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It's hot and humid and I can't sleep. Tomorrow This afternoon, The Netherlands will meet Brazil in the quarter finals of the World Cup, and I fully expect them to lose; which is a shame as I've managed to accumulate quite a nice little collection of Oranje icons over the last few weeks that now, sadly, will have to go unused.

Day 30: A song you haven't listened to in a while

Emma Kirkby & Evelyn Tubb sing Chiome d'Oro, by Monteverdi

the rest of the days )

Earlier in the meme, when asked to list a song that reminded me of my best friend, I came up with Monty Python's Sit On My Face, which Peronne would usually begin to sing after she'd had a glass or two. This song, though, and in fact the entire cd from which it's plucked (Emma Kirkby & Evelyn Tubb sing Monteverdi Duets & Solos with The Consort of Musick - Director: Anthony Rooley, Innovative Music Productions Ltd., 1987), will forever remind me of my other dear departed friend Joost, who even though he was a lifelong Bob Dylan-fan, whenever he came round to mine would frequently choose to put on. Which is probably why I haven't listened to it since well before his death.
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Since I'm up, and haven't put away my laptop for the night, and since this is technically another day, I'll post this one that I've prepared earlier (when I encountered this meme, this was the first challenge I could formulate an answer to):

Day 12: A song that reminds you of your best friend

Sit On My Face - Monty Python

Peronne used to sing this quite often, with a twinkle in her eye and a big grin on her face. I miss her. It's hard to believe it's been three years since she died...I can still hear her in my head so clearly. And every time I'm reminded of the fact that she's gone, I still fall apart.

the rest of the days )
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It's been a year since Peronne died. I miss her still, so very very much.

We first met at a dinner party one night in 1990, but we didn't become friends until some time later when we were asked to organise our debating club's first lustrum celebrations. We worked on it for a year, and pulled out all the stops: there was a day programme of lunch and lectures by highly regarded, internationally renowned scholars in the fields of art, archaeology, history and theology, followed by the presentation and publication of a liber amicorum; and an evening programme of dinner and dancing...and all on a very tight budget (as we were all just students and/or recent graduates). Peronne's family connections secured us the Snouck Hurgronjehuis, an 18th-century town house in the historic heart of Leiden, as the venue for the first part of the day at virtually no cost, and I found us a great big attic to turn into a discotheque overnight and for one night only a few houses further down the street, also at little or no cost. Needless to say, the whole thing was a great success, but the absolute best thing I got out of it was Peronne's friendship.

I was a recent graduate, she was still a student, reading theology. When she graduated, I was there. When she held her very first sermon as a brand spanking new vicar, in Groningen, I was there. When she went to Oxford, to continue her studies there, I went to see her there often. She got called to Delft, a small town not far from The Hague; then to New York, Amsterdam, Aerdenhout and lastly, Lunteren, another small town in the middle of our country. I visited and helped her with her work in all these places, and in some others besides. Peronne was a tireless traveller, and many's the time we jumped in the car and drove it into Belgium, Germany, Austria; or hopped on a plane to the UK, to go shopping, or take in an exhibition or a show, roam around the countryside, have fabulous dinners, and chill. We talked and philosophised about everything on these trips, as well as at home.

While she lived, Peronne was alive, more than any person I've ever known. She had such a joy about her, and even when she was sad, she was still vibrant. She's left me with many wonderful memories, and I am glad to have them, although they only make me miss her more.

A week before she died, she asked me to come with her to Estonia. I said I couldn't take the time off work. If I had been there, would I have recognised how sick she was, could I have talked her out of driving home, could I have got her into hospital? Even though I know these are useless questions to which I'll never know the answer, they keep coming back to me again and again.
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Looking back on the last 365 days, I can't say other than that there have been highs and lows. To start with the latter, the lowest point was reached in March, when I lost my best friend in real life to legionnaire's disease. Since then, not a day has gone by that I haven't missed her, missed hearing her husky voice on the phone, missed seeing her lovely smile, enjoying the warmth of her welcome. She was always so pleased to see me, and she always made everything better.

