Spring in Haarlem

This morning I went for a walk around our neighborhood.  In the middle of the night last night I had to get up and take a migraine pill, which meant that I really didn’t feel like running this morning.  But I did want to get out and walk.

The above photo was taken in a small park about 3 blocks from our house.  Daffodils are in bloom everywhere right now.  The crocuses have already come and gone.  It was a chilly but sunny morning and the only people out walking were people with dogs, or small kids, and me – the only single walker! People don’t walk on Sunday mornings it seems unless they have a dog or kid – or a camera.

I walked through the park, then along the canal next to the Jan Gijzekade.  I was looking for the black swans.  Every winter they disappear and I don’t know where they go, and then in Spring they are back along the canal.  This year there are 4! When we first moved here I only ever saw 2.  Then for a few years there were 3 – a pair and a singleton that I think is one of the pair’s offspring.  Now 4!  The pair are always swimming together.  The 3rd one hangs around with the pair but is not a partner with either of them.  The 4th one that I saw today was hanging out within site of the group of 3, but didn’t seem welcome or interested in swimming with them.

the pair

Last winter (2012-13) was so very cold and lasted well into June, and I don’t think any of the pair’s cygnets survived.  I didn’t see any anyway.  We’ve had a very mild winter this year and Spring has really started nicely, so maybe the pair will have young that will survive.  Maybe the 2 singles will soon have mates.  It’s just nice to see them back each year.

Good Intentions

I’m always so full of good intentions.  Super plans.  My mind is a constant whirlwind of things I’d like to do/accomplish/make happen.  And therefore, me being me, I’m often disappointed.  I should learn to stop doing this to myself but after 54 years on this planet I haven’t, so I will probably be disappointed in myself for continuing for the next 54 years in the same manner.

I intended to write a blog post every day in November but clearly that hasn’t happened.  It hasn’t been my highest priority.  Or I was lacking enough commitment.  In any case, I’ll just carry on and move forward and tell you what’s been happening these days.

These photos were taken a couple of weeks ago but I’ve just now taken them off the memory card.  The black swans you’ve seen on this blog before, but never so close up.  In the first photo you can see that they were adventuring nearer to people and a busy intersection in North Haarlem.  I was able to walk up very close to them before they both started hissing at me.  I’ve heard that swans are very powerful and can hurt you so when they raised their heads like this and started to hiss, I backed off.  I was only about a yard (1 meter) away.

I also took a photo of Egyptian geese.  They are very common in this area.

I wanted to also give you an idea of the building going on around here.  There might be an economic crisis going on, but affordable housing is still is short supply in the Randstad and housing is still being built.  The rows of houses in this photo in Spaarndam were finished a couple of years ago.  I think they are so cute!  I want to live in the first one on the left with the white front, looking out onto the water.  In the second photo you can see that, along with the new tall white wind turbines, there are still the old windmills here and there, and they still work.

What else have I been doing so far this month?  I made a commitment to start running again, and was doing pretty well at it.  And I went to yoga and the next day every muscle in my body was sore.  I was feeling pretty good about getting back into the exercise routine but unfortunately I have to take the next 2 weeks off.  I had a strange mole thing cut out of my left hip and have 2 stitches holding the gap together. My doctor said no sporting for 2 weeks to ensure I don’t tear it open.  I get the stitches out in 2 weeks and then I have to find my rhythm once again.

I’ve also been knitting quite a bit.  More about that tomorrow in the next post.  I promise.  It will be tomorrow.

The Natural

There he is, number 25780, the natural runner of the family.  This was his second half marathon in 3 weeks.  Three weeks ago he ran in Haarlem with a time of 1:45.  Three weeks later he ran in Amsterdam with a time of 1:43.  He was SURE his Amsterdam time would be slower than Haarlem.  I had more belief in him than he did!

The Amsterdam marathon began at 9:30am.  The half marathon began at 1:30pm.  The slowest of the marathon runners were still running when the half marathoners started coming in to the finish.  The photo below was taken in the Vondelpark, 4.5 hours after these people had started running.  Let me say it again.  They had been running for nearly 5 hours when they got to the park.  They still had 3km to go.  Respect.

