12 December 2008

Christmas party

I am currently in a nice restaurant in london for my office christmas party. You can eat zebra burgers and gnu stew. Nice.

11 December 2008

Don't ask, don't tell?

JD has, according to the Oncologist, a high likelihood of her tumour being a Grade II Astrocytoma. Inoperable because it has invaded the Corpus Callosum and there are signs of invasion of the Thalamus. This sounds really scary when they say words like 'invaded' and 'inoperable' but how bad is that really when it comes to daily life? I mean, the smallest sign of tumour is considered 'invasion' but that does not mean it is aggressively invading and growing, like an ivy plant growing up against the wall and eventually invading the wall of your house, pushing the bricks and mortar apart to get in.

RT starts in January and the Oncologist said: This will work. But will work for what? To stop the tumour growing further? For a while or for good? Is it a 99 vertainty with these tumours that they will grow back eventually?

I kind of want to know if, in the end, this is going to be fatal. Even if it is in 10 or 15 years. I just do not want to have the idea that this can be cured completely only to then find out in a few years time that I was wrong in that belief. I know that it can be years after treatment before it comes back but none of the doctors have said anything about long term prognosis.

I wonder if long-term prognosis is a case of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. If we don't ask them abut it, why should they say: "You do realise this will kill you in, on average, 15 years" for example.

Somehow I don't want to know if this is fatal in the short term but I do want to know if, in the long term, this will be fatal.

Every time I think: if only I knew the answer to --insert question here--, I will feel better about things, more in control. And then we get the answer an a new question comes up and I think: If only I knew the answer to THIS question, I would have a better idea of how to handle this.

09 December 2008

Always alert...(or scared?)

JD has been preparing for the radio therapy which will start on January 5th. On the 23rd of December, she's having her final planning appointment an then we are ready to go.

She has been on quite a high dosage of Dexamethasone for a few weeks now (8mg twice a day) and she is having side effects such as indigestion, feeling weak in the muscles, having a huge appetite and so on. She is definitely getting more round in the face but I actually find it kind of cute. It is unfair that the drugs she needs to take to reduce the swelling in her head simultaneously increase appetite and reduce your strength to exercise.

JD has not had a seizure since the very first one that announced the arrival of the tumour, almost 4 years ago now. And yet, I always remain vigilant for signs. Any unexpected twitch or rolling of eyes puts me on high alert. I guess I am never completely relaxed since she got ill. WHenever she is in a different room and silent for a bit, I call out to see if she's still OK. She always is of course but it just makes me feel better. I used to cycle to work but I don't anymore, in case something happens to JD and I have to rush home. Small things like that just change your habits.

Last night I had a proper scare through. Or rather JD had a scare. She got up off the sofa to get the paper from the bedroom (about 6 metres away). When she had not returned after a minute, I called to see if she found the paper. No response. I called again. No response. Still too lazy to get off the sofa, I called again. Or rather, I yelled quite loudly. No response.

Now I was worried. I walked to the bedroom and found JD lying on her back on the bed with pupils so big you could hardly see any of the colour of her eyes. I asked her if she was OK but she just stared at the ceiling and did not say much. I asked her what was up and she slowly managed to form a sentence, telling me she was 'just having a little rest'. Obviously that is rather weird as she was just going to get the paper from the bedroom and come back to the living room. I was really worried at that point and thought she was about to have a seizure. She had that weird, vacant stare and disoriented speech.
After 2 minutes, she sat up and said she was fine. The whole thing had felt like some kind of headrush to her but different. She said when she got to the bedroom, she suddenly felt really tired and decided to lie down on the bed and then it was all a bit vague for a minute or two.

Weird. A bit scary that is. It might have been a headrush, nothing more than that but combined with the suddenly massive pupils, I felt it was a bit freaky. Maybe it has nothing to do with her brain tumour. Maybe it has everything to do with it. But I hate how the thing just changes your life in small ways. How you are simply a little less relaxed every time something happens.

27 November 2008

Dr. Lecter comes to town

mesh mask for radio therapy to the head
Yesterday JD went to hospital to have her mask fitted for the Radiotherapy. I took pictures, much to the amazement of the technicians. Well, I need to be able to explain to my family what is going on right?

Anyway, JD was positioned on a table and then they quickly placed some warm plastic mesh on her face which was then shaped and molded to fit her face. After about 5 minutes, the plastic was hard and taa-daa: a perfect cast of her face.

mesh mask for radio therapy to the head

She was then taken for a CT scan with the mask on. That way, the Oncologist can map exactly the position of the tumour in relation to the mask. (Read more information about this on the website of Cancerbackup.org). He will put all the different scans (MRI, CT, PET) on top of each other to pinpoint the exact location of the tumour and then he marks out on the mask where exactly the radiation beams will need to be aimed during the radiotherapy treatment. Next month JD will go for a trial scan to check the oncologist has measured everything correctly.

The real thing then starts on January 5th.

The appointment itself wasn't anything much. Quite technical. The oncologist answered some more of our questions and JD was pleased to report that the increased dose of steroids seems to be working well and her double vision and headaches have been reduced greatly.

Afterwards JD said that the whole experience left her feeling 'cancery'. I suppose it hits home that this is cancer treatment. She said she has so far not seen herself as a cancer patient at all. Neither have I. I know a brain tumour is brain cancer but somehow it feels like a separate thing. Being surrounded by leaflets and brochures from the (excellent) MacMillan cancer charity makes you realise that in fact, it is a form of cancer.

It is all a bit strange because JD is not really feeling ill at all, especially with the steroids now controlling the swelling of the brain. In fact, the radiotherapy will make her more ill than the tumour ever has so far.

25 November 2008

Support in music

I have always liked "I Run for Life" by Melissa Etheridge. It is a song about her experiences after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The song has almost become a rallying cry for women around the world, giving them hope and a sense of community, to have a major singer singing about such an intimate experience is such an inspiring way.

As I said, I liked the song before all the brain-thing with JD. I admired Etheridge for recording it, I liked that a singer I have admired for years has managed to reach out to all women, lesbians or straight, and unite them behind a common cause. The song is about breast cancer and for that reason, I used to find it a touching song.

But these days, it makes me cry. It makes me want to sing it REALLY loud in my car on the way to and from work, with all the windows open so everyone can hear my anger. It makes me want to scream with rage, it makes me want to destroy the thing that is making JD ill. These days, it makes me very very very determined. And then I realise that there is no point in me feeling determined. Because what can I do to make it go away? Nothing. I can maybe make JD feel better about it. But there is nothing I can do to fight this. But maybe if I sing it one more time, it might go away then?

I Run for Life

(Melissa Etheridge)

It's been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Everyday that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She'll tell you it makes her complete

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend:| I run for life

It's a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken it's toll
And they cut into my skin and they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul
And now I'm still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I'll tell you I run for us all

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend:| I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend:| I run for life

I run for your mother your sister your daughter your wife
I run for you and me my friend:| I run for life

21 November 2008

Radio therapy, here we go

So we went to see the Oncologist a few days ago. And the news wasn't as nice as we had hoped. JD is now having prolonged episodes of double vision, headaches and some dizziness. The docotr felt it was time to start treating the tumour. They prefer waiting with this as long as possible because radiotherapy might actually make a benign low-grade tumour turn in to a malignant high-grade one. But it is a small risk. However, it is one we need to take.

And so next week, we go back to the hospital where JD will be measured and fitted with a facial mask. On that mask, they will mark the exact spots where the radiation beams will be entering her head.

The word Cancer was used properly for the first time. Brain cancer. Sounds terrible. The word 'inoperable' was used as well. The tumour is in a place where they cannot cut it away. Basically the tumour is not a single lump but lots of little bits of tumour in an area that controls important brain functions.

The radio therapy can not remove or shrink the tumour but it can stop the growth. That would mean the healthy brain around the tumour will no longer be swollen. That will mean no more headaches and no more double vision. It would mean a pretty normal life. People have survived for decades after having this treatment. But we also know others have died. Most low grade tumours turn in to high grade in the end. The question is: how long before that happens? Especialy since we already know it is inoperable, we are really hoping this early intervention with radiation will work.

