Talking Dutch

We love holidaying in Holland or The Netherlands (Nederlands) if you wish, and there are certain things that really stand out for me. The culture of the bike, the flatness, cafe life, small towns and villages interlinked by long straight roads, and much more beside. Of course I recognize the difference between a two week holiday compared to living somewhere year to year. I would notice the graffiti a lot more – and it’s everywhere – the taxes and cost of living, having to pay the bills. Is unemployment high, does medical care cost, are the schools any good, foreign policy, homeland policy, the far right, the far left. The realities of living somewhere is all too often dependent on your own personal time in life.
So what am I going to write about?
On our last trip we rode our bikes to the nearest town from our campsite. Twenty minutes on the flat and on a purpose built, probably been there for years, cycle path. The road is separate from the cycle path which is only on one side and so you have powered vehicles operating both ways in their dedicated lane and then human powered vehicles (apart from the odd scooter) working both directions in their dedicated lane. Safe and relaxing. It was one of those nice long straight roads and so you can just pedal at the speed you wish, not having to chop and change gears, get out of the saddle, head down type riding you have to do in the UK. Also the Dutch bike is a “sit up and beg” style so very comfortable and everyone rides that style. I would guess some people pass them down through the generations as they never change.
So we rode and we talked! And this is the thing that has stuck with me. In today’s 100 mile an hour world, this was like setting the world on slow mo. We could ride two or three abreast and we could talk. We weren’t hunched over our handlebars, we weren’t continually having to go up gradients and down again. We just rode, in a straight line, sitting in an upright position and next to each other. We couldn’t use our smart phones and get immersed in those. We didn’t have to worry about lorries, vans or any vehicle getting too close to the cycle path we have in the UK – the painted line separating traffic types – I don’t know about you but I don’t think painted lines have ever been successful at holding back anything!

And it got me to thinking – dangerous I know, but hey sometimes it makes sense in my head – are Dutch people better at talking and having conversations within their families, parent to parent, parent to child, sibling to sibling. Do they understanding each other better, is there less angst and friction as they are able to really unpick some of the family stuff that besets us all? Do they have better relationships long term with their children? Do the kids “get” the parents? Does “technology” and the modern way we are all connected all the time not affect (this is a matter of opinion and is my view rather than any scientific research) the Dutch family in the way I think it affects my family.
Or in my mind is Holland still in the 1930s and actually now they drive everywhere and sit in silence listening to the music or their kids arguing in the back of the car. Do I think all the low land countries live in black and white, on cobbled streets and a simple life bereft of the modern ills?
I’d love if anyone who reads this and knows of the Holland way of life or someone has family and friends there and they could shed some light on my (based in my head) theory. Is it just in those areas away from the bigger towns and cities, do families interact better? Or is it generally all over? Can my “Escape to the Country” become “Escape to another Country”?

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You can also catch me on Twitter: @1966colinblog

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Morse discovery

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So a recent visit to a charity shop – in fact a new tradition/habit where every Saturday I drop my daughter at gymnastics and head into the local shopping centre. There are three charity shops of varying “quality” and I love to potter round, checking out the vinyl (another renewed passion that will appear in a future blog), books and some of the gadgets. Anyway where was I?

So a recent visit to a charity shop and I picked up the complete set of “Inspector Morse Mystery’s” in a lovely box set for a mere £5-00. That’s thirteen books and a box to keep them in for £0-38 each. Incredible value.

A confession. I have never seen any of the TV episodes that starred John Thaw and Kevin Wheatley and so have no preconceived idea of how Morse should act or respond at any particular incident or during the investigation. And now I’ve read the first book I don’t see Thaw as Morse. So when I’ve finished them all I’m going to have to find the programmes and see whether he did play him differently. More visits to the charity shop.

The first book is “Last Bus to Woodstock” and without giving you any spoilers, it’s about a murder near Oxford which Morse and Lewis investigate. Well Morse is a police detective so no surprises there! The immediate thing that struck me was the language and I must say it took me a while to get accustomed to it. But there was something else as it was like reading about my childhood, my upbringing. With a mention of “lighting up time”, lots of letter writing, no mobile phones and actually not every house has a house phone. And get this, no computers. A world of typewriters and handwritten statements. It all becomes clear when you check the year that Colin Dexter wrote this first Morse novel.

