Local Heart, Global Soul

December 7, 2014

Car Manufacturers Have Missed A Trick…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Long car journey’s are difficult for our kids, they can accept fourteen hour flights to Singapore and then another ten on to New Zealand, and know that there’s no bugging the pilots to ask to stop at a playground please, but when parents are the chauffeur in question, it’s a completely different story.

We have no sooner left The Hague when they are restless in their seats and it’s only a matter of time before sibling tensions rise.

One announces that they want to sleep and asks for quiet in the  car please, so this is the cue that the other  needs to decide that this is the perfect moment to break into song:  and of course not a complete  song you understand, but rather the two or three lines that they sort-of know  from the chorus, with the missing words that they didn’t catch randomly invented to sort-of fit.

Sung in tune, (or maybe not), as loud as they can get away with and as repetitively as possible.

After four, or six or ten renditions of these few song lines their sibling is seething and muttering loudly that it’s not fair.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Offended sibling then breaks into the “la la la ” song, (preferably off key), also as loud as they think they can get away with and says defiantly “Well if he (she) is allowed to sing then so can I“….  and so ensues a catastrophic rise in volume levels, dispersed with mutterings of complaints until one of the parents blows a gasket and reminds their offspring of the saying “third class riding is better than first class walking“.

Attention is given by both offspring for about 14 seconds and then they choose to throw caution to the wind, ignore their parents and begin the process all over again.

All those automotive advertisements of beautiful children smiling angelically at each other in the back seat are a demonic ploy to dupe parents into thinking that the “family car journey” is a simply brilliant idea.

If ever I wondered where my first grey hairs came from, then all I need to do is to remember these journeys. All becomes crystal clear.

I suspect that the more chaotic scenario is re-enacted between siblings during long car journey’s all over the world. I think that car manufactures have missed a trick. Seriously, what would really  revive the car industry is the invention of a vehicle where each kid gets a window and/or their own little cell capsule that’s 100% portioned off from their siblings.

Each capsule would be one hundred percent sound insulated , parents would have the option of listening in or tuning out but each child would be in perfect isolation as far as contact from one another was concerned.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One child could sing and another child could sleep no problem.

Reclining beds would be a bonus feature, but only if it could also be designed around having to transport :  summer camping gear and paraphernalia / winter ski clothing and paraphernalia / all other travelling paraphernalia / cool boxes full of food / boxes of gifts /extra blankets / toys /  and of course the family suitcases.

Come on car designers, don’t you like a challenge?

It took us about six and a half hours to complete the drive: the distance is just under five hours drive but we hit road works in a few places, went slow in queues for whatever reason in others and of course also stopped for lunch.

We are all tired when we arrive in Frankfurt, you can tell you are getting close when the planes from Frankfurt’s airport are flying in low to land… we peer at the tower outside of the city, the top getting lost in low cloud and make our way to our friends apartment.

Our friends have been checking out of their window every now and again for us for a while and are on the street to meet us when we pull into our parking space. Then they help Himself with suitcases and take us inside for a good dose of German cakes. Sugar. Even better, chocolate flavoured sugar. A brilliantly excellent remedy for even the worst long distance car journeys. It repairs even the grumpiest of dispositions. These good friends know us well.

(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)

October 25, 2013

Michelangelo’s Madonna Of Bruges Sits As Still As Stone…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In this page of my on-line diary, that details our last summer’s adventures, we are visiting the Church of Our Lady, In Bruges, Belgium.  The reason I’ve bought our Singaporean friend “Velveteen” here is because this is one of the few places outside of Italy where it’s possible to see a marble sculpture by Michelangelo.

Entitled “The Madonna of Bruges” the statue depicts Mary with the infant Jesus. Wikipedia tells me:

“Michelangelo’s depiction of the Madonna and Child differs significantly from earlier representations of the same subject, which tended to feature a pious Virgin smiling down on an infant held in her arms.

Instead, Jesus stands upright, almost unsupported, only loosely restrained by Mary’s right hand, and appears to be about to step away from his mother and into the world.

Meanwhile, Mary does not cling to her son or even look at him, but gazes down and away, as if she knows already what is to be her son’s fate. It is believed the work was originally intended for an altar piece. If this is so, then it would have been displayed facing slightly to the right and looking down.

Madonna and Child shares certain similarities with Michelangelo’s Pietà, which was completed shortly before, mainly, the chiaroscuro pattern and the movement of the drapery. The long, oval face of Mary is also reminiscent of the Pietà.

The work is also notable in that it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. It was bought by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni (Mouscron), from a family of wealthy cloth merchants in Bruges, then one of the leading commercial cities in Europe.

