issues again... the reems of paperwork and bureaucratic redtape... despite all that, I've found a good job, with good work mates, and I've learnt a whole lot about commercial business, targets, commission rates and even some financial formulas in Excel (that was a beeg learning curve). Mills and I have built a solid social network - to the point that I honestly don't have time to see everyone on a regular basis. We've travelled, we've kept active and I'm certainly fitter than I ever was in the UK or even back in Joburg.

I've re-learnt to ride a bike. I can confidently cycle with at least one hand in my pocket (this is a very big personal milestone). I can hold a semi-decent conversation in Dutch, I can certainly understand and read it with ease. This is a big thing for someone who spent 12 years of their education going out of their way to NOT learn Afrikaans.

This evening, the full moon was clearly visible and the mist hung low around the trunks of the trees in Haagse Bos. It was mystic and eery. And, while cycling home listening to the chilled tunes on VeronicaFM, I realised that I've learnt a lot in the last year.

I had one of 'those' moments. It's been good.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Frek-sakes... it's frikken freezing here. We played football in zero visibility last night - I couldn't see the width of the pitch. And I can't get my toes warm. Even when I snuggle right up to Mills, seeking his body heat. I just don't seem to generate my own. Rather, I absorb his so that the point of contact actually becomes cold on his body. I like to think of it as a super human power. I absorb warmth.

Anywho, so the masked ball went well this weekend. I fitted in the bright BONT orange dress, and the shoes purchased by my personal shopper (aka Mills's sister in London) fitted like Cinderella's glass slipper. Bee-yatiful.

Although an excellent shopper, she's not much of a navigator. While driving around the little known town of Brid ("why on earth are you going to BRIDLINGTON?" Mills and I were asked on seperate occassions by different poms), I noticed that we had passed the same chav pushing a pram... three times. A few minutes later, our driver (aka Mills's Sister from London) suddenly asked, "does anyone else get the feeling that we're lost?"

Always encouraging from someone who used to live in the area.

Aimless driving aside (we eventually pulled over and had to be rescued by the sister-in-law), the 30th celebrations were good fun. On the big day, we excitedly gathered outside the birthday boy's room, and burst in, balloons, cake and candles at the ready... only to discover that the birthday boy was not in his bed. Actually, he was no where to be seen. I briefly contemplated the fact that he had escaped via the ensuite window.

Instead, he was watching us from his hiding place in the cupboard. Like a 6-year-old. So childish. (By this stage, the blazing candles has set off the fire alarm and melted most of the chocolate icing... Thirty emits a lot of heat.)

The ball itself was entertaining. Lots of lovely outfits, lots of interesting outfits. My personal favourite was the lady in a ball gown that didn't quite close (it was clearly fitted a few decades ago). I shouldn't laugh too loudly, because it was only once we got home from an evening of shaking our asses to dated music, that I realised my black g-string was very visible through the somewhat see-through orange material. Talk about VPL. Class with a capital ARSE.

Needless to say, a good weekend was had, but I'm still catching up on sleep. And probably will be for the rest of the week. Not much time for rest though, because we're all off for our skiing week on Saturday. Then my boet arrives for a few days, literally on our return.

I get tired just thinking about it.

So the blogging is going to be erratic until March. Apologies in advance. I still love you all dearly. If you're looking for random reading material on a daily basis while I'm gone, go here.

But please come back. I miss you already.

ps. I am delighted to say that the Ginger Beard is gone. Gone. My passion for my hairless one is reignited.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How many can you take?

Right, drama aside (and no further updates on the crazy neighbour status)... I'd like to wish all and sundry a belated commercially-decided-upon-day-of-soppiness.

The Special South African Kid was very upset that nobody else wore red in honour of the day. The truth is that everybody else in the office forgot. I got an e-card from Mills (above), after he called me an elephant, or a hippo, or something similarly endearing.