1975 – before a lot of you were born!

However taking it as a murder mystery of its time it is really good. No quick fix DNA result from the lab, it’s all based on good general detective work plus a bit of “gut” thrown on. Having never seen a minute of one of the programmes I’ve been able to imagine Morse and Lewis as I want and I bet they’re different to how the actors portrayed them.

What has also occurred to me is that the books go from 1975 to 1999 so I’m going to be going on a journey with Morse and Lewis through computers, mobile phones, emails and DNA – so really fascinated to see how that pans out and how it changes the way they work. Will Morse “get it” – technology or will he always turn to his trusty sergeant?

Also I want to watch the series now. First TV one was 1987- so did they base it in 1975 or was it tweaked to the year it was filmed in? Twelve years later. Intrigued.

As for the books, I’m already onto book three and so will have to catch you up with them in future blogs.

For now Morse is a slip back to an age gone by, my childhood but so, so different from the world we inhabit now. I wonder if we have seen such a leap in the human race since the industrial revolution? And what could be the next one?

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Saturday 4th June – why I’m back!

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So after my “break” from blogging I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I want to write and how I go about it. Last time round I got a little too morose, too sad, too “oh woe is me”.

And that’s not really me. Yes I might be going through a bad period of my life but I have always been a happy fool. In medieval times I would have been the court jester. I just have to quip my way through every situation in my life.

So why do I want to write? Well I’ve always enjoyed writing and apart from the unfinished (to be honest, unstarted) novel/screenplay and 12 part TV series, a blog makes sense for all those short bits which don’t fit anyway else. So a channel to talk about my life – an English guy in his second half of a century (WHAT!!! When the f did that happpen?); a dad; a husband; a dog owner; a football coach; a worker; London born, bred and long since displaced – so a window on that life that people might find interesting, amusing or just social history.

Next I realised I was putting myself under more pressure because I have set up WordPress to send me notifications when people I follow post – in the words of Julie Robert’s in Pretty Women – “mistake, big mistake!”. What that did was play on my sense of not being worthy or good at writing. Why was everyone else better than me? Why did they have constant ideas and things happening in their lifes? So I’ve turned off all those notifications and I’ll write for me, not to “better” someone else. And I will just check in more regularly to see what those wonderful people are upto.

So that leaves the “how”. I originally was writing straight into WordPress and had to get it done in one sitting. Of course more pressure. So now I’ll be writing in a word processor application and taking my time. Writing on one day and then returning a day later to check it over.

Sorted.

I’m also trying to read more blogs and these are the ones I’ve read this week:

humblelittlethoughts.wordpress.com
Thekitbox.wordpress.com
susanrushton.net
myworldinwords.com
writemeg.com

Then I’ve added a Twitter account for those daily observations that only need 146 characters. Follow me on the twit-sphere – @1966colinblog

Next blog could well be about my recent “Snug” build – the writing room of my dreams (or just a shed extension of 1 square meter if you’d prefer!) or about my love of technology from the 1950s – kettle on the hob, vinyl record player, real tea.

You’ll see when I decide – because it’s all about me these days! (smiley face)

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You Looking for me?

Where have I been for so long? Just logged in and looked over my blogs and comments and they’re all from so long ago! Where have I been?

There are a few reasons which all add up to the total picture.

In no particular order:- the football (proper football my American friends) season started. As I coach this great game all the spare time I thought I had disappeared – Poof.

Our youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Coming to terms with that has been really difficult. The amount of misunderstanding surrounding it and how we are having to work much closer with his school and sports clubs is phenomenal. So many of the “difficult” occasions we have had to face with him – especially with authority – have become a lot clearer. Just need to find a way/strategy to stop him telling his teachers that they’re stupid!

I have had a really difficult time at my job. The landscape we work in is changing and everyone is trying to protect themselves – finding out a few friend-colleagues (yes I’ve just invented a hyphenated word, do I have to patent that somewhere?) are in fact the opposite.

And finally, and this is in order, I have had to work out why I wanted to blog, what was the reason? Has this long hiatus actually been the start of the end of my writing (Grammar police I’ll let you jump all over that!) or would I return as it was such an important part of my life?

