Flying again!

It’s almost exactly a year (a year and a week, to be precise) since I last posted anything here, and that too was about a flying experience. In one of life’s little coincidences, my Dad happens to know someone who lives in this part of the world and is also a flying instructor. We’ve been trying to fix up an opportunity to go out for a flight for a couple of months now and finally, after a few days of relentless drizzle, the skies cleared last night to give us the perfect day for it.


This is a very rough approximation of the route we took (I should have used the running app on my phone to record the actual route as I did the last time) – heading towards Longforgan and then North up towards the Grampians before heading to the coast and back to Dundee. We flew through a number of the glens, and I had the opportunity to take the controls on a couple of occasions. Unlike driving where the road holds you up, it takes some practice to keep a plane level, especially when the air currents intervene!


Looking down the runway as we take off


Loch Brandy (Glen Clova)

Lunan Bay – Angus Coast (with Montrose in the top left)



River Tay – Fife Coast on the left and Dundee on the right. The closer bridge is the Tay Road Bridge and the one further away is the Tay Rail Bridge.

Broughty Castle, Broughty Ferry

Fife and the Tay Bridges

Dundee and Balgay Hill

Coming in to land at Dundee Airport

Piper Warrier


About 6 months ago a colleague forwarded an email from the Environmental Society at work, looking for people who were interested in purchasing a wormery.  I’ve had my eye on one for ages, so I leapt at the chance, looking forward to converting my kitchen waste into high powered vermicompost for the allotment.  The ordering process took a long time, but finally, just as the weather’s getting colder and the allotment’s about to slow down for the winter, I find myself in possession of both wormery and worms, much to the amusement (and shuddering) of my colleagues.

It’s not, to be honest, the greatest moment to be trying to get a wormery up and running.  After all, the worms don’t really like the cold and the nighttime termperatures are dropping fast.  With that in mind, I set it up in the shed, where it’s a little more protected, and I’m planning to add some additional insulation to try and keep the worms going.

I set up the wormery on top of the freezer, added some coir to the try and then came the moment of truth.  I opened up the bag, and peered inside.  Well, all I could see was dark soil.  So I picked up the bag, and turned it upside down.  Out fell a bundle of soil mixed with shredded papers and plenty of wriggly worms, who wasted no times in exploring their new habitat.  For all those who have been curious about the size of the worms…. well, they’re pretty standard worm size, which is to say 3-4 inches long.

Now to see if I can keep them alive though the winter.  I’m guessing that the post room at the office wasn’t overjoyed at receiving a couple kilos of worms!

Biologisch Goed

The subject of what we eat, and where our food comes from has been on my mind a lot recently.  I try to eat a healthy diet, and I greatly prefer not to buy prepackaged or preprocessed food, but the reality is, I hate shopping, I’m not very organized, and especially on Fridays and Saturdays when I have little time, I tend to go to the train station supermarket and grab the easiest thing going.  Even if my choice is healthy, it usually comes wrapped in superfluous packaging, all of which makes me wince when I tear it open and dispose of it.

I’m still hoping, of course, to start eating home grown vegetables again soon, but at the moment the weather and the slugs aren’t giving me much hope.  The potatoes are doing ok, though not as far along as the plot next to me (ahem, and some of them I bought and planted on a whim, far too late!), the peas are slowly taking off, but are miles behind my neighbours, and my great plans of overwintering vegetables didn’t get me too far.  The plot is slowly coming into order, but I have a lot to learn before I manage to have something available more or less year round.

In the meantime, then, I need to fill all my requirements at the shops.  I’d prefer to do that by frequenting small, local stores, but with working full time and singing every other Saturday, I rarely manage it.  It’s nice to go to the Farmers Market in Amsterdam, but I rarely manage to find the time before rehearsal for evensong.

I was delighted, therefore, to discover an online store last week –  It’s a co-operative of 4 farmers, all in the province of Zuid Holland, where I live.  Their aim is to supply, so far as possible, locally grown organic food within our province.   Their range isn’t limited to locally grown, however, they also sell produce from the rest of the country, imported items such as avocados, and non-perishable staples.  With every listing on the site, information is provided telling you where the produce has come from, and in some cases, suggestions on how to use it.

Whilst a part of me thinks it would be great if they only sold local produce, I think they’ve done a good job of putting together an offering which reduces food travel, and supports local businesses, whilst accepting that people are always going to buy additional items, and therefore giving them an opportunity to buy everything under one roof.  The one proviso, however, is that they only deliver in Zuid Holland.

