donderdag 19 september 2013

Am I too politically correct??

Ok, I have a very political background - studied politics, did local politics, loved every minute of it.

But that environment can remove a person from the real world - or can it? I am comfortable when I don't feel I have offended anyone, I so try and be 'politically correct', some people might call it.

In my political world, people in Nottingham were "local people", some were from "low income brackets/families"(poor?) or middle income brackets, middle income family - some were even high income earners (RICH!)

People in Nottingham were from  different "ethnic groups", we had communtities of "ethnic minorities". Some people had an Afro- Carribbean background, people were Black. Some people were White, some had a Pakistani background.

Some people in Nottingham has a disability. A hearing imparement, or has a visual imparement.

Happily in Nottingham's mix was also a Lesbian, Gay and Bi Sexual community. You were a member of the Gay community.

So, in all walks of life there were what we thought were non offensive words to describe people that has a different background or had different physical or mental capabilities.

Imagine my shock horror on moving to what I thought was an open and liberal society, the Netherlands. Behind all this of course is a deep puritanical streak.Some of this language may offend people, and I do not mean to. I am just showing you how some cultures you  may assume are way ahead in rights, are aactually way behind in terms of language.

One of my first horrors was that in this country there are still people -even in phrases- are still using the word for people of the Black community  - Nig**r. THAT word is associated with the awful past and slavery and denegration or absence of himan rights for the Black community. It is nt a word that should be allowed in common language. My Dutch teacher even used a phrase "sat in a row like 9 little Nig**rs". When I asked her if that was really allowed, she said "yes, it is only a phrase and is not Rascist"!! I have also recently heard it even with some councillors here. You should know better.

Also - here, in Ulvenhout where I live there is a bike ride here for Charity - it is called the Spaci - Bike Ride, raising money for the Spastics Society. I am sure we in the UK stopped using that word years ago..rightly so.

Here if you have a disability (there are mostly"cared for" in Special Centres, so to be fair you don't see many disabled people around - especially not in a wheelchair). You are still described as 'handicapped'- also a word that in Britain was removed a very long time ago.

One of the other words which make my toes curl here and the LBG community seem not to be bothered by the word is 'Homo'. You are not Gay here, you are a Homo. The Homo community. It just sounds like something out of the 1950s...and should be long gone.

The other words of ways to describe here which I find offensive is the colour of people's skin - people here can be described as 'having a tint', they can be a 'light brown colour' or be "dark-skinned". 

You are also, if you are not white, often described literally here as 'non-native" = allochtone. The dictionary description is "non-native"meaning not born here. So I and my children should be allochtone, but that's not what it is about, because if I use that word to describe myself in political situations or within school, I am looked at in a weird way. I am not allochtone (non native/not born here) - I am White.

A person can have Surinaam or Turkish great grandparents, and each generation after that could be born here and thus Native - but because of the colour of their skin, they are much more likely to be described as 'allochtone'- not born here/non native.

Why does there have to be a technical description of people with different backgrounds that has got annything to do with being born in the Netherlands or not?

So, I got all that off my politically correct chest. Don't even get me started on the Big White Bishop getting his little "Blacked up" helpers (slaves) to do all the work....that time will come in the next few weeks....

vrijdag 13 september 2013

Monkeying around, do it or not do it?

Soft Play in Breda

I have small children. Although my preference is for being outside, it isn't always good enough weather to play outside, although puddles can be fun. So to get active play without being outside, soft play can be a nice convenient alternative.

There are around 3 soft play areas in Breda - and although some soft play areas can be souless, if they are kept clean and modern, they can be safe, fun places for young children to play and be active in. Being active is always a good thing for most children. 

My hierarchy of sofy play centres goes like this:

 For parents: I find the Vossenburg in Gilse the most comfortable for parents and the menu is quite good. There are also lots of newspapers for those having children that don't tend to bother mum/dad/oma/opa too much whilst playing. 

For kids: the Vossenburg is good on two levels, because it does have an outside area too for those days when it is dry, but maybe not that warm. It is good to have the option of fresh area if the day becomes brighter. This location is also good because on the bottom floor there is the soft play, baby play area (smallish) and the cafe but on the top level there is space for older children to play with large Lego blocks, crafts and a woorwork and paint area. These areas are sort of supervised but not that much. However this is excellent if you have children of different ages but need a place that will keep all of them entertained. The below can cater for 0-7 and the above floor for 5/6 to 10/11. 

There is of course the outside area with trampolines, sandpit and lots of other outdoor equipment. You can't always see the kids when they are at the top of the equipment though, and small ones can wander out of baby area if you are not watching.

Monkey Town  -good parking, in the centre of town so therefore accessable for everyone. You can get a bulk visitors card for 50 euros which allows for 11 trips. The place is very new so you can see all around from the central sitting area. The cafe is fairly good, but can't always count on fruit being there as we found out today. Nice coffee and tea. 

The baby area is quite large for a soft play, which makes it nicer for those with very small children. There is also plenty of room for the adult to sit in this space too. There are climbing things and slides within the soft play and also indoor trampolines. There is not an outside play area. 