It is a 6 week course. For 6 weeks, 5 days a week, JD has to go to a hospital an hour driving away from where we live for a 30 minute treatment session. With her double vision, she won't be able to drive herself. So that will have to be me. My boss will be happy about that. Not.

Thankfully, we have great friends and there is already an offer for JD to stay overnight with a friend who lives near the hospital. Even if we can arrange it so that she can stay over with different friends a few nights a week, then I can drive her on other days.

I am already upset when I think of JD feeling ill and being scared. Because initially, her symptons will just get worse instead of better. She will lose hair where the beams hit her head, she'll feel ill, dizzy, headaches, more double vision, loss of appatite, loss of memory and concentration, tired and so on. And that is apart from the additional side effects from all the medication she will be taking. Steroids, anti-seizure drugs, and so on.

This whole tumour is unacceptable. It is just not good enough. She is NOT going to die of this. Not now, not in 10 years, not in 25 years. I WILL not accept that.

Tumour, are you listening? Bring it on you bastard! We're coming to get you.

14 November 2008

Use it for something good

Today I did a naughty thing. Our boiler broke down last night. No shower, no hot water, no washing machine & no washing up. With JD at home all day with her head hurting, I really don't want to be without hot water too long.

I rang the letting agency and said: I have a sick person at home so I would appreciate a fast solution. She sent someone around right away and he said he needed to contact the landlord to get permission to fix the circuit board in the boiler.

So of course this took ages to solve as landlords are always very reluctant to spend money. In the end, I got so pissed off that I rang the letting agency again and said: look, I have someone with a brain tumour at home, in bed. She needs to stay warm and comfortable, OK. I am not having any of this delay.

Poor lady of the letting agency was shocked, apologised many times and said she would chase up the landlord to get him to solve it as soon as possible. Bless her. She rang back real soon to explain it was not going to happen today but if JD was cold, we could borrow some of the office portable radiators? That was really nice of her. I politely declined as JD is not (yet) that cold.

Now I kind of feel bad that I 'used' JD's tumour to get my boiler fixed faster. Eventhough every word I said to the lady was true, it does feel wrong somehow. But then again, I might as well use the f*cking thing to get a little bit of hellp, right?

More pain in the head

Aarrggghhh! I know it is JD's pain and not mine and that I shouldn't complain but my God how annoying is this tumour!! I feel so powerless and unable to do anything useful.

On Wednesday, JD had yet another headache. In fact, she had a headache for a few days (ever since her course of Dexamethasone, a steroid that helps to reduce swelling of the brain) was finished. On Wednesday, it turned in to a proper headache that left her rolling around the bed in pain. By the time I went to bed, she had been like that for hours. We had tried Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Codeine tablets but nothing really helped against the pain. She was throwing up and it was just heartbreaking to see.

In the end, I picked up the phone and called NHS Direct, a telephone service where nurses and doctors from the National Health Service give people medical advice 24/7. The idea is that if people call that for minor cases, then they don't need to go to the ER or doctor, saving money and time.

I rang them to find out if there was anything stronger I could get JD for the headache. We live 2 minutes away from the hospital so if the answer had been yes, I would have taken her to Accident & Emergency to get he medication but I did not want to take her there and then be told there was nothing they could do for her. After all, it really was just a headache.

The nurse on the phone was fantastic. She was friendly, helpful, caring and understood that I was anxious to get SOMETHING, anything, to help JD feel better. She decided it would be best for a doctor to call me back to discuss it. And so I gave my phone number and within 15 minutes, a doctor called me back. He said he would like to see JD at the hospital. So I bundled her in the car for the 2 minute ride and off we went.

The doctor was friendly and managed to make me feel smug too! He said it was rare to meet a patient with a partner who knew every single detail of the treatment (I know all dates, medications, dosages and whatever else you can know about JD's condition). This surprised me because I would have thought everyone wold know all details about your partner's illness.

Anyway, he looked at her and offered her to be admitted overnight (it was already 1.30am by then) so that they could give her stronger pain killers. The other alternative was to give her a new course of Dexamethasone right away as that would immediately start reducing the swelling of her brain and thus take away some of the pressure inside her head. JD chose to go home instead with the tablets.

They seemed to help because she finally managed to fall asleep around 3am. In the morning, we went to the GP who gave her a new course of Dexamethasone for the next 25 days.

It is now Friday and the headaches are still there. On a scale of 1 to 10, she rates it as 7 or 8 today. That sucks. That really sucks. I hate the fucking tumour. It may not even be related to that bloody thing. She might just have developed migraines. Now that would be really shitty.

JD was supposed to go to Germany with the fencing team for a tournament. She's at home now, deciding the headaches were too severe.

Oh, and to top it off, the boiler is broken and we have no heating & no hot water.

Blow Wind Blow

Earlier this week, a big storm was raging over Northampton. Normally I love storms but not this time. You see, this time, it turns out one of the windows wasn't closed properly and when the wind yanked it open at 1.34am, I thought the wind had actually blown the window off completely! The noise it made was terrible! The blinds wee blowing, stuff fell off the windowsill (but luckily not the vase with roses!). I jumped out of bed, thinking a disaster had happened!

That'll teach JD to close windows properly next time!

06 November 2008

A little less scared

I just spoke to the 'Cancer Nurse' from the hospital about JD having to see the oncologist. (I lied and said I WAS JD or else they wouldn't speak to me. I am so naughty:-) He had her file in front of him and said: "You only have to see the oncologist because the PET scan was ordered through his office. It does not indicate any kind of treatment is required. it may be but, looking at her files, the PET showed it is still a low-grade glioma with very little growth. Chances are he only wants to discuss possible treatment options for the future and check you with more frequent PET scans than has so far been the case. That is good news"

Wow. I guess that is good news indeed. Can someone please tell the hospital that just sending appointments to see Oncologists is really scary if you don't know why you are supposed to be seeing an oncologist?????

Anyway, long live the Cancer Backup nurse! Feeling a lot less scared about the appointment now.

05 November 2008

Do you tell?

I have a really good relationship with my parents and sister. I tell them everything. They are fully aware of what is going on with JD and when she first had surgery, back in 2005, my parents canceled their planned holiday in Italy and came over to go camping in England instead to be near us during the surgery. (My parents live in The Netherlands, where I am from). So every time there is a minute new development with JD's brain, my parents are usually the first to know. That is how they want it. I don't really worry about what they do with the information I give them. With that, I mean that if they get really scared when I tell them we are due to visit the Oncologist, that is not my business. Not that I don't care, but I mean, I do not withhold information from them just because they might get upset or take it the wrong way. They are responsible for how they deal with the information I give them. It is not up to me to judge if they are 'fit' to hear certain things or not.

JD however has never really been close to her parents. Her father died earlier this year and the relationship with her mother is a complicated one. In her family, the tradition is more: don't tell unless there is an absolute need. So for example, she would be told after the event that her dad had been in hospital for a few days but that it was all OK now.

It seems JD is now taking the same approach with her mother. I had to almost twist her arm to even get her to tell her mother that the latest MRI showed growth and she has not told her mother that she will see the Oncologist this month. She just told her that she had a follow up appointment to discuss the results of the PET scan.

This is something I don't understand. Surely it means that if JD needs chemo or radiation, this will be a major shock to her family since they have no idea what is actually going on. JD says: well, we KNOW nothing so it would just upset them to give them half a story. She may have a point there. My family know everything, even though we really know nothing. So they are just as uncertain and scared as we are. But in my mind, this means at least they are prepared if the news is going to be bad. If you don't know how serious it is, the news that someone might need chemo or radiation will be even harder to take, right?

Sometimes we argue about this. I think communication is absolute key. JD feels she does not want to deal with her mother being upset over something we don't know much about yet and so prefers to say as little as she can get away with. I can rationally see her point but it feels totally alien to me to keep information from my parents.

