Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stockholm syndrome

Dear sisters, 

Last week there were invariably six to eight men in our house, welding, painting or hanging around, picking up their tools, because it seems we are coming to the end of a long chapter; the chapter of the "house in progress". Unfortunately, we will have to stop a little sooner than completion, as the money tap drips and sputters, but we are just about where we want to be. Things work, generally.

Due to a major leakage in the washing room a few weeks back, (that was a little set-back in living comfort), we have been carrying boxes piled high in the storage; boxes you might put away for years without touching, to the living room, to make room for the drying, carrying them back in, to host a birthday lunch, and carrying them all back out again, for the laying of the new floor. Each session motivated us a little more to look into the boxes we were carrying to and fro. Eighteen boxes of books, kept in storage for seven years,  were put out on the street for pick-up, amongst others.
It feels so wrong to do that, but, really, nobody wanted them. It also feels so good to be lighter, although we  still cannot be called minimalists.

This Monday there are only five men; two electricians, two painting men and Franklin, our cleaning man who sings while he works, trying to clean the house with the power turned off. He has not been singing for a while, due to all the commotion. This is the last spasm of activity, before it will fall silent, just in time for Christmas.
Is there an equivalent of the Stockholm syndrome for renovation situations? I may just suffer from it. What will I do when nobody turns up to drink my coffee and ask me for the sugar? I won’t have to move from room to room to make place for the next job or make decisions about heights of planks (“am I sure?”) in relation to ceilings, taps and cupboards, or whether I want the square or rounded doorsteps. I will not have to keep the dog out of the paint pots or from chewing the cord of the sanding machine. The beloved animal might just find peace and stop peeing on the carpet. I will not have to keep smiling in my own house.
Days of silence,  solitude and concentration, I can’t wait for them, but there is some dread, too. From the moment they leave, the household will officially be open for everyday living and therefore need to run smoothly and efficiently, as we had intended before we started.
Yes, my wildest fantasies involve efficiency.
Has everything got its own permanent, dedicated spot yet? To which it can easily return? That, we (-my husband and I -) believe, is the secret to sustained success in tidy living, to which we aspire. For now, it is merely pillow talk, yet to be tested.
(And what other aspirations did I have with my life again?  I can’t recall just now. )

Luckily, the festive season has snuck upon us. The windows glow and flicker, as I pull the reluctant dog through whipping winds or mucky snow. Sinterklaas came and left for Spain again. It is the year the last believer in the family was robbed of her illusions; she now demands to know all our other secrets, but we are not telling.

The Christmas tree is up. So, there is something to fill the looming crater, until January at least.
Due to necessary cost cutting, the Christmas gifts could very well be handmade this year, probably from recycled building materials, but I am sure you won’t mind. I know you want “the two-screws-on-a-found-wooden-background brooch” or what about a “linoleum-cut-out-hanging ornament”? All will be revealed on Christmas day.

Another good thing about the removal of boxes, is that I now have a sleeping place for you all. If all goes to plan, but that is still a dangerous contention, S3’s room will have doors by the time you all get here.
And now, for something completely different:

In my ongoing series on potatoes in and around the house: a photograph of a potato found at the bottom of my vegetable bin.
And sisters, we have one loyal reader who has been complaining about our updating frequency. Two months  since the last post?! Well. 

So S2, and S3, what’s going on in Antwerp and Prague?

Love, S1

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

And now for a little fashion show....

Dear sistars,

The other day , probably when S1 was at her Kim Wilde concert , I was at Prague's Design Week Fashion Show closing ceremony. Where were you S2 ?
It all started with little men in white doing some fancy screen sword fighting, which i enjoyed.
This is them warming up as the crowds came rolling in with their gowns and chique armour, sipping glasses of champagne :

These are the little white men in action :

Then it moved on to the winning designers clothes trotting down the cat walk. I liked the gradation from dark to light.


And now , wait for it ! The suprise element ....

Wait for it .....


Ok , that's enough of silliness, now onto the real stuff :

Here in the next image  you can witness original czech vintage cotton padded coats , in czech they are called watta ,
which means cotton padded, padded nicely with a crunchy sound effect of waxed water proof style !
 And warm ! How warm !

