Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alien on a bike

July 2010. The month where a weird virus took hold of me and changed me into something new. Nope, not someone, something! Combine swollen feet with restless legs, a wooden butt, an obstinate spine, sweaty clothes, red rimmed eyes, messy wet sticky hair and creased infected ears. What will you get? Right, an alien. But then add sparkles and a big grin. Suddenly the 'something' will change into a 'someone', a very happy person. And that person would be me.
Vman and me took a two-weeks flight away from daily life. A flight not by plane but by bike. The holiday started for real when we left on a Monday morning at 6.30 AM and I took my place on the back of our Harley, holding on tight. All we needed was stowed safely in two saddle bags and in a big bag behind me. Needless to say that luggage was limited. 
Our trip took us through Belgium into Germany, where we sailed over the magnificent Schwarzwald Hochstraße. During a short stop I called my dad (on his birthday!) and he laughed out loud when I shouted that it was soooo beautiful. My family used to travel here with our Citroën Dyane, top off, and we share so many fond memories about that time. The green trees, curved roads, blues skies with sailing white fluffy clouds.

The roads led us to Lugano and onwards to the Italian Rivièra. Temperatures went wild - up to 40 Celsius - and I was in serious danger of massive meltdown. As long as the bike is rolling, the wind will at least cool you down a bit, but it was hell in towns with traffic jams and stop lights. At that point nobody could stop me from tearing loose my jacket and getting rid of the ever present helmet. Whole rivers of water gushed down our throats to keep from dehydrating. Oh yes, plus ice tea, beer and wine. 
After Italy we slowly traveled to the north and made our way through France. We found our lodgings in hotels, agriturismo and chambres d'hôtes: idyllic, romantic, unforgettable experiences. The one room that had air conditioning was too cold by now and we turned it off. 
We spoke Dutch, English, German, French and even Italian in various stages of competence and almost always got what we wanted. Almost. Did you know that 'mixed grilled fish' contains no fish at all, but is mainly shell 'fish' with little eyes, legs, claws, pincers, tentacles and suckers? *shudders* But Vman came to the rescue and exchanged our plates. He's my hero! But no more kisses, 'cause those slimy molluscs tend to crawl back up towards the light...
So what makes people go on holiday by bike? Why not take the car, of catch a train? It's much more comfortable and relaxed, with room to spare for anything you like to take with you? 
Feel the freedom with me, the wind on your face, magical deserted roads with u-turns and steep slopes, while the beast beneath you effortlessly growls on in a staccato rhythm. Look through my eyes and see birds of prey soaring in blue skies. Pull over on the side of the road and turn off the engine. Listen to the silence and let the sun set everything aglow in a golden light. Enjoy the unwritten pact between bikers, your family on the road. Dream away while the miles roll on, and forget all your worries. Let inspiration fill your mind and make room for new fresh ideas. 
Aye, feel the power of your bike, arms wrapped around your love, let him take you away into the unknown...

Four rings to rule them all!