So, how do you guys handle this? Is it better to keep people informed, as some kind of running commentary, even if the news is tiny or unclear? Or is it better to just limit the information to things you know for sure so as to not upset people too much? Are we ever responsible for how our loved ones respond to the news? Or do we owe them 'full disclosure'?

04 November 2008

I changed my mind

I am scared.

To the Clinical Oncologist

There are moments when I just don't know what to think. JD had her PET scan 2 weeks ago to learn more about her tumour. We have not heard anything about a report or result of the scan. However, yesterday we got a letter saying an appointment has been made with the Clinical Oncologist in 2 weeks' time.

What does that mean in relation to the PET scan? That they have decided treatment is the way forward? A Clinical Oncologist treats cancer with chemotherapy and radiation so I assume JD is not just going for a nice chat but to actually discuss some form of treatment. It would be nice to have had a call or letter from the doctor, explaining the result of the PET scan and what the next steps are going to be. Now we are just assuming we know what will happen.

I am angry as I want to know what to feel. JD seems to be afraid of the whole brain, cancer, tumour, dying thing. I am not (yet?) too scared about the tumour itself as I trust the doctor when he said it is still quite small but that he simply likes to get rid of it before it can maybe cause trouble in the future. Me, I am just scared about the treatment JD will get. Radiation? Chemotherapy? It just brings up pictures of really sick people. I don't want JD to feel like a piece of crap. I don't want to have to see my wife in pain and discomfort. I feel bad enough when she has a headache.

It is important that we keep talking to each other. JD has a tendency to try and make things go away by ignoring them for a while. I on the other hand feel a need to know as much as possible about what is going on so that I can 'decide' on how I feel. That sounds calculated but I mean that for me it is important to be able to put things in some kind of perspective. Is this tumour one of those that kills people in a few years? Is it one that is just a nuisance but which can be 'controlled' with treatment or surgery, even if it can not be removed completely? How scared should I be, how life shattering is this tumour? I feel like I am dangling in space with nothing to hold on to for security. There is no frame of reference to use as a yardstick.

Maybe it has to do with a need to be in control. I am sure a psychologist will have a theory about it.

31 October 2008

Welsh road sign used as Out of office notice.

This sign is easily the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. JD & I laughed our heads off when we read the following story on the BBC website.

All official road signs in Wales are bilingual, so the local authority e-mailed its in-house translation service for the Welsh version of: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only".

The reply duly came back and officials set the wheels in motion to create the large sign in both languages.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated".

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.

The whole story is here.

If Wales is bilingual, why was the email out of office not in English and Welsh?


For a reason I do not yet understand, I yodeled on the bus home from a rugby match last Sunday. That sounds weirder than it is but they were singing 'The Lonely Goat Herd' from The Sound of Music and it has a little yodel in it.

"High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo"

And when they got to that part, I yodeled it. Much to the enjoyment of the rest of the team. They made me yodel some more (I only knew one song, thank God).

I thought everyone could make sounds like that but apparently not. they have now mentioned they will do The Sound of Music at the Christmas panto, just so that I can yodel in it. I think not.

However, I have been looking for another song I could learn to yodel, just so I don't have to sing the same silly song all the time. And then I came across Margo Smith, the Queen of Country yodeling. My lord, she's good. And strangely addictive to listen to.

But wait, it gets better. They yodel in Korea too! In full Austrian costume.

I have a LOT of practice to do before I am that good at it.

23 October 2008

It is back...

I realise I have not posted anything interesting here in..well....weeks (months?). Not that things have been really busy. Just that I haven't been bothered posting.

However, I suppose things have changed now and I might get back to some more regular posting here.

As you may remember, in February this year, JD and I were told that her brain tumour is active again. The specialist said there was an absolute minute change in the size of the tumour. Nothing to worry about and the scan would be repeated in 12 months time, no need to worry. Sure. Of course you worry; even when the doctor says you shouldn't.

Most people imagine a tumour as a well defined lump (See the picture on the right as random example) but Jane's tumour isn't like that. It is more like little bits of tumour tissue, growing in between healthy brain tissue in a small area of her brain. The healthy tissue gets irritated by the tumour tissue and it starts to swell up, putting pressure on the brain since there is no space in the skull for tissue to swell up. So on the MRI scan, you don't see a nice clear lump, but a vague grey area where there is tumour tissue in the brain (see the picture on the left as a random example). This makes it really hard to remove as you don't really know which bits are tumour and which bits are healthy tissue that is swollen. It all looks the same. When they originally removed the tumour, in 2005, they were unable to determine exactly what kind of tumour it was. They were also not able to remove all of it as the 'edges' were not very well defined.

In the months that followed February, JD kept having headaches. There were periods where she had them every day for weeks. In September JD had a migraine attack, something she had never had before. It was really scary as we had no idea what was going on. Vomiting, excruciating headaches for about 8 hours. Combined with her hearing problems that had recently surfaced, we decided that we would really like an MRI scan done earlier than February 2009. We went to her GP and luckily he agreed that she should be seen by a Neurosurgeon.

The Neuro bloke was really nice and ordered an emergency MRI scan for the next week. When the results came back, they were not really what we were hoping for. The tumour was indeed growing and active, more so than they anticipated back in February. JD was put on steroid tablets to reduce the swelling of healthy brain tissue around the tumour that was irritated by the presence of the tumour. This helped reduce the headaches.

The last MRI scan showed that the grey area on the picture had grown larger and that there was now also a second area that showed up grey. Does that mean the tumour is spreading? Or that there is simply more brain swelling going on? They can't tell from the MRI. So they wanted to do a PET scan and based on the outcome of that, do a biopsy to see if they can finally decide what kind of tumour it is. And then he said the words Chemotherapy and Radiation. Excuse me? Can you repeat that for me? Chemotherapy? Radiation? That is for people with CANCER! The doctor said there was no real need to treat the tumour but because JD is so young, he preferred to treat it now, before it might start to grow faster or even change in to a malignant tumour.

We left the hospital shellshocked. From having a migraine to being told your tumour is indeed growing and you might need Chemo and Radiation.... Geeeeez.

And so JD had her PET scan last week; she had another blazing migraine that same day so she was ill all the way to the hospital and back. Poor sweetie. A PET scan looks are brain function. The contrast fluid lights up differently depending on the activity in the brain. Hopefully that will enable them to see the difference in brain activity in tumour tissue and normal brain tissue. That way they might be able to get a clearer picture of where to take biopsy samples from.

It is wait and see what the results of the PET scan say.

It is a small difference in emotions but somehow I feel things have shifted for JD. From 'having a brain tumour' to 'living with a brain tumour'. If you have no symptoms, then the tumour might as well not be there. Now she has headaches and 'proper' symptoms, it just feels different.

Yegh. I am not liking it. I prefer to know exactly what tumour it is, what the prognosis for it is and how much this is going to affect the rest of her life. All this uncertainty is no fun. Very stressful!

05 October 2008

Sunday morning

Today i am playing rugby against my old team. I am always nervous on sunday mornings before matches. My stomach feels funny and sickly. So to calm myself i am reading a nice book in bed. Outside the rain is rattling against the windows and the sky is dark. Not a nice day to be out on the pitch. Oh and did i mention we joined a gym?

16 September 2008

Music made with Windows sounds

This is a waste of time but so brilliant!!! All the sounds used for this are sounds made by Windows XP and Windows 98. There is a LOT of similar stuff out there on YouTube. Fun bit: the versions made with Apple Mac sounds are nowhere near as good!! Hehehe.

02 September 2008

Oddest Book Title

This week in The Guardian, examples of The Oddest Book Titles. There is a prize for these. There is a wonderful gallery with some of the best titles out there.

My personal favourite is "The Sexual Politics of Meat. A Feminist-Vegeratian Critical Theory"

Honestly, do feminists not have better things to do? Is this what my tax money goes toward: funding ridiculous studies like that?

