dinsdag 21 oktober 2008


Gisteren op kraamvisite geweest bij Frans en Susanne.
Wat een lief en mooi knulletje.

maandag 20 oktober 2008

Emma in London

Hello, is that Holland?

DAY 1 - and Preceding Events of Great Moment

Emma and I had long planned a trip to England, as part of her birthday, and in my case, a chance to see the greatest band in the world Half Man Half Biscuit. Daring not to ask for even more time off school in view of the impending problems we would encounter in December with the trip to New Zealand, it was decided that I should go by car-ferry on Wednesday and Emma would follow on Friday alone by plane. Regular readers of the Yahoo Ricketts site will know that I occasionally encounter problems while travelling, none of my own making. As I was early on my way to Hoek van Holland, I decided that I would call at a petrol-station and clean up the car. I checked everything most carefully before pressing the button on the wash-tunnel controls. The radio-antenna was removed, windows wound up, doors properly shut. Too late I remembered that the drivers-side window does not fully close, and must be encouraged the last couple of centimeters with a firm shove from the outside. As feared, the inside of the car was awash with foam and everything was a bit moist. I would surely get piles. It was a sorry journey, made even worse when I switched on the radio and got a load of static. I had forgotten to put the antenna back after the car-wash and it would no doubt be lying on the floor at the wash-tunnel. After three-quarters of an hour, my trousers were very damp and my fear of piles proved to be founded as I grew more and more uncomfortable in my damp seat. After a miserable trip without music, I arrived at the port and arose with much relief, only to discover that I did not have piles but had been sitting on the knobbly end of the radio antenna that I had apparently placed on the front seat, hidden by the foam. I now faced eight hours on the boat and looked for the promised luxury. The only place to sit was in the restaurant, at formica tables with formica chairs. I had brought a very thick book along, one with a review on the cover that read 'After starting to read, I found it very difficult to put down.' I on the contrary, found putting it down a surmountable challenge, picking it up again somewhat more difficult. It was about a woman in the stone-age who reaches nirvana by emptying her mind of all thought, the recounting of which emptiness takes us through the next 522 pages. The cinemas are showing three films, all of which are 'Mama Mia'. I had steak-and kidney pudding and chips to pass the time. It was a mistake and after an hour I felt extremely vulnerable. I decided I would invest 25 euros in a cabin so that I could have a shower and some sleep. It would appear that many others had the same idea judging from the noisy queue.The shower was marvellous, but as I drew the curtain aside, I discovered that I had not closed it properly. My socks, tee-shirt and undies were lying in a pool of water. Never mind, there was a suitcase full of stuff in the car. I decended eight floors in my jacket, trousers and shoes, only to find that the car-deck was locked. I looked for a way to dry my clothes. The socks and the tee-shirt could go on the shower floor with the underfloor heating turned up. The undies, especially after wet car seats from the wash-tunnel, needed to be really dry. I found that by stretching them fully, I could get them over the edges of the square metal grill of the ventilator fan in the ceiling where they hung down like a Bjorn Borg lampshade. I got into bed with the heating on max and watched my undies ballooning in the warm breeze. Sleep was impossible. Apart from the heat, the adjoining toilets that whoosh explosively one after the other, the cabin on my right was occupied by a group of teenage girls all squealing and thumping on the thin walls. That on the left by a Neanderthal who kept banging on my wall for quiet, eventually rattling my door and exclaiming 'I'm warning youse' and offering to sort me out, sunshine, should I care to open the door to him. The girls kept quiet, resuming thier party when the yeti got back into his cage, and the process was repeated. As docking approached, the cleaners banged on doors, and tried to get in with pass keys. I looked up at my undies, praying that I had bolted the door. The cabin was like a sauna. The undies had shrunk and as I pulled to get them down, the grill came down with them. I propped it up behind the toilet. As I left, the muscular monster and his girlfriend growled at me. I explained that I was alone and not responsible for the disturbances. The girlfriend said that I had 'gorrerway wivvit' but apparently I was 'still a arsehole, innit'. Onto the road and a pleasant drive, apart from the strangling Bjorn Borg underpants and forgetting that none of the motor way restaurants recognise my credit card, and I only had euros, which, to keep things simple, are exchanged at the extraordinary rate of 2 for a pound.
Eventually arrived at Stef's, too late to see Cassie or Jaz as they had gone to sleep. Next morning, too late up to see Cassie or Jaz as they had gone to work and school. Went to see Emma and pick up Aiden from School.