Juny 20th, 2010

Since last weekend, four rings bejewel my fingers. And each has a story to tell about my life.
… friendship ring to rule my heart …
It all started with my beloved white gold friendship ring. The relationship between Vman and me has been so very special, right from the beginning. To honor our half-year anniversary – yes, we grab every opportunity to celebrate – we decided to exchange silver rings. Not just mere silver bands, but special ones. Not the normal friendship kind of ring, but a ring with character. So we strolled around town, stepping into a jewelry shop to see what they had to sell, but we found nothing to our liking: we needed another shop. And another. And yet another. But no ring called out to us. We broadened our horizon and started visiting goldsmiths, even started drawing our own design. Until, one day, we came upon Zuni. The window looked very promising so in we went. The shop is owned by a lovely eccentric woman, who immediately grasped the ideas we had. After a short tour she showed me a ring… and I fell in love right there and then. White gold, tiny diamonds, an irregular shape and feel. Vman also found the male companion to this ring and stared at it. Alas the price for white gold was a 'tiny bit' over our budget. We thanked Zuni and walked out with the promise to think on it. In a daze I felt Vman’s hand close over mine. I looked up at him, smiled and walked on without saying anything… for at least 10 seconds. Then I told him I wanted to go back and put the ring back on my finger. I was lost and so was he. After a week we had discussed all reasons why we should not do it. And then we went ahead and did it anyway. Away with caution and doubt ‘because it has only been six months’, we raced back to Zuni and told her we wanted these rings and no other. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t fondly stared at my friendship ring and softly stroked it. I’m still smitten with it : white gold ring, token of our love.
… wedding band to rule my soul …
Next on my finger is a Harley wedding band, symbolizing freedom of my soul. ‘Freedom?’, you might ask. Aye, without a doubt this wedding ring symbolizes freedom. Last year, Vman and me were wed in a very special ceremony. Not by an official, no, but by the Director of our chapter. We had rented an old monastery in the south of Holland and guess what: there was a beautiful chapel, just begging to be used. Before our gathered friends, we said our vows – not the usual wedding vows, but more like ‘Hereby I solemnly swear that Vman will always be allowed to ride his bike.’, and stuff like that. It was heartwarming, funny, impressive, and yet also so very real. No pressure by officials, but the pure sentiment and feelings between the two of us, witnessed by people who are dear to us. When the time came to exchange the rings, our best man came up with a different set of rings: polished screw-nuts with our initials engraved plus the date: July 12th, 2009. Vman jumped up, exclaiming ‘Those are NOT our rings!’, and everybody roared with laughter at his surprised distress. After that, we exchanged our real rings and were biker hubby and wife. There were even tin cans dangling behind our bike. A husband to share so many things with, who stimulates me to do whatever I want and need to do, to take adventurous trips into the wide unknown, to seek new horizons: Harley ring, token of our bond in freedom.
… elven ring to rule my spirit …
Another special ring around my finger is an elven ring, a little female figure with silver wings of lace. By wearing this I’m connected to the fantasy world. Fantasy which opened so many new worlds when I was sad and frustrated in this one. Fantasy that inspired me to create, to write, to venture into stories of my own. Fantasy movies, Lord of the Rings, bringing together a group of very special people who met online but became best friends in real life. Fantasy that changed my life, gave back meaning and showed new ways of thinking and living. So many fantasy books fill my book shelves, they also fill my mind and carry me along whenever I want or need to. For 30 years this creative and original genre enlightens my days and even nights, often not able to stop following the author on his wild dreams. Tolkien’s magic introduced me to a way of writing that was totally enchanting, and by reading his words, he lifted my spirit. Since then I’ve read many fantasy books, some awesome, others nice but not truly special or new. Even my youngest son was gripped by the fever, especially since I read ‘The Hobbit’ to him when he was small. The minute I saw this silver ring when we were on a long weekend in Luxembourg, I was lost. This little elf would find a new home around my finger, so I could carry her with me where ever I go. Elven ring, embracing my spirit.
… Celtic ring to rule my dreams …
The last circle is brand new, a silver band with a bat and Celtic signs engraved. Yes I’m batwoman ;-) For me this ring symbolizes all things invisible, unknown, mystic; it represents nature and the need for balance, the part of this world that we can only feel with our intuition, hope and trust. Druids dancing under moonlight in a silent forest, rangers roaming the wilds, a holy man who spends years in meditation, contemplating the folly of mankind.
My nickname in role playing games (RPG) is Green Sorceress, also know as Greeny. A nickname give to me by my best friend Maeglin, because I love the outside, the woods, have a deep respect for nature and the balance of things. A balance that is disturbed on great scale daily. Environmental disasters pollute our earth and we are on a collision course, heading towards… I truly don’t know how we can turn this tide. But we are in grave danger and need to change our ways in a hurry. Treasure white witches, who have knowledge of plants, herbs and old lore. Honor our elders who have a profound knowledge of life and its ways, who know simple solutions to everyday problems. Solutions that don’t weigh down on the environment. But that is a subject for another post.
Back to the mysticism: look beyond the world you can see, and feel the other dimension that is out there. There’s more to our existence than what our eyes behold. Where do dreams go when we wake up. Where do the spirits of our forefathers rest when they leave us in death. Open your senses and dare to feel. Celtic ring, dreams of a world in harmony.

