Thursday, December 20, 2007


i was working at home today, on a translation of a level of boredom (or rather boringness) as yet unachieved, when i saw these. so breathtakingly beautiful. spent next two hours feeling sorry for myself for being stuck inside in front of the computer, while others got to take lovely walks in frost-covered countryside, and take fantastic photographs to boot. sometime in the third hour i figured i could also get off my ass and take my break-deserving body out for a stroll. turns out our neighbourhood looks frosty good too...

candle snuffer

she reminds me of the Street Lighter in the Little Prince, who "turns on and off the street light that he has on his planet. Whenever he turns the light on, a new life is born, and the sun rises. Whenever he turns off the light, someone dies, and the sun sets."

last time

there she is, my sweet. on her very last day at the crèche. in the car on the way to Leiden, she was singing 'als je van beren leren kan, van slimme beren leren kan, is dat iets wat je echt proberen moet... want hoe je profiteren kan, daar weten beren veel meer van, en beren zijn als leraar beregoed!' (song of Balloo from the Jungle Book). until she stopped because she fell asleep. just like that, half-way through a line. boink went her head on her chest. you can see the print of her coat's zipper on her cheek, that's because there is a rather sharp turning roundabout five hundred metres before the crèche, and her head lolled over to the other side. she is wearing my very favourite hat (the infamous baklava, also known as 'cagoule' in one of the places i come from), and i am lapping it up because i know deep down that this is the very last winter that my will concerning hat-wearing shall prevail, and i will hereafter never see it on her again. you can't tell from the photograph, but in her hand she is clutching a shoeless, crownless (that way we can't lose them, mama!) pink barbie (i know, i know, how the f'... did that happen????). her last day at the crèche. she made herself a paper crown, distributed raisin boxes and balloons, and then stood on a chair while all the children sang for her. she was so excited, not one bit sad. so i get to be sad for her. for drives together in the morning that shall be driven no more, for time passing, for baklava hats getting lost in the cupboards of life, and little girls growing up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

the truth about christmas crafting

is that it isn't always idyllic. the day had begun badly: we had to go to the townhall to pick up an important document that was supposed to have been sent to Chile weeks ago, and in fact had been, but had failed to arrive, and now it was all really urgent, and the weather dreadfully cold, so i'd bundled us all up to the nines, Isabelle even wore her baklava hat, which is not pink and has no flowers (just to give you an indication of the direness (not a word...) of the situation), and we had to rush, i made her run all the way because i thought they were shutting at 12:00, it was 11:55, but of course they were open till 14:00, and it was crowded as hell, and equally hot, so the baby woke up, he was sweating and screaming, and the baklava girl had cheeks the colour of red balloons, and she was hanging on my coat saying 'i am tired mama, i am tired, can you carry me?' and the baby screaming so loud, i couldn't hear the grinding of my own teeth. anyway. we finally got the document, rushed off to the post office. equally busy. equally hot. waited. some wailing. some gnashing. some hanging limp. it was almost our turn when i realised i hadn't filled in the document yet. was about to start scribbling like mad, but then remembered it had to be done in BLACk pen. not blue. not pink (as kindly suggested by baklava girl). black. started begging around for black pen. entire post-office did not possess a single black pen (not even one i could buy, i was so far gone by then, i would have bought a box of 100 if they'd had them, and screw the no-buying year) (the baby was still wailing...). rushed off outside, ran to the kringloop shop next door, entire kringloop shop did not have black pen either. ran back out onto the street and straight into the extremely beautiful, extremely unapproachable mother-of-two who lives down the street. actually forgot all about terrible shyness and feeling of awe and made her empty her purse on the street in search of black pen. extremely beautiful woman now known forever and ever as the Angel-of-the-black-pen. back to the post-office. scribbled. waited. sent the document. back out into the cold. it started snowing. and blizzarding (not a word). baby stopped wailing from the shock of the cold wind, which made me think it might be a great idea (WAS i thinking??????) to run past a few shops on the way (well, sort of on the way, in any case not altogether at the other end of town) home. never made it to any shop because baby resumed wailing, having gotten over shock. came home. stumbled and fell off the stairs (only three steps). scratched my hand open with my own nail. almost threw hysterical baby out of the windoww. sat down. and decided it was time for some fun christmas crafting.

