Local Heart, Global Soul

September 24, 2017

Spotted Around The Hague…

Today’s post is a photographic one: camera on hand, I take photographs on the move, this time these places were spotted around The Hague.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 23, 2017

Another Little Snippet Of Information…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes you learn tiny bits of information about your city. For instance I learned that the  title of “Longest flat / apartment building in The Hague” (and possibly one of the longest in the Netherlands also) is located in Loosduinen.

It’s a long curved building that has one end on the Laan Van Meerdervoort and the other on the Ockenburghstraat and is close to the beach at Kijkduin.

The big roads are main arterial routes in and out of the west of the Hague so are ones local use often. One of the biggest cemetery / cremation / funeral places is opposite too so sadly many people visit this side of town for less joyful reasons even if they do not live close by.

Himself and I are lucky to not have to live in a large apartment block, both of us agree that having so many people as direct neighbours would not suit us well at all.

Our small quiet street with older, character houses suits us much better. That said, at the end of the day, a roof over your head is not to be grumbled at and with house prices what they are, many have little choice. Large blocks of flats have a variety of private and social housing, the whole block as a community organise upkeep and the day to day running and there are lifts available, a must for many older people and families with very young children.

Houses often vary in size so families and single people can live side by side (whereas in a street such as ours, every house is more or less a ‘family” home) and in a time when the city council is trying ver hard that elderly people live at home (with local community nursing assistance for example) rather than move into care homes at the first sign of ill health, these kinds of buildings are often very much needed.

Some people even prefer larger block appartement living to other styles of housing, citing more modern building materials, sometime extra such as underground parking and less maintainance as reasons for their preference. Whilst it would never be our ideal style of living, we have the luxury of choice and can see that for many people it is ideal, so now we drive past knowing one more tiny fact about the character of our city… and that’s never a bad thing.

(photograph © Google Earth)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 22, 2017

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Summers have not been real “summers” or winters been real “winters” for a long time now.

Gone seem to be the days when the long school holidays could be counted on to give us sunshine and allow kids to play outside together for days on end.

My father will often recount the winters of his childhood, thick ice on small canals and ponds and chain-skating adventures on larger ones. Chain skating apparently involved a long line of skaters hand in hand: the trick was to have one or more strong skaters at the head of the chain and one or two smaller skaters on the end.

Water didn’t freeze easily underneath bridges so between bridges there would be solid pieces of ice that tapered off at each end until it became open water under each bridge.

The sport was that the chain of skaters would speed as fast as they could towards the bridge, coming as close as they dared before the strong skaters performed a sudden “U” turn and dug in to speed back in the opposite direction.

The person who was second to last in the chain would often be whipped around and find themselves skating over seriously thin ice that began to sink under their weight, the last person in the chain was by now almost travelling over submerged ice and almost open water, but moving so fast that the water flicked away from under their skates as they flew past the thinnest of ice and back onto the safety of the thick stuff.

Nano seconds counted, strong grips in the chain did too, sometimes it went wrong, calculations or under estimated and the kid on the end ended up in the freezing water. My father told me that if that happened then the kid was fished out (sometimes needing the assistance of passers by to achieve that) but under no circumstances did they go to their own homes.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Canals were polluted and rank, kids greatly feared the wrath of their mothers who had to get the stink and mess out of clothes after express instructions not to play this kind of game. That’s not counting the fear of drowning that did not seem to ever occur to kids as a possibility, but I am certain was the stuff of their parents worst nightmares.

If a kid ended up in the drink, they were fished out and hurried to a friends house, and since this was oft a weekend sport, if they were exceptionally lucky the mother of the house was not at home, but the father was.

The attitude was then ” boys will be boys / no one drowned”, with a big grin, water would be boiled so that a hot wash was available before being lent spare clothes from one of your friends.

The friends mother would later wash and dry the damp and smelly laundry and the kid who had taken the icy dip in the canal was left to sneak home in borrowed clothes and hope his mother would not notice. Of course she always did, and it was always the worst kept secret in the neighbourhood.

Borrowed laundered clothes would magically reappear back to whoever they had been borrowed from, stinking ones would be washed and returned to their owners too. It seemed to just be part of growing up, both parents and children ‘played the game” but small punishments would also magically ensue.