Lost on highway

April 24th, 2010
The miracle finally happened: I’m alone! Alone in my back yard at least. In my head there’s Intwine, in my neighbor’s backyard there is a group of workmen tearing up the roof to build a dormer. Every now and then the tree hovering over me sends a shower of dried little somethings down, landing in most peculiar places. Think I’ll have to find the latent tree kids later on in my dress.
These last weeks have been busy. Let’s see what is entertaining to share hmmm…
Ah right, the encounter with the policeman. Or was that more about getting lost on the highway? Anyway, here I was, getting up at 6.40 AM as usual. First thing to do is feed the cats. Yes, the same cats that have been mewing at my door in the middle of a nice sleep. Cats that get you to open the back door, only to close it again after the wannabe tigers slink back indoors again, afraid of the light. Repeat this three times. While drinking fresh orange juice, I then check my online game and mail, plus Twitter. Aye, I’m a Twittering tweet and I like it!
Of course time flies when you don’t have it, so off to the shower. There even more time flies, down the drain this time, but I really couldn’t care less. The shower is my hero, my savior, my life giver, returner of energy and creativity. Don’t even mentioning the way it brings my totally unruly bunch of silly sticking-to-all-sides thin hair back in line (read: downwards) in 2 seconds.
On to getting dressed. Pulling open the wardrobe door is easy. Trying to decide what to wear is a whole different matter. I sit on my bed, stare and dream. One ensemble after the other races through my brains. A dress it will be, with boots. Downstairs for two breakfast chocolate cookies and warm milk, while preparing a lunch bag. Dutchies eat bread, in case you didn’t know that. Preferably whole wheat bread with cheese. But I prefer herb cream cheese with smoked salmon any time! Sometimes you simply have to spoil yourself.
As if feeding the cats isn’t enough, there are two cat toilets claiming the attention of my nose. I won’t go into that, as I don’t know if you had breakfast yet. But years and years of daily practice make this an easy chore. What’s next? Getting the hell out of the door, since I’m already late of course. My little green car practically jumps onto the street, eager to get some exercise. One street, the roundabout, onto the highway…
Weird, all signs are on, maximum speed 50 kilometers. I’m already rolling my eyes, expecting the worst but hoping for the best. Please, PLEASE no traffic jam. It’s 10 kilometers to my work by the way. By what way? By the fastest way. I keep to the left side of the highway and nimbly dodge the first exit. The second one is mine, not even 1,5 kilometers from my house. Well no bloody way. There’s a big red X above the lane to the exit I need to take. I mean, I really need to take it, ‘cause I haven't the foggiest idea how to get to work in another high-way. The routes that lead through the city are totally jammed in the mornings.
Stay calm Mar, I whisper to myself. This is so silly that I turn up the volume so I won’t hear my own whispering.  Ever so slowly I pass the cars that are waiting on the long exit, wondering what to do. They seem to be moving. That is, if you watch long enough. Two policemen on motor bike in neat but blinding yellow outfits are chatting on the lane next to the line. Nearing the end of the exit I see an opening and dive in. Alright, reached second base and want to get to work. So drive argh. One meter into the right direction, my singing gets louder.
What’s that? What now? What?? One of the policemen decides to finally do something. There are a lot of practical and sensible things a police officer can do you know. Catching thieves, saving helpless maidens in distress, or being an endless source of entertainment for cats-in-trees. But noooo, this one decides to maneuver his bike right in front of my car! With big blue eyes I stare through the window. One hand stretched out, palm towards me, the other points back to the highway. Meanwhile the car in front of me sneaks a bit further down the exit. Shit! The expression on my face gets blonder and blonder by sheer concentration. I don’t WANT to go back on the highway man, I need this exit! The man stares at me and points a second time. I start to shake my head, lifting my hands in a helpless gesture. Third time he points and starts glaring. Well mister, I’m glaring back and point to the exit. If this doesn’t help, I shout that I don’t know the way. Do I need to tell that three  seconds later I’m pulling up the highway again, muttering and cursing? A whole line of cars waiting and the man decides to jump in front of MY car? Hmmm I must be really special Wink In the rear view mirrow I see more cars pulling out the exit.
Cruising the highway once again, I realize I’m driving down the same road I take when visiting my parents in the south-east of the Netherlands. Time for louder music. Nice blue road signs tell me I’m on my way to Eindhoven. Pardon me? I don’t want to go to Eindhoven! I need to get back to my own town for Pete’s sake. And my own sake. Plus my coworkers’ sake! Damn. 16 kilometers and another little traffic jam later I see a sign with the name of the desired destination on it. Down the exit I go again, straight into another traffic jam. But that’s good, I tell myself. Where the hell am I?
I stealthily take out my cell phone while keeping an eye out for stray police officers, and punch in the number of the university. Karen answers the phone. ‘Karen,’ I yell, ‘I have no idea where I am!’. Laughter greets me from the other side. ‘Well, I don’t know either,’ she says calm, ‘what happened?’. So I give her the nasty policeman story. Seems a truck had decided to take a break and get some rest on its side. That particular road was totally blocked. Why didn’t the police take action sooner then, in stead of waiting for a line of 1 kilometer of cars getting stuck on the exit? Not my problem at that moment, bigger problem was to reach my destination. ‘What do you see Mar, describe the buildings to me?’, Karen’s voice interfered with my logistic solutions for the area. So I told her names of firms, waiting cars (just to annoy her a bit), and finally I spotted yet another big building to the left. In fact it looked kind of familiar! She started laughing and said ‘If I’m not mistaken, you are very near to the uni!’. Well hurrah, that would be marvelous.
The line of cars reaches the traffic light and, following Karen's orders, I take a left turn onto a wide road with people who all want to go to work; or at least need to. My lips curl into a big smile when indeed I see familiar surroundings. Singing loudly I proceed and park my car in the uni’s parking lot. Safe at last. And it wasn’t even 9 AM. On my way in I bump into René and pull his long black pony tail. He's growling about traffic and we exchange our stories. Seems he had been waiting in the long line on the exit I was chased off for over half an hour. In the end I was the lucky one!
And now ladies and gents, it’s time for lunch. Soon there will be a new Drieskes story.