Then a few weeks ago I got a crazy idea in my head. One of those ideas that is there all day, you dream about it at night and then it’s there immediately you wake up the next day. I blame my youngest daughter. She loves those make over programmes and especially “George Clarkes Amazing Spaces”. A programme all about small spaces and clever design and I realised the shed at the side of our house had a small 1.5mx1.5m bit of space in front of it. If I could “box” that space in I would have an area to escape to and write within.

The Writing Room

My Sanctuary

And so The Snug was conceived, planned and if you look at the photo…..built! LOL

So watch this space as over the next few weeks I write about the family, me and most importantly The Snug.

I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you.

(Tweeting @1966colinblog)

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To gift or not to gift that is the question

Or Blogging 101 – inspired by Greeting Cards

The blog I mention above is all about whether to send a greeting card or not and it inspired me to write about gifts. There is a good reason for this as our family have just entered the “birthday zone” where there seems to be a birthday every week through June, July and August. What happens in October and November in my family!

So for example my sister has two boys and each year they ask for money to put towards something bigger and this year in particular I realised they are both earning more money than me……so why do I keep sending them money (with a cheap greeting card which goes back to the blog above). They are in their 20s so when do I say sorry I’ve got to stop. It’s the same for the other family units, children I don’t see from one year to the next – don’t judge but I have no leisure time don’t you read my blogs? And my dad reminds me “Remember it’s Nathan’s birthday!” Dad, Nathan is 35 years old…..

My mum was one of five and each aunt and uncle had at least two children but in the main three. So all the aunts got together and said that eighteen years old was the ceiling as it was much too expensive to keep giving. But no one seems to want to say that in the present. How ironic that I struggle with presents in the present!

I wouldn’t mind if they thought about me but all I get on my birthday is their name added to my card from their parent. They don’t even write it themselves as they no longer live with their parents. Oh happy days.

Dave Gorman captured it nicely the other day on his programme “Modern Life is Goodish” when he drew up the gift tree. His gift tree was mum, dad, brothers and some nieces and nephews – about nine in total. His wife on the other hand had family and then old school friends and work colleagues and the antenatal group and teachers at their children’s school and neighbours. Her number of gifts was in the 30s!

So where do we draw the line? How do you get everyone on the same song sheet? And most importantly how do you up the number of gifts you get yourself!!! (Tongue firmly in cheek)

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I want a refund!

Or Blogging 101 – day, to be honest, somewhere between day 5 and day 14.

When I was younger it was a time of only three television channels, watched on such a small screen size that you wouldn’t even have it in your bedroom now. There was no way of recording the programmes let alone watching them on demand. If you missed it, you missed it.

Music came on vinyl discs that you put a diamond needle onto, to pop and fizz and bring you a warm sound from a gramophone machine that was bigger than your sofa and you had to warm it up by turning it on a few minutes before.

Washing was carried out in a twin tub. A machine where you had to physically pull the wet and steaming hot washing out of one tub into the other tub to spin it out. And beware your mum if you forgot to hook the drain hose over the edge of the sink. I remember the days when mum and I would stand in the garden and wring water out of the jeans by each turning in a different direction.

Cameras used film and you had to wait days for them to be developed only to find you hadn’t taken off the lens cap or every head had been cut off.

Bedding was sheets and blankets, that foreign invention the duvet was an European thing just like bidets and Edam cheese and German beer festivals. Our freezer was small as everything was bought fresh every few days, milk was delivered to your doorstep and get this, dustmen actually walked up and down the paths of Britain collecting bins and returning them empty. And chocolate was a treat and your nan kept a tin with Club biscuits and Viscounts in that only came out on Sunday. Oh and the shops! The shops were shut all day Sunday and half of Wednesday and you walked and cycled everywhere.

Weekends were spent going to watch football on a Saturday, after my dad had worked his Saturday half day shift and then later gather round the radio to get the full time scores. Dad sshhing us all as if he missed them he wouldn’t get them again until Match of the Day. Then the “Pools” which is why dad needed to hear the scores – we could be the winners of £100,000.

Everything was paid in cash. You saved for everything and accepted that if you couldn’t afford something you couldn’t have it. We rented our television for years and then when my sister and I started work we rented a video recorder. With remote control mind you, nothing cheap….except the remote was on a wire!

