Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Four, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A family Christmas

A family Christmas, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

They have just left on the bus to take them to the ferry in Rotterdam which will take them to Hull overnight from where they will take another bus over to Sheffield.

We found this note when we came back:

Dear Uncle Charles and Uncle Fred.

We have had an amzing time here in Amsterdam these past few days.

Uncle Fred has cooked some wonderful meals whilst we have been here and I have enjoyed them greatly.

We have been on some good cycle rides (even if teh weather was quite cold).

Thank you very much for my Christmas present.

I hope you have a great New Year.

How nice, well we have greatly enjoyed having them to stay and they certainly didn't outstay their welcome. Thank you very much for coming over and bringing some wonderful Christmas spirit with you. We will miss you but hope to see you soon in the new year.

Lots of love, Uncle Fred and Uncle Charles

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Charles and Harry - on thin ice

Fred stayed at home, nursing a sore throat, so I took Diana and the boys on the bikes to Centraal Station, from where we caught the fast (hydrofoil) ferry to Velsen. From there we cycled to the horse-filled firelds around Santpoort-Noord and into the Kennemerduinen, where the day before, our friend Eric saw some wild deer and a magnificent stag. here we cycled across to the coast, stoppng off here and there for some photos, however cold it was. At the coast, we found the sea to be out and teh sand nice and firm which allowed us to cycle acros the sand up to Ijmuiden, where we found a ver warming and chic beach cafe called De Zilt, where we enjoyed some much deserved hot chocolate and apple tart. It was a longish half an hour ride against the (strong and very cold) wind in the growing darkness back up to the ferry stop, from where we caught the 17.30 ferry back to Amsterdam, being guided through the wide canal by lights. My goodness were we glad to be back in the warmth and cosiness of home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our visitors

Family, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Diana and James with young Harry in the middle.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Holy Land

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Love(bird) for sale

Love(bird) for sale, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we were three years ago in Damaraland on our trip around northern Namibia.

This little chappie was being held by a chap who was trying to sell him to us at the car (Toyota Land Cruiser) window, so no prizes for getting so close.

I think we paid a small amount of money to have the bird freed, but no doubt he would have been captured again... not that this was exactly a touristy area.

We had come off the main road to camp next to a fresh water spring.

Having visitors for Christmas

Wetsuits, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Diana, James and Harry have come over from Sheffield to stay with us for Christmas. They took the bus to Hull and spent the night on a ferry to Rotterdam before taking the bus up to Amsterdam. It will be nice to see them as the last time we spent much time with them was on the beaches of northern Cornwall in June last year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The winter soltice

Going underground, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back to the leaves outside the office, as the winter solstice approaches, the leaves are finally finding their way back to their maker.

And from tomorrow, the days will be getting longer, ceratinly noticeable in the evenings... and the birds are already beginning to call.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The spirit of Christmas

The spirit of Christmas, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We are getting into the spirit of Christmas here. I had my office Christmas party at a large hotel in the middle of Holland on Wednesday evening and Fred having his Christmas lunch on Friday afternoon (his day off) at school.

On Thursday, I canme home with the two traditional poinsettias (the dark red of the flowers matching the black marble of the fireplace) and some Christmas lights (five euros for a hundred lights).

This continued on Saturday, when we went down to Intratuin for our Serbian fir tree (very thick, but a lovely traditional shape) as well as more lights, plus thick candles, Christmas table cloth and napkins and more lights.

This was followed by frequent trips to the shops to bring in the wine (all Argentinean - including Catena Malbec and Argento Chardonnay and Alamos sparkling wine), all the ingredients for cooking cakes as well as lots of fruit and vegetables, including turnips, pumpkin and salsify (having during the week eaten a delicious pasta made out of these vegetables, combined with ham/speck and parmesan cheese) as well as delicious displays of fruit, including Nigella's pomegranates.

Just as well I got my Deecember (plus 13th month) salary paid before the weekend...