Keep warm and stylish dear sisters ! 
Keep it real ! 
Peace and Love , S3 

Beautiful Bonkers clouds somewhere in Czech Land

Greetings from S3

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A review of the audience at a Kim Wilde concert

 Dear sisters

A week ago I went to Kim - eighties pop princess- Wilde’s concert. She is doing a greatest hits tour of Europe. She might come to your town too.
I suppose I thought it would be a fun ironic event to do with my girlfriends. As I walked into the hall I saw a middle-aged lady on stage, who had put on a few pounds. She wore black tight jeans, red lipstick and let her peroxide hair blow softly in the wind blower, just like in this video.
I wondered why we had come. Buying tickets is one thing. Actually having to sit through an evening of irony is another.
But I am glad to say Kim proved me wrong. Thank goodness for British self-depreciative humor. I left with warmer feelings for Ms Wilde than I came in with. Her voice has stood the test of time and nostalgia was conjured within our innards as we sang along to ‘Cambodia’, ‘Don’t leave me hanging on’ and the grand finale; with no hands left by the sides, “Kids of America.” Who oh!
Besides the audience was an eclectic mix, worth viewing.
I will give you a brief summary.
Sitting in the corner on the right two scrawny school kids hunched up, with ear plugs in their ears and heads stuck between their pulled up knees, waiting for it to end, for god’s sake. We imagined their mother going crazy on the dance floor, although we did not identify her.
On the balcony; an extended family, with a tomboy kid standing and singing along to each Kim Wilde song. She knew all the words. We imagined her parents introducing her to Wilde at an early age; a whole family of Kim Wilde fans. It struck us as funny. You may not think so.
There was a friendly looking couple on the balcony of at least seventy, wearing plaid shirts, reading glasses and trouser braces; hair: gray, long and fuzzy, as if they had walked out of a hill-billy country western movie.
They carried binoculars, which they passed to each other in turn. The strange thing was, they kept making notes in a little notebook each time they finished looking through the looking glass. What were they writing? What did they see? When they were not writing, they jigged along to the music.
The front standing rows were dominated by balding heterosexual men passing flowers to the stage. One balding gentleman however sat on the balcony, his beer belly resting softly under his pinstriped shirt. He leaned over the balustrade and did not move, looking angry throughout the show. What had Kim done to him?
Did they have posters of the young Kim on their walls when they were younger themselves, and did they dream of close encounters? Did they still see that girl in the woman on stage, with the blowing peroxide hair?
Maybe Kim Wilde’s niece, the backing singer, who whipped her hips from left to right, showing off her midriff under her leather jacket, helped them to remember. Her youth was obviously a reference to the younger Kim Wilde, projected in images on the overhead screens.
The rest of the audience was made up of the young fit and gay and work colleagues drinking too many beers for a Wednesday night, dancing unsteadily and shouting: “this is so funny, isn’t it?”
The evening made me happy and sad all in one. And that was a good thing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Toilet training

Dear sisters,
I spend a lot of time upside down looking at my dog’s bottom. I realize it may look ridiculous, seeing me like that on the strip of muddy grass stuck against our building, but it is important for me to know what comes out, before I can go back in.
As a dog-owner I have learned to be observant. When the dog comes out like a wind-up toy, whizzing from side to side, nose to the ground, success will not be far. On the other hand, I have found, if the dog nestles himself in the middle of the road in a leisurely fashion and starts chewing a stick, it might not happen just yet.
After a successful session, with the nr. 2 included (always a high-pitched, praiseworthy moment), I do not hesitate to pick up the result with my hand dipped in a little plastic bag; it is a swift motion, down, up and around and voila!, it is gone, as if it was never there; inspection of substance as it goes into the bag. Is it green and slimy? Maybe his new diet of raw cow gut with tender heart pieces has not settled well into the bowels yet. We will have to keep watch. 
After three weeks, we have had exactly two days of no accidents in the house. But then, I no longer have qualms about the inside clean-up either; basic household vinegar and speed are of the essence.
I need a little more training as dog-owner, so we go to puppy school on Sunday. The puppy trainer is a remarkable woman with thunder thighs, wellies and a thick chin. She speaks loudly, with affectation. She is quite famous in this part of town. She does not want to be on Facebook, and taking pictures of her is an indecent act in her opinion. She sometimes chases passersby who dare to raise their i-phone in her direction.
A dog is toilet trained if it does everything where it should for three weeks running, the trainer says, so we have a few more weeks to go. At least it is all more structured now. S3, you should have no problems, when you come to dog-sit at the end of the month. 
Here is a comic about the paradox of the dog which was sent us and made us laugh, as we have found it to be accurate.
Love to you all,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Czech Indian summer and waiting for a paddling boat.

dear scattered sisters ,

Let me start this post with a song ,

A song from my heart , LOVE

The czech Indian summer is slowly coming to an end. My summer shoes and sandals are lined up to be packed into their little winter cupboard and the many knitted shawls and scarfs have come out to play their favourite seasonal game of lets wrap Jessie up.

 This is a photograph of my friend and I waiting for a paddle boat on the last day of summer.
Other than paddling I have been doing puppet shows all around the country , in a castle , in the mountains and on the square where I live in Prague. Here are some photographs of my puppet show in a bread bin, that I performed yesterday.

 This is a bundle of flowers in the mountains , imitating the colours of the czech Indian summer.

This is a summer sky in the mountains. 

The apple orchard. 

 A little mountain hut.

Enjoying the last days of warm evenings where one can sit outside with friends eating red lentil suprise !

