Sea Wall & my London mini-break

So, I was in London this past weekend. The reason for going was that a close US friend of mine was visiting London with her family. Although I chat with K, and my other US friend A, a few times a week (we have a chat group), I hadn’t actually seen K in the flesh in 7 years! As she was relatively close by, I couldn’t let the chance of meeting up with her pass me by.

I flew in to London on Friday afternoon. After 3 hours of delays (ugh!) I finally made it to my brother’s apartment in Hampstead, just enough time to drop bags and freshen up a little before heading to The Old Vic theatre to meet up with Hariclea there.

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We went to see a short one-man, one-act play called Sea Wall, starring Andrew Scott (of Moriarty in Sherlock fame). Once we all entered the theatre, there he was pacing around on stage, looking around and waiting for everyone to be seated. I shot a quick picture, you don’t see much detail on it, but you get the idea of the set up…

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I don’t know how he did it, but without any announcement or anything, he just seemed to be looking around, the whole audience fell quiet and he started talking. Even from up where I sat, you could see the expressions on Andrew Scott’s face quite well. Shows you what an expressive actor he is! Andrew Scott plays Alex, who is telling us about visiting his father in France for a holiday. He speaks of his father and his wife and his daughter and just by him telling us all about them and the love he feels for them and telling us about the place they are at, you get this vivid image of what it must be like and of what life is like for him. He speaks with humour but there is an underlying restlessness and a foreshadowing you feel of something deeper and darker. The darkness becomes apparent at the end and yes, breaks your heart.

I really liked it, and thoughts and images have been popping up in my mind long after the half hour play ended. Pretty special stuff! I don’t know Andrew Scott very well, I only know him as Moriarty, but he has a long list of credits in the theatre. Hariclea was telling me how absolutely mesmerizing he had been in Hamlet last year and I can almost picture that! Andrew Scott is a great actor and I really need to see more of his work!
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Hariclea had brought a theatre-loving friend of hers along as well and the three of us went on to have dinner in a nice little Italian restaurant close by afterwards. It was a lovely evening in great company!

Saturday was filled with great company as well, as I finally got to see K again and her husband and two teenage kids. We spent the day at the British Museum, then went on to Covent Garden and in the evening met up with my brother for dinner in the Soho district. My brother suggested we have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho (apparently they’re a small chain) serving Vietnamese ‘street food’ and we were not disappointed; it was good!

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After dinner we dropped the teens off at the place K was staying at and we four adults went on for some drinks and a chat in a pub across the street (just in time to see Germany score their amazing 2-1 victory goal against Sweden in the 95th (!!) minute in the Football World Cup). I can’t tell you how great it was to meet up with K again and it was fun to see her meet my brother, whom she only knew through my stories but now got to meet in the flesh. I so wish I could see her, and my other dear friend A, far more frequently!

Sunday morning I slept in and then had a small late breakfast in the garden chatting with my brother in the sun before we went to pick up his daughter (my niece) from her mum’s place. We got back and the three of us had a lovely lunch before I had to hop on the bus to the airport again. Time really does fly by so fast when you’re having fun!

I just love being in London. I’ll be back again next year at the latest, as I promised my daughter she & I would go there for a mama-daughter weekend (I had a mama-son weekend there last year, it’s her turn next). I was thinking of going in May but with Brexit, who knows how easy it’ll be to enter the country as a EU citizen? Maybe we should plan it sometime before March 29th 2019 but then the weather will be more iffy and cold than in May. There was a huge Brexit demonstration in London last weekend

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…and while we didn’t go there, I did see people aftewards here and there wearing anti-Brexit badges. I so wonder how an EU national’s enjoyment of England will be affected after March 2019…

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My fave wedding ever!

So, my previous post was about Prince Harry’s & Meghan Markle’s wedding and of course it made me think a lot about my favourite wedding ever: my own wedding in July of 1999! Of course, ours was not nearly as grand as the royal wedding, but we had really made a celebration of it, with our families and our friends and for me it really was one of the very best days of my life.

I was looking at pictures of our wedding but by far most of them aren’t digital. The digital pictures we do have are only a handful of images we have scanned and pictures taken with my father in law’s digital camera (digital photography was just getting started at the time). The pictures taken with the digital camera were of low quality and the camera also failed at times, giving us pictures that were overexposed, blurry or too dark. No matter, I have collected some of my fave digital images that we have and just can’t resist posting my wedding day story here!

Mr Esther and I had already been living together for 3 years before we got married. Why bother getting married, you ask? In my heart I just knew I had found the man I wanted to be with forever (that still holds true today!) and yes, we were already totally committed to each other. Getting married was just something we eventually wanted to do as well. We wanted a celebration of our love for ourselves and for everyone around us, to cement and clearly state to the world that yes, we were in this together forever. We celebrated our wedding on our 7.5 year anniversary of getting together; I was 29, Mr Esther was 28.