Anyway, back to the books. How about "Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers" or "Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan"

These books have all been written by people who are serious about their beloved subject. These people probably do not see the strange side of the title. Should we ridicule them for it? You bet we should. I mean "Highlights in the History of Concrete"???!!! Come on.

28 August 2008

Alison Moyet

So the site is now live and I can tell you I have been involved, from a technical pespective, in creating a new website for Alison Moyet. Lovely singer. Website was lots of work but well worth it. I know, it is nothing flashy or fantastically design-y but it serves its purpose.

Have a look at Alisonmoyet.com

22 August 2008


Not sure I can tell you yet so I won't mention any names but I am very excited lately. I am working on a new official website for one of my favourite singers. Yay. I am happy to do something back for the pleasure her music has given me so far. Hopefully the site will go live on Tuesday next week so I can tell you who it is for by then as well. I am going to London tomorrow to work on it with a nice guy who invited me to help out.

It is a common misconception that all musicians with records in the shops have plenty of money to throw around, so right now, it is a labour of love (read: I don't get paid) but it is well worth it.

The down side is that I am spending too much time on it when I really should be working. I compensate by not taking a lunch break but I still feel a bit guilty, especially since I have been told not to spend so much time on 'personal projects' in work time.

Oops. So, all the more important to get this project finished asap!

15 August 2008

V festival 2008

3 days camping at the V Festival in Staffordshire. A simple burger costs £5 so we won't be spending a lot of money on food here. Dinner tonight is 3 cans of stew. Yes, we will be having loads of cheap food and good music. Well, I hope this music is good and that the rain will not be too much.But since this is a music festival, I fear it will come down in buckets at some point.

13 August 2008

Now with pictures

I have added a little picture box on the right side. Now you can see some of the most recent pictures I took. You know, to keep you updated about my terribly interesting life. *cough*

07 August 2008

The Times in action...again!

"Gay Sex as good as marriage" says Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, according to the headline in The Times today.
Well, actually, that is NOT what he says but the real quote is of course much more boring. What he actually says, and this is the headline on The Times' website: "Gay relationships are comparable to marriage".

Of course a paper has to sell copies and so the printed headline will make many more people stop and look at the paper and perhaps even buy it.

But as a gay woman, even I would say that 'gay sex' is definitely NOT the same as marriage. Just like 'straight sex' is not as good as marriage. Because sex is not as good as marriage. They are two separate things.

And for The Times to suggest that somehow gay people equate their sex life with the kind of long term commitment that marriage is seriously harming the fight for equality. Headlines like these make it look like that is what gays are after: That having gay sex gives them the right to all kinds of benefits that married couples have.

Bloody right-wing bastards at The Times! Grrr. Makes me really angry.

06 August 2008

I am off to see a play!

I am feeling very cultured right now because JD & I have just booked tickets to go to London and see a play from the National Theatre. I have never been to a play in London and I can not remember the last time I went to any kind of play at all. In fact, it may well be that I have in fact never been to a 'real' play.

Anyway, I am looking forward to it enormously. It is the matinee showing this Saturday in the Oliver. The play is called "Her Naked Skin" by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and it is about some women during the time of the Suffragettes, at the start of the 20th century. I read a review in The Guardian on Saturday and we decided we would go. So there.

Spend a morning in London, see the play then go for some (cheap) food in town. Lovely.

I can't wait.

04 August 2008

New living room

Every once so often, I feel like moving all the furniture around the living room, to see if I can make it look bigger. Or just because I have not taken my Ritalin and feel restless. I might move one piece of furniture and then another and then you just can not stop moving things around and before you know it the whole room is in a mess with books and cupboards everywhere. A panic fills my head as I lost control of what I am doing and JD has to come and calm me down before I have a major panic attack or an attack of guilt.

Here is the result of Sunday's activity. (click on picture for larger version) I think it makes the room look smaller but more cosy...I like it. Not sure about the dining table though.

20 July 2008

My darling cook


What to do with left overs? Well I am lucky enough to have a perfect solution in JD. So tonight we are having some kind of pie with carrots, mince, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes. Why bother posting this to my blog? Only because i got this fab new phone that sends pictures straight to Blogger. Bring on mobile blogging.

09 July 2008

The road is not for pedestrians

A cyclist killed a girl and gets a £2,000 fine for dangerous cycling. Parents of the girl are angry and want him brought up on manslaughter charges.

The situation:

The girl was crossing the road with a group of friends. The cyclist was coming towards the group and shouted at them to get out of the way 'as he was not going to stop'.

the cyclist stayed on a "straight course" towards the group because he had thought he could get through a gap he saw between Rhiannon and her friends.

However, it seems Rhiannon moved in to the gap at the last second and was struck by the bike.

It was unclear in court as to whether she was still in the road or on the pavement when the collision happened.

"We think Rhiannon was probably a few inches, or a foot, in to the road and then she moved towards the pavement," said Sgt Mahon.

Of course he is an arsehole for not swerving at the last moment and hitting the girl but erhm...the group was crossing the road. Right? ROAD = for moving traffic. Pavement = for pedestrians. When walking on the road you must make sure you are not hindering traffic on that road. Right?

So just because he is an arsehole surely does not mean it was manslaughter? IF the girl was on the road when he hit her, surely it was HER responsibility to get out of the way? Not his?

29 June 2008

I am a nurse, you dozy bitch!

I always laugh when people try to get what they want by using the equivalent of "Do you know who I am??!!" I always feel that only the most desperate losers say that when nobody wants to pay attention to them or when they have a genuine inferiority complex.

Yesterday JD and I were crossing the road and suddenly a car turned the corner, right in to my path, without indicating. I could have stopped but since the driver was in the wrong, I kept on walking and she had to stop to avoid running me over. I pointed at the front of her car, smiled and said, in my nicest voice: "Use your indicator next time please."

Next thing I knew, the car window came down and the driver leaned towards me, shouting: "I am a nurse you dozy bitch!" I smiled at her and said, once again in my friendliest voice, dripping with that kind of niceness that makes people's blood boil: "That doesn't mean you do not have to use your indicator when you turn a corner. Have a nice day now, bye." She ranted on some more, and then nearly ran in to JD who had started to cross the road as well, since the nurse was spending her time shouting at me. She then shouted "Fucking Lesbian" at JD who, remember, was not involved in the incident at all, and drove off.

Why did she get so angry, and more intriguingly, why did she say: "I am a nurse you know!". Was that the best she could come up with? Is ther some law in England that exempts nurses from having to use their indicators when they turn corners?

JD & I had a nice afternoon laughing about it all, making up excuses as to why the Nice nurse got so angry. Glad I am not her patient!

25 June 2008

Triple Towers

I think I spend to much time playing Triple Towers in the pub at lunch time. How do I know? Well, look at the scoreboard. It is all me. Oops....Now I could of course spend my lunch time sitting outside in the front garden on the lovely new picnic bench we bought (and which I put together yesterday. Flatpack Rulez!) but that would be too sensible really. and too relaxing. and that would make me look lazy. Or something like that.

21 June 2008

Holland? Euro 2008? Huh?

Was there a football tournament going on? Really? Where? I did not notice it. Holland played in it? Really? How did they do? They lost to Russia in the Quarter Finals? Wow, I never knew. But then again, I never really pay much attention to football anyway. Could all have passed me by completely.

17 June 2008

BBC says: Gay on the brain!

I have always said that I feel lesbian brains are probably related to straight male brains and queer brains are related to straight female brains. Of course this is completely politically incorrect as it points to a difference in brain function which in turn could lead to scientists trying to pinpoint a Gay Gene which in turn could lead to people wanting their babies tested for being gay before they are born.

I don't care. I know I am right. And the BBC agrees with me.

Scans see 'gay brain differences'

The scientist who conducted the research said:

As far as I'm concerned there is no argument any more - if you are gay, you are born gay. The brain network which determines what sexual orientation actually 'orients' towards is similar between gay men and straight women, and between gay women and straight men. This makes sense given that gay men have a sexual preference which is like that of women in general, that is, preferring men, and vice versa for lesbian women.