(Please feel free to comment with memories below in the comments section of the late 70s, early 80s – the past really is a different country)

Those were the days and I didn’t realise this blog would go in this direction. Which brings me to the title “I want a refund!” For years in the late 70s I avidly watched Tomorrow’s World. A fascinating science programme that showed the leaps in technology, the space race, Jacques Cousteau and all the electronics starting to come out of the Far East. One of their big things was that as our machines evolved (dish washers, tumble dryers, electric lawn mower, car washes, bigger faster aircarft) was that we, the humble man and women in the street would have more “leisure time”. Their picture of leisure time was said man and women sitting in deckchairs drinking some sort of liquid with an umbrella in it whilst a robot lawn mower made its way up and down their garden leaving perfect stripes and not hitting them.

Well that’s why I want a refund. Where is my leisure time? Where is my cool refreshing liquid with its umbrella? Where is my perfect striped lawn and my house maintained by a simmering army of robots? Why am I continually tired and rushed off my feet? Why do I have to watch my television programmes on a tablet, through an on demand service whilst cooking or cleaning or waiting for the kids to do their athletics or to come home on the train from school?

I want a refund. I have been sold a pig in a poke, a pup, a fantastical vision of the future that I fell for hook, line and sinker! Welcome to cliché corner!

We probably do have more leisure time. Time in which we are outside of our jobs but we have managed to fill every spare moment of our days. My kids don’t go and play on old bomb sites or run through the woods. They are more active than I was but they attend structured activity where I have to get them there and then sit for a couple of hours before driving them home. I’m sitting at athletics now writing this. (On my old tablet with wired keyboard) Two of my four get either a train or a bus to school instead of walking. We have to drop and pick up from the station every day. I coach a football team twice a week plus games at the weekend. My wife runs an athletics team which is twice a week and then a whole day of the weekend. My son’s football team plays and trains a distance away. We have family and friends to visit but also to keep in touch with via our social media responsibility……interestingly I’m ok with not going on social media every day whereas my wife really feels she’s letting her friends down if she doesn’t, ergo we all have a social media responsibility)

Taking part in Blogging 101 has made me realise all this, as I started well, writing each day with each new challenge and then I’ve got stuck with committee meetings and running kids around and trying to coach and running trials for our team for next season and my blogging has slowed to a “‘quick I have five minutes before the train arrives – write!”

So Tomorrow’s World, I don’t have a deckchair, there is no liquid with an umbrella in it, I don’t put my feet up and I definitely don’t have a robot lawn mower – I WANT a refund!

 

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Travel the World

Or Blogging 101 – day nine (absolutely sure I’m back on track now!)

The lesson today is very interesting and asks that you write about another person’s post and use their pages as inspiration. So I’ve had a nose around again and thought I’d see what Expedition Hobo would bring to mind. (And I may even have added a link without too much trouble – such fun)

The immediate thing that draws you in are the little quotes – “don’t just see the world, see yourself in it” and “I consider myself a citizen of the world, a Hobo waiting for the next train and wondering its destination.” And I want some of that. I want the “have a backpack packed (that must be bad grammar!) and ready to go” attitude, the “where does the wind blow me today” attitude. I want to wake up and the dream I’ve been having is actually real – I’m walking a glazer in Iceland, I’m watching whales off the coast of Cape Cod, I’m walking the historic sites of England that I keep promising myself I will do.

And then….then reality bites and my thoughts turn to a wife, four children, a dog (Peppa you all must know about Peppa – ooh another link), bills to pay and a job to keep. So reading Expedition Hobo’s brilliant and beautiful to view blog is inspiring but at the very same time raises questions. How do you keep your job? How do you afford both the trips and to live? Are there dependants? Why can’t I be carefree and live for the now? Why am I held back – am I just making excuses?

Should I just start by buying that backpack – the bills will be here when I get back, right? And do I take any of the hoard? I think Peppa is a good travelling companion but she won’t be able to peel the potatoes so will have some limitations.

And maybe at the end of the day I’m satisfied with my life. I live the life I want and I can enjoy someone else’s life by reading blogs like Hobo. I can be there without being there. I can admire and be thrilled at the same time.

Anyone want to buy an unused backpack?

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