...and they all had really miserable and pointless lives and couldn't wait for an end to it all to save themeselves futher embarrassment. The End.

.. when I do this, I can get away with anything!

Wasted the rest of the day trying to get Stef's computer to emit sounds. Bought a sound card which, after a lot of difficulty, worked. Unfortunately Windows began blue-screening, until the sound card was removed. Did get to see Emma and the adorable Aiden.

Off to Waterloo with Stef to await, in a bar, the arrival of Cris, Alex and Iain who arrived in a state of having been delayed in many bars along the way. After a few more pints, off for beer and curry at an indian restaurant followed by more pints in nearby pubs, then the Half Man Half Biscuit gig which was truly amazing. The Forum was packed, apart from the occasions when large circles of empty space formed around Cris and his research into how Guiness and curry react chemically. Home on the underground, losing Cris and Iain on the way. We had all blindly followed Iain up and down escalators and through tunnels until it was obvious that he was, although walking about, actually unconcious. Alex, remarkably observant for the volume of intake, detected the error and we three turned round and retraced our path. "What about Cris and Iain?" I enquired. "Fuck 'em" said best friend Alex. A day of rest, baths and light shopping, then off to collect Dutch Emma.
Although we both agreed that we were fairly confident that we were each other's father and daughter, papers had to be signed at the airport to confirm the fact to the officials. Home to Stef's and a faily early night.

English Emma on the guitar

English Emma - too cold to stand around outside for a smoke

Saturday was reserved for Girlie Shopping, with a Spooney's English Breakfast to fortify the body for the ordeal. Spooney's breakfast come in 2 sizes. Large and very, very large. we chose the former

A Spooney's Pub breakfast


Then off to Kingston for a day full of activities, such as following women in and out of shops, carrying their purchases and the ritual openening of the wallet and parting up with large sums of cash. It was great fun.

Just push this out of the way!

With help from my new best friend

Now look what you've done!

I have a future as a model!

Girlie Shoppers en masse

Aiden tries out some hand-made soap

This place is called 'Lush' and the make 1000 differnt kinds of natural soap and shampoo.
Fantastic if you like that sort of thing. If not , it can be very, very boring. I got thrown out for taking these pictures and for telling everyone how bored I was.

We had spam, spam, spam, baked beans and spam

Stef took us back by the scenic route along the river, past Hampton Court in a double-decker bus for Emma's education. As the double decker was going only roughly in the direction of Feltham, we abandoned it in favour of an H25, a bus known to pass our door. After many miles it was noticed that we were in fact going the wrong way, and it was better too sit it out as it would eventually have to turn round and come home. A very late meal of fish and chips and off to bed.

More tomorrow


DAY 2 - Lunch at Cris and Cheryl

The next stop on our pilgrimage was a day with Cris and Cheryl. Stephanie and Cris have a tradition that each buys for the other the most hideously tacky present that five pounds can provide. The gift cannot be refused and must thereafter be displayed in a prominent position for a period of six months, after which it can be hidden and revenge planned.. This explains the monstrous baroque musical roundabouts on Stef's mantelpiece and the equally revolting china cat with extremely long legs, high heels, skirt, dark glasses and handbag at Cris and Cheryl's house. Stef managed a modest porcelain angel with feathery wings that light up. Since the wings showed burn-marks it was obviously electrically unsafe, which enhanced it's status enormously. As a novice, my first entry would be more thoroughly scrutinised. Emma and I struck gold with a 'Christmas Sculpture' consisting of two plates of glass with a train full of teddy bears dressed as Santa. When shouted at it the object goes 'Choo-Choo' and 'Chuff-chuff'' followed by a tinny rendition of 'Santas on his way' as red and blue lamps flash to illuminate falling snow, or rather little balls of polystyrene that cascaded between the glass sheets. An awesome piece which hopefully can be demonstrated on video later in this journal.

