Local Heart, Global Soul

November 12, 2013

Determination Means Not Ever Giving Up, No Matter What (Or How Long) It Takes…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This isn’t my first visit to Bruges.  I was last here with my parents in 1988 because we were visiting relatives in The Netherlands and made a week long side trip that incorporated London and an overnight stop in Bruges on the way back.

Back then it was literally a whistle-stop visit, we arrived in the afternoon, I was able to visit Michelangelo’s  statue of  Madonna in the Church of Our Lady. All I remember of the church was a quick glimpse of the statue because we arrived minutes before the churched closed for the day and joined at least a hundred other tourists who were also trying to get a last minute peek.

My one precious (film was very expensive) photograph was a beautifully blurred example because I got elbowed by someone as I clicked the shutter closed, but I still kept the photo for a long time afterwards because it was a reminder and proof  that I had really seen a real Michaelangelo.  You can imagine my pride as I pulled the photo out with the apology, “I know the photo’s not great but that white blurred blob really IS a real Michelangelo statue!”.  I remembered absolutely nothing else about the interior of the church, but it was something behind the church that has been the driving force behind my wish to return here ever since that d.ay

My father had a back problem and had been tired out by an incident earlier :  His mother (my Dutch Oma) had requested a special sort of  chocolate from Bruges. We had very limited time on that trip and the shops were starting to shut, but my father hadn’t managed to track down these elusive favourites and he openly admitted that he was too scared to go back to her without them.

Therefore i witnessed my father literally running from one chocolate shop to another minutes before closing time trying to find what he wanted. Finally there was a lady who was actually trying to close the shop door to lock up for the night, but had answered “yes we have those, but we are closed so please come back tomorrow” to the question my father has asked.

He was however so intent on not leaving empty handed that he jammed his foot in the door and then the rest of him, and refused to budge until the lady sold him what he wanted.  Witnessing your father physically wrestling with the door that this Belgium lady was just as intent on closing was one of those life’s images burned into my brain. My mother and I thought it was all very comical but for him it was no laughing matter. Eventually the lady gave up trying to evict him and with a lot of muttering and grumbling because the till had already been closed she sold him the chocolates he wanted.

(photograph © Velveteen) used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen) used with permission

Afterwards my Mother dared to ask if we could try one… the glare we both received told us that probably the second worst thing to facing Oma without her favourite chocolates would be facing her with a depleted supply, so it was more than our lives were worth to dare touch that little gift wrapped cardboard box.

After this incident we had managed our few minutes inside the church and now that all the drama and rush was over,  all my father wanted to do was to collapse back at the hotel.  It was a beautiful summer’s night and the hotel was close by so I elected to walk around the church first and set out by myself.  I remember the stillness of the evening as I stumbled upon a little bridge over the canal,  situated just behind the church: there were beautiful buildings on the canal around it and I was completely and utterly alone.

The evening light was magical and the stillness,  solitude and peace  of the moment in this beautiful spot left a lasting impression.  I spent about twenty minutes there before other people arrived and the spell was broken.

Ever since that day I knew I wanted to return one day to that one little spot in Bruges, and now decades later I have finally done it. Amazingly the details were exactly as I remembered,  even the weather was similar, but unfortunately this time there was no total solitude and silence.  A constant stream of tourists kept coming to the bridge, photographs would be taken at each end and in the middle… getting photos without “extra’s” posing in them became a the challenge that I was determined to win. It took a while but Velveteen and I were determined, patient and at least partially successful.

This post therefore has become one of persistence on many levels, and whilst I have no idea what the canal or this area are officially called, the little path across the bridge becomes a cherished trip down memory lane.

(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)

(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 © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

(photograph © Velveteen)used with permission

August 31, 2013

Loving It, Hating It and Not Knowing What You Might be Letting Yourself In For…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer our visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine” (I’m using her internet screen name for privacy reasons) stayed at the  Saracens Head  Hotel in Great Dunmow whilst Himself and the kids enjoyed roughing it in tents with a group of friends.