Extra household chores, more of a hated veggie on your plate, and never a complaint because everyone knew that everyone knew (well, maybe the kids did not twig to this until later) and it was one of those rites of passage things that was part of many a Dutch child’s childhood.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Snow and big freezes were standard every winter of my father’s time, his two grandchildren who live here now however cannot say the same. Little Mr looked longingly at his sled without a snowdrop in sight, and then one day we woke up to the white stuff.

Himself and I had to go to Delft for a hospital appointment so I took photographs on the way there and back, especially enjoying the small open space between Rijswijk and Delft where there are trees that stood in their white coats in the strange stillness that even the proximity of the cars creeping along the nearby motorway could not break.

There is a peace and stillness that comes with snow, it blankets the noise of every day life and gives a pretty as a postcard look to even the plainest neighbourhood or grayest day. Personally I love snow, but preferably from a distance, either rugged up warm inside or on the postcard whilst I sit somewhere tropical!

Even though I will never miss snow, I do realise that I should miss where it should be, Dutch winters should have some, the seasons should be as they were meant to be and not the product of man-made mis-management on a global scale.

I can only hope that the small spattering of snow that arrived in the 2016/ 2017 winter and stayed barely a few days will not be photographed as some of the last winter snow we see in years. I hope that Little Mr’s sled does not stand forlornly waiting for the seasons to be as once were. Snow, even though it’s no personal favourite of mine, is still a stunning work of nature and it has it’s place. I can but hope that this winter it will let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Cycle paths are often as quickly cleared as main roads…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 21, 2017

Not Your Average Tricycle…

Regular readers will know that I love to photograph quirky, unusual sights. With my pocket camera regularly on hand, I can quickly snap things that pique my interest: decorative drain covers, walls, gates, letter boxes, buildings, the list goes on. Unusual vehicles feature regularly and in this particular case I managed to get a few photographs of this unusual motorbike, or should I say, Trike. Unlike many three wheeled cars and bikes this one does not have the usual two wheels rear, one wheel front layout but rather the opposite; two wheels in the front and one in the rear. It gives the bike / trike a rather surreal look, definitely a ride that makes people look twice, maybe even three times.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 20, 2017

Sneaky Tactics Apparently… …Pay Off.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There are many household things that I have never done: my Long Arts (Lung Specialist) says it’s not good for my asthma and COPD to be shaking up duvets and pillows whilst changing the covers, vacuuming is a definite no-no, and all chemical sprays and cleaning products are also out of bounds.

Himself has always taken up the slack when it comes to household duties, being brilliant in helping out without complaint.

One thing that he has always had a bit of a problem with getting laundry right.

The laundry has always therefore been my department, despite Himself’s sometimes good intentions to “help’ out: There’s A Psycho Behind The Shower Curtain…    

I like to make sure we have ample laundry powder on hand, our washing machine shifts at least two loads per day.

Last month I added washing powder to the weekly shopping list but after he bought it home I did a double take. Something was not quite right.  The height of the box was what first struck me as different when I put the new box next to the old one on the shelf, so curious, I took both of them down and was suddenly shocked that a height difference was not the only change to the new box in front of me.

Despite being a fraction taller than the old box it became immediately apparent that the new box  is decidedly thinner than the old one, so holds significantly less washing powder than the old one.

A good look at the labels showed me just how far the product had been downsized: the old box was 2430 grams and the new one was now only 2025 grams, a difference of 405 grams. I wish I knew the price of the old packet, I would dearly wish to compare it to the price of the new so that I could see if the price had also dropped by almost one fifth as well.

The rather cynical side of me thinks that it probably hasn’t.  There seems to be a trend these days for manufactures to quietly shrink the size of their packages, but keep most of the designs intact so that the changes would probably go unnoticed to most of the customers. Even the ones like me who like on this occasion do notice, no longer have the “old’ prices available so have no clue just how much we are being short changed.

It’s far too much hard work to note down and save old prices of all of our groceries for “one day when…” a day like this arises, and there is no way I can remember this kind of information in my head but it does annoy me that customers are not being told outright that they are probably getting considerably less product when in all likelihood they are not being charged considerably less money.

By all means down size the packaging if manufacturers want to for whatever reason, but please be upfront about it, change the packaging and make it obvious so that customers can vote with their wallets and make a knowing choice. There seems fat chance of that happening though because sneaky tactics rather too literally. … pay off.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 19, 2017

The Outside Hides A Dire Inner Secret…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have often thought that cutting trees should be avoided at all costs, especially in cities.

I would wonder why on earth the “Gemeente’ (City Council) would be doing away with seemingly perfectly healthy trees.