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Pomegranates, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We have (finally) been intoduced to the fabulous world of Nigella Lawson, by watching her Christmas recipes series on the BBC this week. We had heard about her, of course, but we had never got round to watching her programmes. Well now we did ,w e realise what all the fuss is about. What a sexy woman! Wow! Lush dark hair, amples breasts and nicely rounded hips and a very seductive way of talking and looking at the camera.

She seems to love pomegranates and had them as seeming Christmas decorations in her open kitchen before giving us a recipe which involved mixing pomegranate seeds with whipped double cream and meringue.

We have never been exact fans of pomegranates as they tend to be a bit biter but I do love to taste freshly squeezed pomegranate juice when we are in Istanbul. It tastes good and gives the impression of being healthy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The scandal claims the Belgian government

Hondjes aan de lijn, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The Fortis scandal claimed another vivtim this wek, when the Belgian Prime Minister was forced to resign after being caught out trying to influence the judges in a decision about whether or not the Belgian state paid enough for the shares of Fortis.

The scummy shareholders want to be compensated because they did not thing they got enough for thir shares, yet without the state stepping in the Bank could have gone under with much of teh savings of ordinary Belgian folk.

As mentioned befoer Fortis had a lot of money tied up in the Madoff pyrami scheme. They semed to be involved n everything which was unsafe, wrecklessly gambling their saver's money, just so the diectors could eat foie gras on the French Riviera nand could drive big cars around Brussels.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Missed the station - forgot to stop!

So, after yesterday's delays on the train, today, I can repprt that not only did we haev a ten minute delay but that the train driver COMPLETELY FORGOT to stop at my station, Capelle Schollevaer. As we went past it he said ' Sorry' and then later told us that we would be allowed to get off at the next station and take the next train back. Fortunately, that train was running a 15 minute delay so we did not have to wait too long. Strangely enough, the sign at the Amstel Station listed EVERY station that the train was diue to stop at, including the new Holendrecht station but missed out on Capelle Schollevaer. A mistake, we all thought at the time, but the driver must have read it and taken it literally.

It was a long stressy day at the office gossiping about France and at least the train was (finally) on time, and quite quiet...

More banking and supervision failures...

Getting started Fifty billion dollars, up in smoke. Pyramid selling right in the centre of world free-market capitalism. Banks everywhere having stakes in the scheme and losing them. Nice to see Banco Santander there wit 3 billion lost as they were so arrogant about having got the better part of the ABN AMRO group and not having got themselves involved in sub-rpime mortgages. Not so clever now...

The excellent BBC series Little Dorrit, shows us the same thing happening in London in the 19th century. The banker there took his won life with apen knife rather than face the shame of being found out. Our American friend, Mr Madoff just goes to prison for a few years and ahs to pay a tiny fine. No doubt he will become a media celebrity in ten years' time.

And, what is this I read in the papers? The other two predators who bought and destroyed ABN AMRO, namely Fortis and RBS also have their fingers burned. Hmmm... some pattern there.

Greed and lack of supervision and care.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Nieuwe dienstregeling goed van start, zegt NS...

The biggest monkey, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

New train timetable today. New prices too. The journey to work stays the same at 11 euros, the reurn is up 20 cents to 6.80, making a total cost of 17.80 for the approx 160 km round trip.

I have an extra minute in the mornings to get to the station and a minute less in the evening. We also have a new stop at Holendrecht, the only new one in Holland this year.

And then we had a 20 minute delay in the morning and another 5 minute delay this evening. Not so bad but it was very cold this morning. However, we have been taken both ways in wobbly double deckers, with green seats instead of our usual sprinter, which means we do have a WC on the train, which we bever had before. Not sure if this is a permanent change or just a coincidence today.

Oh dear! And I forgot to stamp my ticket! So that is 6.80 saved, which is 34 days of ticket increase, good for at least two months worth of travelling....