Full of enthusiasm, I placed my first order last week.  Some local cherries and strawberries (for someone that’s never been fond of fruit, I have a strange craving for it the last few days), goats milk and goats butter from a farm in Noord Holland, sheep’s yoghurt from Overijssel, plenty of veggies including a huge bag of beetroots, half of which I’ve spent the afternoon converting into borscht, and some cat food, which the boys are studiously turning their noses up at.  I guess we can’t expect everything to be a success!

homemade cherry crumble, made with goat’s butter and served with sheep yoghurt.

Probably one of the best features, and the one that makes the system most usable for me, is that the groceries are delivered to your door, and if you’re not able to be at home to receive them, they will happily stash them away somewhere for you.  I left instructions on how to get to my back garden, and without any fuss, my two crates of goodies were taken around the back, and put in the shelter of my shed, an added detail taken on the initiative of the driver, with which I was most pleased.  The crate containing all the dairy was insulated, so I didn’t even need to worry too much about it sitting outside for a few hours, although not knowing what to expect on this first occasion, I also arranged with them that they’d give me a call when the groceries were delivered, so I could nip home from work over lunch and take everything inside.

Additionally, they provide an option to deliver to a shared location (a service which any individual can provide) and which incurs a lower delivery rate.  They work on a simple system of delivering once a week, on a Thursday (perfect for me, since I tend to have an empty fridge going into the weekend, just when I need it the most), and all orders placed up to lunchtime Monday go out in that order, giving them two days to go to the individual farms and collect everything to put the orders together.

All in all, I’m very impressed by the service and will definitely use it again.  It’s more expensive, of course, than the main supermarkets, but in my view, also a far better direction to spend my money.  Plus, having groceries delivered to my door with no hassle of having to be at home to receive them is probably the best way I’ll find to ensure that my fridge stays better stocked.  A better stocked fridge and some work on preplanning means less money spent on takeaways, train station foods or unsatisfying grabbed lunches on the days that I do sport or go to the allotment during lunch, which these days are most days.


I heard about this event from a DailyMile friend – a skating tour organized by a group of local skating clubs, with options to skate a route of between 20km and 80km.  I was already super excited about getting to skate outside on natural ice for the first time ever last weekend, but I certainly never imagined I’d have the chance to take on a 20km (which turned out in reality to only be 16km) skating tour between three local villages.

Possibly the whole local population along with their aunts and uncles were also out there today, it was very busy, and there was a great atmosphere. Hard core skaters flying by as well as family groups, all taking to the ice.  I’ve walked quite a large part of this route a couple years ago when I was training for the Vierdaagse, but seeing it from the ice was a whole new experience.

The first section out of Schipluiden was headed into the sun, and I was very grateful for my new sunglasses which I picked up at the gas station in Schipluiden after a very uncomfortable cycle ride into the sun. The ice quality here was pretty good, and once my legs warmed up a little I managed to keep quite a nice rhythm.

Then, a right turn off towards Maasland, and I already had the feeling I was making progress… this stretch was lovely, with the wind at our backs it was very easy going. I took one tumble, on a patch of rough ice, but was back on my feet and moving again with little hesitation. Before I knew it I’d reached Maasland and the first check in point. I got my card stamped and then stopped to have a drink and a snack.  I was already feeling pretty thirsty, and I’d finished the water I brought with me.

Back up again the way we came to the main canal, and as I expected, this was really tough going – the wind of course was now in my face. It was bitterly cold, and my eyes were watering constantly, even with the protection of the sunglasses. I could also really feel the difference in my legs, not only was I tiring, but I was having to work harder against the wind. I was really struggling in this part, and very glad indeed when I finally got back to the main canal.

Then a right turn back onto the main canal, in the direction of Vlaardingen. We were more sheltered from the wind here, but unfortunately the paths marked out were very narrow and crowded. The ice quality on this stretch was also far inferior to the first part of the route, and dodging both people and cracks was challenging and tiring. There was also an ice party going on at one point, which was a challenge to move through.

This stretch was surprisingly short, definitely shorter than marked on the map, and presumably accounts for the missing 4km. I was surprised to reach Vlaardingen so soon, not to mention a little relieved. After getting my card stamped I sat and drank some more water, and had some potato chips. Considering my huge pasta lunch and the gingerbread cake I ate at the first stop, I was surprisingly hungry!  Of course, I had run 5K already this morning.

Then I pushed off, doubling back again, fighting my way through all the people who thought it was a good idea to skate on the wrong side of the path, back through the party people, and finally on to the clearer main stretch. It wasn’t that long before I saw the bridge come back into view and beyond it the windmill marking my starting point.