Apart from the mental anguish, there has been a certain amount of pain and discomfort of a physical kind, too -- why, only two weeks ago I was hit by a bus and lived to tell the tale; but more importantly, after almost 3 years of having had to cope with a gammy leg, I finally had surgery to it in July, and after 3 months of medical attention and intense physiotherapy was pronounced fit and well again.

Through one reason or another, I haven't looked very hard for and therefore haven't succeeded in finding another, less stressful job nearer to home, and therefore this will be one of my goals for 2008. I have, however, lost a lot of weight in 2007, which I think counts as some sort of an achievement at least.

When it comes to travel, I've not been to any wild or exotic places this past year; but in April, I accompanied [ profile] anonypooh on a trip to New York, where we simply had a whale of a time. We had an ulterior motive in wanting to surprise our favourite musician friends Corn Mo and Common Rotation, and succeeded in doing so brilliantly.

Gigwise, it's been rather a good year, as -apart from several shows by Corn Mo and CoRo- I've seen Hair Supply and Jason Webley, OK Go, The Police, The Storys, and my latest favourite folk artist, David Berkeley. We met in April in Philadelphia, I flew over to see him in London in May, and then had the pleasure of following him on a tour of France and the UK with Common Rotation last November.

Through all these adventures and upheavals, you, my dear flist, have been there for me, encouraging and supporting me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the friendship and love you've shown me. I feel so blessed to have you in my life, and that's regardless of whether we've met in person or not.

Tonight, I will be celebrating with the family, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all the happiest of New Year's and all the best for 2008; and leave you with a clip of David Berkeley singing in a Paris club. Please, if you haven't checked him out yet, do it now.

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It seems I'm becoming completely obsessed with the creation of lists. Not content with having spent several days cataloguing my book collection on Shelfari, I have now spent most of this weekend cataloguing my cd collection on CD-tracker. I wonder what else I can find to catalogue next week?

Had she lived, today would have been Peronne's 38th birthday. It's been 5 months, and it still feels wrong for her not to be among the living anymore. I regularly wake up sobbing, having dreamt of her in the night. I'm even crying as I type these few lines. The loss of my best friend has been very hard to bear. It's made me feel as if I've lost a big chunk of myself, not just of my history but part of who I am as well, and it's closed the door on so many possibilities ahead. Whereas before, the future always had our friendship in it, now there's a vast emptiness where that should go. It feels like an amputation, and I miss her. Sometimes, I can hear her in my head; and sometimes too, I think I can see her...but it's always either someone else, or a dream.

Also, I feel as if I've somehow failed her, as if I should have taken better care of her parents, who have always been good to me. They're sick with grief, and even though I've tried to reach them a few times, I'm very aware of the fact that I can't offer them any real comfort.

Although I'm grateful to have had her in my life, I'm angry and upset that it has come to such a sudden and irreversible end; and I'm afraid it will be a long time before I'm in a mood to celebrate on August 19th again.
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Peronne's former co-workers and friends at the UN are organising a memorial service for her on May 17th, at the church on Lexington she volunteered at in 2001. This morning, one of their number sent me an e-mail and asked:

"Would you be willing to come, stay over at my house and say something?"

Would I like to come and be part of this memorial service for my best friend, whose passing I still mourn every day? Of course I would! But at such short notice, arranging for a reasonably priced flight to NYC will not be easy. On the one hand...I really shouldn't let financial considerations enter into it, and pass up on this chance of coming together with people who knew and loved her too, and wish to celebrate her life. On the other, though...having checked the usual websites, I'm not sure if I can afford to spend 700 euros on a 2-day visit.

And say something? I can't hear her name, or see it written down, without bursting into tears.

I miss her so, so much.


Mar. 13th, 2007 09:39 pm
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Mourners gathered, literally in their hundreds, to say goodbye to Peronne and offer their condolences to her devastated parents at the cemetery in Rotterdam where her family owns a plot. A marquee had been added onto the chapel, but even so a substantial part of the gathering had to stay outside and follow the service over the loudspeakers. Originally, the family had requested there be no eulogies, but after the vicar had concluded his hour-long speech, her uncle gained permission to say a few words, reminiscing about and stressing her role within the family; and then her father got up and and paid an impromptu, and very moving tribute to his daughter, his only child.