This evening, we dodged the lovey-dovey couples on shopping evening in order to search for the elusive shoes to match the dress this weekend, or find a dress suit for Mills (who's just realised he only has a tux jacket, no pants). When there is only one evening a week that offers night time shopping hours, and very few department stores, AND it's Valentines bloody Day, the shops are packed. Ergo, I had little tolerance when the 5-year-old decided to stop at the top of the escalator, with both hands running on the handrail on either side. For this reason, said snottie got walked over. I blame his granny for waiting proudly while the child explored the wonders of moving stairs with his bare hands, instead of removing him from a public walkway.

I backed my chances with the kid, because I had just completed this test:


So I knew I would win against one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


God. There were so many other things I was going to blog about today. For once, I actually had material. And then I learnt that my upstairs neighbour threw herself off her balcony last night.

She survived (because our washing line broke her fall on the way down), and is in intensive care.

You read news articles about people trying to kill themselves (and succeeding), but this is - quite literally - close to home. There is a stain on the parking lot below. How desperate must you be to fling yourself off a second storey balcony? Of course, the police are investigating the husband's possible involvement. I know this, because Crazy Dame Olga filled me in.

I think what perturbs me the most is that I heard it. Well, I heard something hitting something else. It woke me up at 12:21. I couldn't decide what exactly had woken me, but I was aware that it was a noise. And, I thought, the neighbours are at it again. Then there was the commotion in the entrance stairwell and I could hear that the 10-year-old daughter was upset and awake. And I thought, it's a school night... she should be in bed. But still, I didn't get up. Then I heard the sirens, but I didn't realise they were stopping in the parking lot behind our flats. I just thought, the damn neighbours are at it again.

"Ja, but we are fighting, so."

That sentence irritated for a full two days after he snapped at me last week. Now I feel like it haunts me. I know this all sounds melodramatic.

So, I'm in shock for three reasons. One, a desperate (or desperately unhappy) lady flung herself past our window last night. Two, I feel like I completely misjudged the situation. I shrugged off my colleagues' concerns when they told me I should've called the police when we heard fighting last Sunday. I'm not saying that would've stopped the unfortunate incident last night, but still. And three, I'm in shock because I feel like one of those people who did nothing.

Last night, I heard the commotion and I consciously refused to get out of bed, because I didn't want to let the noisy neighbours 'win' in disrupting my sleep. I was an apathetic ignoree. When I was mugged a few years back, I screamed blue murder in a suburban street. I'll never forget the fact that not one light came on, no one in the vicinity responded to a female voice screaming, "no leave me alone." I feel like I became one of those people who would rather not get involved last night.

Melodramatic. It's a completely different situation, but I just think about that woman and her traumatic cry for help. Mostly, I feel sorry for the kid. I heard her crying, and presumed it was because she was upset about her parents arguing (again). I heard it, and I tossed and turned - irritated that my neighbours had woken me up again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


On Friday, I went to the dentist. I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that it all went smoothly and I still have no cavities to be filled (never had one... so to me, a filling is a big, scary deal). While staring at my tandart's ceiling(and drooling all over her gloves), I wondered what leads someone to choose a profession where they spend all day sticking their hands into smelly stranger's mouths. Yuck.

Back at work today, the boss was ecstatic to point out that they have finally replaced the kitchen light fitting. It's plastic, and only cost 4 euros, so easier to replace than the glass one that I smashed last year... so she told me. She also recounted the quip from her 5-year-old when she brought the new purchase home.

"It's plastic, so it's unbreakable," she told the blonde snottie. "Does that mean that it's un-Koekie-able too?" asked the wise cracking peanut. She found that hilarious and recounted it a few times to my colleagues. Nothing like being the brunt of a preschooler's joke.


In other news, Mills and I are going to his brother's 30th birthday bash this weekend. We're going to a formal masked-ball affair. I cannot wait. I've already got my outfit selected (purchased from Edgars while in SA). Unfortunately the corset-type top is just a wee-bit on the tight side. This was not a problem, cos I figured I'd just eat healthily for a week before the event...

That resolution lasted for one day. Yesterday.

I've just finished the hot chocolate and the choc-chip icecream. I'm that weak. No self-control. On the upside, I could never be anorexic.

It's okay... I can still fit into the dress, all I have to do is give up breathing for the evening of the function.