The sculpture was sold for 4,000 florin and was removed twice from Belgium after its initial arrival. The first was in 1794, after French Revolutionaries had conquered the Austrian Netherlands; the citizens of Bruges were ordered to ship it and several other valuable works of art to Paris. It was returned after Napoleon’s defeat. The second removal was in 1944 with the retreat of German soldiers, who smuggled the sculpture to Germany enveloped in mattresses in a Red Cross lorry.[1] It was found two years later and again returned. It now sits in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium. After the attack on Michelangelo’s Pietà in 1972 the sculpture was placed behind bulletproof glass, and the public can only view it from 15 feet away.”

The batteries on my DSLR  camera died soon after we entered the church so I had to use my little point-and-shoot so it was very handy that Velveteen’s set of photographs came out far better and I could use them too.

(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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Our_Lady,_Bruges

March 15, 2012

When a Piece of Plastic Stopping You From Going Green… Is a GOOD Thing!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Since this a car journey that features mostly winding roads, hills, trees and both inland and coastal views, landmarks that are a bit different are welcomed by kids looking out the windows.

But one of the most noticable differences between the generations sitting in our vehicle is that our kids have Nintendo games to play on long car journeys and prefer this to looking out of the window.

(the fact that our Nintendo’s are exclusively reserved for long car and plane journeys and are not out at other times is definitely part of the attraction)

As kids, Himself and I had no choice but to look out of windows : that and the “I Spy” game were our only entertainment.

Since I have always turned green in cars, I regularly offered my parents the alternative entertainment game of “get the car stopped quick enough to get kid about to throw up out of the back seat and onto the grass to get the inevidable over with” with extra challenges of steep gradients, narrow roads, lack of grass verges, passing traffic and possibly bad weather thrown in.

Ah, “anti-car-sickness pills” I hear you say…

…hmmm that was the other game of “how far can you spit the pill?” since I wasn’t great with pills either.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Nature posted revenge by giving Kiwi Daughter the “motion sickness gene” so I’ve “been there, done that” with the pill swallowing drama and tears from the parental side too and from whoever’s side you look at it, it wasn’t fun.

Fortunately help is at hand from a very unlikely source.

I was allerted to a gadget by a French friend who has the same problem with two of her four children but a more difficult situation because pulling over suddenly in French motorway traffic really is taking your life in your hands.

Not surprisingly also she tried everything and had already been down the unsuccessful pill-with-tears route too, then she found it…

…a piece of plastic that changed their travelling lives.
Like her, I was totally sceptical… come on, a tiny bobble of plastic stuck to a wrist strap…    …that’s IT ???

I stopped laughing when she told me that her boys now had hassle-free car journeys all the way from the Netherlands to the South of France.

Let’s take a closer look at this seemingly silly piece of plastic. It’s a little bobble of plastic, solid, smooth and attached to a one-size-fits-all wrist strap that does up with valcro.

To wear it you place the plastic bobble on the the centre of the inside of your wrist and do it up as tight as is comfortable. This forces the plastic bobble down to press on the pressure point in your wrist and takes care of your motion sickness.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Easy as that, there’s one for each wrist and if for example you are bobbing up and down in a boat feeling bad, then an additional press on the plastic bobble is also said to increase the fight against nausea.

Before we left for New Zealand I dispatched Himself to the ANWB (Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond = Dutch Automobile Association) to procure us a few pairs. If any piece of plastic against car-sickness needed to be put through it’s paces, then the winding roads and hills of New Zealand would be the perfect place to do it.

In addition to the car journeys there was the added bonus of the Cook Straight ferry crossing since Cook Straight has been deemed one of the roughest pieces of water in the world (after Fouvoux Straight further south and the Drake Passage off South America).

These places can all be found within the infamous “rouring forties” and are the product of routine high winds that circle the globle at this latitude and either a meeting of two vast oceans (Drake Passage) or in New Zealand’s case, the funneling of big winds and vast seas through narrow landmass gaps.

I’ve had experience of Cook Straight in both it’s extremes: from as calm as a millpond and in the most awful storm in the 1980’s (awful as in: I was clinging to a table that was bolted to the floor but the chairs were sliding past back and forth in alternate directions as the boat rolled from one side to the other… needless to say the rest of the ferry crossings that day were cancelled and the ships stock of “amenity bags for the stomachily unsteady” started to run in short supply.)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

If any stout test is needed to see if these wrist-bands are up to the task, then the comination of road and sea routes that New Zealand has to offer will be sure to show up any strengths and weaknesses.

I’m delighted to report that much to my amazment, these bands really do work!

Ok, we did take rest stops to get some fresh air but we managed shorter and fewer stops than previous trips doing the same route, so much so that we arrived in Picton with just over an hour ahead of our estimated arrival time…

….and  there were no “Mama, I don’t feel good, I think I’m going to be sick” pleas constantly from the back seat, and I personally have never had a less green road journey as this one.

