Insights from Amsterdam

IMG_20150918_120715

It’s always nice to get away; I usually return refreshed and invigorated.

This weekend we went to Amsterdam. We are lucky to live a three hours’ drive from that vibrant city with its canals, boats, flowers, markets, smiling happy people and bicycles.

And we were visiting good friends who we met over thirty years ago, shortly after we got married and moved to the U.S. for a few years. Carl was an assistant professor, starting at Iowa State University and Wies, his wife is Dutch. My husband and I arrived back then in Ames, Iowa, with a rucksack each and returned with our first born, Sebastian, a couple boxes of books and a wealth of experiences.

Now Carl and Wies are back from Maine, spending a year in Amsterdam and living in a fantastic apartment right on the Prinzengracht.

We shared many happy memories of our time in Ames, although we’ve been seeing each other regularly over the years. My first son was born in Ames, and Wies’s only daughter was born almost a year later. We have happy memories of taking them to the park to play, going for walks and letting them splash in the bathtub while we drank coffee and chatted. We never run out of things to talk about!

But this weekend, after hours of sitting around over leisurly breakfasts, we usually parted ways. Carl and Fr. did their thing and Wies and I strolled through the city, went to the markets, to the English Book Shop, bought flowers and cheese and herbs and jewellry, looked at antique books at the book market, had coffee and reminisced and planned for the future. Where are they going to end up? Where are we going to end up? That theme again, Where She Belongs–and here I’ll do a shameless plug for my debut novel–http://bit.ly/29Yao5z. You can click on the link if you’re interested. We talked about the refugee crisis, the U.S. elections, the Trumpet, as he is known, and everything else in between.

On the Rembrandt plein there is usually a small gathering of artists displaying their wares on Sunday mornings. I was happy to meet up again with Sara J., who hails from South Africa but now lives near Amsterdam. There’s that theme again. A city like Amsterdam is so multi-cultural; you’ll meet people from all over the world. I bought a couple of Sara J’s prints, Zebra Pleasure and Madam’s Kiss. One is an early Christmas present for my sister. Here’s a link to Sara J’s art site: http://bit.ly/29Yao5z. We were going to go to one of the museums but the weather was just too nice for that and we didn’t want to have to queue up for ages either.

The market’s are fantastic, of course, and now is the time to buy tulip bulbs for next spring. I recommed the book Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach, by the way. She’s also the author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I love, but Tulip Fever is entirely different. My brother gave it to me years ago. It’s full of suspense and will transport you back to the time when people were going crazy speculating on tulip bulbs. It’s a gem of a book. I wrote to tell D. Moggach how much I liked her book, something I rarely do, and she answered me. Gold stars for her!

Now I’m going to post a picture I took of cheese–just because. The Dutch do love their cheese. Germans call the Dutch Käsköppe (Cheese Heads) and the Dutch call the Germans Krauts (the cabages), but that’s well known. If you go to Amsterdam you must buy some cheese.

IMG_20150919_175936

Yes, I know. I really need to minimize these pictures, but I don’t have the patience for that at the moment.

Adieu for now!

Barbara

 

 

 

 

 

Raw Lines from a Busy Mind

A side of me doesn’t want to avoid topics

because they disturb you, or him, or her

I know nobody who wants their peace disturbed

But there’s a lot of anger simmering in people

 

I do not believe most people want to destroy

unless they feel they have nothing to lose

unless their sense of injustice is too hard to bear

 

I brush these thoughts aside and gaze out the window

watching the tall pink flowers sway in the breeze

The white rose hides behind the tall grass

shaded by the buddlea

shy

communing with bees and butterflies

 

My mind is restored now

to a semblance of peace

I am lucky; I have a house, a garden

food on my table

nice things to think about

Yet I cannot ignore the world around me

I will not ignore it

present and peony 001

If the first suffragette had not protested

would we have the vote?

If Rosa Parks had not been brave and refused to budge

would our black brothers and sisters be able to sit on a bus

like the rest of us?

 

Am I the rose, hiding behind the tall grass?

watching, waiting…

Am I the pink flower, swaying in the breeze, looking lovely?

Or the buddlea, basking in the sun

The oak, perhaps, who insists on dropping seeds, willy nilly,

like unwanted opinions?