one thing. one thing off my list was going to be a success today. just this one thing would work out perfectly. exactly as i had imagined it. so we sat there crafting, the two of us (wailing baby no longer wailing but eating own hand on the floor in empty attempt at communicating ravenous hunger). both of us quiet and watchful. me trying to pacify the dragon inside. she lest the dragon spit her way. but then she forgot about the dragon, just a little. because there were pink feathers, and purple ones. 'mama, can we put those in too?'. 'of course bloody not!!!!', roared the dragon inside, 'who ever heard of pink and purple feathers on a christmas wreath???'. but i did not let the dragon speak this time. instead i ran my hand through her hair. 'of course we can, sweetie, of course we can'. picked up the hungry baby. fed it. and the day kept on its slow rolling motion beneath our feet.

an angel at my table

Antoine by night

the birthday girl... i mean princess


i managed to (almost) completely resist the cultural pressure to run around playing the role of 'gentil organisateur' at my four-year-old daughter's birthday party. yes, that is what the Dutch do, although it probably won't surprise any of you Anglo-Saxons out there, so i am leaving it to the Belgo-Franco-Russians to be shocked and stupefied at the thought. instead i invited the parents stay, let the children run around, offered cake and soup and (this is the bit where i caved...) sort of ran a mini crafting session with the wee ones, making wooden clothespin dolls (i had been dying to try it myself, which made the caving feeling ever so much more bearable...). it was fantastic: no preparatory stress. no hang-over. great soup (though i say so myself). and most importantly: the birthday girl loved it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

jungle stories

thanks to Albert Heijn and my mother-in-law we have acquired most of the Jungle Book characters. not being familiar with the movie/story, Isabelle has had to create her own. so here is Mowgli doing her yoga routine (she stole Shanti's skirt because it goes so well with her blue shirt):

and there is Kin Louie, the girly ape:

Marc: weet je wel wat 'King' betekent?
Isabelle: Ja, kijk (pointing at the ape's chin), haar kinnetje, Kin Louie!

(I know it's my fault for telling her that all main characters in all stories are girls, but i have made my peace with this fact too).

draught snake

it's been windy here (and i mean indoors), so i decided to overcome my fear of the sewing machine (i am seized by an irrational terror of that thing whenever i stop using it for longer than a few days/weeks/months) by making a bunch of draught snakes, figuring it was all straight seams and a bit of rice. my inner critic (i have been practicing giving her the floor to avoid the shouting in my ear) would like me to inform you, for honesty's sake, that not a single one of the seams is in fact straight. i have made my peace with this fact. the snakes look great and it's now distinctly less windy in the living-room (although there is a lot more rice on the floor) (did i mention that i simply hate the noise of the vacuum cleaner?) (... and my inner critic has a lot to say about this too, but unfortunately she's had her turn for tonight).


Babytje in het park
Lieve Alice,
Kom ook op mijn verjaardag en kom ook met mij samen dansen. Wil je dan ook verfen met mijn mama en wil je dan ook een tekening maken op de verf, alléén met krijtjes, liefs, Isabelle

Roze wolk, blauwe maan, groene uil

Lieve Sonia,
Kom je alsjeblieft op mijn verjaardag? Kom je vaak bij me om te kijken naar de nieuwe baby van mama of hij goed lacht naar je en of je het leuk vindt van mijn verjaardag, liefs, Isabelle

Meisje met papa en Piet

Lieve Fiep,
Kom ook naar mijn verjaardag toe om naar mama’s baby te kijken maar ga dan niet hard schreeuwen bij de baby, liefs, Isabelle


Lieve Olivier,
Wil je op mijn verjaardag komen om taart te eten en wil je dan ook met mij tekeningen maken? Liefs, Isabelle.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

the thing is...