One of the bonuses of staying in a hotel was that breakfast was included so over the time of our stay we collected quite a few Foodie photos. This is a compilation of them all.

“Velvetine”  adores eggs, so opted for an egg dish every day in the form of a cooked English breakfast or  Eggs Benedict (with Hollandaise sauce)  or Egg Florentine (with hollandaise and spinach), and another version that I can’t remember the name of that had salmon as the extra ingredient.

I also rekindled my love of Marmite… when I first came to Europe I was used to the New Zealand version of Marmite and didn’t like the flavour of the English one,  and then it became a moot point because Marmite wasn’t available in the Netherlands anyway.

Now, years later I can get Marmite in one of the Dutch  ex-pat specialty shops but never bothered because I assumed I wouldn’t  like it. On a whim I tried Marmite again some 20 years after my first attempt at British marmite and probably because I have completely lost the taste of the New Zealand version, I discovered I liked it, and liked it a lot.

A large pot of marmite went into our shopping basket before we went back to the Netherlands and I have been buying it and having it semi-regularly ever since.  Marmite is a “love it” or “hate it” kind of taste, and I have one enduring memory of it as a child.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I think that my sister and must have been around eight years old.  My Dutch Oma (grandmother) was visiting New Zealand and she didn’t speak English.

My sister and I had limited Dutch. The kitchen was a little off the dining room and my Father and Mother were busy there, leaving my sister and I with Oma at the breakfast table.

We looked in awe and amazement when Oma suddenly seized the pot of Marmite with great delight and issued a torrent of excited Dutch at a rate we had no hope of keeping up with.

I clearly remember her spreading a very thick layer of Marmite on her bread and watched as the slow-motion-like sequence of events unfolded. She raised the bread to her mouth with a massive smile, My sister and I were still dumb-struck at how much Marmite she had used and sat in stupid wonder.

As she chewed that first bite a look of shock and horror came over her face and her whole face crumpled up, and we then witnessed an elderly lady make a spritely dash for the rubbish tin accross the room, where the offending material was deposited.

Then came the shriek of disgust and another torrent of Dutch that bought my father running from the kitchen, as apparently Oma thought she had found some sort of Dutch stroop (a sweet  dark syrup) in New Zealand that she really missed and had expected something sweet on her bread.

It appeared that her bitter disappointment was both figurative and literal.  My Father then gave my sister and I a strict telling off for not stopping her… which I remember to this day because I thought it most unjust.

How were we to have known that she didn’t know it was Marmite? The transformation on Oma’s face as the realisation hit was however an enduring memory that will remain with me for all my days. Now I can laugh and see the funny side but at the time she definitely couldn’t.  I suppose it was safe to say that we didn’t any translation that day to tell us that she wasn’t in the Marmite  “love it” camp.

(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)

(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)

I think Velvetine made off with the photo trophy of the series with these two very photogenic Egg Florentine photographs…

(photograph © Velvetine) Used with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) Used with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) Used with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) Used with permission

August 11, 2013

Weeding Out The Rotten Apples in a Fit of Giggles…

Filed under: Ely,ENGLAND,Kids and Family,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another page of last summer’s diary as we whisk our Singaporean friend “Velvetine” away with us on a few adventures.

Earlier Velvetine and I were in the magnificent Ely Cathedral ogling stained glass and delighting in the fact both of us love discovering the beauty of ancient churches and Cathedrals.

Himself  would humour me but could care less about stained glass so it’s excellent to have Velvetine as a partner in crime as she shares my excitement as I find a new detail with equal enthusiasm.

In fact we’ve been egging each other on with squeaks of delight in discoveries in stone, glass and wrought iron all morning, in and on a bit of a high with our enthusiasm.

Now after a short drive we are visiting Himself’s cousin, close to Ely.  Our delight of earlier is renewed: cousin has a magnificent fruit and vegetable garden and Velvetine and I are garden-less Foodies who live in apartments with tiny balconies. Need I say more? After heading into the thick of the vegetation to take photographs we earn our keep by filling a very large bucket with windfall apples that are cluttering up the lawn. It was done not long ago but the tree is bursting with fruit and cousin who is ill,  has been finding it difficult to keep up with clearing up the mess.