Friday, December 12, 2008

An afternoon's train journey from Grenoble to Amsterdam

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blue moon

Blue moon, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Nothing but greyness here as we cross over the hills between Grenoble and Lyon, a couple of cms of snow on the ground. It is a very very quiet train today, just some rather disgusting sounding coughs breaking the silence every now and then.
Should be home in about nine hours and I still prefer this to flying, whilst I also have two hours in Paris for photos or shopping or a bit of both or none at all.

R says:
well .. normally one can see it as a mobile desk .. as far as you have internet connection, a laptop, and power supply ... it is not very different than a desk .. with moving scenery ;)

I say:
Yes, indeed, and what lovely scenery both inside ;) and outside the train. The snow has gone and the sun is out and we pass through farming land of fields and woods and hedgerows and green prairies of winter wheat, glowing in the sunshine, every now and then a herd of white charolais cows and even the odd horse, as we speed at nearly 300 km an hour towards the capital city.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The wonder of Christmas in Paris

Walking atound Paris now, the Champs Elysees to be precise, surriunded by lots of tourists of all sorts of nationalities, but particularly Spanish, Italian and Japanese. The trees are lit up all blue and on both sides of the road there are brightly lit huts where people are selling teas of China, hams from Spain, scarves from China, local Gluhwein!, dolls from Russia, magic glo-sacks (?), Eiffel Towers!, Pens and lighters, umbrellas (it is a clear sjlky above but wet underneath), cuddly toys from China, oh! Seaweed and oysters, Pommery champagne, toasts foie gras, Father Christmas hats (from China), some with lights, some with noises, toys from China, soaps (FROM ALEPPO, SYRIA )- what a lovely smell!!!, those horrible horrible wooly hats with dangly bits (as seen on too many tourists in Amsterdam), pancakes and toffee apples, and that was it - entering the real shopping area now.

On my way to the blue Eiffel Tower now.

I was walking along the row of huts with my blackberry, thumbnailing the information onto flickr as I passed from one to the other until I ran out.
In the metro now with at least a hundred photos of a blue Eiffel Tower, being asked for money by what looks like a Romanian gypsy, while two Mexicans sit opposite me and a young lady with glasses and rosey cheeks surrounded by bed pillows in see_thru plastic carrier bags sits the other side of the corridor and anoether lady in black with died red/auburn hair talks charmingly (in french) into her mobile phone on the seat next to me. She has black stockings on her crossed legs and nice shiny pointed stilettos on her feet. A hooded guy with fur lining guards the door while choosing which music to play on his mp3 player/mobile phone. The pale baby blue wire matches or clashes with the bright baby pink of his t-shirt underneath.

Maurice and his woman sit opposite me now as we stop at Havre-Caumartin. The lady has her hair dyed dark auburn, and her face is an artificial brown underneath the powder and make-up. She has beautiful dark eyes. She wears a sort-of fake fur coat, a creamish colour and carries a bronze coloured handbag. Maurice is grey haired and unshaven, with dark eyebrows and a flattened nose. He also has a (fake?-) fur lining to his brown coat. He carries a present of ladies make-up in his wee Coca-Cola sponsored bag. It is probably for her. They look and sound happy together. They are both quite small.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas market under the Dom in Koln

Taken this afternoon in a twenty minute break between my train arriving from Dusseldorf and the train going to Paris. Photo uploaded from my computer with a wifi connection for the first class compartment of the Thalys.

Passed through beautiful hills and valleys in eastern Belgium, all covered in snow in a near empty compartment. Now speeding down from Brussels to Paris, with the train full of Frenchies on their way home...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas market in Dusseldorf

Up on the canal, above us

Up on the canal, above us, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

These are the new local council offices being built along the Ringdijk canal, behind and above our house. Not everyone likes them, but I think I do. I am glad they have re-created the old-style indutrial buildings, to house this wing of the offices.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Continuing the Dickens theme - chestnut sellers

Message from S in New York:

The expression on the guy's faces were perfect. the photo quality was excellent ; you did not think so?