So now what for the religious fundies who claim being gay is a lifestyle choice? What is going to happen now that science proves gays are 'the way God has made them', rather than a bunch of freaks who chose a sinful path in life? Oh, let me guess. They are going to ignore it, as they do with everything that does not fit in heir narrow minded view of the world.

So I shall leave you with the Feel Good Moment of the Day. In California today, gays could get married. One of the first couples to tie the know were Del (89) and Phyllis (84). Don't they look sweet? Imagine: when one of them dies, finally, the other can stay in the house they probably bought together. I just don't see why people insist on denyingg loving couples such basic human rights.

13 June 2008

Brigitte Kaandorp in England

When I was young, I was 'a fan' of Brigitte Kaandorp, a Dutch comedian. Her style is not dissimilar to Eddie Izzard in the sense that it looks like she is just talking random stuff, jumping from one spontaneous thought to the the next when in fact it is all carefully scripted. Her image is one of slightly clumsy, endearing and unexpectedly funny. Her strength is in taking an every day situation and looking at it in such detail that the audience can really recognize themselves in it and laugh at themselves.

I used to imitate her and sing her songs at parties & memorize entire shows and recount them to amuse others. Apparently talk just like her and sometimes when I was babbling too much, people would say: "Hey Brigitte, that's enough now."

What's this got to do with England? Well, in the office, being a design agency and thus all cool and trendy, most people work with their headphones on, listening to music on their computer. We can also control the music on the office stereo by logging on to the network and playing music from our computer on the stereo. Every once so often, we do a little round robin with a theme. Yesterday, everyone was to play the one song they have played the most on their computer in the past week, be it on the stereo or on their headphones. I had just recently downloaded a song by Brigitte Kaandorp and that was my most played tune. So when my turn came to play my Most Played Song, I played "Het komt allemaal wel weer goed" (see video below). And to my amazement, one of the guys said: are you sure that is not you singing. She sounds just like you.

Wow. I never speak Dutch in the office, they don't speak Dutch and yet they can hear, when somebody is singing, that her voice sounds a lot like mine. Maybe it really is true then...

12 June 2008

Lucky escape. Twice!

This week, I think the Higher Power was trying to send me a message. Twice I managed to escape a traffic ticket.

First, I went through a red light. A police car in the lane next to me also went through but, to be fair, his light really was amber. Mine was kind of red. Just. However, the police car turned left and I went straight on so when the police realised that I must have gone through a red light if I managed to get through after him, he had already turned left. In my mirror I could see him stop his car and look out of his window at my car. he realised he would not be able to turn around and catch me so I escaped! Phew. I already have 3 points on my license, which drives up the cost of car insurance. I just misjudged the light. It happens. Mind you, I did pull in to a hidden parking area and waited for 5 minutes, in case the cops decided to come after me after all.

Today I was in town and I just had to nip out of the car for 2 minutes so I made a calculation that I would not need to pay for my parking. I scanned the street for a parking attendant and saw one at the very end of the street. Thinking I would be back before he could reach my end of the street, I left the car. Of course I misjudged again and when I returned to my car, he got out his little parking-ticket machine and started to write a ticket. I smiled at him and said: Busted, you beat me to it. He said: Well, not yet because it takes me 5 minutes to write this ticket so if you move it before I finish, I'll let you off.

Nice man. Anyone think I will get a third chance or should I take the hints: Don't break the law!

11 June 2008

Mud phobia pig gets its own boots

On the BBC website today, the story of Cinders, a piglet so afraid of mud that she has been given her own wellies. That makes me smile in that sweet, gooey way. Aaaaahhhh.

The pig farmer has said there was no chance that Cinders would be slaughtered.

"She's more of a pet really now and she's going to live a very long and happy life," he said.

The young saddleback has been chosen by the couple as a mascot for their campaign to raise money for the Farm Crisis Network, which supports struggling farmers.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

10 June 2008

Covered in Bees!

"Hello there, you in the street.
You're new, aren't you?"


"Er... Do you want a cup of coffee?
It's no problem."

- (Droning)
- "No real problem."

"I don't want a cup of coffee from you,
you're covered in bees."

"I like my women like I like my coffee -

"covered in bees.

From Eddie Izzard's fabulous show Glorious where he discusses bee keeping. Shoppers in Northampton today got more than they bargained for when a massive swarm of bees landed on a market stall. No flower sales for this poor man. I got out my phone and took a few shots.

09 June 2008

Euro 2008: I am ready!

Bring on Italy, France & Romania. I know who the winner is going to be: Holland (or rather: The Netherlands). Even if we don't win Euro 2008, Dutch fans, dressed in bright orange, will be the moral winners. As usual.

Hup Holland!

08 June 2008

River Song and other weekend pleasures

In days long gone, I was as good as addicted to medical drama ER. Of course it was mainly for the great storylines, not for any of the rather good looking women on the show (Maura Tierney, Elizabeth Mitchell). One of my favorites back then was uncerimoniously sacked for being too old: Alex Kingston. How little do producers know about what is too old or not attractive enough!!

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Alex Kingston again in Doctor Who, playing River Song, a mysterious scientist who may or may not be married to The Doctor in the future. And of course she still looks totally hot. Maybe it is the curly hair (see Elizabeth Mitchell) or perhaps the red hair, but Alex looks great, waving her Sonic Screwdriver around! You go girl.

JD and I booked our ferry to France for our holiday in September. Yay! Looking forward to it already. On Saturday morning, I took a few moments to think of what could have been if Hillary Clinton had managed to win the Democratic nomination. Her 'farewell speech' was dead on. From now on, it will not be remarkable to think of a woman as presidential nominee and that is truly remarkable. Please, let the USA elect Obama in November!

06 June 2008


is it childish to get really angry with work mates who leave mess in the kitchen in the office? It is my job to keep the office tidy but please, we are all adults, right? How hard is it to wash your mug instead of putting it in the sink and say 'oh, I was going to do that later' (and then not do it of course). One of them even said to me that it irritated them how much I go on about it and then sat down, instead of actually putting his stuff away.
And so today, as a punishment for leaving dishes in the sink etc, the kitchen is out of bounds for everyone. Not my decision but the director's. But who gets the looks and discussions about how unfair this is on those who do clean their stuff? Me of course. Because I am the snitch, the teacher's pet, the one who runs to the boss to tell on the naughty people.

Well I am done with that. Fuck them. If I wanted children I would get pregnant, not take a job in an office.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

30 May 2008


One of my favourite blogs is Pam's House Blend (apart from her support for Obama in the US presidential race, rather than Hillary) mentioned an article that claims that a marriage can be defined by Penis into Vagina. Well, Pam does not believe this but some weird woman called Melanie Scarborough does. She claims gays can never marry because a marriage is only legal once it has been 'consummated'. And according to Melanie, consummation means sex between a man and a woman. And since gay people can not do penis-into-vagina, the whole marriage debate is a moot point since their union cna neer legally be valid unless they can do penis-into-vagina. Right.

"They may have engaged in various intimacies only Bill Clinton would not describe as sex. But unless the relationship includes the one act defining marital union, the marriage can be annulled because it is deemed to have never existed."

But where does it say that 'that one act' is penis-into-vagina? Maybe that one act is, erhm.....seeing each other pee? Or brush teeth? Somewhere apparently (but no source of course for this) there must be an exact definition of 'the one act that defines marriage'. Please let me know if you find it. I feel sorry for all those couples who are married but do not have sex by putting penis into vagina. I wonder if they know they are not really married...

It seems to me that more and more, Americans are clutching at ever thinner straws to try and avoid the inevitable truth.

29 May 2008

Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a horse

Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City looks like a horseSex and the City-star Sarah Jessica Parker always reminded me of someone. And now I know. Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a horse! And I am not the only one who thinks so, according to sarahjessicaparkerlookslikeahorse.com.