Totally worth it though - stunning dress. Pity I can't find shoes to match.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Talking point

She was a pretty American girl, who disappeared one night without a trace.
He's the well-off son of a Dutch diplomat.
And he finally admitted to dumping her body in the ocean three years ago, off the coast of Aruba.

THIS is what the whole of the Netherlands is talking about at the moment. Investigative journalist, Peter de Vries, known for his criminal dogwork, finally managed to set Joran up and capture a confession about how he dumped Natalee's lifeless body into the sea in 2005 ("the ocean is a big place, they'll never find anything") without even checking if she was actually dead. It has been an established that Natalee and her friends had been drinking and snorting cocaine - a fact that Natalee's family tried to initially suppress, because it might sully their good daughter's name, of course.

For a time line on the events, click here (and then click on the red dots or the arrows, it took me a while to figure out).

Over half of the Netherlands population watched Peter de Vries's expose on Joran's confession, which aired last week. Maybe he didn't actually kill her, but surely when your 'friend' goes into convulsions and then lies still, you call 911 - not someone who has access to a boat at the wee-hours of the morning... but hey.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Okay kids... here it is... the weekend post that has now become a midweek post.
Carnaval is an annual celebration in the South Netherlands. It's at the same time of year as the Rio festival and has a similar 'religious' history, except revellers are inclined to wear more clothes (especially as it had been snowing this year).

I've included pictures from my time at Carnaval two years ago, because this year I didn't take a camera with me. Too much responsibility. But you'll get the general gist...

So NF is marrying into family in Valkenswaard (which sounds like it should be translated to Eagle's Fart, but it isn't). Every year, NF's fiancee potters down to Valkenswaard for the four-day Carnaval festivities. I've been there twice, and I've known the family long enough to sort of understand what goes on... but I still don't really know why they do half the things they do. There are themes and costumes and songs, princes and speeches, breakfasts, dinners and parades. And beer. Lots and lots of biertje.
This seems to be the general idea of the Dutch Carnaval: either you wear a precisely-constructed and socially-witty costume; or you dig around in your closet and wear whatever you wouldn't dare wear over the last 30 years, all at once. On the previous occassion that I joined NF, we donned bright wigs, a few feather boas and some mismatched clothing. This year, we were informed - in no uncertain terms - that we were to actually put some thought into our appearance. So, after discussing the fact that we really should plan our lives better, I finally purchased us two matching outfits the day before Carnaval. We were going as Robin Hood(s).

Right. Arriving in Valkenswaard, we were greeted by the fiancees Carnaval club - Het Kozakedeur. Outfit: red trousers [side note: every true Dutch person owns a pair of red trousers. Mills and I have yet to establish the reason behind this], yellow shirt, grey fluffy jacket and hat. NF and I rush to get dressed - put on our Robin Hood outfits and realise just how short the dresses/tops are. Interesting. Outfit consists of long shirt/skirt thing, brown tights, brown boots, brown boat-shaped hat. Plus false eyelashes as an impulse buy on my part.

We decided we were now called Robin Ho's.

Challenge No. 1: putting on false eyelashes. I'm not much of a make up fan and have certainly never donned falsies before. After a few attempts we finally got them right... sort of. Certainly not before:

a) putting them on too high
b) pulling them (and half my real eyelashes) off
c) putting them on skew
d) putting one higher/slantier than the other
e) glueing bottom - REAL - lashes to top eyelid.

With puffy, irritated and watery eyes, the Robin Ho's were finally ready.

Challenge No. 2: cycling into town. Wearing nothing but tights, Robin Ho skirt/shirt and a jacket that does not button down to my knees, cycling into town was a breezy affair. Not helped by the fact that I was having to hold my boat-shaped hat on my head. The koekie's jamjar has never felt so exposed in broad daylight (or any light, for that matter). To be honest, cycling in a short skirt is not an unpopular past time in the Netherlands. Although, godknows it should be. Eventually, I killed two birds with stone - so to speak - by using my hat to cover my decency. Sort of.