... i am not going to have 50,000 words by the end of the week. in fact, if i manage to have 40,000 (and that's counting the lyrics of the three Brel songs that somehow made it into the manuscript, each accompanied by a lovely rhythmic translation into English), it will be a small miracle. i have been feeling really bad about this...

... but the other thing is, so what? so this first draft will have 40,000 words. that's not bad. that's a whole 40,000 words more than no words. i have a plot (sort of). i have characters (sort of). i have (a few) really good pieces. i have (lots of) shite. and it has been a learning experience (by gawd, it has). that's good enough...

... and the final thing is, that this here november, i breast-fed (a lot), knitted (some), wrote in my journal (lots), meditated (almost daily), did yoga (almost daily). socialized (more than i normally do in a whole year). AND wrote a 40,000-words first draft of a second novel. that's not bad, not bad at all...


- Mama, waarom slaapt hij niet?
- nou, dat is between God and Antoine.
- Mama, wat is dat: Gawd?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


"kazhdyj pishet chto on slyshet
kazhdyj slyshet kak on dyshet
kak on dyshet tak i pishet
B. Okudzhava

"everyone writes what they hear
everyone hears the sound of their own breathing
how you breathe is how you write..."

(with apologies for the bad translation: i can't get it to be as elegant as the original Russian. this is from a song that i have known and loved and sung for close to thirty years; incredibly enough, i seem to never have picked up on the actual meaning of the words.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

slow writing

i had been meeting my daily word-count. religiously. every evening, having put Isabelle to bed, i handed Antoine over to Marc, sat down at the computer, put on my head-phones (Beethoven "Moonlight" sonata, third movement, presto agitato), and bashed away. sometimes i was done in fifteen minutes. sometimes in twenty-two. this cost me no effort, other than the effort of sitting down. and strangely enough, this sitting down business really was hard. and seemed to become harder every day. maybe because although it cost no effort, the writing brought no satisfaction either. it was such a thoroughly flat experience. easy but completely non-...

i kept waiting for it to change. i thought, if i just keep showing up, great stuff is bound to happen, something will shift somewhere. but it didn't. and then i hit the end of week 2. and it still hadn't.

Sam said: 'if you keep approaching it in the same way, you're bound to get the same result!'

Sam said: 'why don't you stop trying to outrun the beast, turn around to face her and say 'back off, bitch!''

i wailed: 'but what should i do????' and before Sam could answer, i knew what she was going to say.

"ssssssssllllllloooooooooooooooowwwwwwww down... write slowly, excruciatingly slowly...'

it's that breathing business again, isn't it...

'but what about my word count??????????', i asked.

and Sam answered: 'would you rather have three rich words or 1667 empty ones?'

Sam is a wise-ass. thank god for Sam. yesterday's word count: 482. today's word count: 987. for the first time in two and a half weeks, i look forward to sitting down.

Friday, November 16, 2007

food for thought

i was reading and thinking, two activities in which i clearly indulge too much. the result of this particular bout of cogitation is to wonder whether anyone is interested in starting a blog (yes, yet another one, clearly i am not busy enough...) about food, on which we could post our favourite recipes, in particular the ones that match the following constraints (these are obviously only my favourite constraints, anyone joining in can add and/or substract from the list, and we could make labels and categorize the recipes, ooh so much fun!):

- made from fresh produce
- seasonal
- vegetarian (or fish, need more recipes for fish) (although i wouldn't mind getting to know some new meaty dishes...)

to which you might add:

- can be made with one hand (in case my pinkie finger is otherwise occupied)
- multi-coloured (for feasting of the eye purposes)
- involving tofu (i have never made tofu and am terrified of it, and maybe hearing your battle stories will get me over my angst)

that way, next Tuesday (menu-for-the-week night over here) i can leave Jamie, Rose and Ruth to sleep on their shelf, and turn to the real life experts instead. So, who's in?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

half-way through

this is my last novel. i am not a novelist. i am a poet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