The day begins, fortunately, with a light breakfast and a string of people rushing to the station like something out of the Fast Show. A quiet journey. Apart from Buzz Lightyear. I had presented Aiden with this monstrosity on the Great Shopping Crusade without thinking of the consequences. After a few miles on the train, we, together with all the other passengers on the train, agreed that Buzz was very tired and he went into a bag. Because of a dodgy switch and a bumpy line, his muffled voice could still sometimes be heard protesting that Buzz Lightyear had come in peace, through time and space, to infinity and beyond, on an intergalactic mission of great importance and fear not, recue was at hand etc etc and even more etc. On the way from the station we passed Cris's local supermarket, and your reporter managed to get a look at his favorite breakfast cereal as can be seen from the photographic evidence. After lots of coo-ing and hugging and handing over of the ridiculous presents, we all set off to find the restaurant where we would be having lunch, a journey which could have been a guided tour of Aldershot car-parks and bicycle tunnels. A merry time involving the quaffing of much ale and the intake of vast quantities of cholesterol and calories it was time to say goodbye to Stef and entourage for the evening.

Emz and I would be staying the night. There are memorable objects to be seen in Cheryl and Cris's home. At the higher level we have Finlay's guitar using a pizza carton as the basis. A piece of polished wood, 4 steel strings, bolts and wing-nuts. Not only is this thing beautifully made, it works and can be played, being fretless, like a sitar. Well done Finlay, a chap supposedly with a lot of problems, but who is always polite and cheerful. At the other end of the scale of taste and beauty, we have Cris's flag. This is made of Lego, and has the word 'FARTED' in childish coloured letters. The purpose of this object is that it should be picked up and waved after a particularly noxious outburst as a warning to others like a leper's bell. Unclean. It serves to shorten the period of embarrassment during which heads swivel searching for the shifty look of the perpetrator. Better to own up at once with honour. It also gives the assembled company time to make it's escape. I fail to see the purpose of the device in this house because it is inevitably Cris that is waving, and in any case, because it is Cris, escape is impossible. The invisible fireball is upon you even before your reflexes are aware of the peril. So well done Cris, a chap with a huge problem, but who can create large areas of free space in pubs, packed concert-halls and public transport. An evening of pleasant drinking until the company retired to their beds. Next morning, off to Waterloo to meet Aunty Anne for what promises to be a rainy day. Thanks Cheryl, Cris, Finlay and Letty. May your lives be peaceful and your flags unwaved.

Talking of clean living, we passed this establishment. OK, I can see the point about artificial flavouring and colours, but monosodium glutamate? Thats always the last on a very long list.


DAY 3 - A rainy day in London Town

And now the day in London. Off to Waterloo to meet with Aunty Ann. But first a few photos found while emptying the camera. The first shows to what ends people will go for a smoke. Emma B is shown after donning a sleeping bag against the cold to go into the back garden for a ciggy and hobbling through the house like a big blue contraceptive. Then we have a block of flats provided by Hounslow Homes. Note the retro front door. I think it wonderful that modern architects look back to the past and capture some of the atmosphere of our heritage in their designs. Awesome nostalgia.

So, off to London, and first stop the Eye. On the way to the Big Wheel we found this notice in a tree full of burnt snd shredded clothes.

It turned out to be a work of art, of which I may not know much, but I kow what I like. And this is not it.

After a bit of posing by the Dali tribute, up we go in the wheel. I don't like heights particularly, having once had a nasty experience with a chair and a drawing pin while hanging up balloons, but this is very stable and actually quite tame.

Then to the Royal Mews to look at the Queen's horses, coaches and Rolls Royces. All very impressive, but also incredibly boring.

This is the Coronation Coach. The Horses are real but stuffed and as little Stef once put it, 'all alone and dead'. The men are also stuffed but are possibly fakes.

Then onto the Open Top London Sightseeing Bus. Unforunately, all the dry seats were taken by regiments of Germans and your humble reporter was given a big plastic bag to wear, sent out into the Eastern Front at the back of the bus and told not to make a fuss. Emma was heard to exclaim, after inserting her headphones into the multi-language commentary socket "Jesus, Germans sat here!". It is a tour of three hours, but most of it consists of going round and round Marble Arch until enough Germans complain to force the driver to move us along to the Palace.

Is this why we fought two wars? While the dry bit is full of Germans?

I'm alright, sitting amongst the Germans!

Hours later in Trafalgar Square. Still wet and miserable

while Emma poses and jumps and climbs and generally tries to capture that natural pose

'Ullo, Soldier'

Until finally it is time to say goodbye to the London Night Scene with a few more natural poses

Many thanks for the day to Auntie Ann, who does not appear in the pictures as she is maintaining a Low Profile. Off to the station and to Feltham and a late supper at the Feltham McDonalds and to bed. Tomorrow is our last day.