DB was so enthusiastic after this race that he signed up for Egmond that same evening.  And I must admit that seeing all these people running (15,000 of them just for the half marathon) made me pretty enthusiastic too.  I signed up for the Egmond 10k.  It’s in January.  I have time to get ready.  Yes, January.  In the cold.  On the beach.  Yes, we are crazy.


Yesterday afternoon I convinced DB to get up off the couch and go for a walk.  We’d been hanging out at home all day, sitting in the (suddenly Autumn) sun, sitting on the couch.  I had to get up and move!

I took my camera and we walked down the street to the sloot that takes off from the Spaarne.  I knew that the black swans are there most of the time.  I was lucky and there they were.

There are three of them that live in this area.  There is another pair that used to also hang around this part of Haarlem, but they’ve moved off to somewhere else – I think along the Spaarne itself.

Just to throw in another photo, here’s the little pumpkin I’ve been growing in the front of the house.

I can’t believe I spent 10 euros on this plant!  Of course it held the promise of many more pumpkins.  There were lots of flowers on it in early July.  But the flowers fell off and the only thing left was this one pumpkin.

Yesterday I picked him.  It hadn’t changed in size in a few weeks and the plant itself was starting to die off.  I was also afraid that someone would take it out of the garden in the middle of the night.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  Earlier this year someone took a strawberry plant, which was in a pot and had lots of fruit on it, out of the garden in the middle of the night.  A few years ago someone took a large flowering plant out of the ground!  And this is a good neighborhood.  It’s just a busy neighborhood  with lots of people biking past.

Anyway, he will become soup.

Summer is over.  The blackberries are finished and now the pumpkin is picked.  Almost time to get the winter sweaters out again!

All Night Flower Market

From 4pm Friday to 11am Saturday is the Haarlem Luilak Bloemenmarkt.  Yes, this is an all-night flower market.  It’s been going on in Haarlem since 1890, every year, the Friday night before Pinksteren (Pentacost).  I had no idea this market existed until my in-laws said they wanted to go.  How did I miss the best flower and live plant market in the country?

The Singel is closed off on both sides of the canal and is filled with tables and stalls selling all kinds of flowering plants, shrubs and small trees.  My father-in-law was in search of some particular plants, but didn’t find what he was looking for.  He wanted to replace a small tree that was killed in the Big Freeze of February 2012.  I think the plant farmers are having a good Spring this year because so many plants were killed in the very cold weather this last winter.

We lost our faithful fig tree.

I bought this tree about 7 years ago.  He lived in a pot on the roof terrace in Amsterdam.  When we moved to Haarlem we planted him in the ground and he lived happily, giving us loads of figs, for years.  This last winter the cold got him and he’s slowly dying.  I haven’t entirely given up on him.  I’ll give him until the end of the summer to show any signs of life.

At the market we came upon one seller who had small fig trees.  They were all beautiful and healthy.  My in-laws insisted they buy one for us.  So sweet.  Here it is.

My in-laws ended up buying 7 shopping bags full of flowering plants.  We hauled everything to the car, then sat outside in our back garden for a while.  That was at 10:30pm.  Still warm enough to sit outside and just dark.  When the weather is good, it’s an even better place to live.

Oh yes.  The other day this cloud was passing overhead.  I immediately thought to myself what it looked like to me.  What does it look like to you?

Church Music

Last night we went to de Grote of St.Bavokerk in the center of Haarlem to listen to music.  This was not your typical church music.

The concert was set up at the foot of the very impressive pipe organ.  The organ was built in 1738 and the web site states that it is the most pictured (photos, paintings) organ in the world.  How do they know this?

The first half of the concert was Remy & friends.  Unfortunately I didn’t get very good photos of them.  Just Remy.

He had playing with him 2 violins and a cello.  In the above photo he’s playing the piano but he spent most of his time playing keyboards and electronic gear.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any video of his set.  I liked it a lot, even better than the second half of the concert.  He really used the string instruments to good effect and built beautiful soundscapes.  Here’s a link to an article about the concert and you can hear some of the music if you play the video at the top.

The second half of the evening was by Ron Boots (keyboards) and other musicians who’s names I don’t know.  There was a chorus also, but Ron played so loudly that you couldn’t hear the voices very well at all.  It was mostly pretty shrill and too much 70’s electronica for my liking.  I did make a video of them, which sounds pretty true to what we heard (amazingly nice sound from my camera).  Don’t play the video expecting to SEE anything – it was very dark.  It was the sound I was trying to capture.  Here are some photos.