death and the maiden

chapter 1
- mama, Céleste is dood.
(surprised, i look up from my supine position on the couch. it's baby-feeding time.)
- dood?
- ja, kijk... (she holds up the limp little elephant body for my inspection). ze was gewoon de vloer aan het natspuiten, met haar slurf, want ze wilde schoonmaken, en opeens boing, viel ze dood...
- oh, wat erg.
- ja, kijk... haar slurfje doet niets meer (she lifts the limp little elephant proboscis to demonstrate)... ik ga Céleste naar de dokter brengen (she walks away from the couch, carrying the elephant in her outstretched hands. stops, turns around). mama, jij bent de dokter. (she walks back towards the couch)dag dokter, mijn olifant is dood. kijkt u maar (she carefully lays the limp elephant on the edge of the couch). kijk maar naar haar slurf (she lifts the proboscis). helemaal niets (she lets it drop).
- nou, ik kan niet zoveel doen voor dode olifanten. alléén zieke olifanten.
- ook hele zieke olifanten?
- ja, dat wel, maar niet als ze dood zijn.
(a moment of silence. she is thinking.)
- dokter, kijk! zag je dat?
- nee, wat dan?
- haar handje bewoog! (she lifts up the paw) kijk, nu beweegt ze ook haar slurf (she lifts the proboscis). ze is niet meer dood!

chapter 2

- mama, Sinterklaas is heel oud, toch?
- ja.
- wanneer gaat hij dood?
chapter 3
- eerst zijn de mensen groot, en daarna worden ze kleiner en kleiner en kleiner, steeeds kleiner, totdat ze heel oud zijn, en dan gaan ze slapen, en dan gaan ze dood. net als Sophie de spin. dat was een zielig verhaal, hé mama?
(and now in English for the non-Dutchies:
- mama, Céleste is dead.
- dead?
- yes, look.... she was spraying the floor with her trunk, she wanted to clean the floor, and suddenly boing, she dropped dead...
- oh, how sad!
- yes, look, her trunk doesn't work anymore. i am going to bring Céleste to the doctor. Mama, you are the doctor. hello doctor, my elephant is dead. look. look at her trunk. nothing.
- well, there isn't much i can do for dead elephants... only sick ones.
- also very sick elephants?
- yes, but not dead ones.
- doctor, look! did you see that?
- no, what?
- she moved her hand! look, now she is moving her trunk! she is not dead anymore!

- mama, Sinterklaas is very old, isn't he?
- yes.
- when is he going to die?

- first people are big, and then they get smaller and smaller and smaller, until they are very old, and then they go to sleep, and then they die. just like Sophie the spider. that was a sad story, wasn't it mama?)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


following the advice of a good friend, i left Marc to fend for himself and got away for the afternoon. all by myself. freedom is exhilarating, and terrifying. so after a short stop at the new wool shop (which i managed to leave almost empty-handed...), i took myself and my knitting to the only place in town that serves proper yogi tea and warm chocolate cake, swimming in real double cream. it was crowded, warm, the windows all steamed up, it smelt of fresh scones. so many people, normally it would have freaked me out, i can never be in a room without feeling the urge to see and make contact with everyone in it, so the more crowded a space, the more lost i become. but this time i had my knitting. so i knitted. and listened. and felt like a little old lady (Miss Marple-style). and enjoyed myself tremendously. and forgot the time... and got into trouble for being late.

(Day 10: still meeting the word-count. definitely flowing by now, although no idea where to. have added funny looking button in the sidebar, so you can follow my progress)


my son woke up this morning, looking a little wind-blown. they have been forecasting a heavy North Sea storm. if you want to know the colour of the sea, look into his eyes; if you want to know the strength of the wind, look at his hair. my magical boy.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

fall knit #2

this is a joint venture: her design, my hand labour. i told her she needed a new wooly hat and she could choose everything: the wool, the colours, the extras. she now wants a scarf to match. with little pockets to keep 'stuff' in.

(day 3 word-count: 5714. 713 words ahead of schedule. i seem to remember this hoarding becomes important when hitting the week 2 sahara desert of words. the book i thought i was writing is almost done now, by tomorrow i will probably have written up everything i thought of beforehand. this is both terrifying and exciting: from that point onwards, i have no idea what the book is that will be writing itself. it's a bit like those old-fashioned roller-coasters, where you first climb really slowly, with a rickety-tickety sound under the wheels, excitement and fear mounting, and then as you reach the top, you can feel the cart levelling, and you know it's too late to get off: you're in for the sheer drop...)

