Saturday, 30 December 2017

A Christmas Carol

Unwrapping presents
Ever since I have an English partner we spend Christmas in England. Since I am from a country where traditionally one part of the population celebrates only Saint-Nicholas (I was part of that group), another part celebrates only Christmas, and still another, greedier part celebrates both, I look, compared to the Brits, at Christmas in quite a different way.
I will make a concise list of things that, in the eyes of a stranger, are characteristic for an English Christmas.

Yummy, Brussel's sprouts!
The first thing that draws a stranger's attention are the overfull shops with frantic shoppers until seconds before the shops close on Christmas eve, and the often ghastly Christmas decorations displayed in gardens and against the facades of houses.

Ymmy, turkey!
And then there is the stress obviously indispensable in order to prepare a meal which is the same year in, year out, in every household from the Orkney Islands to the Isle of Wight.

The Christmas crackers
Then one eats this food (which I do not particularly like, but that is my personal problem) whilst wearing a silly paper hat; listen to and laugh about Christmas cracker jokes so boring and stupid that one wonders how a country that has produced Monty Python's Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers can come up with "humour" like this, and finally listen to the Queen's speech.

The Christmas lunch
And when one thinks to taste a bit of culture in London after Christmas, forget it! Between Christmas and New Year not only most restaurants and shops are closed, also the vast majority of the Museums do not open their doors during this week. My partner calls me Bah Humbug; I wonder why?

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Air pollution

A haze over Parijs
Air pollution is a worldwide problem, something also France is confronted with from time to time. During our yearly holiday in Paris we have twice experienced that the Eiffel Tower, normally clearly visible from Montmartre, was hidden from view by what looked like a dark blanket. The only advantage for us tourists was that the Metro in Paris was for a number of days free of charge, just to reduce the amount of CO2 producing vehicles.

Free public transport
One of the measures taken by the French President Sarkozy at the time was a ban on burning garden waste. However, thinking of the amount of gardens in a city like Paris the effect of this ban would not have been very impressive.
This ban of burning garden waste however is also valid in the country side, with the exception of agricultural "garden" waste. As I have described in my previous blog we ended up with huge quantities of green waste after a day of cutting brambles. So what to do?

Our modest contribution to the problem
Fortunately laws in France are not always implemented to the letter. When we noticed that one of our village's officials was happily lighting bonfires every so often, we decided to follow his example. And why not? Sarkozy will certainly not return to politics in the near future to tell us off for it…

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Saturday, 2 December 2017

A holiday job

Voor de grote schoonmaak
This summer I was "told" to cut down some brambles, located on a corner where the person who often drives around on a lawnmower got severely scratched on head, shoulders, arms and legs by whizzing past the thorny branches. Well, cutting down some brambles, that should be a doddle for any guy, wouldn't it?

Na de grote schoonmaak
And that is how it all started: one thing led to another. What started as cutting back some branches somewhere at the beginning of July, turned out to be a full-time job, because after each bramble bush another was hiding, and another, and another…

En opeens was er uitzicht!
Anyway, some time ago, to be precise Saturday November 4, the job was ceremoniously declared finished, and celebrated with a cold Belgian beer. In the meantime I had cleared a big area of brambles, and one day I hit upon a ditch so overgrown that I did not even know it existed. The ditch also gave me an unpleasant surprise. In the ditch, at the bottom of the slope I found, more or less vertically sticking out the remains of an old fence. Fortunately the removal of the fence was less tricky then I thought, and on that last memorable working day we drove off to the dump with a car full of muddy wire fencing.

Een groot deel van het werk: de sloot ligt rechts
As can be seen on the picture of that bit of garden, the 1 to 2 m wide strip of brambles, separating our garden from the meadow has completely disappeared. For as long as it lasts, of course….

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