 

If I ignore it, will it go away?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to Ireland – Part Two

We got to watch my brother, Sean, in action at a local hotel where he and a couple of Irish dancers, The Celtic Twins, and Paul Timoney, our local seanachai (story teller, pronounced shan a ki) entertained a group of American tourists. Paul Timoney spun a few tall yarns, followed by Sean with his guitar as he sang Leaving on a Jet Plane, Carrick Fergus, Mary Mack, Makem and Clancy’s  Spancil Hill, and a couple others I can’t remember. I just love his voice and his guitar music. Next up were The Celtic Blonds doing Irish dancing. Typical tourist fare. We sat discretely in the background and watched the group trying out their dance moves (we were a kinder version of Waldorf and Statler).

Our next destination was Miltown Malbay, in Co. Clare. My husband got the ‘flu, which severely limited our activities — a bit disappointing, but what can you do. We had a spectacular view from our room, and from the communal living room, onto the bay. I was most impressed by Wayne, the owner, who had built this amazing house and rented out several rooms to guests. Mornings saw him running back and forth, taking orders, cooking breakfast. Everything was perfect too, his timing, his coffee and his professionalism.

We drove down toward Kilrush and Kilkee, and on toward Loop Head because we thought it would be fun to visit the film site of Star Wars. Those cliffs are magnificent. Wayne, who also works as a life guard, told us he had just returned from the film site.

“Hardly anybody goes to those cliffs along Clare’s southern coastline,” he said.”Everyone goes to the Cliffs of Moher.”

There were tufts of pink flowers everywhere, shooting up between the rocks. I was hoping to spot a few sea lions or puffins, but that was not to be. There were lots of cows, sheep, crows and swallows though. IMG_20160516_195923

I took a good brisk walk out along the coast one evening and watched the setting sun and heard the swallows making funny squeaking noises, like those toy plastic ducks, or dolphins even.

Back to Loop Head. Unfortunately, they had closed off the road, but we enjoyed some great scenic spots along the way.

We stopped for a snack in a pub in Kilrush. The owner told us the film crew of Star Wars had been in the previous evening to watch a football match. Mark Hamill and the new female star were not amongst them, although they are currently in Ireland, I believe.

The ferry over to Kerry took about twenty minutes; it was shorter than the drive we had planned on taking to get to our next destination. I’m so glad I didn’t drive. The route was heart-in-your-mouth thrilling and frightening at times as we manoeuvered narrow roads between cliffs, with oncoming tour buses and tourists and locals driving hither and tither.

At least we had brilliant sunshine, but that was about to change a couple of days later.

We took the road to Kenmare and followed our instructions to the Swiss couple’s residence, half-way up the mountain, to our self-contained apartment, complete with log fire, lots of buddha heads and other iconic statues and artifacts, a rack full of trance and reggae music, with a few chill cd’s thrown in. We’ve been enjoying listening to them.

Again, we were/are so impressed with what this couple have managed to achieve ever since they left Zurich and bought this old dilapidated stone cottage on four acres of land over two decades ago. Their property is on a huge slope; there’s a gigantic rock at the back of their house. Renee said he had to free the rock from moss and other vegetation which had made its home there. He has built two glass houses, a hen house, a koi pond (sadly a heron ate five of the kois), a workshop for himself and a little stone house with a pool table next to our apartment. We can use it whenever we want. We can explore the garden too and snip some of the fresh herbs scattered throughout. If we find any eggs, we can help ourselves too. His sheds and structures are filled with little interesting details and painted in bright colours, but not gaudy. Our huge terrace overlooks a meadow with sheep and their lambs, and we can watch the sun playing hide and seek over the mountains in the distance. Starlings have nested under our roof and I see them flying back and forth with fat worms in their beaks and making a terrible racket. Two swallows sit up on the overhead wires, a foot apart, and don’t talk to each other.

IMG_20160518_181809

The bug hit me too, and I’ve been walking around like a zombie. I refuse to give in, although last night I made a delicious chicken soup with chilli and turmeric and lots of vegetables and painted a picture. Since I didn’t bring my painting stuff, I bought a cheap set and had lots of fun playing with colours. I’ll add the final touches later, or maybe I won’t. my seascape

Looks a bit of a mess if you ask me!