Friday, November 02, 2007


this week on the organic farmer's market, a long-forgotten childhood taste. my grand-mother used to get them for us from Baku. turns out, she would have had more luck in Auckland, NZ. still, felt very clever explaining to the girl at the market (who knows much too much about fruit and always makes me feel like such an idiot) (yes, i come from a family where fruit knowledge can make you or break you) what they were called (feijoa) and what you can do with them (open your mouth and eat). the best thing, though, is the scent. through the paper-bag, across half the living-room, i can smell them. like bubble-gum, says Marc. like paradise, say i.

(day 2 word-count: 3904. i wouldn't say we have flow (although thank you for lovely supportive comment, Jost), but we're moving. i managed to suss the editor by adding an extra challenge. i promised her i wouldn't spend more than 45 min. a day on the novel; that way even if i end up producing nothing but shite (unlikely, but don't tell her that), i wouldn't have wasted too much time on it. speedy shite, you might call it (the real reason for the added speed factor being that she can't read that fast, but don't you go telling on me!))

Thursday, November 01, 2007

day 1

word-count: 1740

(every single word is bloody awful (or maybe not by itself, but taken in conjunction with the word before and the word after, and the word a bit further down the page...), i have no idea why i am doing this to myself or to you (the poor people who will be asked one day to glance at this rubbish), there is no way i am going to be able to produce so many words a day for a month, no matter how bad the words are, taken alone or together, i have children to take care of, food to cook, yoga to do, and what's the point anyway, there is no story, no characters, no dialogue, no poetry even this time, actually, by comparison with this stuff, that first novel was pretty much a nobel prize in literature, and maybe that's the only purpose of a second novel, to make you realize the first one is worth resurrecting, arggghhhhh!)

(i seem to remember there was something one could do to one's internal editor during nanowrimo, send her to the bahama's to get a suntan, or lock her up, duly tied and gagged (especially gagged) in some dark humid dungeon... whatever it was, it hasn't happened, they must have forgotten to pick her up, or maybe she managed to escape, she is a crafty little thing, anyway, please to come back and take her away before i wring her neck (problematic, because we share one). please please pretty please)

Sunday, October 28, 2007


- mama, kom, laten we een spelletje doen die ik verzonnen heb!
- wat dan?
- nou, ik maak hier een stapeltje van stukjes hout, zo, en dan nemen we ieder een stukje hout, en dan moet je probeeeren om je stukje hout op de stapel te gooien. en degene die niet wint, die mag iets leuks uitkiezen.
- wat dan?
- nou, een stukje hout.

- mama, come, let's play this game i made up!
- how does it go?
- well, see, i make a pile here with these bits of wood, and then we each take a bit of wood, and then you have to try and throw your bit of wood onto the pile. and the one who doesn't win gets too choose a nice gift.
- like what?
- a bit of wood.

two tomato plants

the one on which i lavished my love and care.

the one i threw on the garbage heap.
why does this smack of 'deep wise lesson to be learned'? and what lesson is that(other than 'sell the garden!')?


eight years ago, on a beach in California, Marc and i were taking photographs of our shadows on the sand and promising each other love ever-lasting. we were crazy in love, so we meant it, even though we didn't know what it meant.

four years ago, in an ugly grey townhall building and in the presence of ten people, Marc and i were trying to avoid being photographed and promising each other love ever-lasting. we were pregnant and no longer in love, so we meant nothing much and knew even less.