Granted it didn’t cure our motion-sickness 100% but it did help take away maybe 80-90% of the misery and that  for both Kiwi Daughter and I, means that these wrist bands are nothing short of miraculous and we will be packing them on every long car journey from now on.

There is no gurantee that these will work… apparently they help roughly 80% of motion sickness sufferers, to a greater or lesser degree: but if you have suffered car-sickness or sea-sickness, or have kids that do, you will know that a “no-pill” solution that offers any improvement at all is only a win, win, win, win, win solution.

I’m so delighted with these that I want to share my exciting discovery: If you suffer from car-sickness or sea-sickness or know someone who does, then comment on this post before midnight on March 22nd,  2012 and be in to win one of these for yourself!

I have two to give away, so you have two possibilities to win… so drop me a line and be in to win!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

December 25, 2011

Christmas is All About a Very Special Birth… The Miracle of Life (and the Distorted Facts)

Filed under: Funny,Kids and Family,LIFE,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today is Christmas Day and millions of people around the world will be celebrating it whatever way suits their style and traditions best.  Of course not all people observe Christmas, but for people of  the Christian faith it is one of the most  important dates in the calendar year.

I’m sure that not just the birth of Jesus, but all impending births and the the miracle of Life have inspired many misconceptions and mirth because of misunderstandings of the events in progress by children.

I remember the story told by my New Zealand Grandmother:  in generations past it was not uncommon for young children to be farmed out to live with other relatives when a new pregancy became really obvious and the children were only brought back once the new arrival had been “delivered” by the “stork”.

Naturally at this time the Facts of Life were a taboo subject and little or no information was given in explaination as to where babies actually came from at any  time in many families.

My Grandma once recounted how one of my uncles asked where his new baby brother had come from and when he was told that they had got him  “from under the cabbages”  he horrified my Grandfather (a very serious veggie gardener) by cutting off a whole row of cabbage heads  because he was “looking for another brother”.

Even sadder was that he got punished for doing so, even when the error had been on the part of the parents and what he had done,  he had done in innocence and childish ignorance.

Luckily these days we are far more enlightened and I have been having “the talk”  with Kiwi Daughter on the “Facts of Life”.

To be honest I had been dreading it, thinking it would be an embarrassing topic to explain, and Yes, when she was four, it was, but mostly that was because it’s so hard to know how to phrase things in a very simple way and four year olds have a habit of asking questions at the most inopportune moment and in a manner that throw you completely off guard.

Now that Kiwi Daughter is ten, and trying to ask intelligent questions, I’ve been surprised about how easy it’s been to just sit and have “little chats”  with her.

A very good  friend of ours is pregnant and this impending event has been the inspiration for some very interesting conversations with our children as they see her tummy grow bigger.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Little Mr’s. reaction: “Does that mean you are having a little kid?” (well we don’t think he means the baby goat variety, but baby human-being sort) so,  “Yes“…

The conversation thereafter flowed simultaneously on two completely different levels, Little Mr having a rather edited version of the facts about babies than Kiwi Daughter who is almost 4 years older.

Kiwi Daughter asks about her own birth (natural) and Little Mr. his, (emergency caesarian section for medical reasons) so he knows that he quite literally came out of Mama’s tummy. He did however think a bit and all of a sudden he asked ” What do they do with the left over  bit of tummy“?

(yep…  you got me there, would have suited me fine if they had taken it away and not just sewed it up).

Kiwi Daughter on the other hand has in recent months had sex education at school and she and I have been having some in-depth discussions at home about all the upcoming changes that puberty will bring.

Most of these little chats stem from questions that she has, where obviously the exact and precise deails were not made clear, or if they were she didn’t  get it.

All of a sudden she started to giggle, and then she confessed that she had been quite shocked when it became apparent in the lesson that whan a lady has a baby, that her big stomach doesn’t instantamously just deflate the second the baby exits.

(After two kids, sigh, I wish)

… the look on her face and the question “Is that really how it is Mama?”  I said Yes, that’s how it really is, the Mama’s tummy slowly stretches and grows as the baby gets bigger, and then after the baby is born it takes time for all the muscles and skin (and a lot of exercise) to get back to the way they were before.

It transpired that Kiwidaughter had visions of the process being as simple as blowing up a balloon and just then letting the air rush out afterwards…

hmmm…  … jet prepolsion birth anyone?

The wonder of a new soul arriving into the world should be a happy event every time and for me each and every new baby is a Mircale of Life… complex, amazing, beautiful, full of promise, potential and hope…

Be it the Christ Child or any child, I hope that we keep true to the values of trust, honesty and faithfulness in all things and that we also learn to look at life though the innocent, delightful, wondrous eyes of a child… and giggle a bit and have fun too.

Whatever you believe (or maybe not, since that is a very personal choice) I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and whatever your day brings, I hope that your day today is spent with someone you love.

Merry Christmas!

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