The morning of our wedding we got dressed in separate rooms (we didn’t spend the night before separately, that would have felt weird). We had invited our immediate families and my best friend at the time to come over to our house for a brunch to start off the festivities. When everyone was there, Mr Esther came into our bedroom and saw me in my dress for the first time (that was a very special moment!) and then I walked down our little hallway to the living room where I was greeted by our guests. Another very special moment!

We left everyone in our house to enjoy a brunch while Mr Esther & I and our two best friends came with us and the photographer (not a professional, but someone who did it as a hobby) to help with our wedding pictures being taken. Our pictures were taken in Delft, which is where we were also getting married (we lived very close to Delft at the time). Here are a few that have been scanned over the years…

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We got back to our apartment and there we picked up all our guests for the short drive to the old city hall of Delft (the building pictured above). As parking was tricky for the center of Delft, we had rented this old bus for the whole family to travel in, while we travelled in a vintage Rolls Royce.

In The Netherlands you can’t get married with only a religious wedding, you always have to have a civil ceremony. In addition to our families, other friends had also come to city hall to witness the event. We had met with the woman who was performing our ceremony a few days before our wedding. She gave a little speech about us, spoke about marriage and then we said our “I do’s” and signed the registry.

Afterwards we were led to a reception room, where we received out first congratulations, before we went on to another venue.

When we exited city hall, the church bells of the old church opposite city hall (where Dutch royals are buried!), started ringing for us, which was pretty cool.

My father was a theologian and minister and I have been baptized and grew up going to church. However, over time I have come to see myself more as a humanist and Mr Esther is an atheist who has only ever attended a church service in my presence. So, we didn’t want an official church wedding. We did want an extra blessing on our marriage and I really wanted my father to perform that ceremony. We went from city hall to a nearby wedding venue where the ceremony as well as our dinner & party would be held.

My father had discussed the ceremony at length with us and, although the structure was based on a church ceremony, we were also able to reform it in such a way that suited us. Mr Esther and I, for instance, never used the word ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’, we had bible readings but also poems, we had classical and ‘secular’ music, my father gave us a blessing (Aaron’s blessing to be precise) after we had exchanged our vows and put on wedding rings, but there was also the presentation of a special wedding gift for us by my in-laws. It really was a very special and deeply personal service and, like Harry’s and Meghan’s service, it had the theme of love and the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) at the heart of it. “My beloved is mine and I am his” was the theme. The fact that my father was able to perform this blessing for us remains one of my most cherished memories.

After the service there was a cutting of the cake (just one overexposed digital picture)…

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…and as the weather was great we all went out in the sunshine for coffee and eating of the cake and just relaxing a bit after all the excitement (while inside the staff revamped the room from a ‘church’ to a dinner room with round tables).

This was also the venue where lots of group pictures were taken, including one with my brothers and sisters (and lots of other fun pictures, that I don’t have digitally).

We had a buffet dinner afterwards (with yummy Indonesian food). Dinner also included some speeches and presentations of a few gifts.

And then from 8 pm onwards, we had big party (where even more people joined in the festivities). We had a DJ and seriously, from the start, everyone participated in the dancing and fun. We had our first dance to U2’s “All I want is you” (more of a shuffle) and after that everyone joined us on the dance floor.

Some people had also put on acts for us. We had asked people not to give us any wedding gifts separately but if they wanted to give us something, to give money so we could spend it on a honeymoon. One of my brothers had coordinated it all. Friends had thought up a quiz and with every correct answer that Mr Esther and I gave, a letter was turned and together the letters would from a word. We got 2 or so questions wrong but in the end we had enough correct answers to figure out that the winning word was ‘Portugal’. Our families and friends had booked us a honeymoon to Portugal as a wedding gift!

My family had also organized an ABBA act: family members in the background wore masks and were the backing singers and dancers, my mother was in a blonde wig as Agnetha, another family member was in a red wig as Annafrid, my dad was guitarplayer Björn (or Benny) using  an ancient bed pan and Mr Esther’s uncle was Benny (or Björn) on an ironing board as a keyboard. They sang and danced (choreographed!) along to ABBA’s “Gimme gimme gimme” and screamed “Mr Esther after midnight” to follow that line. It was a helluva lot of fun to watch.

Mr Esther and I were also lifted on chairs and carried around…

At midnight the party ended. We thanked everyone and right after that we were surprised with an emotional ending: everyone was given a candle and stood around us in a circle while the song “You’ll never walk alone” was played (and everyone joined in singing). This was something my mother had organized (just like the ABBA act had been her doing) and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Harry and Meghan’s wedding may have been great but ours was better! I am still so happy that we celebrated our love like that and the love we received back was overwhelming. My wedding is a memory I will cherish in my heart forever.

So, dear readers, what about you? Did you have a wedding? How big or how small? If you’ve never been married, would you ever want a wedding? Or are weddings just not important to you? An inquiring mind would love to know.  🙂

Celebrations!

