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(I know, I know, but it's the way we diarylanders have done it for generations.)

2007-12-11 16:45


The consequences of reckless mixing with other persons' childrens at Sinterklaas are all too predictable: we are ziek today.

About all we've done today is read the paper, although the Countess has thoughtfully put the laundry on for us to hang out in a bit.

Both the newspaper and the washing machine are new to us - we're finally ready for the step up to the NRC Next, while the Countess's Trusty Twin-Tub gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and has been impressed by a marvel of Cherman front-loading efficiency.

But still.

2007-12-09 17:37

Sinterklaas was jarig!

Sinterklaas, for it has been he, has made a comeback against the hated Kerstman this year. The Kerstman - literally, "Christmas-man" - is the Dutch name for Father Christmas, AKA Santa Claus, and he had in recent years been encroaching on the Sint's turf, with the abbetment if not collusion of American cultural imperialism.

Given that Santa Claus and Sinterklaas are both at least in part folkloric interpretations of the same Saint Nicholas, some persons may find this alleged confrontation to be more of a continuity than cultural issue, but consider after all the Clone Wars in the Spiderman comics and you will readily agree that this is no small thing.

Anyway, this year Sinterklaas spending has been up up up, which assuming - as there is after all no reason to do - conservation of holiday spending, implies that the Kerstman is set to miss out, and hoorah for that.

Meanwhile, it is additionally the case that Twinkletrees are only acceptable here after the Sint is back in Espain on the 6th, so we have installed our temporary tree and we will look for the real thing this coming weekend.

Christmas itself is - in the Netherlands - about champagne and smoked salmon for breakfast and jenever and cold buffets from then until dinner, when the serious eating and drinking starts. But not, for us, this year since the Countess and our child and heir have an final appointment with the midwife scheduled for the festive season. So much so that we drove to and from the family Sinterklaas marathon, without our sobriety having been compromised in between, just in case.

We're opening a bottle of rubbish Beaujolais nouveau tonight with the roast chicky and the (distressingly rare here) parsenakkers, though - if Boris is coming tonight, we'll still have plenty of time to sober up.

2007-12-02 14:05

Let's go to the hopp

We missed the opening of the skihoppning season yesterday on account of having business at the opera house, but we should not let it go unremarked that the Norwegish hoppning team has a blogg.

Our project this winter is to learn enough Cherman to read the hoppning there. Is Die Presse respectable, does anyone happen to know? (We know it's Austrian, but still.)

2007-12-02 13:51

Moondag review of stuff

1. Opera!

The National Reisopera and the Groningen Stadschouwburg are less intimidating than their Bavarian counterparts, for sure, but their production of Offenbach's Comtes de Hoffman was none the worse for that.

The supertitles were in a manner, poetic Dutch that we struggled to follow and the singing was in a mannered, bellowed French, but it is after all opera and we were never completely bewildered.

That was presumably the last pre-Boris outing, and it is certainly good that it was so very good.

2. TV!

Geert "Deerty Geerty" Mak is currently fronting a 35-part TV documentary series called In Europa and based on his book of the same name. (We believe there is now an Engleeshing thereof, but we have read neither that nor the original.)

It amounts to an overview of European history in the last century and when it is good - with judiciously chosen experts and vintage footage - it is very good indeed. Which is not to say that there aren't occasions when it is less good, but it is never quite as bland and facile as Michael Palin's traveloguery.

If it comes to a broadcasting network near you, we commend it to your attention.

3. Shopping

Now that we are old and middle-aged and boring, and especially boring, we have started wanting to be able to buy Puy lentils and confit de canard so that we can also become fat.

With the expert assistance of the Countess, we have accomplished these such shoppings with great success. We're still short of Toulouse sossages, but we're adaptable enough to not worry to hard about that.

4. Drinkings

The kids of today are all about the single-malt Scotch whiskeys, we are only too aware. For the record, though, our preference is and always has been for armagnac.

2007-11-25 11:41

One of the many Venices of the North

Brugge is good. We went there years ago for a family Twinkletree excursion, and now we have been back with our own family (albeit that little Boris is still internally fitted, to the Countess's growing inconvenience). It is still good.

We did extremely orthodox tourist things - bummeling and eating mostly - but we did visit the world's most chaotic second-hand bookshop, having seen it on Belgian TV. It turned out to be too chaotic to browse - we were looking for a cookbook, but they were under a head-high pile of boxes, of which the top half-dozen were about dinosaurs, and there was no space to unstack them.

The Belgian kookboek Ons Kookboek - the pride of the Flemish Farmer's-Wives'Association - was worth persisting for, however, so we did. We found it, too, and very good it is.

After that, the Dowager Countess came to stay for a week, then an Italian colleague of the Countess stopped by, and so on. The Countess is now gestopt met werken, and we are counting down the hours until we can start using our left-over annual leave to do likewise, in the expectation that Boris will intervene to prevent us having to go back to work immediately in the New Year.

2007-11-25 11:26

While listening to Cherman slalom commentaries

Never mind that Silly Eng-ger-lnd has excluded itself from next year's Eurofoopball - we certainly don't - the exciting nieuws is that the Norwegish skihoppteam has a blog. Awesome!

Unfortunately our own plan to spend this winter learning to skate has been derailed by our rather more sensible plan to spend this winter attending intensive Dutchclass, which has now reached the point where even our dreams are contaminated with the enigmatic guttural tones characteristic of the lowlands.

And even watching the skating on TV is not especially well-recieved in our household, so we mostly don't, since the hoppning (one more week!) takes precedence.

2007-10-22 18:44


1. Dutchfrench!

It is NRC's collection of ze vair best French chansons, and it is causing us to regret quite more than a metric somewhat that we were not previously familiar with George Brassens. (Barbara, however, is a taste to which's acquisition we shall have to continue to aspire.)

2. Hortosaurus!

The botanical gardens of Haren have, with uncharacteristic enterprise, brought in a collection of Tjinees dinosaurs to tide them over the winter months.

Yesterday being the end of the weeklong herfstvakantie celebrated by schoolchildrens, said childrens were present in numbers exceeding that one would expect even for a normal weekend.

They can say what they like about the childrens of today, and if our earshot is any sample to go by they very often do, but they cannot say that their attention span is not the equal of ours when it comes to dinosaurs - almost all the cars that were parked around us when we arrived were still parked around us as we left, and we know for a fact that several parents tired before their spruitjes on the auxilliary tours.

And we got a glow-in-the-dark plastic chicky!

3. Front-page holding, la nerlandaise

The new new not-a-Constitution treaty didn't get agreed in time for our friday paper and it also didn't make the front page of our zaterdag paper, having been squeezed off by the death of the novel Jan Wolkers, whose most famous book (Turks fruit) invented the sexual revolution if you ask the Dutch. If we had any chagrin it would surely be to it that our impending sister-in-law has swiped the Countess's copy, which we will nonetheless get around to reading one day.

2007-10-22 18:31

That's when good neighbours become good friends...

Via the relentlessly indispensible Eurotopics and their magic European picnic basket of jellied pork and fois de gras, we are exultant to bring you a joint history textbook from neighbours and chums, Mr France and Ms Chermany.

(We'd certainly apologise for the website if it was, for instance, our fault in any way.)

More things to covet! We barely have the time to read all the books on Belgium in Belgian we have to read, and there is only one of that.

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