Thursday, January 26, 2017

Real Winter Wonders

As most of you know by now, I hate winter. I endure it because, well, there's no other choice, but in the world of wishes and dreams, I'd be the sort of creature that hibernates until spring. Alternatively, I would have the time, freedom and money to spend my winters somewhere that it isn't - winter, that is.   But wishes and dreams are what these will remain, and so I have to resort to my fall back position and endure.

This winter has been/is being proper cold! Quite a shock to the system after a few years where wet and windy have been the overriding features of our flatland Januaries. We've been having sub zero temperatures overnight for a couple of weeks now and it's not been much over freezing during the day. This means a few things (some of the time) that I do like: 

Sunshine! Yes, beautiful, cloudless blue skies with lots of glowy golden light! I also like the fact that even when it's cloudy, Dutch skies nearly always have a lightness to them and I never feel oppressed by the weight and density of the cloud cover the way I used to in England. The flatness has its own beauty in the cold weather. The endless horizons have a kind of mystical quality and in the evening light when the haze starts to rise, it is magical.

The rooftops of Leiden

Mist. Some days there's too much of this and it's simply fog, but I like it when it hovers over the ground in the mornings and you can see the sun through it. It usually means it will be a nice day later on. On other days when it's not so thick, it just drifts in layers over the fields, which is lovely.

Ice! When the ponds and ditches freeze over, it isn't long before we see the Dutch doing what they are born to do, and that's skating. I can't skate myself, but I love watching the way the Dutch relish and enjoy the ice. Whole families get their skates on and go out to play, even tiny toddlers, and of course the dogs go too. It is a wonderful sight, a real celebration of winter at its best.

Last weekend, we went for a walk in and around Willemstad with my daughter and her man. The ice skaters were out in force, the sun was shining and it was a truly beautiful winter's day. If that is what the real cold brings, then it will do for me. I cannot wait for winter to pass, but this at least I can appreciate. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January in the flatlands

Here we are already halfway through January and I haven't posted anything about the start of the year or what's been happening. Well, briefly, not a lot!

I can sum up the year's events so far in three sentences: I've finished writing my travelogue and it's now out with Beta readers as my aim is to publish it next month as a Kindle book; teaching work has started, but very slowly so we (that's Koos and I) are filling in my gaps by redecorating the crumbly cottage; we've been for lots of lovely walks and most notably our traditional New Year's trek across the beach.

This year we went to Cadzand in Zeeuws Vlaanderen, so my traditional photos with dogs and people frolicking on the sands are below.

 And these next photos are from our walks around the crumbly cottage when the sun has shone. As they say on the weather forecast, sunny intervals, and as intervals have gone, they've been just about long enough for a brisk 4kms and then it's been a case of diving inside before the sleet and hail has hit again.

My aims for the coming months are a bit more extensive: I want to finish the South African novel I started about a year ago and which was interrupted by all sorts of other commitments. I still have no real idea where it's going, but I keep writing in the hopes that a pattern and a good story will emerge from the jumble of half formed plans that I keep mentally sifting through. I then want to start on my WWII novel.

In the meantime, we have to prepare our Hennie H for going to Poland. That is the big plan for this year, and we hope to spend about four months travelling. I'm both very excited and rather nervous about it as not being the youngest of couples, I don't want to go anywhere too far from civilisation in case something happens to either of us. We will need to plan our route very carefully.

In between all this, I would like to go to Italy and to the UK again to see friends, although these are likely to be long weekends if they happen. However, I am definitely going to Spain for a weekend in two weeks, but more on that later. Last but not least, I have to finish renovating my back cabin on the Vereeniging, but I'll wait until it's just a bit warmer to do that!