Then, this summer, whilst travelling down the Sportlaan in the Hague, we passed by a group of people in high visibility vests.

Curious, I got my pocket camera out whilst wondering what on earth was going on.

It turns out that there are some big trees being felled a short distance further, just around the bend on the same road.

My first reaction from a distance is the usual slightly indignant ” what are they doing?” but this indignation swiftly disappeared as soon as I saw the massive cavity inside one of the trees.

Clearly, what seems to be a normal tree on the outside is in fact a very sick one on the inside. Not everything is as it seems, so I realise that my earlier jumping to conclusions was a stupid thing. It is a good thing that these sick trees are coming down after all, otherwise they will fall down without warning, possibly killing some one. I never wish that a tree die needlessly but in this case I see that some need to come down. I therefore resolve to be less quick in future to judge when I see trees coming down by the side of the road.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 18, 2017

Our Little Marshmallow Went The Distance…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Earlier this summer (when the weather was half decent, before the August and September rain set in), Kiwi Daughter went on a hiking trip with a group of girl friends.

The area they were in was the Ardennes in Belgium, so it wasn’t the flat terrain that they are used to, and they carried their tents, sleeping bags, food and cooking equipment with them, so it was hardly like a day out with a rucksack either.

The distance covered was just over 50 kilometers and the girls worked as a team to help share the load and help one another up hills. There were blisters aplenty amongst them too, Kiwi Daughter getting blisters on her feet in places where we wondered how it was possible.

Only after the hike did we discover that her feet had grown since we bought the walking shoes last Christmas, so she should have been in shoes one size larger.

She was quick to point the finger in our direction for that one, and Yes, we did forget to check, but I did gently remind her that had she done the amount of training asked of her (and the group) before the trip, she would have figured this out in the months before so (a) Himself and I would have been able to buy her new shoes in time for her to break them in and (b) she probably would not have had any issues with blisters at all.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, it seems that most of the girls in the group had been also less than prepared to one degree or another so they suffered and struggled together.

At the end of the first hike Kiwi Daughter phoned us, weary to the bone, sore everywhere, her feet erupting in pain, almost too tired to eat dinner and close to tears. She didn’t know if she could do this, it was too hard, her feet were a mess… the list went on. I am certain that if at that moment Himself had offered to jump in the car, drive to Belgium and pick her up, she would have said goodbye to the rest of her group almost without a backward glance.

No such luck, we listened on the phone as the tears of weariness overcame her and told her that this was as much a test of character as it was of enduring the course. Our words of course meant little that night, and also again when six kilometers into the following days 26 km hike when she sat down at the side of a small road and thought she could not carry on because her feet hurt so much. There was a competitive edge to this event, some dozen or so groups having been given different routes but with the same terminus each day, no one wanted to be the last team in.

Some teams were all boys, some all girls and a few were mixed. Apparently all of the all-girl teams struggled with carrying the equipment, it seemed that being able to pass the weight around to few boys with muscles than they was a half decent advantage. On the flip side I think that it was highly likely that the boys carried a lot more food than the girls, but then again that gets lighter as the day goes on and tents do not.

That day, himself and I listened out for the phone, half expecting a call to tell us that she had dropped out. The phone stayed silent until the evening, when she let us know that she had persevered with the other 20 kilometers after all. Her voice was like a shadow of her usual self, her tiredness could be felt though the phone, her voice trembled and faltered, more tears ensued, and once she had recovered she told us that she wasn’t the only one who had trouble.

The girls all helped one another, taking packs apart and redistributing items several times during the journey, supporting one another physically, emotionally and mentally. They arrived in the campsite in twilight, several hours after the other teams and hardly felt like cooking after getting their tents up.

They managed to finish that day, and the next, despite all of the hurdles that they faced. This is the kind of experience where maybe it’s not the most fun when you are having to do the hard graft, but upon reflection you can look back and realise that in pushing yourself to the limit and not giving in, that you do indeed grow as a person, you find you are stronger than you thought, you can take pride in that fact that you didn’t take the easy option of giving up.

Not only did the girls finish with their team, they lived through something together and came away stronger and better for it.

One ‘bonus” (if it could be called that), about walking in blistered and shredded feet was that when they got sunburnt on the second day Kiwi Daughter said she didn’t feel it. Once home she discovered that she had a set of red, pink and white stripes down her legs regardless of using sunscreen several times. She said her new nick-name of the moment should be “marshmallow” since her legs looked like one.