I was really tiring by this point, and my muscles were beginning to let me know what they thought of my bright idea! While part of me knew that I hadn’t covered the 20km I’d set out to do and thought that was a pity, the larger part of me was rather glad to reach the end. I’d had a fantastic time, but I was definitely flagging. If I’d had to do another 4km, I’m sure I’d have made it, but I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have landed on the ice a few times in the process, as my skating was getting far less smooth.

Got my official stamp, and the much coveted medal… ironically with 30km on the back since they’d run out of 20k ones!

As I fetched my bike I saw people skating out in the opposite direction, for the other part of the tour – you could do another 20km heading out towards Wateringen and De Lier. There was a small part of me that wanted to get back out there…. but believe me, it was a very small part!


Choral Evensong – Durham Cathedral – 30th August 2011

  • Preces and Responses – Ayleward
  • Psalm 147
  • Canticles – Noble in B minor
  • Anthem – Bring us O Lord, Harris

After the service it was already time for an emotional farewell, before heading off to the station to catch the train down to Manchester for a short visit with Mum and Dad.

Choral Evensong – Durham Cathedral – 29th August 2011

A few weeks ago I made the rather spontaneous decision to fly back over to the UK for a couple of days and join Bowdon Choir for their trip to Durham Cathedral. I got up before the crack of dawn (again!) and hopped on a plane to Durham Tees Valley, in a fit of silly planning that had me arriving before the rest of the choir had even left Manchester. Never mind, that gave me a nice opportunity to settle in and do a little shopping – there’s something to be said for buying jeans in England where they’re only 3 inches too long for me, instead of 6 or more.

The rest of the choir started arriving around lunchtime, and I spent the next couple hours catching up with everyone, before our rehearsal in the stalls at 4pm. After the week with the ECS, I couldn’t get used to the relaxed rehearsal schedule, but of course this choir is singing together every week, with two services every Sunday.

It’s not so long since we last sang at Durham, so the whole visit proved to be very nostalgic. There were a few new faces in the choir, but the bulk of the choir is still made up of people I’ve known for years. The choice of music could hardly have been better to fuel my nostalgia trip – all the music we sang, aside from the Ireland, is music that I associate with first joining the choir, 15 years ago.

  • Preces and Responses – Ayleward
  • Psalm – Flintoft
  • Canticles – Ireland in F
  • Anthem – Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Bairstow

Choral Evensong – 1st October 2011

After over 2 months break, it was finally time to go back to the Nicolaaskerk for our first evensong of the new season. A few changes have taken place over the summer – we have a new name (the Chorale of the Capella Nicolai), a new system for organizing all our music, and most importantly for me, I have a new role – as soprano, as a result of the re-auditions that took place before the summer.

I can’t deny that I’ve had my knickers in a grand old twist about this latter point. From the moment that the music list arrived in my Inbox a few weeks ago, I’ve been stressing about the high notes and the fact that I had to relearn 4 pieces of music, some of which I could practically sing blindfolded as an alto.

Needless to say, after all that worrying, it all went better than I expected.   Yes, I made some mistakes, and accidentally found myself on the alto line in the psalm, and no, I didn’t sing all the high notes as well as I’d have liked. But I was surprised in the middle of the pre-evensong rehearsal to realise that I was actually quite enjoying myself, and thinking ‘oh, wow, that was a fun G’, in some cases, rather than ‘oh, oh, oh, help, big scary G, can’t do it’.

Tons of room for improvement, a lot of music to relearn, and I still have some fear of those top notes [not to mention, how to practice them without driving the neighbours crazy], but I guess I’ve got over the worst of it now, and I’m looking forward to finally getting to sing all those Christmas descants.

  • Introit: View me Lord, Lloyd (lots of soft Fs, which turned out to be F#s – struggled a bit with those, though they were pretty good in the rehearsal, I struggled with them again during Evensong…)
  • Responses: Radcliffe (some nice loud high notes, much easier!  got very frustrated with these when I was studying them, but had no problem once I sang them in the context of the whole choir)
  • Office Hymn: O blest creator of the light
  • Psalm: 119 vv 17-32
  • Canticles: Sumsion in G (advantageous to be singing soprano, less time spent hanging around waiting to have something to do then as an alto!  Not only did I find a decent number of Gs in this, but also a super scary A… it defeated me on Friday at the rehearsal, but I found it on Saturday)
  • Anthem: Like as the Hart, Howells (pretty tedious as an alto, much more fun as a soprano, this one!)

Of course, I was also back doing my job as reader.  Nearly got myself off to a bad start by reading the wrong lesson(!), but fortunately realized before it was too late.