A very lazy day, with nothing worth making photos of or filming while everyone else is at home or school. Long baths, packing, collecting Aiden from School and shopping for the evening meal, a mega joint of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, which were surprisingly successful. After dinner, we two off to the M25, but getting lost in the suburbs round Hounslow using up valuable time and fuel. I expected that there would be petrol stations every few miles, as in Holland. Observing the needle hovering round the empty mark, it was with some alarm that I saw a sign that services would appear on the horizon after 20 miles on the A30. After 18 miles, such an establishment had still not arrived, and we were directed onto the M25, to be told that services were 25 miles away. The needle was now no longer hovering on empty, but was stuck well below it. We cowered behind a huge truck and crawled along at 50 miles an hour. In despair we turn offed into the middle of nowhere, a village consisting of four buildings. Two houses, one pub, and a petrol-station. The 40 liter tank was so empty that 41 litres managed to get in, and off we went. We had not filled the car with that most precious commodity Shredded Wheat, unavailable in Holland, because the Superstore next to the car ferry is open for 24 hours. Except on Tuesday nights. Frantic searching through the village for a store, finally success and we are lost again. The woman in the shop sent us to another ferry, one that crosses a stream and takes one car at a time. Disappointment leads to panic, but we make it, just, and an early night in a comfy cabin. Bing Bong. Breakfast is now being served etc etc. A splendid breakfast at a table with our names on it. Then back to the cabin for a nap. After an hour, Bing Bong, will lorry drivers please etc etc. Don't worry Emz, they always announce when car drivers have to go. Head down again. Bing Bong, foot passengers go to etc. We'll be next. Head down on the pillow. Bing Bong. The owner of the vehicle with registration number XH LN 03 go immediately to the car deck. You are holding everything up! The number is familiar, and with red faces we race past the gauntlet of accusation and verbal abuse, and we are off again. And home at last, in the bosom of our Dutch family. Many thanks to Stef, Cassie, Emma , Jasmine and Aiden.
Good news, Jon Strong has been round and will return shortly, and will be playing gigs in Amsterdam. Most impressed with his bus, bought from the riot police in England. Plastic brick-proof windows, double bed, hi-fi, kitchen, bog, all very comfortable and well fitted out. I don't blame him for prefering to sleep in the bus rather than in our house. Also the god Halpin is amongst us and is also playing this week.
We went to Jon's gig in Mulligans Bar, and it was fantastic. Not just the powerful voice and unique guitar music, but the spontaneous humour of the man. Musicians play by the front window of the pub, and anyone going in or out must pass the stage to get to the crowded bar. A troublesome drunk was hustled out by the muscular barman. As he passed the stage in an arm-lock, he stared dismally at Jon, who stopped playing. "Thanks so much for coming. Have a nice night." And at 1.30 am, in the middle of the last song of the last encore, three young men enter. "What fucking time do you call this, then?" as they creep past with heads bowed. A great night and nice to see so many survivors of the seventies in the bar.

Off to Kieran for another treat.

maandag 13 oktober 2008

More horses and things, and premiere of our latest horsey movie

Once in every two weeks, it is my duty to get up early and escort a number of mounted young ladies through the woods to the Pony Club. And there to drink weak coffee from a cardboard cup made from stiff blotting paper that slowly gets soggy and collapses. And stare in numbed stasis as ponies go round and round and round again and jump over fences as high as match-boxes. For hours and hours.

Wishing to share this excitement with you all in the past, I strapped the video-camera to my trusty velocipede and filmed away. The results were very good. Until I tried to get the tape out of the camera in order to put in a new one on that blustery day. The tape cassette did emerge, but the tape stayed put and your humble scribe was almost strangled in a web of thin, brown streamers and my head looked like a cellophane-wrapped toffee-apple. My masterpiece was lost. Apparently the camera is not shock-proof. I sent it to E-Care for repair. There is a basic charge of 10 euros to which will be added costs of material, labour and transport. Should this ammount exceed 140 euros, one will be contacted to determine if one really wants to go ahead. I have the camera back in working condition, with the bill which reads:

Basic charge 10.00
Material 5.00 (a 'clip')
Transport 7.00
Administrative costs 12.00
Labour 105.99
Total 139.99
....which of course is within the 140.00 limit and no contact with the customer required. The world is as full of corporate shysters as it ever was.