If you need convincing, they have evidence...

27 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Don't bother with this one. Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skull is rubbish. Aliens? Flying Saucers? Surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge? Come on! I wasted 2 hours of my life on this. Plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, a storyline so thin you can see right through it, held together by an old man wearing a smelly leather hat.
No thanks.

21 May 2008

Richard Dawkins Rocks


Following on from my rant below on fundamentalist and evangelican Christians, I found this lovely website for the Out Campaign. This is a movement created by Richard Dawkins to counter act the growing influence of christianity in society. Shame that it will get confused with gay activism, but that's no reason not to support it.

"...even if the religious have the numbers, we have the arguments, we have history on our side, and we are walking with a new spring in our step – you can hear the gentle patter of our feet on every side."

Indeed Mr. Dawkins. Excuse me while I am off to the shop to buy myself one of those wonderful t-shirts to show my new found Atheist beliefs!

20 May 2008

Top 5 Reasons I hate Christian Fundamentalists

Last night I watched Dispatches on Channel 4. It showed a bunch of Christian fundamentalists trying to influence politicians in Britain. Shocking. Unfortunately, as usual, when they were really challenged on their beliefs and left speechless, instead of pushing on, the reporter allowed the question to go unanswered. The first one was how old did she think the world was? Did she believe it was the biblical suggestion of around 4,000 years and if so, how did she explain the hard facts of carbon dating & fossils? She responded by stuttering and then asking for the camera to be turned off. The second question was her real opinion about Islam. She called it a false religion and when asked if that meant she thinks Islam is the religion of the Devil, she turned her microphone off.

Why do reporters never say: No, hang on. I asked you a question. If you are so sure in your beliefs, you should be able to answer that. Surely a simple reporter can not challenge your faith so fundamentally that you have no answer to a really simple question?

But no. As usual, the answers went unchallenged.

Anyway, I believe it is not Muslim fundamentalism we should be afraid of (not that I ever was) but Christian fundamentalism. Christians have discovered the true power of PR and there is a massive amount of money available to them to push their cause. They use the argument that this (and the rest of Europe) is a Christian nation and hence their ideas are perfectly normal, right? Well no. And here is why.

1) They are hypocrites.

Yes, we all are, I know, but I do not claim to own the truth, they do. Examples: they keep screaming about 'the gay lobby' and how immoral groups are pushing their agenda. Erhm....how is trying to get in to government and lobbying parliamentarians not exactly the same? There is no difference, but for them, a lobby by someone they don't agree with is seen as 'shoving their agenda down our throats' but their own lobby is not at all exactly the same.

2) They pick and choose who to oppose(like everyone else) but say they don't

Kind of fits in with the above. Apparently they can decide which sin is worse than others and how each sin should be fought. Homosexuality is a sin they target viciously. I don't know why because I can think of many other sins that are actually harmful to people. Like pedophilia. Or adultery. In these case, innocent people are victims, not consenting adults. They oppose abortion and some of them think killing abortion doctors is OK because they anger God by...erhm....killing someone. Right. You either believe in the bible or you don't. You don't get to pick and choose and say: Well, we do not stone adulterers to death anymore in the 21st century but we can still kill gay people.

3) They are (gullible) cowards

When challenged on their beliefs, they simply walk away or refuse to answer, saying we just do not understand the word of God. Ever tried dicussing the fact that the bible has 2 stories of earth's creation (the Paradise Theory and the Primordial Soup Theory) and they will say there is nothing contradictory about them at all. Or ask them how come god says all children are innocent but those born in sin (out of wedlock etc.) are apparently not so innocent eventhough they haven't done anything wrong. Or ask them how they feel about the PROOF that the earth is millions of years old instead of the biblical few thousand years? You'll get a wary stare and you'll be told you are simply refusing to believe. I think that is cowardly. Why not enter a discussion with an open mind. Me, I just prefer to believe science, not fiction.

4) They want to impose their will on all of us

This is the most dangerous one of all. In the name of 'morals', they try to change things for everyone and impose their beliefs on everyone, even people who do not believe in their god. They want to ban abortion. Well, I want a woman's right to choose. So why not allow women who want that choice to have an abortion and if you, as a Christian, feel this should not be done, then you simply don't have one. if you feel gay people should not have equal rights, then don't work at a registry office where you may have to marry gay people. If you believe shops should not be open on Sunday, then stay in the house but let me get my shopping without bothering anyone.
I don't go out telling people they should all become gay because it will make them happier. Yet that is exactly what they do to the rest of the world. instead of leaving us in peace, they go out to tell everyone who is not like them only they know the truth. Arrogant bastards.

5) They claim anyone who disagrees with them does not have an open mind

The most hypocritical of all really. (In fact, I think, looking at the above, all 5 things say: HYPOCRITE in one way or another) I accept that some people do not like gay people. I accept some people think abortion is a sin. I have an open mind to others. That is not the same as agreeing with them and it does not involve telling others they are stupid, going to die, going to hell, should not be allowed civil rights or have their opinion heard. That is however exactly what evangelical christians do. If I tell them they have no right to attack me personally without knowing anything about me, if I tell them I do not believe in their god and that I think they are morally wrong, they tell us all that their opponents do not have an open mind. They put themselves in the position of a victim, trying to get sympathy.

So maybe this is my coming out. I am done with them. I hate them. I believe they are trying to overturn all that we have been fighting for. Freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom to live how we feel. I am so angry about it that I am even considering getting involved in some kind of politics to try and stop them.

19 May 2008


Fixed in a mere 10 minutes for only £15. Hurrah for old fashioned craftsmanship!

16 May 2008

Birma leaders are funny

I don't usually comment on international politics (other than to have a go at American foreign policy) but this morning I was struck by something I heard on the BBC news. Apparently the military leaders in Burma have decided that the relief effort after the recent cyclone is over and that it is now time to start rebuilding.

Excuse me, would you please repeat that? Yes, they think enough has been done and that the international community should really stop trying to get all this aid in to the country. Bodies are piling up along river banks, cholera is a real threat, people have no water or food and live on the streets among the sewage. In Rangoon, the only place where the international aid workers are allowed to go, things are pretty swell and well organised but nobody has been allowed in to the rives delta where the devastation is enormous. Army checkpoints make sure nobody can get in to the delta to see the situation first hand. it is as if the leaders actually want these people to die.

Meanwhile, the leaders claim they got 92% approval for the new constitution in last week's referendum. The upshot is that people are not getting their wallets out to donate money to the relief effort as they feel the money will be wasted anyway with aid workers not being allowed in to the country.

At the same time in China, after the earthquake, the government is doing everything it can to make it look they are on the case and, from what I read, the relief effort there seems to have gathered pace and is a million times more successful than the one in Burma. Of course China still has a terrible record of secrecy but they seem to be at least willing to let other people help them. That in itself is progress compared to only a few years ago.

Reading about these things makes me sad, sick, frustrated and angry...and happy that I am lucky enough to live in a place in the world where I can moan and bitch about politicians as much as I want, knowing that if a disaster happens, I will be in (relatively) good hands.

12 May 2008

An English weekend away...

JD and I went on a little mini-holiday this weekend. We packed the tent and our bikes and headed off for Sherwood Forest for some cycling in Nottinghamshire. The weather was hot, the new bicycle carrier for the car was working like a dream and the campsite had clean toilets. What more can you want. Saturday's cycling was perhaps not the most productive (we got lost at just about every junction) but it was good fun. Only 12.5km in total.

Sunday was a bit more fun. We drove to Edwinstowe and cycled around until we came to Clumber park. What a nightmare. On a sunny day, English people all get in their cars and drive to a big grassy park where they all park their cars, rent a bike and cycle no more than 200metres from their cars. We accidentally entered Clumber Park and I got really confused and wanted to leave as soon as possible. It was so busy, we could hardly cycle. And all you saw was half naked people on a big grass area next to their thousands of cars, pretending they were in the country side, surrounded by thousands of people, a visitors' centre, a chapel and bike hire shops. Really frighting experience. Of course we got lost again on our way to the exit and nearly run over by a few big 4x4 cars that were queuing up to get in to the park with their windows shut and air conditioning on full blast. AARRGGHH!