 Will post soon !
Lots of Love ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Negative energy and a rabbit in sheep's clothing.

Dear sisters, 
Negative energy was stirred by a neighbor brushing past. After I cheerily said hello – I had my  head buried in our letterbox,  I heard a whiny  – “Oh you live here? Well introducing oneself is obviously a thing of the past”.  
This is the neighbor that repeatedly screamed at Allard through the phone a while back, applying her own special social skills,  complaining about the dusty footprints on the communal stairs.
Even though I should know better, especially after spending time communicating with the landlord of our  rental house or more precisely his wife; she wrinkles her mouth in disapproval when you speak with her  - I am always surprised by people that choose to go through life like this.
A week ago, I had the official walk-through of the rental house – several unpleasant  e-mails had already been fired at me, as I tried to get clarification as to what needed to be done to get our deposit back, which they refused to give.  Instead, they brought a bailiff for ‘documentation purposes’. I had brought our project manager, for moral support more than anything – and we basically stood to one side discussing our weekend, as they did not talk to us, but instead, in silence, took pictures of everything, and I mean every little corner of the house, click, click, click, as if we had criminal intent and they were going to prove it.
At one point there were four people standing in an empty echoing room, three tapping their feet in silence, as the wife took her time to write the long list of complaints.  It would have been funny, if it wasn’t so draining.  We are still waiting to hear what they plan to do with our deposit of two months rent, but a complete renovation seems likely.
On the new-house front, we are happy in it, unfinished as it is. Having space to move is relaxing, after all. The first batch of empty moving boxes have been picked up, giving us more space. Now I wait for shelves to continue with the other hundred, still full but tucked away for now. I am itching to get into the seven-year-old boxes, mainly because I am convinced much can be jetted, as we say.
After a week of sending messages to my builder, asking him kindly to return (his reply each day was that we was very tired), he returned with his men; six of them in one go at first, the radio blasting along to keep them motivated as they sawed and hammered, and me sitting in a corner of my own house, running to  neighborhood cafe to use the toilet. The six soon fell down to none without warning, but, now they have returned once more, as they please. And we are just happy with each advancement. "Oh, you placed the towel radiator in the bathroom today?" Eternally grateful. As financial bonuses, pleadings, moving dates, puppy deadlines and female charm have had no effect, we just keep smiling.
With the kids back at school, I sit behind my screen once more. It looks as though normal life could be imminent. Once the sawing stops, maybe.  
But, oh wait,  a new puppy!
I have been smelling of dog for three days now.  He is here; one of  the non-smelling (don't believe it) and hypo-allergenic kind (no, not the same as Obama).
Labradoodle Bali, eight weeks old, joined us three days ago and I am in the happy transition between “how am I ever going to get this puppy toilet-trained” to “how the $#**! am I ever going to get this puppy toilet-trained”. We have our moments together, when he lies under the table, resting his head on my feet, as he does now,  happy to be close to me, but then there is the never-ending, not yet functioning rest of it. The children are estatic and I haven’t experienced this much spontaneous hugging in ages, so Bali is a winner. As with most things in my life, I will just muddle along, until it sort of works. The sleepless nights bring back memories of  days, moving from one head-nod to another.  

What a joyful bundle of farting fur, Bali is. From now on, we blame everything on the dog. Although I am not sure we weren’t in fact sold a wild-eyed rabbit in sheep’s clothing, as the above picture proves.
Undoubtedly you will hear more of Bali. I can't guarantee you won't.
With love, S1

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doors and wires and a bit of summer too

Dear sisters,

I sit in our new apartment filled with buckets of paint, tools and bags of rubbish to be picked up tomorrow. Light comes from spare bulbs dangling from freshly carved holes in the ceiling. Somehow we have to move in here this week. We have managed to postpone the move by one more day, because a bathroom, doors to rooms and running water are useful for general living, yet still lacking. The doors in question stand in formations in my study, freshly sprayed, like an art installation.
I am waiting for the Ikea-assembly-men to finish erecting our Stolmen walk in closet, which they didn’t manage to complete yesterday, because it is hard and I am glad I don’t have to do it myself. Still, something is not right in this set-up; me sitting here until late at night- it is presently nearly midnight - waiting in an empty house, sitting at our incomplete kitchen island, because the assembly men walked off for a few hours on undisclosed business yesterday, but we have long passed rational decision-making or complaints; as long as they finish tonight. I still believe in the miracle that everything will come together by 2100 hrs tomorrow. I will believe in it, until it really is too late and I stand in a bedroom still wet from the paint, no curtains hanging in front of the window, to lay my weary head. I don’t mind; the worst will have passed. A few paint fumes and a little peaking by the neighbors will not deter me. 

Anyway, I am listening to This American Life through my i-phone, so really it is quite peaceful, but a sofa would have been nice.
And now a picture medley of the week in Normandy, called "Why are you so happy. S3?"

Love S 1