Once in town, Carnaval proceeded as I remembered it. Lots of Oompah-oompah type bands and marching songs. Lots of lyrics that go "lalala laaalaaa lalala" (when I was singing along anyway). And a ridiculously constant supply of beers. Anyone who thinks that Amsterdam is a culture shock, should try South Netherlands over Carnaval...

The Robin Ho's were a hit (obviously). What made it more amusing is that NF and I look vaguely alike - in the right light. In a dark pub, wearing the same outfit with matching false eyelashes, we were getting A LOT of double takes. Men are very easily confused. Very.

This weekend was also the only time I have had beer thrown at me by a jealous wife. That definitely was a first. You see, Carnaval is all about mingling and drinking and talking with random people. NF and I were talking to a short, fat Elvis (probably about something as innocuous as sustainable development) when I got hit on the head by a peanut. After some discussion, we realised which direction it had come from. "Oh," said Elvis, as he pointed behind us, "that's my wife." NF and I turned around to see the wife of Elvis literally take a handful of beer and fling it in our faces. I've spent a fair amount of time in pubs. I've never (that I can recall) actually received a deliberate beerful in my face.
Moving on.
I think the best part of Carnaval is really just looking at the fantastic outfits. Like mentioned earlier, a lot of people just seem to wear the ugliest clothes they can find. Others spend most of the year constructing just the right look. Again, this differs from Rio. The idea is not to look sexy. In fact, it seems that the frumpier and kitscher, the more 'carnaval' you are.

Carnaval is a must. If you're ever in the Netherlands at the beginning of Feb, look it up. It's only big in the South Netherlands (Northerners think Carnaval revellers are completely nuts - and with reason), so pay a visit to Eindhoven, Maastricht... or, of course, the little place inbetween called Eagle's Fart.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Blessed neighbours

Last night, after a long weekend at Carnaval, I crashed into bed at about 8:45pm. Tossed and turned a bit from overtiredness but eventually fell asleep. I was woken up about three hours later by my neighbour upstairs throwing something (god know what, but it certainly broke) on the floor (our ceiling) in a fit of rage.

This was complimented by screaming, shouting, stomping and doors slamming. Just your general domestic warfare on a Sunday evening - at midnight. They would settle down, then the woman would pick it up again. I knew that tone. It was the tone of a woman who was going to fight, no matter what or how the man tries to appease her. He would talk. She would shout.

Crash. Stomp. Bang.

After about forty minutes, I decided to personally point out to them that it was now after midnight. I went upstairs and rang the doorbell.

"JA?" came the highly irritable shout from inside. I waited. I sure as fuck wasn't going to shriek my request from the hallway through a closed door. I waited some more.

Eventually the husband came to the door. "JA?" He demanded a second time as if surprised that anybody else would be up at this hour.

"Rustig, alstublieft..." I started to ask. You know, just generally pointing out that we can hear every word of their exchange.

"But we are fighting. So."

That was his exact response. We are fighting, so... don't make your complaints my problem. We are fighting, so... stop interrupting us. We are fighting, so... what are you going to do about it. We are fighting... so fuck off.

I asked him to keep the fighting to a lower decibel level, and possibly the plate-breaking to a minimal. You know, just a consideration. To be fair, they were marginally quieter after that. And I think he silently read my thoughts about drugging her with elephant tranquilisers because eventually they did shut up.

Yes, as my colleagues pointed out this morning, I could've just called the police. But - colour me South African - I think people call on the police far too easily. Police should be called when there is a crime. Not when your neighbours are irritating you. Crazy Dame Olga called the police on us because our door was banging. I shit you not. And as much as there was drama, I don't think there was physical abuse. No one was hitting anyone. There were words and there was stomping. I've lived in a chav estate in London... I know what is sounds like when someone hits someone else in the room above mine. I know what violent domestic fighting sounds like. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Anyway, so I'm grumpy because the wench above our flat was shouting like a banshee until about 2am. So the post about my weekend at Carnaval will have to wait until tomorrow. Or maybe the day after - because Mills and I are hosting guests for dinner tomorrow. I hope Mills is cooking. For their sake.