We finally managed to escape and when we arrived back in Edwinstowe, we stumbled across something wonderfully relaxing: a village cricket match on the cricket green. We sat down for 45 minutes and were mesmerised by the whole thing. So typically English. Relaxing, fun. Just lovely. The local butcher in the same team as the policeman and a couple of young boys thrown in for good measure. Wonderful end of a nice weekend.

Let me make an observation here: cycling in England is shit. The network for cyclists is terrible, signposting of cycle routes is dismal. No wonder people don't cycle much in this country, for fun or as a commuter. It is dreadful. I know as a Dutch person, I have been spoilt by how well the roads cater for cyclists but even specially created cycle tracks have terrible signposting, meaning you really need a compass to make sure you know to turn left or right at every junction. In The Netherlands, on cycle paths, be they recreational or on 'commuter routes', the signs point towards towns and places, rather than, for example 'Blue Route' or 'Green Route'. This means that if you get lost on the way, you can always find your way again really easily by going in the general direction of the route you were following. Of course I understand that The Netherlands have so many cycle tracks anyway that there is rarely a need to create separate cycle routes for recreation. But even then, recreational routes are signposted clearly below the straightforward direction signs. (see picture)

When you go cycling through the woods or countryside, you are presented at just about every junction with charming little 'toadstools' that tell you where to go. I love these and they are part of my childhood memories. They not only have the directions and distances marked on them but they also have a unique 5 digit number. These numbers are marked on the cycling maps and are very useful aid to checking your position.

How did Dutch cycling-directions become so organised? Well, it is all done by 1 organisation so the tourist-type routes are signposted by the same people responsible for signposting all the other routes hence everything fits together, all routes can be mixed & matched without any trouble and are easy to find. You can get on your bike on a Sunday without a map and with only a rough idea of where you want to go, you will be able to follow the signs and get where you want to be. (if you are interested, this site explains all about how wonderfully organised cycling in The Netherlands is)

06 May 2008

Vive La France

Listening to Jodie Foster's interview in French (see below), I remembered how much I enjoy French, speaking French and listening to French music. When I was in high school I had a major crush on my French teacher from day 1. I was a lonely child with not many friends and this teacher was the first person to treat me like someone with a brain and valuable opinions. And so I had a schoolgirl crush on her. I wanted to be the best at French I could possibly be. And so I started listening to French music and radio and watching French TV. After a few years, I would say my French was pretty darn good. My teacher, initially delighted at having a young girl so interested in her subject, eventually had to ask my parents to talk to me so I would stop following her around everywhere in the school. A bit embarrassing but as a result, my French is still totally fab.

It has deteriorated a fair bit over the past 10 years as I have not spent much time in France at all. Jodie Foster, in her interview, explains it to the TV hosts by saying her French is 'old'. Like Jodie (whose French is much better than mine!), I find myself using words and expressions that were used 10 years ago and I have not 'progressed' since. So I have at least one thing in common with Jodie Foster. More than most people!

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that, during my crush on my French teacher, I spent loads of time listening to French music. The French Chanson was very popular in The Netherlands in the 70s so my parents quite enjoyed listening to my music as loads of itt was old stuff. A 12 year old girl listening to Charles Aznavour did not make me lots of friends in school though... Some more modern French music made its way in to my bedroom, together wit RTL Radio.

With summer on its way, I have already been listening to my Italian stuff lately. I will be adding Florent Pagny, Patricia Kaas, Michel Fugain and Julien Clerc to my playlist soon.

25 April 2008

Bittersweet moment of the year...

Last night JD & I were in bed, ready to sleep, in full spooning mode, when she mumbled: "I hope your dad lives for a long time to come yet because I don't want you to feel the pain and sadness I feel since losing mine."

What do you say to that?

23 April 2008

Feminists and their narrow minded perspective on the world

I read something about feminism in the late 70s on After Ellen. It was a review of an album by Cris Williamson, 'The Changer and The Changed'. This record is seen as landmark in 'womyn's music' (read: Williamson was a lesbian and did not hide that fact). I used to have the album on a tape and I quite liked it. Very similar to Carole King and it certainly deserved a wider audience than the narrow lesbian community. Anyway, the point is that one reviewer, in a lesbian magazine of course, said she liked the album but:

The problem that I have with Cris Williamson's embracing of spirituality on this album is the same one I have with any feminist who makes this personal quest a priority and excludes politics from her vision.

So, in short, women should sing about politics and not about their own personal experiences because that is what sisters are supposed to do.
How narrow minded is that? No wonder most people saw feminists as a bunch of stupid women who were too self obsessed to realise that small steps will eventually lead to a big goal, rather than demanding everything to change at once.

Hard line feminists saw men as the enemy and so no woman should sleep with a man because by default that meant she was being submissive. And so many women slept with women, as some kind of weird sisterhood thing. Not because it made them happy but because they felt they had to do it to fit in. So they swapped one form of oppression for another one. Because 'real' lesbians, those who were with women because they really wanted to, were seen as conforming, yet again, to male stereotypes as soon as one of them had short hair and the other had long hair.

And the worst thing is that after the radical movement calmed down, many women realised they did not want to be with a woman but really wanted to be with a man. After all, you can not change your sexuality to match your political views. And so loads of them got married in the late 80s/early 90s. That just made people think that being a lesbian is just a phase women go through. And so they inflicted even more damage on the public perception of women, lesbians and feminists.

Maybe I shave my legs and armpits because I don't like the hair. As a lesbian, I couldn't care less about the opinion of a man about my body hair. I care about my OWN opinion. Which is: I don't like it. I am glad I did not live in the 70s as I would have been seriously excluded and discriminated against by large groups of feminists.

Feminism was a great movement and it did a lot of good but my God, I am sure it did a lot of emotional damage to many women who just wanted equal pay without having to sleep with other women to get it.

PS: I found some fantastically funny websites against feminism. Unfortunately they are actually serious sites by freaky Christians and I should probably not link to them but they are so funny, I will leave it up to you if you want to go and have a look or not...

- Ladies Against Feminism
- Understanding Feminists and their fantasies
- Council on Biblical manhood & Womanhood

Asparagus quiche

Last night I made an asparagus quiche. I used to make that quite often but I had not bothered in the past 5 years at least. So I tried to remember the recipe and in the end, it was something like this:

Aspagarus - However many I had in the fridge
Ham - However much was in the packet (I actually used Gammon rather than a thick slice of ham)
Cream - Some
Milk - Some more
Eggs - As many as I needed to make sure it compensated for the amount of milk
Cheese - Lots
Onion - The one I happened to have left
Pastry - PUFF pastry thank you very much, none of that short crust rubbish!

Cooking time & temperature: try it on 160c first, if that doesn't work, turn it up higher and decide when you like the look of it.

So, lesson learned: who needs a recipe? Just do what you think is right because I think it was by far the most glorious quiche I have ever made!

21 April 2008

I am calm now...

Now that I have calmed down, I realise I should just look back at yesterday and be proud of what we did. We were GREAT. It would be wonderful (and exhausting) to play at that level every week but it will have to wait for another year. We went to Loughborough with a coach load full of supporters (they even brought pickled onions, quiche, mulled wine and samosas!).

We gave it all we had. For everything that we did wrong, we did some other stuff better than ever before. The Loughborough try came straight after one of our players had to go off injured after she was screaming in pain. I am sure we were distracted by that as they scored within a minute of play resuming. Luckily, our player is OK now, (just keep taking the morphine Sarah!) which is of course much more important.

Oh, and a thank you to our supporters. They were fabulous. And loud. And wonderful to have around.