Lessons having been learned, I resolved to treat the precious camera with loving care. This time I would not strap it to the bike, but would hold it in my hand. While riding a crummy bicycle along muddy, rutted forest paths with the other hand doing the steering, and with only the viewfinder to see where I was going. My first mistake was to leave the zoom zoomed in. I saw a woman with two scruffy dogs in the distance and wondered why the dogs were barking at me and the woman gesticulating wildly. Suddenly they loomed up and filled the viewfinder and I almost mowed them down. She called me a 'klootzak' which always makes me die laughing when the people here call each other scrotums (or is that scrotae). Enough of this banter, you are anxious to know about the newest epic. It was hard to come up with anything better than our earlier successes.
Who will ever forget 'Static Stallions in a Stall', 'Heiloo Hanghengsten', 'Doelloos Dravers', 'Shuffling Shetlanders', 'Arabiers in Apathy', 'Fresian Tedium' and of course 'Vier Veulens in Verveling'.

We now proudly bring you

The Boring Ponies

Halfway through, there is a real mangling of man and bicycle as I watched in horror an Impending and Inevitable Accident loom into the viewfinder. Knowing that if I damaged the camera the subsequent bollocking would be both severe and public, I kept my camera hand in the air and ignored everything else as I crashed to the ground, my fall cushioned by sharp flinty stones and cruel metal protuberances of the bicycle. All recorded live. Having almost lost my life to bring you this, it is your duty to sit through all 10 minutes. Come with me, and together let us plumb the depths of mediocrity.

zondag 5 oktober 2008

Antoon Sprenkeling - 82: Feest

If I reach 82, I will be pleased. If a reach 82 and am as active in body and mind as Opa Sprenkeling, I shall be more than pleased. I shall be amazed. And probably die of shock.

A Toon Sprenkeling birthday begins with waves of sisters and partners descending upon us and sitting down politely to cakes and coffee.

Tineke worked all day to keep everybody happy.

Together with Bernadet

Not sure. It looks like venezuelan beaver cheese.

Whats yours got in it. Swap?

After a bit they go seriously 'on the borrel' and it all gets a bit louder with lots of back-slapping and merry laughter. Time for a speech. This text also came out when Toon was 80, but it applies to any time in the 80's. I typed it in here both to share it and to preserve it, as the paper is getting a bit tatty and it is worth preserving.
Het leven begint bij 80!

Ik heb goed nieuws voor je. De eerste 80 jaar zijn het zwaarst. Daarna is het een aaneenschakeling van verjaarspartijtjes. Waneer je eenmaal de 80 hebt bereikt, wil iedereen je koffers dragen en helpt iedereen je over drempels heen en trappen op en af te gaan. Als je je naam vergeet, of een ander zijn naam, of je eigen telefoonnummer, of je kan je niet meer herinneren hoeveel kleinkinderen je hebt, hoef je alleen maar uit te leggen dat je 80 jaar bent. 80 jaar zijn is veel beter dan 70 jaar zijn! Als je 70 bent, worden mensen kwaad op je om alles. Bij 80 heb je een prachtig excuus, voor alles wat fout gaat. Als je je stom, vreemd of raar gedraagt, dan is het je tweede jeugd!!! Idereen zoekt naar symptomen van dementie. 70 zijn is helemaal niet leuk. Op die leeftijd verwachten ze van je dat je met pensioen gaat en een huis koopt in Florida en klaagt over je artritis. Je vraagt iedereen om duidelijker te praten, omdat je ze niet kunt verstaan (feitelijk is je gehoor 50% vermindert). Als je de 80 weet te halen is iedereen verbaast dat je nog steeds leeft.
Ze behandelen je met respect, omdat je het z
olang hebt volgehouden. Eigenlijk zijn ze verbaast dat je nog steeds kunt lopen en zinnig kunt praten. Dus alsjeblieft mensen, probeer de 80 te halen, het is de beste tijd van je leven!!! Mensen vergeven je echt alles.

Als je het mij vraagt, dan begint het leven pas bij 80.

And so say all of us!

Later, the arrival of some more well-known guests.

And birhdays mean prezzies! Its a USB cable. Just what I wanted!

Well, I think it's been a very good day.
But how long do I have to balance this dish on my head?

Good bye all out there in cyber space. I've had a great birthday.

One last check to see how Antonov shares are doing.