We are happy to oblige and my aim for the bucket (mostly) improves  as the collecting progresses… Kiwi Daughter even dares to pick up some of the rotting apples with as little contact as is humanly possible, albeit with a lot of noise and face pulling and in general her effort was excellent comedy. (She proves she is very clearly a city kid!) The chore is accomplished with a lot of laughter and we later relax in the shade with a cup of tea and come good conversation.

(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)

(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)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

July 30, 2013

Setting The Menu For Future Days…

Filed under: ENGLAND,Folkestone,Kids and Family,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Turning the page of my diary of a trip we made last summer with a visiting friend from Singapore.

We did so much and visited so many places that it’s taken me a year to sort the photographs and go though my notes to put everything into legible order.

I’ve done research where needed (and where possible) so that you too can experience a whistle-stop tour of parts of Europe that the tour busses may not take you (but also a few places where they do).

We are about to leave our friends in Folkestone, but before we do, I oogle our friends massive oven, generously sized kitchen, large selection of catering sized cooking pots and as a result we go shopping and make a big dinner for our hosts.

Our hosts and the rest of our party nip out to their “local” …a pub just down the road for a pre-dinner “pint”… and the return for a slap up meal.

I did attempt to make my New Zealand “Corned beef” recipe both for tonight and to take to the group buffet meeting we will be attending, but I had a misunderstanding at the butcher I went to, I asked for corned beef and they gave me beef that needed to be corned rather than pieces of corned beef that needed to be cooked. (Yes, they did explain that this was all they had at the moment, and they did ask several questions which seemed to me like they were asking did I know how to make corned beef ?… since my recipe was for corned beef I then misunderstood and said “yes” so mea culpa the fault was all mine).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Only after I’d cooked it did I realise that they were really asking if I knew how to “corn” the beef first. The resulting meat was edible enough, but not a patch on how the real recipe would have tasted had the meat already been corned.

I was suspicious because meat that’s been corned has a characteristic red colour which I did notice was missing here, but dismissed because I thought the process might result in the different amount of colour from one country to the next depending on the local recipe.

Since I had been dreaming about making this recipe ever since our last New Zealand trip (corned beef not being a particular cut of meat the Dutch butchers know of or cut) I was actually the one most annoyed and disappointed that the recipe did not turn out to plan.

Everyone else, including the group we joined and added the rest of this to the buffet table to, cleaned it out in record time.

The photographic steps to make the recipe were made with glee by Velvetinenut because she was amazed that I could cook so many huge pieces of meat at once and was intrigued by the steps.

We rounded out the meal with an ice cream taart and retired to bed far later than planned because of many hours of good conversation, and in the case of Himself and our hosts a good raid on some excellent European wines. Tomorr0w brings an early start because we need to hit the road… new adventures are just around the corner…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

(photograph © Velvetine) posted with permission

Our friend’s big kitchen with lovely big oven and cooktop…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

They have a big house and are amazing hosts…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

And a big garden…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 25, 2013

Weird Constructions, Windmills and Planes, Make for a Really Boring Car Ride (NOT!)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The upside of not being allowed to drive is that I am free to sit in the front passenger seat and take photographs of our journeys.

I lament the fact that our kids these cry “sooo bored” on long car journeys and from a young age mastered the art of frighting (to what at least sounds like near death) in the back seat.

I endeavoured for years to teach them car games like “I Spy” or singing in the car, I tried paper games and bribery of ice cream upon arrivals, but to no avail:  paper games resulted in pencil wars, singing, in disputes about tone, song words, which song to sing and volume, “I Spy”, arguments after 68  “no’s” as to whether the object had really been seen 15 minutes earlier or just made up as we went past something new two seconds ago and the ice creams never delivered because they were never earned.