I feel pleased that, apparently, this year I have managed to play at the higher level without making an absolute arse of myself. My tactical decisions were not always very good, my scrummaging needs some serious strength work and and my tackling is still rubbish, but all in all, I think I did quite well in a team that is certainly of a higher standard than the one I used to play for.

20 April 2008

Olney Ladies (do not) win the league!

Darn. My rugby team has gone through the season undefeated. Today was the final match of the season against our league rivals Loughborough. We were under the impression we only needed 1 point from the match so even when we lost 5-0, I was under the impression we had still won the league. As it turns out, I was wrong. Because we were not informed of certain points being removed from various teams in the league and some matches being deleted from the results (due to not all teams playing all their matches, it is not fair if one team gets the chance to rack up a massive score and get bonus points whilst another team simply gets the points when the opposition cancels the match. This means they do not get the chance to get a bonus point. This makes the competition unfair. I understand all that.)

I have no real issue with us not winning the league, although I am desperately sad about it as we came so close and the match yesterday was fantastic and, with 5 minutes of play to go, it was looking like a draw, which would have given us the championship.

My main anger lies with the fact that the opposition was aware of the points deduction that still needed to be applied. They knew exactly what they needed to do to win the league. We did not. The coaches thought 1 point was enough. And since you get a bonus point for losing but staying within 15 points of the winner, a 5-0 loss would still mean a league win for us. And so, after the opponents scored their try with 5 minutes to go, we were instructed to slow the game down and not run like mad, hoping to score our own try. So we kicked the ball out of play, wasted time, thinking we were OK, even if we lost.

Surely the league organisers should have made sure both teams were fully aware of the situation before such an important match? it is a league decider for God's sake. Can you imagine this happening in the professional game, that neither team knows who has actually won and that the officials say: I need to re-calculate all the scores this season and I will let you know by the end of Monday who has actually won the league?

Surely someone should have done this BEFORE the match and informed both team captains of any changes and points deductions that still needed to be applied?

Oh well, there is always next year I guess... I am now going to hide under a blanket on the sofa and cry silently about what could have been. last year I won the league with my old team, Old Leamingtonians so it would have been cool to win the next league up with my new team.

16 April 2008

Ciao Italia!

One down side of living in the UK is that you never hear any other language than English. There are no foreign language TV shows and non-English films are seen as arty and, although subtitled, only on TV at some unholy hour. Foreign speakers on TV news and in talk shows are always dubbed, never subtitled. And so the people here are hardly ever exposed to other languages. I feel very strongly that this is a big reason for the English being so bad at learning a different language. To them, the sound is completely new as they have never heard it on the radio or TV.

Dutch people speak very good English in general, even those who have not studied it. The reason is simple: they watch English-spoken TV shows and the subtitles help them to learn the language a fair bit, without them even realising it.

Here in England, I have never heard a non-English song on the radio. Never.

Dutch radio plays quite a bit of foreign language music. Especially in the summer, you can hear all kinds of music. People go on holiday to France, Spain & Italy and bring back that song they heard there on the radio all the time. And when the Tour de France is on (3 weeks of minute-by-minute live reporting from reporters on the back of motorbikes on Dutch radio, yay!!) you will hear a lot of French music. Kind of gets you in the mood.

One of the first CDs my parents had was a compilation album called Ciao Italia. it had all kinds of Italian pop songs that I used to love. No idea what they were singing about but that music was part of my youth, my summer. I am sure Italians would consider the songs on that album terribly outdated. Look at any Italian compilation album and you will see the same songs all the time. Like Italian music has not moved on since the late 80s. (a bit like CDs with The Best of French music still having Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel songs on them)

This morning, I suddenly thought of an Italian song and I downloaded a bunch of tracks I remembered being on that CD. I played some songs on iTunes in the office. Everyone looked at me (as if anyone else would play that kind of music!) and said: what the hell is this?!! So I put my headphones back on and worked away whilst listening to Eros Ramazzotti, Toto Cutugno, Gianna Nannini and Matia Bazar. And I don't care their music is old fashioned.

15 April 2008

Healthy Living

JD and I are on a new eating regime. We do not eat enough fruit and vegetables so now we have deiced to make a radical change. On Saturday we went to the market and spent a whopping (duh) £10.20 on fruit and vegetables. According to my calculations, this is enough for us to have 3 pieces of fruit each day (one with every meal) and 2 portions of vegetables. This means we should get to our minimum of 5 portions of fruit & veg a day, without counting things like sultanas, fruit juice and canned fruit we eat as snacks. I thought it was going to be a bit of effort to eat fruit with every meal but so far, it has been really easy. It seems our favourite fruit is spooning out a kiwi. Let's see how we feel about it after a week.

08 April 2008

And All Because The Lady Loves

Yay! Found after having been lost for a long time: And All Because The Lady Loves. They were one of my favourite bands in the 90s. Only made a handful of albums, completely obscure. Listen to samples of their music here. There is in fact a rather lengthy biography of And All Because The lady Loves on the BBC website H2G2.

I first saw them as a support act for a Beverley Craven concert I went to in Den Haag, about 100 years ago. I thought they were fabulous. Two women with a bass and a guitar. And two fabulous voices. They rocked. I enjoyed their show more than I enjoyed Beverley Craven. The combination of the two acts was rather weird actually. I think I became their most loyal Dutch fan. I have been to every show they played in Holland. OK, that was only a hand full of shows but still. One day they were playing a radio show in the place where I loved and me and a whole bunch of friends went to see them play. We chatted with them for a bit and they promised us tickets if we came to their gig that night. The gig was about 40km away and none of us had a car. So in the end, we found people happy to drive us there and back and we piled in to two cars, off to Zoetermeer.

We had a great night, especially since my group of friends were just about the only people there. Just as well we came with about 10 of us. They were opening for some unknown band and after their set, I chatted with Rachel & Nicky, the two band members, and made an arse of myself by trying to play one of their songs in their OWN dressing room... GOD I was so stupid and star struck.

They were way cool. And now I found their MySpace page. Still embryonic but one can only hope their internet presence grows so I can send my friends links to their songs.

07 April 2008

Olympic Torch Relay: I predict a riot

British people like nothing more than a good protest. If there is an opportunity to protest & moan, they will do so with gusto. And good for them. That is their right in a democracy. So I was very happy yesterday that the Olympic Torch Relay through London was totally overshadowed by protesters, demanding attention for China's outrageous politics, especially in Tibet.

However, I do not agree with people attacking the Torch Runners. The Olympics are a sporting event, not a political one. you can not blame people for wanting to participate in a sporting event. by all means, wave your flag and protest, make things as difficult as possible for China, make the world think of Tibet and human rights abuse instead of sport. But do not break the law. Show China what a democracy does: it gives people the right to voice their opinion in a peaceful way. Do not give China ammunition to say: See, that is why we ban protests because it leads to riots. Even the Dalai Lama has called for the Olympics to go ahead so that the world can force China to make changes. Why do protesters say they support the Dalai Lama and then ignore his opinion on this?

I felt the Metropolitan Police did a great job yesterday. They started out with low-level policing but when it became clear the protests became too much trouble, they brought in more police to protect the relay, at some point even abandoning the event and putting the whole thing on a bus along an unscheduled route to avoid protesters. What was their other option: hit protesters with their batons and fighting their way through the streets? Now THAT would have made Western democracies look good. In fact, that would only have strengthened China in its idea that banning free speech is good for keeping the peace.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua says that attempts to sabotage the relay "will surely arouse the resentment of peace loving people". They dismissed the protests as the work of a few Tibetan separatists. If the protests are peaceful, I think there will be more resentment about the 19 people killed in Tibet yesterday than about people shouting Free Tibet along the roads of London.

The whole thing is a PR nightmare for China. Instead of spreading harmony, the Torch Relay looks like a military operation with 3 rows of police cordons to protect the torch and protesters waving Tibetan flags all over the world.

Shame the Chinese and Tibetan people will of course not see any of it. They will just get the picture of Gordon Brown smiling at the Torch.Maybe not a smart move after all.