Young male lions will form a bond and 'live' together untill one or both take over a pride. The facial interaction of these two males reminds me of that.

Thank you for sharing -- as always.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Een echte Zwarte Piet

Een echte Zwarte Piet, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Today is the 5th of December, when we in Holland celebrate Sinterklaas. He has a black helper called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter)..

Here is a real Zwarte Piet, working in a charcoal shop in Istanbul.

BC says:

I was in the Hague in 1987 when I heard about this, but I wonder, can Zwarte Piet still politically correct ?

I said:

Of course it isn't but who? in 2008, is interested in politics?

The main thing they ahve done in recent years is to turn Zwarte Piet froma sinister character who takes you away in a sack if you (as a child) have been naughty into a nice guy who gives out sweets and pepernoten to children.

Still always white Dutchies with black shoe polish on their faces dressed in colourful costumes though...


Yes of course its politically correct!
Sinterklaas has black helpers, society decides how they describe this situation.
Slavery has been abolished so the Black Petes work for him voluntarily or are paid very well.
Many arent really black but they dress up that way because its part of the costume, the look.
In a way you can say thousands of white people dress up as their black hero, it cant get any more politically correct then that!
Especially as the original Black Pete was a Moor, one of the northern africans that invaded and conquered much of Spain in Medieval times.

JS says:

Thanks for this piece on Sinterklaas. Gave me a chance to learn a bit about the origins of Santa Clause.

Not sure if the Black Pete piece would go over to well, here in the states, given my communities fight to eliminate racist "Black face" characters, which were used to degrade and humiliate us.

That said, the Black Pete story is interesting..shows that Europe was more connected to the rest of the world than we sometimes think.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tom Hardy as Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist

I said:
Are you also enjoying Little Dorrit this year? Are you also annoyed that they seem to have cancelled Thursday's planned edition to send an hour on that terrible woman from Yorkshire?

AD said:
Not teally got into Little Dorrit. As a rule I don't find Dickens readable, but this guy really kept me watching this series :) Love a bit of rough :D

I said:
Yes, Dave, that is one of the great joys of having the BBC. They put on great adaptations of the Dickens books so you can access the stories without having to read the books :)

On Sunday night we will be able to watch the 12th (out of 14) espisode of Little Dorrit, building up to next week's climax.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Burrowing in

Burrowing in, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The leaves have not yet turned to mush but are slowly being swallowed by the ground whence they came.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Between the Tower and the River

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CharlesFred Pro User says:

I am now inthe quiet zone of the 7.36 South West train from Crewkerne to London Waterloo, which will pass through Sherbourne, Salisbury, Basingstoke (where I lived and worked for four years before coming to Amsterdam, Woking and Clapham Junction before arriving at 10.19. In time, I hope for my meeting at 11. Just arrived at yeovil Junction. There are three young women next ti me but I am taking the risk that they do not talk too much during this long journey. They are talking but are doing so quietly, this being a quiet zone.

Aving gone to the station to buy the ticket yesterday, I was just wondering what the date of the ticket was and I noticed that it was for travel yesterday only. There being someone in the ticket office I asked him if I could change it, pointing out that the machine which sold me the ticket had not said that the ticket was for same-day travel only. (Wow! There is a beautiful orange sunrise ahead of us). Anyway, it turns out that we had bought the ticket nine minutes too early as after 14.30, the ticket would have been valid for today as well. So I had to quickly buy a new ticket (for 41 pounds twenty) and fill in a refund application form and get my money back in Waterloo (which will no doubt make me late for my meeting). Alternative is to send it to my Mum by post and ask her to get the money back - but then within 28 days. Hmmm...doesn't seem exactly fair. Would have been a whole lot easier if he had issued me a new ticket and arranged the paaperwork himself. But that would not have satisfied the auditors, I suppose. Oh well. Time to relax now and enjoy the English countryside.

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