Himself and I got sick of trying to control the meltdown of two terrible monsters in the back seat without having meltdown ourselves and found it hard to believe that when they were out with other people that they were cherubic examples of  sweetness and light, so much so that friends and relatives raved about their saintly behaviour (so it IS apparently possible, it’s just that Himself and I have never actually witnessed it).

After several (actually all) disastrous long car journeys for the first 6 years of their existence together, were Himself and I (barely) resisted stopping by a canal and throwing said little monsters into the water to sink or swim as they may, we bought Nintendo game machines to provide some distraction.

I tempered the purchase with the strict rule: Only  for use on long car and plane journeys and they have to wait half an hour into the journey before the “on” button  is activated.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Suddenly peace reigned in the back seat and car journeys became about 500%  less stressful.

I on the other hand have to look out of the window, the window has to be as clean as possible and I have to be facing forwards, otherwise the result is that I turn green and emergency stops are required whilst I make swift exits of vehicles to return breakfast / lunch / dinner to whatever nature is by the side of the road.

For me, looking out of the window is never boring, you see funny things,  strange vehicles,  architectural edifices ranging from the good to the bad to the ugly and  you learn about the countryside you are travelling though.

Little Mr. does have an uncanny knack for looking up from his game just in time to scream: Train! Police car!, Ambulance!, Fire engine!, or  Tractor! as appropriate,  but for the rest is more interested in the adventures of Mario and Luigi. Today’s interesting stuff as seen from the road include some mystery constructions: energy pylons maybe? something to do with a new high speed rail link (that was maybe due in this area if I remembered correctly, or completely somewhere else if I didn’t), maybe something to do with a new over bridge?

Who knows?… Your best guesses are most welcome.

We see windmills in all sorts of places, giant fibreglass fruit in the middle of a roundabout and (as you do) a not so small aeroplane fuselage sans wings standing next to a barn (the guest quarters? or a build-it-yourself and he’s still saving for the wings? ). Certainly discussion points and they give us a giggle too…  all you have to do is keep your eyes peeled, how on earth can a car journey be boring?

(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)

(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)

We park the cars in a parking area (i.e. paddock)  at the end of a tiny road, and climb the steps of the dyke to follow a little path that is next to the canal on top of the dyke … the next stage of the adventure unfolds…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 27, 2013

Learning New Tricks and Getting Into the Water to Play…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This post continues one of yesterday where we have come to the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk so that Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends can swim with dolphins and share a unique experience together before one of her best friends moves overseas.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I don’t to put photos of my family on the internet and so for this post you get edited photos of our group with identifying features removed.

Yes I’m very aware that I’m useless at editing and it’s a bit of  a blotchy mess  but my limited skills achieved what was required and that’s what counts.

I never claimed to be Michaelangelo but at least I know my limits and won’t be attempting to touch up any fresco’s any time soon…  no matter how much repair they might be in need of.

First we all go and watch a film about the Dolphinarium and the work they do, yes swimming  with a dolphin is expensive but we learn that every cent goes back into caring for the wildlife, not just the ones we can in the public areas but also rescued marine mammals from all over the Dutch coastline.

These animals are bought here due to injury or illness, are nursed back to health in a quiet, dedicated area well away from the public eye and whenever possible, once healthy are released back into the wild.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Dolphins who are unable for whatever reason to be re-released into the wild are looked after and if they show an interest in learning tricks and getting close to the public then they are taught by the keepers. The Keeper tells us that different dolphins have distinct preferences about the tricks they prefer to do but that none of them is forced to learn a trick or if they know one, to perform it.

If they don’t fancy doing it that day, it’s all ok and for this reason no guarantee is made to the group that any specific experience will be met, and on the day we were there were three dolphins in the enclosure when the group went into the water, one came to check out the group but decided it didn’t want to play today and swam away.  It got some fish regardless but preferred to  play and dive close to where I was taking the photos, on the far side of the enclosure.

The second and third dolphins hung around the trainer and made it clear that they wanted some entertainment with the guests and so the tricks were changed to these dolphins preferences.