At the end, Remy joined this group and they improvised some music for us.

What surprised me was how old the audience was.  When did we all get so old?  I’m used to going to concerts where I’m one of the oldest people there.  Not last night.  When I was young, old people didn’t like electronic music.  Old people liked orchestras or acoustic music.  Last night the church was full of grey haired people, many even older than me, nodding their bald heads to loud music echoing through the big space.  I couldn’t help trying to imagine what everyone looked like in 1973 listening to Tubular Bells for the first time.

Wild in Your Own Back Yard

Yesterday afternoon I braved the weather to go for a walk and take some photos.  Don’t let the sunshine fool you.  It was windy and very chilly.  I ended up walking for 2 hours and was so tired when I got home.  I got a few nice photos for my troubles.

Herons are so common around here.  In Amsterdam they are scavengers and hang around the street markets waiting for the fish sellers to pack up for the day so they can get any fallen scraps.  These in our local fields are more wild.  They are actually hunting in the little creeks.

There are geese everywhere.  Further out in the fields they are hidden in higher grass and it’s really hard to see if they have any goslings or not.  I managed to see these….

Yes, those are WWII bunkers in the background.  They are still a common site in this part of the Netherlands.

I also saw these birds, which I first called ducks, but DB quickly corrected me and informed me they are ‘fuut’ or grebe in English.

Even though there are a lot of wild birds in the area, it’s not really a wild area.  There are people everywhere and that means people trash.  Some birds are really good at scavenging human waste.  This bird was pulling out everything he found in this trash bin, located next to the path along the Spaarne.  I can imagine people will walk by and blame the fishermen or teenagers for the mess, but they’d be wrong.

When I was nearly home I saw the local black swans again.  Today I saw 4 of them.  I think there are 5 in total in the area.

They are very difficult to photograph.  Their feathers seem to swallow all the light and I either get black holes or reflected shiny light off their backs.

Next walking trip I need to head into the dunes and wait patiently for rabbits, foxes and woodpeckers!

Spring in the Polder

Today I went for a “run”.  I put it in quotes because it was more walking than running.  My stomach just wasn’t feeling good and bouncing up and down wasn’t helping.  I think I just ate too much and didn’t wait long enough to run.

Anyway, while walking it’s possible to take photos.  The geese and ducks and swans are hatching babies and they are beginning to be visible out in the fields.  I took a few photos with my iPhone.

These black swans live in the canal near our house.  They don’t seem to have any babies this year.  I think there is another pair out further in the polder that are the parents of these 3 and possibly they have some offspring this year, not seen yet.

Canadian geese and their goslings.

I don’t know what kind of geese these are.  Do you?

I should go for a walk out there with my new camera and get some decent close ups of all the birds.  If we get some nice weather in the next few days I will do just that.

Music on the Weekend

May 4th is Remembrance Day, commemorating fallen soldiers and civilians since WWII.  May 5th is Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) celebrating freedom from German occupation.  On the 4th ceremonies take place all over the country.  On the 5th it’s party time.  Haarlem is famous for “Bevrijdingspop” (Liberation Pop), a free music festival that takes place all day.

On the 4th we went to North End music store where Dry the River played a set.  This is an English band that’s touring at the moment.  I took a video of one of their songs, which you can see here.  Here are a couple of photos.

Their music is folky and easy and their harmonies are fantastic.  Maybe the style gets a little monotonous but that could also be because it was completely unplugged.  Maybe they do more with a larger venue.  No matter.  It’s great to see bands playing in a record store – up close and personal!

On the 5th we headed to Bevrijdingspop.  The weather was luckily dry, but cloudy and cold.  Really.  Cold.  We didn’t stay as long as we had planned, mainly due to the cold and also because there weren’t many places to sit and hang out.  In the cold.  Here’s what we did see:

The main stage area – Spin Vis playing

The park area left of the main stage

The Juliper stage – Bombay Show Pig playing

Bombay Show Pig – amazing how much great sound can come from just two people

The worst hair all day – yes, he did that on purpose – it’s not the wind

The loveliest street in Haarlem – full of green and flowers