A cat, childhood & Jane Eyre

Just as I wanted to start typing this post, this happened…

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My black cat decided to stretch out between me and my laptop. I was distracted by a 30 minute portrait of Orson Welles on BBC TV (after watching another one on Joan Fontaine) and before I knew it there she was. I was able to shift her…

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… but she didn’t stay long and has now found a spot on my daughter’s lap…

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No work today, which is nice for a change. I was tired yesterday after a busy week and a busy working morning. In the afternoon I met up with a neighbour for a walk while we kept our 1,5 meter distance. It’s quite weird taking a walk with someone while maintaining a distance but it is doable and was actually quite nice getting away and chatting like that. Mr Esther, the kids and I had dinner infront of the TV last night with a lovely glass of red wine.

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I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday, she was asking me for the 2011 Jane Eyre movie that isn’t available on Netflix and wanted to watch Pride and Prejudice as well. So, after two weeks at home and being extremely careful with no sign of sickness, we all decided we felt safe enough to venture out carefully and drop some DVD’s off at my mother’s house. It turned out that she had no DVD player anymore so my older brother found a spare one and offered it to her. To minimize outside contact between my mom and others I arranged to pick up the DVD player at my brother’s and then drive on to my mother’s to loan her the DVDs she and I had selected over the phone (picture taken so I know which DVDs to ask back)…

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Mini-Esther joined me and while on the road we saw signs saying, “Just stepping outside? Keep a distance of 1,5 meters!” and “Together against Corona. Avoid busy spaces.”

At my brother’s house we kept our distance, which is pretty weird when it’s family. No hugs hello or goodbye, no touching. Surreal. My brother, his partner and their kids (15 and 13) are doing well so far and my brother remarked how we were the first people outside their little family to enter their house in two weeks. First time we’ve been inside another house in two weeks as well. We stayed for only 10 minutes or so and then drove on to my mother’s to give her the DVD player and the DVDs. There too we kept our distance to my mother and my younger brother who is staying with her for now. Again, that felt surreal.

We visited longer with my mother and brother, catching up. My brother has been sorting through all the family photos and I took a few pictures of some of the old ones, like this one of me (little girl in the pink dress) taking a walk next to my grandfather (my father’s father) when I was 3 years old and he visited us in Israel…

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He died a year later and it must have been the last time I saw him. I have two vague (and warm) memories of my grandfather. One memory is of him reading me a book before bedtime and the other is of me holding his hand while we were out walking somewhere. It could very well have been on this exact walk!

There were pictures of us visiting the zoo in Jerusalem with my grandmother (my mother’s mother), it must have been around a similar time…

I also enjoyed this picture of us visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, even though you can’t see that much. We are right infront of the altar built over the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. My dad is on the left, I am on the right, closest to the wall.

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There’s a fun picture of me meeting Sinterklaas at the Dutch embassy that used to be in Jerusalem (later moved to Tel Aviv). I think I was 7 or 8 there and I still remember that dress and that necklace! I looked at the picture and exclaimed to my mother, “Isn’t the man playing Sinterklaas Mr. M?”. She said it was indeed. Mr. M. held a high position at the embassy and was a family friend of ours at the time. We used to play with his kids (who were the ages of my eldest brothers and sisters). He had kind eyes and I’ve got to say that after all this time (some 40 years!),  I surprised myself that I still recognized him underneath that outfit.

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There was a picture with my other grandmother (my father’s mother) enjoying a falafel with us, I think I’m about 9 years old here. Not the most flattering picture of me but it made me grin.

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The final picture was taken not long before we left Israel to live in Germany. It think this picture was taken while we were loading the van we had for our journey north. We had bought the van a year or two before in The Netherlands while visiting there on summer holiday and had driven it to Israel (via land and ship). Our final trek away from Israel was also the ship and land route and this was taken just before we embarked on that adventure.

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How our lives would change after this moment in time! Ah, the memories…

Mini Esther and I left my mother’s after about an hour and it’s back into full on isolation again here at home. My mom was going to enjoy The Nun’s Story as we left and it’s taken ages to type this up because (after that Orson Welles portrait on the BBC) they aired 1943’s Jane Eyre with Fontaine and Welles. It’s just finished (it’s a pretty good adaptation!)…

… so I can now proof read this post again for corrections and finally hit “publish”. And so we arrive at dinner time during another day in isolation.

Close to you & 104 days of summer

So, yesterday I mentioned Choir!Choir!Choir!. Today I saw there is an Australian equivalent called Pub Choir. Due to Corona they have now dubbed themselves Couch Choir and they made this video of 1000 people singing the same song from their homes. A quote: “A few days ago we asked the internet to stop misery scrolling for a moment, and to sing with us! Over 1000 people from 18 countries submitted a video of their performance of “Close To You” (Burt Bacharach) in just TWO DAYS.”

This gives me goosebumps. And what a job to edit it all together into this one video! I’m in awe.

Measures here in The Netherlands have tightened, so even less people out and about and everyone stuck inside like us. My husband works on the couch and for calls goes upstairs to the study…

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… I work mostly at our dinner table as the sun streams in there…

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Mr Esther junior has been enjoying his time off from his internship and with no classes from school yet to fill things up, he is getting some well-deserved rest and sleeps a lot, besides gaming, watching videos and taking a daily long walk.