Coming back to life

March 18th, 2010

Is this real? Is this really happening? Wrapped in a warm coat, fake fur snuggled up my neck, I’m sitting in my favorite spot of the back yard: my porch swing. Laptop’s where it’s supposed to be, my two cats exploring the outside after a long and cold winter. Of course they know every inch of the garden, having lived with me for over 5 years now. Still they jump at sudden movements, act like sneaking tigers with imaginary preys. Then suddenly they throw themselves down onto the warm pebbles to make funny noises with their paws in the air.

The sun hasn’t reached the swing yet, but is warming my legs in a wonderful way. Do the plants need trimming? I have no idea, they hide in their sticklike form since the fall stole away all their greens. Next to me is a lilac tree, that I planted myself as a wee young sibling. Reaching over two meters now, it dwarfs it mistress. Buds  are swelling on the slender branches, a promise of life prolonged and new life coming  into existence.
What a glorious feeling, being outside. Have been locked up in my house for almost two weeks now. Sensitive is my middle name. Sensitive for lots of things, like perfume, preservatives, for leather paint, glue. And once a year my body decides to develop a respiratory infection. I have no idea why it does that. Perhaps to make me aware of my mortality? Or to see me gasp for air in the middle of sleepless nights? I don’t know and I don’t care. I only want it to go away, and soon too. Codeine pills are the only thing that help against the wish of my lungs to turn inside out over a longer period of time. My head feels like a cotton ball, lazily suppressing concern over the work piling up.
Intermezzo: Ninja is making weird sounds and tries to get rid of something. Luckily he’s outside. Bandit is checking him out now… seems his friend is OK. Perhaps Ninja also has a cotton ball, but not in his head. A butterfly flutters its wings past my hands on the keyboard.
If it weren’t for a friend's text message, I’d be still inside with the heater on. She wrote that she was basking in the sun, gathering energy and didn’t want to do anything else anymore. Thanks Sandra, for sharing this with me. I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world: the first spring day. Yes ladies and gents, spring is back! Is it true what they say, that the sun gives vitamines to us? If so, then how many inches of skin must be touched by the golden light? Well, there's no room for scientific approach of this matter today. Armed with my notebook I simply have to be outside and feel the gentle breeze caressing my cheeks. The back door is wide open to let in oxygen and get rid of the winter’s dust. I don’t need music out here. The birds are singing, spreading the message of a world that’s about to blossom. Time for laughter, time for love, time for spring.