Every year our sovereign’s birthday is celebrated and for the past 5 years we’ve had a King (Willem-Alexander) to celebrate. Still not used to calling it ‘King’s Day’ (instead of Queen’s Day as we had a queen for 30 years before that) but this past Friday (April 27th) ‘King’s Day’ was celebrated. This is our royal family: the king, his wife Maxima and their 3 daughters…

Amalia is the eldest, the crown princess, and only 12 days older than my daughter!

The King and his family visited Groningen in the north for a day of festivities, but unlike last year, we didn’t really watch much of their visit on TV.  Instead, my family and I went to the south in Eindhoven for the day, meeting up with Mr Esther’s oldest friend and his kids. It was really busy with markets and restaurants overflowing and lots of live music and everything is orange themed (orange is our national colour)… We had a lovely time!

Then yesterday, more celebration as my family got together for a nice family lunch. My youngest brother was visiting from Israel for a week, so we took the opportunity to get together with all family members that were present in The Netherlands (2 other brothers weren’t there with their kids, they live abroad). Brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and my mother and my aunt were there for a lovely buffet lunch at a Middle-Eastern restaurant. Again, we had a lovely time! If our meeting were made into an oil painting, it would look something like this (I am 4th on the right in dark blue with the visiting brother beside me)…

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As I had hardly talked to my brother I went on to visit him yesterday evening as well (he’s flying back today) at my mom’s house. It’s always great to talk to him.

And there’s more fun to be had today, as my son and I go off in about half an hour to see the latest Avengers movie in 3D IMAX together with two friends of ours. The two ladies are coming home with us afterwards for dinner here. Socially packed weekend! I need a breather to catch up, but alas, it’s back to work again tomorrow…

Best wishes for 2018!

The evening of New Year’s Eve has started here in The Netherlands, just about 5 hours to go till midnight when this gets posted… Of course, it would be a perfect time to look back at this past year on blog and in my life, but life goes on, and I find I have little time to really reflect right now.

Last night my husband, the kids and I returned from a relatively last-minute 3 day trip to Disneyland Paris!

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We had never been and especially Mr Esther has been very reluctant to do this but the kids have been wanting to go for years and I have always been curious about it too. Ever since 2004 we have spent the week around New Year’s Eve in a cottage in the north of The Netherlands owned by my parens but the cottage was sold last summer and it felt empty not doing anything at this time of year with just the 4 of us. So, just before Christmas, I suggested Disneyland as a trip. In the spirit of creating family memories while the kids are still at home (now at 14 and 16 years of age), Mr Esther quickly agreed and the trip was planned.

So basically, this past week, I’ve been super busy here with Christmas (two days of festivities with two families and my brothers came from abroad as well!), a day of helping my sister get stuff moved from her basement, and then off to Disneyland! Reflection has not been high on my list these past days, but it is starting to worm itself into my mind now, so a future blog post may spring from that (or not).

In the mean time, I’d like to wish you all, my dear readers, all the very best for 2018!

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I hope it will bring many good things!

‘Tis the season!

This past weekend Mr Esther and I and two friends of ours, whom we had gone to college with, went on our yearly Christmas market trip to Germany. This time we travelled to Trier and stayed overnight in a hotel in a village about 20 minutes away from the city center. We haven’t been feeling very Christmassy yet but that changed as we got closer to Trier and there was a dusting of snow all around! Of course, ‘doing’ the Christmas market helped get us into a festive spirit as well!

We spent the second half of Saturday afternoon and the evening going around the market. It really was crowded but still fun nonetheless!

The next morning, after breakfast, we walked through Trier again, this time in daylight and in the snow which was coming down much harder on Sunday.

We also noticed extra security measures on different streets that lead to the Christmas market: these huge candles are concrete blocks with a police van in the middle to prevent anyone from doing harm with a rented van or stolen truck… the times we live in…

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After some Käsekuchen and hot drinks we headed back for home again at around 1 pm on Sunday, on roads that were passable but also snowy…

Today (this gets posted after midnight, so on Tuesday, but I mean Monday) was an even more snowy day, we got lots where we live! Mr Esther and I worked from home today (as we had planned to do anyhow even before we knew this much snow was coming). The kids went to school but were sent home early. So, we took the time to decorate the Christmas tree. That is, Mr Esther and my daughter did (in her new Cookie Monster onesie she got from my mother that she absolutely adores!).

Our 3 year old black cat was fascinated by the snow, it’s the first time she’s experienced this…

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Our 12 year old red cat was more interested in finding a warm spot to sleep…

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My son admired the newly decorated tree but was soon more interested in his NBA basketball game on the Playstation…

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And meanwhile, outside it snowed and snowed! Our backyard looked magical…

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… as did the view from our front dining room window with newly placed Christmas lights…

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Yep, I’m feeling it… ’tis truly the season now!