Mini-Esther was having an exam week this week (last exam week before her finals in May) and went to school yesterday and this morning to sit for those exams under strict regulations of hygiene and keeping a distance. Just after she got home this morning the Ministry of Education announced that the central final exams in May will be cancelled altogether. Grades will now be determined by average exam scores from during the year. Those grades were always going to be 50% of your final exam score, now those grades will be 100% your final score. Schools have till June to organize how they’ll finish the last round of regular exams. For my daughter this means the rest of her exams this week are cancelled, school will determine how to organize the last 4 or 5 exams still due within the next few weeks. Mini-Esther’s grades are very good, she’ll do fine in the last exams still due so, in effect, this means she has already passed her finals! This takes a lot of pressure off for finals and the girl is very happy!

The Phineas and Ferb theme song now springs to mind with soooo many days off now for the kids with nothing to do:
“There’s 104 days of summer vacation | And school comes along just to end it | So the annual problem for our generation | Is finding a good way to spend it”

Phineas and Ferb is one of the very few kids cartoons I have also enjoyed watching with them over the years. Our kids alas won’t have the amount of freedom outdoors those two cartoon characters had – I hope they don’t get too stir-crazy.

First week in quarantine

So, we’re a week into this whole social distancing thing and I can’t say I’ve had a boring moment. At work I coach people to work with Microsoft Teams, a unified communication and collaboration platform, that is relatively new for our organization. As you may guess, it has suddenly become one of the most important apps right now with everyone working from home. So yeah, it’s been busy, especially on Monday and also on Tuesday for some of the day. Things slowed down a bit and then yesterday it was a madhouse again with requests for help. So, working from home has been really busy for me.

Mr Esther has been busy too with work but for him it looks like things will really slow down soon and dry up a little. Mr Esther jr. wasn’t able to go in to his hotel internship because he had a cold that has now subsided. The internship has now ended and there’s no school, so he’s had a lot of free time. Well-deserved, as (apart from weekends) he hasn’t had a single break since last summer. He does have some reports to write up. Mini Esther had no school on Monday and Tuesday but on Wednesday some lessons started up again via, yes, the Microsoft Teams app as well! She has an exam week next week that she will be attending under strict regulations at school.

It’s pretty busy at home, with all the video conferencing going on, but we also have time to lunch together, which we normally hardly ever do. Mr Esther got us some kibbeling (battered and fried fish chunks) to share the other day.

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The supermarket was pretty empty at the beginning of the week (yes, here too the toilet paper has been plundered)…

… but it’s been a bit better of late.

My younger brother came back to The Netherlands from France a few days ago before that country shut down. He’s been staying with my mother and has been sorting through all sorts of stuff in her home, tidying up. He sent this picture that he found today of my dad, Mr Esther and our son, a picture I took about 18 years ago and had apparently given to my mother.

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At the time we were visiting my parents who were living in Israel again for a few years. This is such a typical pose for my dad! Life is going on around him while he is lost in a newspaper. It made me laugh.

Mr Esther came across this image today by a Dutch comedian called Jochem Myer. The text says “Day 6 of the quarantine. The Myers are doing fine!”

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I guess it’s good our kids are a little older. 🙂

So, we’ve been in the house all day every day, keeping ourselves occupied. I’m still in Doctor Blake mode and despite my confusion about the main actor, I couldn’t resist making a fan video about the relationship between Lucien and Jean.

Yes, I am really into this at the moment, it can’t be helped. Just for the heck of it, I’m also sharing another fan video made by someone else that highlights the comedic aspect of the show. For a smile during these quarantine days it’s worth a look.

Work, family time, and Doctor Blake have passed the time nicely but being stuck inside is a little challenging. So, we have taken turns grocery shopping and we’ve also been outside for walks to stretch our legs while also keeping away from other people. Today was the most beautiful, sunny day of this whole week even though it was chilly. I was on my own for my walk, listening to music on my headphones and just loving the views, with nature starting to show signs of spring…

Week one of this quarantine wasn’t so bad for us. On to week two!

Social distancing…

… because of Covid-19 has started for real at our house, now that the working week has begun. Yesterday it was announced by our government that in addition to everyone being asked to work from home as much as possible also all schools will be closed until April 6th (before it was only higher education that was shut down).

My son has had a slight cold for some days now (no fever, no breathing problems or anything, just some sniffles) and had to stay home from the hotel he works at for his internship. His next internship, due to begin at the end of May in Spain, looks likely to be cancelled. My daughter has no more classes starting today. She was due to start an exam week this week, it is as yet unclear how that will proceed. She also has finals coming up in May, no idea yet how that will work either.

Mr. Esther is working from home, as am I. So this morning looks like this in our house…

I guess this can be a good thing for the family bond but I suspect that the kids will go stir-crazy, there are already early signs of that on this first day of the working week. They make me laugh but it gets a little disruptive when we’re trying to video-conference or make work calls. The kids are starting to manage it by going off for a walk together (outside of our little shopping mall across the street it is a relatively quiet residential area here), keeping the recommended minimum 1.5 meter distance between them and the rest of the world. As I write this, Mr. Esther is actually kicking them out. And my daughter just walked by to type this: “goodbye groetjes mini esther” (groetjes = greetings in Dutch). Oh man, these are going to be some eventful weeks in our house…

This is the first time in my lifetime that a worldwide shutdown is happening. My daughter was commenting yesterday on how monumental this feels: “One day they will teach about this in history class and I will have experienced it!” she said. These certainly are unusual times. I hope everyone stays well!