I also discovered there’s a poetry workshop in Kenmare tomorrow morning and have signed up for it. It’s being held in the library. That should be fun (I hope).

We’re returning, via Killarney, on Sunday and will be leaving for the U.K. on Monday, where we’ll spend a few days before returning to Germany.

I’m glad in a way that that we’ve had a day of heavy rain and pretty strong winds. Otherwise I wouldn’t have wanted to leave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trip to Ireland

IMG_20160510_141924It seems as if we’ve been on the road for ages. We’ve seen so much, and now that it’s raining (spilling out of the heavens, in fact), it’s the perfect time to write a new blog post. I’m enclosing some random photos which I’ve taken with my mobile. I loved this house below, obviously derelict. I’d love to know who went to the trouble of painting in the faux doors and windows. This was on the way to Glasson, in the heart of Ireland. I wanted to pop into a craft shop, but it was Tuesday and the shop was closed. We did find a lovely little pub next door and had lunch there, so all was not wasted.

We came over for my nephew’s wedding, which was held in Slane, Co. Meath. It was fantastic to see all the family again and meet some new people too. The music was great, both at the wedding and afterwards, with various musicians and friends of Peter entertaining us all. It was one of the nicest weddings I’ve ever attended. The couple made their own vows, the sun shone, the mood was great and everyone was wrapped in the melody of love.

Since Slane is just around the corner from Newgrange and The Hill of Tara, we extended our stay a couple of days and inhaled a bit of history and culture.

The picture below is of Newgrange; it doesn’t look too spectacular, but the energy was pretty amazing there. I didn’t feel the same at The Hill of Tara, but we had a most interesting encounter in the coffee shop.

We climbed the hill, walked around a bit, checked out the eerie graveyard with the typical half-fallen stones and faded engravings of a bygone era. The ominous sound of cawking crows nesting in the high trees added to the sinister feeling. IMG_20160506_163211

There was a coffee shop and gift shop to the front of the actual hills, and it was doing a buzzing trade, so much so that we sat at the front, away from the crowds, in a little niche.

A man in his sixties came to sit beside us, asking if that was alright.

“Sure;” we said, in unison.

I moved my hat and coat to make space for him.

“I’m dying for a cup of tea,” he said, as he looked around him. “I’m waiting for my client.” He stabbed his fork into a delicious-looking chocolate eclair and took a bite. He even had us on edge, wondering who and where this client was. “Yes, this is my third year working for this particular client,” he said. “He’s from the U.S., looking for his ancestors. Problem is, he doesn’t have a name.”

“Well, that’s going to be hard,” I said. Maybe you need a psychic.”

It was a joke.

“I’m a psychic,” he said.

“Really.” I checked his eyes to see if he was joking.

“Actually, I’m a healer,” he continued. I don’t charge for my services. Why don’t you turn around.”

I caught the glint in my husband’s eye, as I obediently turned to the side.

The man put his hand on my lower back and I immediately felt a surge of warm energy rise upward. I knew he was not a fraud, although my husband later insisted he was some sort of a chancer.

“I didn’t tell my client I’m a psychic,” he said. I understood that. Too many sceptics around. IMG_20160506_144443

It was a bizarre encounter, like something out of a film. My husband was enchanted, as was I. “This could only happen in Ireland,” he said.

I would have loved to catch a glimpse of that ‘client’ but never did. We spotted Robbie again on the partking lot. He jumped out of his big car when he saw us, bluetooth headset in his ear. Still no sign of his client.

After another few days in my hometown, catching up with friends and family, we even made it to The Kilbeggan Races and placed a couple of bets on horses. Two of my horses placed and I recouped my minimal bets. IMG_20160513_194828

 

to be continued….

 

 

 

Dreams and Omens

Dreams blog pic

I’m about to go on holidays for a month and wanted to post something new. So, what to post?

I was at a loss, not that there aren’t numerous ideas floating around my brain.

But then I got distracted and was looking for something in my  Big Dream book, a journal I keep on dreams, musings and what have you.

I found this short entry dated March 16, 2016. I’d completely forgotten about it.