I didn’t take photographs of her blisters, they were gruesome, but she could laugh about her legs. Kiwi Daughter now looks back on this trip with pride, and quite rightly so because she earned her place at the finish line; literally with blood, sweat and tears. Our little marshmallow went the distance and Himself and I could not be more proud.

September 17, 2017

Dragonflies: Nature’s Brilliant Feats Of Engineering…

We have a glass window over the first set of stairs to our house, at the bottom of which is a stone shelf that is on the inside facing the stairs.

After one of my hospital appointments, Himself and I arrived home and I went to go up.

Himself was already at the top of the stairs, unlocking our front door.

I on the other hand was slowly bringing up the rear as usual and on this occasion stopped on the bottom step because I could hear a strange fluttering sound.

It was a sound similar to the ones that flies make when they are fluttering their wings in frenzy, attempting to fly outside but the pane of glass of the living room window is stopping them in their tracks.

It was similar, but different, so I stopped to try and figure out what the noise was. As it turned out it is just as well that I did because the frenzied fluttering was coming from a trapped dragonfly. I carefully put my hand out towards the little beast and to my surprise instead of trying to flee, it climbed onto my fingers. I made my way to a bike leaning on a pole outside our stairs and stood in the semi-shade as I tried to see if the dragonfly had damaged itself in it’s attempts to get out of the stairwell.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There seems to be a tiny bit missing off the very tips of both top wings, it had collected some dust from the shelf, but for the rest it appeared to be more or less intact. I was lucky to be bringing my camera in from the car at the time, so with the dragonfly still balanced on the fingers of my left hand, I started to take as close-up photographs of it with the camera with my right.

The DSLR was heavier than I anticipated without having two hands to balance it, and the front wanted to swing about a bit, something I had to take great care to avoid so that my little insect did not get accidentally swiped.

My newfound friend seemed in no hurry to leave, so I had time to get the wavering camera under control and press the shutter as I did. Slowly, after a rest lasting several minutes the dragonfly started to recover, miniscule shudders passing through it’s wings as it seemed to be checking that everything was in working order.

In the meantime Himself had come back to the street to see why I had not followed him upstairs and several of our younger neighbours arrived home with their parents. We called them over to take a closer look at this beautiful creature and they, like us, marvelled at the delicate wing structure, flecks of colour and intricate body.

After at least five minutes and the dragonfly still on my hand, I started to wonder if I suddenly had acquired a pet, but I was luckily not in a rush. I wanted it to have the time it needed to recover so that in it’s weakened state it did not get eaten by birds. Another two minutes later, after an unsuccessful attempt to lower it onto the tan bicycle seat, it slowly turned around and then took off. These are my “studies of a dragonfly” photographs, it’s a little creature that is beautifully made, one of natures brilliant feats of engineering. I hope that my assistance means that it eventually lived to a ripe old dragonfly age.. at least on this day, it had a second chance at life.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

September 16, 2017

The Small Things Make Me Smile…

Way back in 2012 I featured this as one of my series of electrical substations: Just Humming Along in the City… (or Should That be Buzzing?)  and recently Himself and I  passed it again after having lunch in the Brownie and Downies café and saw it rather congested with bicycles. There had been cars around it too, but for some reason several all left more or less at once, so I snapped up a few photographs before more cars swooped in to take their place. My biggest question was how on earth did someone manage to stack one bike on another like this? I don’t get out so much , so even the small things can make me smile and make my day. This quirky sight certainly did.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 15, 2017

Forget Finding The Dragon, Look For The Elephant’s Trunk…

Filed under: ART,Manhole covers / Street grates,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am

We walk over manhole covers all the time, we pass by water mains covers and all sorts of things necessary for modern daily living. Many of these have beautiful patterns on their ironwork so I have been taking photographs of them whenever I can and posting the results here on my blog. Now one of Himself’s Aunt’s has joined in, with some excellent examples from her trip to China earlier this year. Many Thanks to Aunty for the photographs from Guilin and Shanghai here. Let’s take a look…

Zevensterren-park (Seven Star park)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

Olifantenslurf-heuvel (Elephant Trunk Hill)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

RIAN Water

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

Olifantenslurf-heuvel (Elephant Trunk Hill)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

Li-rivier

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

In Xintiandi

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

Shanghai

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

(photograph © Himself’s Aunty I)

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