Choral Evensong – Bavokerk – 28th August 2011

If it’s the end of August, it must be time for the ECS to sing Evensong at the Bavokerk in Haarlem. Thanks to some delays along the way, and my own unusual style of timekeeping, I ended up arriving 30 minutes late to the rehearsal, after the choir had finished with the responses, and were busy with the Magnificat.

I was very excited to discover that the Bavo is currently hosting an exhibition about Anthony Fokker, including the very first little Fokker – quite a wondrous thing, though I’m not sure I’d choose to fly in it myself.

IMG 1299

IMG 1302

The programme for this evening was mostly new music from our trip to Ely, in all honesty, nothing that really set my heart on fire, although I rather like the Justorum Animae.

  • Introit – Justorum Animae, Gabriel Jackson
  • Preces and Responses – Walsh
  • Canticles – W. Lloyd Webber in E minor
  • Anthem – Lord who’s glory fills the skies, Darke
  • Anthem – Litany to the Holy Spirit, Hurford

Ely Cathedral – Choral Eucharist – 7th August 2011

No sooner has the week started then it seems you’ve already reached Sunday, in all its Cathedral craziness. As Cathedral Sundays go, this one was fairly relaxed with just two services, a Choral Eucharist and Choral Evensong. A bit of a shame really, as the cathedral trip is usually our once yearly opportunity to sing Mattins, a service of which I’m rather fond.

Cathedral Eucharists are usually a rather nerve wracking experience, as every cathedral celebrates the Eucharist with its own little quirky features. The common features are complex processing, singing in the Nave rather than the Quire, a greater amount of pomp and circumstance than your average parish church, and, if you’re unlucky, enough incense to smoke out a family of hornets. Take it from me, an incense-filled choir vestry is not the best way to begin an hour’s singing.

2011 08 05 026

The church has a wonderful range of language, both formal and informal, that you never encounter in normal life. Thus, at 10.30 this morning we lined up halfway down the Nave, face to face with the crucifers and taperers (as opposed to tapirs, which was my first interpretation of our instruction sheet). Informally, they are known as ‘the cross and lights’, and if that doesn’t clear things up for you, then let me explain that they were three acolytes (plainly put, blokes in white robes), the middle one holding up the cross, with one on either side holding a giant candlestick, who lead the procession into the cathedral. The clergy lined up behind us, the bell was rung – the prompt for the cross and candles to be lifted high into the air, and we started out procession towards the Octagon stalls. A nice straightforward procession, thankfully, because I was leading on my side.

2011 08 07 018

Although there were a couple musical glitches in the service, from a procedural point of view it went without a hitch – no unexpected musical interludes, and no mistimed organ fanfares. For a Cathedral Eucharist, everything went remarkably smoothly, and I even forgot to be nervous. We sang one of Tallis’ Salvator Mundis as the communion motet, a piece which I first learnt with Bowdon choir about 10 years ago. Typically, this time round I was singing second alto, and this is one of the few pieces I learnt at Bowdon where I always sang first. Kept me on my toes, anyway.

2011 08 07 019

Mass: Darke in F
Communion Motet: Salvator Mundi, Tallis

Ely Cathedral – Choral Evensong – 7th August 2011

After one final lunch on the Cathedral Green we robed up and filed into the stalls for our last practice, during which I spent most of my time hanging precariously on one foot on the edge of the stalls, trying not to fall off backwards. This was not helped by the fact I had to hold my choir folder slightly behind me, and every time I looked at my music my balance was compromised. A good reason to rely on my memory for as much of the music as possible, something that was reasonably easy to achieve, as all the music was very familiar, even the office hymn, which we sing regularly in Amsterdam. Of course, in Amsterdam we sing it without an extraneous Ab, and with an occasionally different text, but switching between choirs as often as I do, such surprises are beginning to be expected.

I had the feeling in the last 3 services that we were finally reaching the light floaty singing in the office hymns that Martin was requesting, but it may only have been a reflection of my new position at the end of the row which meant that I simply couldn’t hear the other singers.

Unlike many Cathedrals, Sunday Evensong appeared little different than that on any other day of the week, with no sermon, and no opening sentences. The lack of the latter made me a little sad, as I’m rather fond of erring and straying from my ways like a lost sheep, and following too much the devices and desires of my own heart. I will never cease to find pleasure in the texts of the 1662 liturgy.

In the blink of an eye, Evensong was over and we were processing out of the Choir and lining up for the dismissal for the final time. We didn’t fling off our robes straight away though – tradition dictates the necessity of a choir photo, accompanied by the requisite fumbling around with tripod and self timer in my case, and a string full of cameras around the neck in Brenda’s.

2011 08 07 002