This and that

Just a few bits and bobs before I disappear into the world of TV or movie fiction. It’s been a very busy week at work and I need to relax the mind somewhat before I head for bed.

It’s just after 10.30 pm here and dusk has set in but it’s still light outside! I love long Dutch summer evenings. Picture below was taken at 10.20 pm (and yeah, the grass desperately needs mowing)…

We had a hot day today, the weather is supposed to break with rain and thunderstorms tonight and cool off somewhat tomorrow.

In other news: my younger sister was feeling very ill with a high fever. She went in to the hospital this evening where she was diagnosed with (a new variant of) Covid. She’s been vaccinated and boostered and still feeling so ill, poor thing. She is thankfully home again and on extra strong meds to bring the fever down. Let’s hope she gets well soon! They say the next Covid wave is on the rise here. This pandemic remains serious business.

In more cheerful news: Mandy Patinkin and his wife Kathy will star in a new comedy pilot called Seasoned based on the fun videos that their son posted of them on Mandy Patinkin’s Twitter account during this pandemic. The show will be written by their son and his partner. I loved their pandemic videos that gave a light-hearted glimpse into the daily lives of a couple that has been married for a long time. So, now it will be made into a show.

I hope the show can hold on to the charm of those videos and won’t be overkill. I’m really curious to see this when it gets made.

Back to traffic jams & full trains

Yesterday was the first time in two years that I actually got on a train! For the past few weeks when I went in to work (two days a week), I parked my car at a park & ride and then took the metro in (about a 10 minute ride). That tends to be quicker for me by about 15-20 minutes rather than taking the train, especially as traffic jams, even in rush hour traffic, aren’t so bad now due to a partially working from home recommendation still being in effect. Yesterday Mr Esther needed the car more than I did, so I biked to the train station and actually boarded a train and then a metro. I was lucky. The train that left before mine to another city was so packed, people had to get off and catch another train. My train wasn’t too bad…

…and on the way home (I was able to travel back again before rush hour) it was even quiet…

I am no fan of rush hour train traffic. I hate the bustle and shuffle of getting on and standing in a crowded place and if you can’t get on, needing to wait for a next train that may be just as crowded and delays your trip by 15 minutes, making you late for wherever you need to be. I’d rather be on the metro where it can also get crowded but it’s never quite as crowded as on the train and there are more options to get to your destination as they depart more frequently. If a metro is too crowded, it’s easy to let it go and just take the next one 2 or 3 minutes later. I do like off peak train travel, though, just like yesterday on my way home.

The news today is that almost all remaining Coronavirus rules will be scrapped as of mid next week. No more mandatory face masks on public transport (although wearing one would still be appreciated), no more partial lockdown recommendation to work from home for half the week, no more testing restrictions to get into big events. Yes, the case numbers still appear to be quite high but pressure on the health system seems to not be so bad, which is why the rules will now be relaxed and we will have to learn to live with the virus. Here the elderly and those at higher risk are getting their fourth shots now. My mother and aunt just had theirs last week. The basic rules around testing with symptoms, isolation and quarantine will still remain in force for the time being.

I suspect that with the working from home restriction lifted, rush hour traffic jams on the highways will get longer again and trains will get busier too. Not sure how I feel about the relaxing of virtually all measures. On the one hand, these restrictions can’t go on forever, on the other hand the Coronavirus is still causing a lot of mayhem. For me, I think I will continue wearing a face mask in public transport when it is crowded… It feels a little weird getting back to life how it used to be again.

MTA – On rethinking this, I realize I lied! I was on a train again a month ago for the first time, while going to meet some friends for dinner in another city… The rest of this post still is true, though.

Dutch politics & Dobby

After almost 10 months (!!) of negotiations after our elections last March we finally have a new cabinet for our coalition government. It’s the fourth cabinet with Mark Rutte as prime minister (he’s been PM for 11 years now). The new cabinet was sworn in this past Monday. The official picture with our king in the middle front with Rutte next to him on the left had all the new ministers standing in a socially distanced position, which very much signifies the times we are living in now.

This evening we had our first Corona virus press conference with our new health minister, Ernst Kuipers, accompanying PM Rutte. During this pandemic Kuipers has already been a well known face on TV here, giving updates in the news on the situation in hospitals, but now as the new health minister, I saw him in action longer. Watching him during the press conference, it suddenly struck me: Ernst Kuipers reminds me of Dobby the elf from Harry Potter (minus the ears)!

It’s not a bad thing, I liked Dobby! Don’t have the same affinity for Mr. Kuipers yet, but maybe that will grow?

Meanwhile, we learned that some lockdown restrictions will be eased here, starting tomorrow. New reported Corona cases are still on the rise but hospitalizations are down, which is why this strategy is deemed possible. This pandemic still feels far from over.

Second Covid Christmas

Another Christmas while the Covid pandemic continues on. This year has been better than last year because this year we have vaccines! Yes, the pandemic is still around and the new Omicron variant is doing its rounds, but because of the vaccine I am more hopeful than I was last year. This year a bit more of a celebration was possible.

Everyone we were meeting over Christmas this year (my in-laws on Christmas Day and my family today on what we call Second Christmas Day here) has been vaccinated. Some have even already had their booster shots. We also had Covid testing that we could do before meeting family members, which everyone made sure to do….

So yes, we celebrated Christmas not only alone this year but also with family (even though due to the pandemic not everyone could be there as planned) and with lots of food and love to go around.

Today we may have gathered with a few more people from my family than strictly allowed. OK, so we were not a funeral (where slightly larger numbers are permitted) but we did gather as safely as possible in that we kept to protocols of self-testing before heading out, ventillating, and no kisses and very limited hugs. After last year’s quieter Christmas, where none of this was possible, this year felt so much better. For next year we hope that everyone can be there again.

Now it’s back to quaranting again and avoiding as many outsiders as possible. As lovely as it all was, I do admit I’m looking forward to cocooning again in my own house for the next week and a half of free time, no work and no social obligations.

Merry Christmas

…. for me to all of you readers out there!

Another Christmas during the Covid 19 pandemic, another Christmas faced with lockdowns but, unlike last year, this year we have vaccines that can help protect us (and I just made my booster appointment for January 4th!) and antigen self-tests we can do in addition before we see someone. It’s all still far more low key than pre-pandemic but (despite Omicron) it all feels a tad more hopeful to me than last year. So, let’s hope that this will be the last such Christmas!

To those who are alone or missing someone or just feeling bah-humbug about the holidays (I’ve been feeling a lot of that too this year), you are in my thoughts. To those of you who can celebrate with loved ones, count your blessings. In each and every case I’m sending out my Christmas hugs to you all!