ID on a broken bike

February 18th, 2010. What a day this turned out to be!

Any thoughts of going to work dissolved into thin air when I felt the cold on my skin this morning. Vman left early and I turned around, searching for his warm spot in bed. Nope, the uni would have to wait another day. Since nobody else is at our academy, I had already doubts if I would make it this week. Carnival in the south of the Netherlands.

Around noon I asked my eldest son to function as wake-up call for youngest one. Of course he obliged happily. Nothing more fun than teasing a younger brother. Whacking poor sleeping Sean over the head, he stamped upwards to the attic, leaving a slightly rumpled young man who was trying to open his eyes. A shower helped.

After his breakfast and my lunch we set out to first take Sean's bike for repairs to the bicycle shop. It was better to say what still worked than what did not. Then we would order a new passport plus ID, after which Sean was due at the hairdresser's. His wild manes reached halfway his nose. Plus I had fullfilled my earlier threat of making him a pony tail. Then he suddenly agreed to the hair cutting operation.

We were nearing the shop, when suddenly I thought of the paperwork needed for the new identification documents. We had taken the necessary snapshots, but totally forgot to take the papers and his old ID. Setback number one. Marching on we came upon a closed door: lunch break. Sean and me stared at each other and I let out a scream which made him chuckle. There we were with the non-working bike.

Alright, nothing is unsolvable. Just a quick stop at the postoffice to get money. Bzzz bzzz did the machine, but all seemed to be functioning normal. It seemed. The damn thing ate my card! I could see the edge and tried to pry it out but to no avail. Scream number two started to rise. Then the postoffice manager came out to see what the ruckus was about. With the words "Whatever you do, stay calm," he disappeared back in. A small crowd was forming behind my back. After 5 minutes he came out with my card, hurrah. 

From that point on things went smoother. We did some grocery shopping and decided on pizza. Plus cookies. Half an hour early we reached the hairdresser. And guess what, Sean could sit down immediately. I got some tea and read a magazine. It's so nice hearing his 15-year old voice go down all the time, turning into a man's voice. I kept far from the cutting business. He's old enough to tell Daniëlle what he wants. Result: slightly shorter hair with wax, but still it was messy enough for him to like it. 

On our way home we stopped at the bakery to buy bread and some rolls. Things went rather smoothly after all. Tomorrow morning it's back to passport business for Sean.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Every half year a colorful card falls on my doormat. It always lands so the merry image shows and the text is hidden. Whenever I pick up the little card, my happy surprise soon changes in abhorrence. Yes, the dentist check up.

Today was the set date. The dentist's office is about 200 meters from my house, so I leave at the latest possible moment. Armed with my book, chin up, eyes determined, I stepped into the room, where Anja, his (very nice and friendly) assistant was already waiting. Small talk, lots of small talk to divert the nerves.

"Marion, you may step through," the Man-In-White says with a smile. "Right," I mutter, and slide into the chair. Blue rubber gloves and special magnifying glasses that could easily be used as a super lens for a camera, suddenly appear in my visual. The comfortable chair changes with a soft buzzing into a miniature operating table. Horizontally stretched out, I obediently open my mouth in the sunny light of a huge lamp. Here we go.

Carefully he checks every tooth with hammer and drill... uhm I mean with a little mirror and hook. No matter what he does, I won't move a muscle. Tip: never give away if something hurts by grimacing, because then your fate is sealed. Left under inside, front, right under inside, back along the outside. Then up, up, up the teeth he goes. Meanwhile he's talking to Anja about another client. "Keep talking man," I think, "keep talking and don't mind me!".

Suddenly he stretches, nods and then tells me everything is fine. I can't believe my ears but won't take any chances on a sudden change of mind. Nimbly I hop from the chair, almost getting myself hooked around the arm rest. At safe distance from the dentist, my joking abilities suddenly return. Pfew, what a relief!

Safe for another six months...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wee lil' thing

Ready to upload my new design to the server, I needed to do 'a wee lil' thing': set a password. Well, after succeeding in adding the password, the access to my database has flown out of the closed window.
Even a system recovery to yesterday's dates wasn't fixing the problem. Am at a loss for ideas right now.