yet another four years and two babies later, we're back to taking photographs of our shadows and promising each other love ever-lasting. sort of knowing what it means. and meaning it too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

fall knit #1

the fall 2007 collection includes (well, so far it's more 'solely consists of'...) this little cashmere number (wool and pattern from La Droguerie). seriously cute, though i say so myself. and i mean both the creation and the slightly puzzled-looking model.
(speaking of the model, ladies and gentlemen, we have figures at last. Antoine went for his first check-up last week, and it's official: he is a big boy. at 7 weeks, he was at least 61 cm long and weighed 5650 gr.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


my dear friend Pauline, midwife, mother, poetess, photographer, seamstress and many other things is having a no-spending year. for an entire year, she is purchasing nothing (well, unless it can be proven to be a) absolutely necessary and b) not obtainable in any other way). how cool is that? 'very' is the answer. anyway, i finally chickened out of joining her (my latest excuse is the woolies, must have woolies, ... and gardening tools, and a bakfiets, and ...). still, it is an inspiration to spend radically less, as in NOT buying a Petit Bateau winter coat for Isabelle that we cannot afford in a hundred years, no matter how cute, but making her one instead. like this princess coat from last year's Ottobre.

the only problem being that i cannot sew. at least not clothes. at least not that i know of. whenever i gather my courage and open a pattern, some word jumps out at me (usually in the first line) that i don't understand, and i give up. but not this time: Pauline has kindly agreed to coach me long-distance and to do so here. so if any of you at any point want to either add your expertise to hers, or alternatively learn to make a coat together with me, that's the place to go. I warn you, though, be prepared to see/hear some seriously dumb questions ('there is no such thing as a dumb question', says the patient but tired teacher's voice inside my head, 'oh yeah? try me!).

Sunday, October 07, 2007


on authorship

a while ago i wrote about quoting sources, and this week Marc asked me to no longer add his name to the photographs that i post on this blog (mind you, i'd stopped doing that anyway, but more out of laziness than anything else and assuming that you all know the really good ones are his) because, as he says 'although they were taken by my hand with my camera, they are never the photographs i would have chosen and you combine them in your own way'. i've been thinking about this, how it adds a whole new dimension to the idea of authorship. he says those photographs are mine, not his. so apparently you don't even have to click on the button to be able to claim a picture as your own. then again, would he feel that way if it wasn't his best friend and other half posting them but some unknown person on internet?

and in the end, methinks, who cares? it's all ego games, isn't it? the bottom line is still: either it's a photograph/text/sculpture/ painting that moves you or it isn't. who cares whose camera, whose eye, who clicked, and who bought the film roll?

unless, of course, it pays for the bills. but we're not quite there yet. in the meantime, i like to think of us as a joint venture. in more ways than one.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

the craft

'who's the old witch?' i asked. turns out it's me. with a well-filled baby-sling. trying to capture a confused yellow buttery flower (it's October, it's too late, go back underground!!) with a polaroid camera. 'aaaah! now i remember'.

this is not a post about polaroids or buttercups. this is a post to say that the writing bug has caught up with me again and i decided to join the NaNoWriMo. Yes, world, be prepared: novel number two is on its way (what happened to novel number one? some of you may wonder. please not to wonder).

how did it happen this time? pretty much like the first time, which means there is a pattern here, which means my muse is consistent, which means I HAVE A MUSE, and SHE RECURS. that makes me a writer. officially.

so here is my muse's modus operandi: some autumns, i notice this sticky image in my head, a photograph, either an existing photograph or an imaginary one, which becomes imprinted on the back of my retina and simply will not leave. shortly afterwards, a piece of music becomes magically attached to the photograph. the two together act like a magnet: they attract dreams, thoughts, characters, plot lines, dialogues, and many many pieces of dried fruit.

i have to tell you, i'm looking forward to the ride.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


he turns to me
this man
with the eyes of my son
with the eyes of the sea

he turns to me

'the truth is the way', he says
just like that
'the truth is the way'

just like that

the curling light smoke


caught out between lips and hand

'it is' say i

and extinguish
that small stubb
of shame
in the ashtray of my mind

Friday, September 28, 2007

autumn evenings

knitting on the couch, with a sleeping infant in the sling, a purring cat under one (woolen-sock-shod-) foot, Marc reading up on art history under the other. autumn music on the stereo. howling wind outside. hot yogi tea and white grapes within reach. more of these evenings to come. life at its very sweetest.