For some reason it was decided that it would not be safe to swim in the deeper water with the dolphins today, but that shallow water playing would be fine. I’m not sure if this was because of the ages of the children or for other reasons but at least they get to get close enough to touch.

The keepers have set commands that they use to communicate with the dolphins and once each member of the party had practised one of these sets of signals they went and put them to the test with one of the dolphins. The tricks ranged from tight circular turns, jumps, and splashing to “speaking” where upon command the dolphin came out of the water and chattered Flipper style to the group.

The relationships between the keepers and the dolphins are clearly close, there is a special bond of trust and respect between the two… even just observing from the shore it was a moving experience.

The local birds also provided some entertainment,  hanging around and circling low in an attempt to catch a low flying fish mid-air en route to a dolphin’s mouth.

(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)

(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)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 18, 2013

Little Mr. Causes Time Travel…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

When Little Mr. was a toddler, he spied a tablecloth on our dining room table.

I’d avoided tablecloths for a long time before this point because he had been previously crawling and hoisting himself up during his attempts to move from the horizontal to the vertical, but this was a special occasion:  the Dutch St.Nicolas and the whole family were due at our place for a buffet lunch.

I should have known better.

I’d made a large gingerbread house and spent way too much of the night before assembling and decorating it: the dining room table had all the plates and glasses lined up at the end, plus the gingerbread house.

I was busy ferrying things back and forth from the kitchen to the table but then decided to get a photo of a gingerbread before everyone arrived so retrieved the camera.

I was absent from the room for a grand total of  maybe one and a half minutes so imagine my horror when I  returned to find Little Mr. tugging heartily at the tablecloth for all he was worth.The result of his efforts was that an entire line of glassware and plates now overhung the edge of the table above his head, and the gingerbread house a little further along was not far behind.

I put the camera down on the nearest chair and sprinted to the table to save kid and crockery and since Little Mr. gave one more determined tug before relenting his grip, ended up on my knees in front of the table with both arms outstretched as the only barrier against between the table items and gravity,  yelling hysterically for adult reinforcements in the shape of Himself.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Himself duly arrived and removed leaning glasses and plates off my arms,  and we were almost finished when there was a horrible crash.

Little Mr., having discovered the camera laid within reach in haste, picked it up and then threw it on the floor. The damage was ridiculous but fatal.

The camera body sported a large dent  where the battery was, which also broke the door off the battery compartment.

To add insult to injury, my very beautiful (but clearly not structurally certificated) gingerbread house then had it’s roof  cave in and became a decorated ruin about five minutes before the guests arrived.

We sent to camera back to the manufacture in an effort to have it repaired  but they said it was hopeless. Stupidly the camera itself still functioned, but since the battery could not be removed or recharged it died once the juice ran out.

Now fast-forward to last weekend I was sorting though some stuff I’d shoved in the back of a cupboard and lo… this broken camera resurfaced.

I’m still debating if I should try somewhere else to get it fixed, and so loathe to throw it away, I went to put it on my desk. For some reason I stopped when I passed by the desk later and looked into the camera where the chip would be and to my surprise there was a chip still inside it…  … with photos dating  from April 2008!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

These photo’s pre-date my blog by just over a year.  There were also a lot of photos of Little Mr. as a toddler so this chip must have been forgotten in the camera all this time.

So I’m taking you on a mini-time-travel-tour.

This is a walking tour that Himself, Little Mr and I made in the centre of the Hague a the time (for a reason I’ve long since forgotten, Kiwi Daughter was elsewhere on this day).

The Hague is not Capital of the Netherlands (that distinction goes to Amsterdam) but it is the seat of government.

The first of what became the old parliament buildings called the Binnenhof   (the inner court)  was completed in the 13th century, and new parliment buildings (not pictures here) were added directly next door in the 20th.

The Ridderzaal  (knight’s hall) that looks a little like a mini castle is the central feature in the complex of old buildings and is still in use as the venue where the official opening of the Dutch Parliament takes place on the third Thursday of September each year.