There is lots for the kids (0 to 7/8) to do and they seem happy here for hours...

Joepie, Breda North

This is the oldest soft play in the city, and used be the place to go. It now however feels quite old compared to the other two now. 

It is better located for those living north of the city, there is not a lot of parking and can sometimes get full early on in the afternoon. Go in the morning! They have kiddy discos here on some Friday evenings, which is quite a nice idea if you don't mind the kids being up later occassionally. And of course unlike any UK soft play area, you can get a wine and a beer here as it obviously doen't matter too much if you are drunk in charge of your child/ren.

You cannot have a good view of the two different play areas whilst sitting. There is a huge bouncy bubble for the kids, and they love it. There is also a kick about area quite high up which is also impossible to see from your seat so you have to join child/ren up there. 

The cafe is ok, no healthy options - chips, panckakes. Nothing for veggies. The adult area is not that comfy, static tables and plastic chairs. 

This company also owns the Vrouwenhof in Tilburg 

woensdag 11 september 2013

A time full of berries..!

Over the last week we were lukcy enough to be given a delicous large bucket full of Oma's balckberries, which were enormous and almost sweet (for blackberries!). I set to work making an apple and blackberry crumble.

Luckily mum had brought over a large tin of custard last time and crumble and warm Englsih custard is so heart warming, especially at the end of summer when evenings start to get a bit chilly. I can't say if it would have been the same without the custard, and Dutch vla is not the same thing.

I was also lucky enough on Sunday to meet a friend and her daughter with my smallest daughters in Ramdonksveer, Brabant. She had found a moutain of bambles, full with small but sweet balckberries. It looked like we were the only people picking these berries! I have now a new enormous bucket of them and wondering what else to do with them.

My kids and I often go into the forest behind us at this time of year to pick the local berries, and also we seem to to be amongst the very few picking! Why do the Dutch seem not to pick wild berries?? It is free food, and that is always good. Especially as berries can help us make so many delcious cakes, puddings and jams!

So, I am in a dilemma: another crumble, or make a jam or freeeze them for later in the winter?

SPRANKENHOF: I also felt I had to show you this wonderful spot, although of course it is not free but they grow all srts of seasonal berries which as also organically grown. This includes in the summer, blueberries. There is a smal cafe and also a trampoline and swining tyre fr the kids. It is a very lovely place to spend a few hours pikcing berries and teaching the kids that food does not come in packets. It is also in a very beautiful setting, just a few minutes from the Loonse Duinen. An enormous natural sand forest, with cycle paths and also horse riding routes that seem to go on for you can spend the morning picking fruit, wander on down to the sand forest and have a picnic or go tot he neighbouring restaurant for a nice snack and a beer.

maandag 9 september 2013

99% not..??

How is it when something positive happens to you and you should be happy, you are not. There is still a a worry or concern.

When are good odds not good odds?

If someone gave you you 99% chance of something having a positive outcome, one would normally be very happy with that sort of outcome. You would put money on that bet.

But what if someone says that in their experience, anything higher than a 0.5% chance of failure, is a high risk bet, and that in your case there is a 1% risk of failure, of a negative outcome. I would normally say, don't be reidiculous. A 1% chance of a negative result is a good result, surely?

I guess when you want something to happen, you are happy with 99% but when you don't want something to awful to happen, even a 1% chance is a risk. After all, you could be that 1%. 

I guess for now that I have to be happy with 99% chance of the negative outcome not happening. 

It is hard not to go into detail about this. But maybe I can later on.


donderdag 5 september 2013

Aardbei Terras, Rijsbergen

Het Aardbeienterras, Rijsbergen

Well, are you looking for a nice relaxed outing for you and the small kids? If you have children from 0 to 7, I would fully recommend this for a few hours.

It is a pick yourself strawberry farm, which uses a small child friendly scissors to cut off the strawberries. You are shown where to clip the strawbs from and you get on with filling your box full. For 1 euro extra you can get a Strawberry Picking Diploma for the kids in their name, which is a nice thing to do. A full box without diploma costs 2,50 and strawbs are usually available from mid May onwards  - ring ahead or check their website if you really want to pick strwberries.

What is extra special about this place is the space to play. They don't have posh latte coffee, just normal filter coffee and tea, but they have cold drinks and ice lollies too. But they have an enormous outdoor play area for the little ones and even if it is chilly they have a poly-tunnel to play in which swings and slides and sand. You can sit happily enjoying your strawberried and tea whilst the kids can easlity play for an good hour running around or going on the low trampoline or other toys.

If you have older kids 7 and above - they can come and enjoy the strawberry picking but the play stuff is really for those children 7 and under, I would say.

So all in all, it a lovely place for a few hours out.

Only one thing is that there is no shade at all, so if it is really sunny and who have tiny babies, you will need to think about having an umbrella or some sort of other shade with you.

woensdag 4 september 2013

Abruzzo - what to see and do?

Abruzzo  - Pescara Region.

We are a family of mummy, papa and three young children aged 7,5 and 3. We also have a old dog Ramsay with us aged nearly 14. He always goes on holiday with us.