Finally some lovely dreams! And that after such a strange day yesterday. We have the waxing moon, and I read somewhere that we’re in between two powerful eclipses. I think the next one is in September.

I dreamt I was in the open air and this gorgeous bright yellow bird flew by me, did a few tricks and then disappeared. This happened a few times with different birds and funny little colourful creatures. I noticed a couple of people too who came toward me and then disappeared. I was thinking maybe it’s all true that we are all manisfesting everybody and everything around us.

Next, I was walking toward an old-fashioned horse and cart. I heard Irish music playing, diddlyiddly at its best. In the cart sat two men, two women; they didn’t look a bit like who they actually were. (I won’t mention names here to save the innocent). One was like the star from Star Wars, the main character, the blond fellow. I was most surprised by so and so. She looked gorgeous, fabulous skin, lovely figure, not too thin. I was expecting blanketyblank, so I’m wondering if she’s all right.

Then something about my two sons as small children. They were still in bed and I forget the rest.  But it was lovely, big beds! And I thought ‘let him sleep’ about one of my sons, because he needs it.

Next I watched as a really cool, midnight blue oldtimer, low on the road, long and gorgeous, drove by slowly. It looked like Bob Dylan or Prince driving it. I couldn’t be sure. The driver was black in any case but also resembled Bob Dylan (that’s dreams for you).

Prince stopped, looked out of the back of the car, opened the side window and began chatting to me. I couldn’t believe it was him. We ended up having a lovely time.  He kissed me and the electricity zinged through me and I thought, Oh, this is possible!! Later, his boyfriend came in and Prince seemed cool with that, but I was trying to explain it to him.

Very vivid and colourful dreams.

So, I’m wondering what that was all about, especially in light of the fact that Prince has now left the realm of the living a week ago. I was shocked, like most other people because I loved Prince’s music, just like David Bowie. They were both other-wordly. But it’s not as if I was an avid fan. I admired him a lot because he did his own thing, and I absolutely loved Purple Rain. I did see him in concert in Minneapolis back in the 80’s though. I was living in the U.S. at the time, but that’s so long ago, and I can’t remember much about it.

Of course it could be pure coincidence. I’ve long learned that dreams are cryptic in nature. Mine are definitely enhanced around the time of the waxing or full moon. What about yours?

They say everybody dreams. We dream every night, but we often forget them. My husband loves to tease me, “Now was this a dream or reality?” he’d say. He rarely remembers his dreams, but then again he jumps up as soon as his eyes open, not very conducive to retaining dreams. Even if he did remember his dream, he woud dismiss it as pure coincidence.

One of my favourite quotes is:

Those who do not believe in magic will never experience it.

I’m pretty sure we all have so-called prophetic dreams at times. I know I’ve had a few over the years, and it’s always nice when they can be verified. I even won a nice little sum on the Lotto once, because I followed a dream. No; I didn’t get the numbers, but I did follow the symbols and play… and win! The good thing was that I had acted out of character and told several people I was going to win in that particular draw. Some even called me on the day. Imagine the shock when it actually happened. I would have been pretty embarrassed if it hadn’t happened. So I have at least a couple of people who can verify that.

I was also guided to check particular details for a pretty big exam I sat in 1999. So the next morning, the morning of the exam, I flicked through my books and memorised some lab data; I knew that was my weak point. It was my saving grace and I flew through the exam.

Oh, I could write a book about this.

Do let me know about your prophetic dreams and signs you’ve followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sky for blog post

I saw a pile of sand pouring onto the pavement

It looked like a lion, lounging

I drove through the night watching a triangle of stars

And thought it was an alien craft

I saw the crescent moon, luminous, ethereal

Like a slice of hope, mother of pearl, a beacon

In the midnight sky

 

I stare at hedges and I’m somewhere else

Faces of creatures and people live there

What do they see when they look at me?

And where do they go at night?

While I am sleeping

Do they come alive?

Or walk like the trees in the forest

 

The sun dances in a pool of light

I life my eyes and squint

Sprites fly in the sky

It’s the stuff we’re made of

Those silvery worms of life

Dancing together but never colliding

But wait

 

I thought I saw that lion move

And come to life

Imagine if it did?