These photos are just a few of the buildings that make up the Binnenhof complex… Let’s take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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The octagonal turret is the Dutch Prime Minister’s Office…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 12, 2013

Even Stunning Displays and Architecture Topped by Something Even More Magical…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In my final post about our visit to the Science Centre NEMO  in Amsterdam, I’ll take you on a little tour of the building inside and out.

Of course you’ve seen a few of the exhibits but the building itself is also amazingly built.

Firstly, since land is a scarce commodity in the Netherlands, back in 1968  they utilised space with usual Dutch ingenuity and built a  highway in a  tunnel called the IJtunnel under the sea to connect the centre of Amsterdam with Amsterdam Noord.  Wiki tells me that:

The total length of the tunnel, including on- and off-ramps, is 1682 metres.(5518 feet). The covered part is 1039 metres long. (3408 feet) The deepest point of the tunnel lies 20.32 metres (66.8 feet) below sea-level.

Then they saved space even further by building the five story NEMO building in 1997 on top of the tunnel. From a distance the building looks like a ship, so it almost appears to float in the harbour.

The fifth floor of the building houses a Café, the food of which we were not particularly impressed with because we took a very late lunch at quarter to four (NIMO closes at  5 p.m.) and there was practically nothing left on offer. What we did have was mediocre at best,  but the view from the top of the building was what really grabbed our attention.

Massive tiered steps slope down the face of the building,  there’s a giant chess set to play with and best of all, views of central Amsterdam that take your breath away even on a grey rainy day like this.  The kids of course don’t mind the rain and run up and down the steps in the drizzle,  I venture out a little way to take photos, and muse that if you can marvel that there’s so much to see on a day like this, how magnificent it must be when the sun is shining.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The NEMO website says that it’s possible to get to this observation deck for free and I think if I was an Amsterdam worker, working nearby then this would be a wonderful place to come during your lunch break, just bring your own sandwich and enjoy the fabulous vista.

Inside the building there are not too many windows: the walls being filled with exhibits, but where there is a window, there are also stunning views over the harbour and central Amsterdam.

Finally, there were two exhibits that totally defied my attempts to photograph them. The first was an especially set up display Heath Robinson style, on the first floor where at a designated time Staff set off a chain reaction as balls, balloons, shopping trolleys and a myriad of paraphernalia set of a domino effect.

I tried static shots from a vantage point on the balcony as the various bits and pieces whizzed, popped, banged, bounced, skidded and fell, and managed to miss all of the dramatic moments completely (rather an achievement considering the amount of opportunity presented).

It appears I was always one step ahead of the action or one step behind it, so note to self: This kind of action is probably best left to a video camera or a camera that takes stills in slow motion (and probably with many retakes.)

The second was a moving light:  to the human eye it made a complete circle of connected loops, but the camera couldn’t get even remotely close to what I could actually see in front of me:  even the fastest setting, I could only capture the tiniest portion of the circle, proving indeed that no matter how amazing the science we have seen here today, that the magical miracle of the mechanics of the human body and brain still out-shines every single one of them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IJtunnel

http://www.e-nemo.nl/

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 11, 2013

Forget Gangnam Style, This is Learning FUN FUN Style!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Continuing from yesterday’s post,  Family Kiwidutch are exploring the Science Centre NEMO in Amsterdam.

The building is five stories high and packed with many more things to do and exhibits that even a fanatic photographer like me could keep up with,  so maybe I photographed a tenth of it all.

The lower levels are more suited to the interests of younger children, the higher you go the more complicated and scientific the exhibits become, but everything remains interactive and hands on.

There are moving displays, entire  ride on exhibits, mechanisms that open and close items on the ceiling, moving solar powered mini aeroplanes, sensors in walls or floors that triggered amazing lighting displays, and even a set of recumbent bicycle pods that you lay in and peddle as fast as you can: the faster you peddle the faster you are hurtled virtually through space on a massive screen in front of you.

