Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday 21 December

Today is winter solstice, which will occur at 11.03pm GMT.
Attended church for the 4th Sunday in Advent service, during which I participated as a chorister.
After lunch, we went for another walk in the woods, but this time in the opposite direction, to the forests bordering the neighbouring town of Velp. We made for the Emma Pyramid, a work-creation project from the 1920s, then explored new paths by heading south onto the outer perimeter of Velp itself. That's a pretty large town, population about 20,000, three miles northeast of Arnhem. Two memorials to summary executions during the Second World War; one at the Emma Pyramid, where about a dozen young men, aged 19 to 35, where shot in December 1944; the other about a mile away on the fringes of Velp, for three resistance men who had been shopped by a bent copper. The copper joined Nazi forces in spraying the three men with a hail of bullets, some of which struck the memorial against which they had been lined up. The memorial, for a civic event in the 1920s, is a strange juxtaposition to the atrocity committed against it. One bullet obliterated the final numeral in the year of the original event. Distance walked: just short of 3 miles, 4.6 km.

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Saturday 20 December

We are having much joy out of the garden birds, who are already trying out the nextbox, and are attracted by the feeders.

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A day of varying fortunes in terms of weather, but we manage to almost dodge the showers during our walk in the woods. This time, we stay outside the Castle Country Park (which we almost always do), going up by the cemetery, and then a short circular back to the Scoundrels' Road - I give the name in English. In years gone by, this was the route by which scoundrels were taken to be hanged on Gallows Hill, about 2 miles away just outside the city of Arnhem.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Friday 19 December

The day started very windy and wet, but gradually both wind and rain abated. After 3pm, we got some blue skies, but had little time to enjoy them, as sunset here is at 4.35pm. By the clock, an hour later than in Stornoway, although in fact sunset occurs at precisely the same time in these two locations. Sunrise is a different matter: 8.48 am here in Holland, but 9.15 am in Stornoway, which equates to 10.15 am in Holland. And there are still people who want to put the UK on continental time. Lunacy.

Tomorrow's weather will be showers of hail, rain, thunder and the kitchen sink. The same, again, as in Lewis, where apparently one hailshower threw down marble-sized hail that broke the rear window of a car in Ness.

The political crisis in The Hague has been averted, although by using some not entirely kosher political constructs. You could call it circumventing parliament; if the Bill is voted out by the Upper House, the government will issue a decree (last used in May 1940, when the country was being invaded by an enemy force) to make the law happen anyway.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Thursday 18 December

In terms of weather, an eminently forgettable day. Grey, overcast, dark and at times wet. Not really cold, we managed 12C / 54F - even as late as 10pm tonight. Been quite busy fact-finding about doing university-based research. Well, that involves a helluvalot, months of preparation. If I am able to make a start by September 2015, I'll be lucky. Went to choir practice, two hours' worth tonight. It had to cover four church services, on December 21st, 24th, 25th and 28th. The weekly practice is always held on Thursday, meaning that the next two sessions will not be held (Christmas Day and New Year's Day). It's a full year since I sang in a choir, so am badly out of practice.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wednesday 17 December

Grey, wet and miserable sums up today in a nutshell. The temperature rose to 10C / 50F, and tomorrow will see even higher values on the thermometer. Unfortunately, 14C / 57F usually means more of the same dank, dreich weather. I spent some time gathering information for a new project that I hope to launch in the New Year. It is a major undertaking, requiring a lot of preparation. Fortunately, I have the time for that. No guarantee I'll be able to actually carry it out, but it's something to work towards.

Here in the Netherlands, there is a crisis in the coalition government. The Liberal Party (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA) are in government, supported by a few other minor parties who do not have posts in government. Unfortunately, a major revision of the health service (mostly privatised) was torpedoed in the Upper House of Parliament - by three senators of the ruling Labour Party, flying directly in the face of a deal, struck between Labour and Liberal Parties when the government was formed, a few years back. Oh dear, dear, dear. In the UK, there is also a coalition government, but that is highly unusual. In the Netherlands, it has never been anything but coalitions.

Tuesday 16 December

The day started sunny enough, but two lines of showers spoiled things a little. One downpour around 10.30 am, another, lighter one, around 2.30pm. Not terribly warm, but pleasant enough for a short stroll around the woods, just over 2 miles.

I was relieved to hear that there were no true religious overtones to the hostage situation in Sydney, but very sad that two innocent people lost their lives in the ending of it. The culprit was a seriously disturbed individual, who should have been (but was not) on the radar of various agencies.

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Monday 15 December

Mostly wet with occasional light rain. News dominated by a hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, with some references to Islamic extremism. The guy holding the hostages is apparently using the wrong flag, it's not an ISIS flag. Not very professional, but no less dangerous. Muslim people in Sydney felt very vulnerable, but folks on Twitter rallied to their support, offering to ride with them on public transport if they felt threatened. After the attack in Ottawa, the killing of a soldier in Woolwich, London, this seems to be the pattern of things to come. In the aftermath of 9/11, now 13 years ago, there seem to be an awful lot of idiots who seek to abuse religion for their cause.

Last night, I was watching a documentary about African and Middle East refugees and migrants whose sole wish is to get into Europe, by whichever means. The boat trade between Tunisia and Lampedusa, for Italy, is well documented, and the thousands lost at sea are a disgrace. Two land crossings exist between Africa and Europe, namely at two enclaves in Morocco, at Ceuta and Melilla. 24 ft high fences have been erected along the borders, but people still scale them in an attempt to cross. 4,600 did so successfully this year alone.