We decided  to drive to Abruzzo for our yearly family holiday. I had done a lot of research and this region of Italy had everything we needed: mountains, nature and also sea. 

We took just under three days to drive to Pescara. We drove through Germany and Switzerland. We got a Swiss toll pass before we left from the ANWB and it meant we could just drive through the toll tunnel without a problem. We slept in Germany, France and Bolgna on the way. 

With hindsight, driving was a waste of money (petrol) and also time, but it was part of the holiday to see all the changes in landscape and house styles. Don't stop in Switzerland if you can help it - we stopped for lunch and icecream and used euros as we didn't have any Swiss francs. What an expensive stop that was! 

You can easliy cheaply fly to Pescara, a beautiful city by the sea from most Dutch, Germand and UK airports. We had Ramsay with us, so we had to drive this time. 

We arrived at the unassumiing agriturismo,(earlier blog) but once through the gates we saw what a lovely idyliic place this was going to be. Lots of land, pools, animals and mountains in the distance. 

Go and see the Majella Mountains - drive slowly through the plateau, you might be lucky to see herders with their huge tan cows and big bells. They also have huge white herder dogs with them. We stopped at what looked like someones house but they were serving delicous, cheap food. 

Buy some local organic olive oil, the growers are all over the place but you usually have to be brave and ring the doorbell. 

Enjoy the fac that are hardly any other European tourists - this place is a real hidden gem!

dinsdag 3 september 2013

Skane, Sweden - a lovely weekend away!

 The last time we went away as a couple was 6th December to Dusseldorf. We went this time to Skane, Sweden. I have travelled many, many times to Sweden and even lived there in my eraly twenties for a few years. I love the country and the language. So I was defintely up for another trip, even just for a short weekend. 

We flew to Copenhagen and picked a hire car up and stayed our first nght in Malmo
at the Mayfair Hotel Tunneln, which was a beautiful hotel, the room was quite small but fine. Breakfast was for Swedish food lovers, brilliant. Filmjolk, knackerbrod, cheese..mmm yoummy! Fresh juice, newspapers..

However the main reason to come was to drive through Skane on the way to Ystad and the coast. We were booked in a sea side hotel: 
This hotel was fabulous, and breakfast in the garden in the morning was just heaven.

  This hotel is in a wonderful setting. You can take a lovely slow drive from Copenhagen airport/Malmo through the rolling countryside and forests. Skane is NOT flat as i had thought. The coastal roads are also beautiful. We stopped by a Loppis, a sort of second hand stall along the way. 

Stopped for FIKA (tea/coffee and cake) and then got to the hotel. I had made a mistake - I had booked a small twIn room, but the staff quickly found alarger room with a double bed and did not charge us extra. The room was large, very well decorated and clean. We ate at the hotel that night. The chef is british, the food was lovely, even for a veggie like myself. The waiting staff were very friendly and helpful. 

We could see the sea from our room Ostra. Breakfast was delicious, warm and cold choice. It was a bit early for a sunday, have to get there well before 10. No lie in! But that is because they have a brunch service starting at 11. All in all, very good quality hotel, not sure I would have paid the 2450 SEK for our room, it is a little overpriced I feel. 
However they are installing an indoor pool and they also already have a sauna and jacuzzi and will have a spa centre from next year. So it will be even better. I can fully recommend and it is so close to Malmo - and Copenhagen for that matter. Explore a little if you need to stay in either city!

maandag 2 september 2013

July 2013 Trip to Abruzzo

Agriturismo Madonna degli Angeli 

Contrada Madonna degli Angeli, 15, 65028 Tocco da Casauria, Italy

00 39 339 148 9999

We had a wonderful week at this farm. The owners are very friendly and know everything about the area. We were a family of mummy and papa and three children 7, 5 and 3 plus our old dog. 

There are two pools, one for little ones to sit and splash in and another to swim in. We had fun in both. The surroundings are breathtaking, really. 

Abruzzo is hardly visited by tourists, yet it has fantatsic vistas, awe inspriring mountains and clean beaches. Also beautiful towns and cities. It is 2 hours east from Rome. 

It is so cheap to eat out, for lunch and dinner!! We were driving in the Majella Mountains and found by accident a house that was also a restaurant. We asked from some pasta without meat and they cooked us a lovely pasta pomodori.

There are wonderul olive groves all around too, many from whom you can buy some fresh olive oil. And nature is all around. After some time exploring, this farm is a dream to come back to. We stayed at The Dolmen apartment, which was clean and spacious. There is a lot of land so you don't feel like your sharing too much. The turkeys and chickens run free for a good part of the day. The sheep and their lambs do too. There is also a donkey. 

We love their Lola, a retriever who is super friendly. And the kids loved their black cat. We loved this place and can highly recommend it and the location. it feels also very safe as you can only enter through a electric gate with key. So the kids can run around safely. It is a long drive from the Netherlands where we live, but we did it over three days there and three days back. We would fly if we dodn't have the dog. 

There are cheap flights to wonderful Pescara and the airport is only just over 40 minutes from the farm. I would recommend for families with young and older children, who like exploring and relaxing.

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