Can you get past Mercury, the sun, through various nebula and to the edge of galaxies as the computer tells you where you are and how far away from planet earth you have travelled?

If I remember correctly you have only three minutes to see how far you can get… Kiwi Daughter got ultra competitive and  competed with Himself and despite his best efforts and long legs he actually struggled to beat her, only grazing past her score in the last seconds.

Next to them was a boy having a fabulous time dancing, fighting and lunging in front of a giant screen that threw down virtual lightening as sensors picked up his moves.

It seems that if a mechanism can be driven with water, electricity, magnetics or air, it’s here to be played with an explored, there’s a cultural area, puzzle area, even an area that explores the latest in Green technology.

If and when you want there are information boards detailing how everything works, this is learning fun-style and there’s plenty of noise in the place as excited squeals and whoops of laughter ring out all over the place.

With all the buttons to push, handled to turn and things to spin, our kids should have burnt off their excess energy today plus extra…in the meantime they are charging in front with Himself,  and sprinting back to me as I walk slowly behind to update me with the latest item ahead that’s got the Wow factor. If I covered four of the five floors once, I think they must have covered them ten times with all the rushing backwards and forwards.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 10, 2013

Finding NEMO …A Scientific Discovery!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Another post from my 2012 archives  for you whilst I head back to bed.

Last May the kids had school holidays and most days it rained. After organising some weekday play-dates by the weekend we were all looking forward to going out to a morning  appointment in Amsterdam.

After the appointment we sat thinking about something that might be nice to do here in Amsterdam with the kids and this is how we ended up at “NEMO”.  On their website I got the following information:

NEMO  is the  Netherlands’ largest science center and opened in 1997. It consists of  five floors packed with scientific and technological things to do and discover. Science Center NEMO is the place to discover science and technology in a fun and educational way.

The name NEMO has been used throughout history by many famous authors to describe events and people who find themselves on the border between fantasy and reality. In Latin nemo means ‘no one’ and indicates a world between fantasy and reality.

Visitors to NEMO Science Centre can become a scientist, technologist or technician for a day. Suddenly dreams are real.

The name “Nemo” is already very well known:

The most famous Nemo – written here with small letters – is the mystical captain of the famous 19th century book ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne. In his submarine Nautilus, Captain Nemo travels through the murky underwater world, having amazing adventures.

In 1910, the American cartoonist Winsor McCay created the dream boy Little Nemo. In his dreams, Little Nemo has many adventures, in which fantasy and reality are so intertwined that it is no longer possible to distinguish one from the other.

The oldest use of Nemo to mean ‘no one’ can be found in the Latin version of Homer’s Odyssey. After the Trojan War, Odysseus sets off home, crossing the land of the Cyclopes, the one-eyed giants.

One of them, Polyphemos, takes Odysseus and his crew captive. Odysseus begs Polyphemos to let him and his crew go. When Polyphemos asks his name, Odysseus replies ‘Nemo’. 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Instead of letting him and his men go, Polyphemos eats two of the prisoners. Odysseus then thinks of a clever way to escape.

He gets Polyphemos drunk on wine and while he is sleeping off the intoxication, Odysseus sticks a glowing pole in his eye. Polyphemos screams. The other Cyclopes hear the noise and come running. They ask if someone is trying to kill him.

Polyphemos cries: “No one is trying to kill me, friends.” “Then deal with it on your own,” the other Cyclopes think and Odysseus is able to make his escape.

Nemo, the famous fish from the Walt Disney film, captured the world’s imagination in 2003. Since then, many young visitors have asked the director why his science centre is named after a clown fish.

Around 500,000 people visit the green building above the IJ Tunnel in Amsterdam every year.

From the very beginning where they discover an orange shell-like structure that echoes back sound, or the orange and red cylinders what revolve  the faster you spin them the more lights light up, or the machine blows bubbles or sand rises in a chamber, to using a magnet to make a TV work, or playing with light and colour: this place is as hands-on as it gets and both children and adults present are having fun having a go… … and there’s still so much more to see!

http://www.e-nemo.nl/

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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