Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Closing 2008

Writing this as there are about 5 hours left of this year. Just returned from a birthday visit 45 miles away. Weather started very cold this morning, with -9C at 9 am. Mercury rose to just below freezing, but at the moment we're way down again at -6C. It'll fall much lower, unless we get the fog that is currently forming over the west of the country. When you look out to the southwest this evening in the clear sky, you can see the moon and planet Venus apparently very close together. In real terms they are of course millions of miles apart.

This was taken just after 6pm local time.

Fireworks are already being let off around the country (it is legal to do so from 10 am this morning until 2 am on New Year's morning), and some €65 million will go up in smoke tonight.

I hope all will see in the New Year 2009 with high spirits, with new hopes for the new year. If you drink, please do so sensibly. If you let off fireworks, take the usual precautions. Unless something crops up, this will be the final post on the Shell Gallery for 2008. I'll keep posting in the New Year, until I return to Stornoway next Monday.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Winter's day

Another bright and sunny afternoon in eastern Holland, after an overnight low of -6C; which was the reading at 9 am. People are getting very excited now about the prospects of ice-skating. And the prospects of burning 60 to 70 million euros tomorrow night. Oh, it´s called the New Year´s fireworks display. Being in an afforested area means we won´t see much of anything, but hear all the more. I can foresee a repeat of some years back, when the fireworks brought on fogbanks with a visibility of less than 3 feet. I´m not exaggerating. Some people had to have their passengers walking in front of their cars, as they could not see beyond the bonnet (the hood for our American friends).

Can't say I'm altogether too impressed with HP. Bought a scanner from them back in May, great machine, but the software is cr*p. First, if you try to install on a computer without a password, it won't do it. Second, it now screams for a piece of installation that is nowhere to be found. Their users have alerted them for months, but nowt is being done about it.

30 December

Yes, it's 1 am and I'm still awake. I've just gone through a lot of journals, leaving New Year's wishes. I'm not actively monitoring blogs at present, but didn't want to leave 2008 without going to the bother of calling round. I'm double-posting this on both Atlantic Lines and the Shell Gallery; Atlantic Lines is my main blog after all. The Shell Gallery takes over when I'm in Holland, like at present.

I'm very sad to note that Jeannette has suspended her journal Outside Looking In after what she has described as a particularly miserable Christmas. Other factors contributed to her decision as well. It is a decision I'm facing for the New Year myself. The year 2008 is one I'd prefer to forget, but can't. You all know why.

Please be careful if you let off fireworks for New Year, wrap up well if it's cold out and have a good 2009 if we don't cross paths again before hand.


Monday, 29 December 2008

29 December

A very cold start to the day, with the mercury at -5C. It has now risen to freezing in brilliantly sunny conditions. Am off to Arnhem later today to replace my walking boots, which are giving up the ghost after 19 months of hard usage. I wear them every day.

Two people died in a house fire in Arnhem last night. The blaze swept through a property in the old quarter of St Marten at 2.30 am. When the fire service attended, they found one slightly injured man on the roof, but unfortunately two other occupants were found dead inside.

National winter pastime ice skating is prominent in the news, now that we've had a few days of low temperatures. Skating rinks have been flooded (and consequently frozen over). Open water is still way too dangerous, because the ice is too thin. One person has already gone through the ice, but lived to tell the tale. The freezing spell looks set to continue into the new year.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

28 December

A mainly sunny day, but very cold. Don't think the mercury rose much above -2C / 28F all day, and the sun disappeared behind a layer of cloud for a while. Here in Holland, ice-skating is a national sport, and national championships were broadcast live on television all afternoon. Found it difficult to believe I've been here for a week already. A few computer program gremlins around - last November, I spent 4 hours on a live-chat to a helpline for a HP scanner, only to find the program has now decided to malfunction. Everything seems to be falling to bits now, whether it be my camera, my walking boots, or the various computer programs, I don't know. Must be the end of the year.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

27 December

Good morning from a very cold eastern Holland, where the mercury is firmly stuck at -2C, with a very chilly wind. It is sunny, some small compensation I suppose. Had an early night last night, as a nasty little cold deprived me of sleep the night before. Still woke up coughing, oh well, these things are sent to try us I suppose.

My camera will need a visit to the camera doctor, as it continues to show intermittent malfunctioning. Take a picture, and all you see is a field of white. Not all the time, but it's a blinking nuisance. In the nearly 3 years I've had this one, I've taken 20,000 pictures. Which is an average of about 20 a day, varying between 0 and 200 daily.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day 2008

Yesterday, there were 12 at the dinner table. Beforehand, we had a random distribution of gifts. Everybody had bought 3 gifts, which were left on the table. Using a dice and a set of instructions, the gifts ended up with - about anybody. I found myself the lucky recipient of 3 candles, a bathmat with Spongebob Squarepants on it and a few other bits and pieces. Good laugh.

Dinner was on a table-top electric barbecue, and the meat disappeared like snow in front of the sun. A very good day.

As I type this, it is brilliantly clear and very cold. Thermometer shows only a few degrees above zero, and the puddles in the woods were covered in ice. I'm quite bummed, because my camera has decided to malfunction. So, I can only show a few snaps - the majority just show a field of white. The shutter, lightmeter or some such gadget has fallen over. Need to take it to the shop.

I hope everybody else had a good Christmas themselves - forgive me for not calling round journals.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas from Holland. Last night I participated in the Watchnight service in the local church. The building was packed out at 9.30pm. It went very well, and I was warmly welcomed in the choir's midst. This morning, I returned to church for the Christmas Day service, in which I once more sang in the choir. A professional singer, a bass, sang a French Christmas hymn.

Having returned home, I'm awaiting the arrival of my sisters and family who will join my father and myself for a Christmas meal this afternoon. Don't overdo it with the turkey, if that's what you're having yourself.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

24 December

Overcast and grey, but relatively mild - mercury at around 7C. That is set to change after Christmas, when the Russian bear comes marching in from Siberia. Daytime maximum temps will hover around freezing, with nocturnal lows between -5 and -9C. I am aware that readers in the US will scoff at these readings, but it is the first bout of sustained freezing weather this winter in Holland. It will last into the New Year.

Went for a walk of 2½ hours this afternoon, into the Heathlands and back through the forests to Velp, the neighbouring town. Returned in time for nightfall, which occurs at 4.30pm here. Pretty knackered actually. Will upload pictures in a few days' time.

Tonight, I shall take part in a Christmas Eve service, starting at 9.30pm. I am a chorister (I was in a choir on and off between 1995 and 2004), and take the tenor part. Not done prior rehearsals, but I'm pretty good at sheet reading, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23 December

Returned to Holland last night, after a good if long journey across from Stornoway. This involves a 3 hour ferry trip to Ullapool, 90 minutes on the bus to Inverness where I had 3 hours before the train to Aberdeen. The sun set on the way there, so it was dark by the time I alighted at Dyce. The taxi I took to the airport got stuck in traffic, so it was a bit dear. When I return, on January 5th, I'll take a bus. Didn't know there was a bus, service was only started a week ago. The plane took an hour to fly to Amsterdam, 40 minutes less than scheduled. From there, two trains whisked me down to Arnhem, where I arrived at midnight. 18 hours from door to door.

Slept in this morning, and am having a quiet day. Accompanied my father to the cemetery, on a still and foggy afternoon. More tomorrow.