My friend Peronne was a singularly unique individual. We're all unique to some extent, but Peronne was somehow more unique than most. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, and into a noble family, her innate natural warmth, compassion and genuine interest in her fellow human beings enabled her to overcome the boundaries of class and deference and communicate with people from all walks of life in the spirit of truth and equality.

Growing up in a family and a congregation that allowed her to be herself, and to explore her natural curiosity, she soon discovered faith as a way of life, while realising that the important things in life came down to individual choices. When it came time to go to university, she knew there was only one study for her: theology, which she read in Leiden and Oxford. She became a vicar, and a tireless advocate of interreligious dialogue. She even became the president of the Dutch chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom I.A.R.F., and also worked for some time as a volunteer for a faith-based NGO at the United Nations in New York, and as a fund-raiser and guest-preacher at the All Souls Unitarian Church in the same city. She recently published a book on the importance of rituals.

Naturally, she was much more than a vicar on a mission to do good. She was my friend, who loved good food, who loved to have people round for dinner (she was the perfect hostess as well as a fantastic cook) or go out to the finest restaurants; who was a tremendous wine buff whose greatest enjoyment lay in sharing her favourites with her friends and acquaintances. She loved classical music and the opera, jazz recitals and Paul Weller. She was fond of art, clothes, jewellery, and makeup; liked to travel (both for work and for pleasure), and we often used to go on shopping sprees to London together. She absolutely loved vintage sports cars, owned a red Alfa Romeo Spider, and drove in rallyes all across Europe. She loved parties and apart from throwing some magnificent ones herself, always lit up every party at which she was present as a guest. People gravitated towards her. Men lost their hearts to her, and she broke a fair few, though never out of malice or just because she could. She would have loved to have found Mr. Right, but although she thought she might have once or twice, she was always disappointed in that hope.

She never judged. She accepted everyone, young or old, exactly as they were, and never tried to change anybody other than to try to induce or encourage them to do good. She was loyal, supportive and unwavering in her friendships. She was a great listener and a giver of sound advice. She was, quite simply, a wonderful human being, one of the best there ever were on this planet, and the world is a colder place without her.

Yesterday, we took her to her final resting place. After the coffin had been lowered into the grave, her father scattered the ashes of her half-brother Ben, who died 13 months ago, over the lid. It seems fitting that the two of them, so close in life, should be together forever in death.
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jkvr. Peronne Pauline Boddaert


In the space of a few hours, everything can change...My best friend, beautiful, vivacious, funny; a deep thinker, caring and warm-hearted, generous and kind, noble and erudite, who I loved, has died, unexpectedly, at the age of 37.
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A beautiful, dry cold day. The fields and meadows white with frost, the gnarled little willows lining them sparkly with ice, the black shaggy-coated Frisians roaming them breathing steam from their nostrils...It was a beautiful, quiet day today when we went to pay our last respects to Ben, who died just before the weekend. I even spotted a stork high up on a streetlight beside the road!

A good number of friends and relations had come to the crematorium; too many to fit into the hall where we listened to his favourite jazz music pieces and two wonderful commemorative speeches - the first by Best Friend, his half-sister, and the second by her father and his stepfather. Years ago, Ben'd written a nonsense verse in her 'poesie album', a kind of friendship book that little girls in Holland carry with them and ask friends, family and random people they like to write them a poem in and that usually gets lost or discarded or is never returned by the last person they asked well before puberty, and it was this nonsense verse that she took as the starting point and recurring theme for her tribute to him. It was very moving, very insightful, and totally celebratory of his life and personality. Rob, her father, then spoke of their shared love of jazz, good food, fine wines, and the hunt; and Ben's neverending thirst for knowledge -- even during his last stay in hospital, he'd kept a stack of study books by his bedside.

Afterwards, there was the obligatory (at Dutch funerals) round of coffee and cake, followed by the equally necessary round of sandwiches and soup, and we mingled and met with old friends and commiserated with acquaintances, and expressed our deepest sympathies to the family.

I left before the last round of wine and cheese. When I glanced up to where I'd seen the stork before, I was sad to see that it had flown off...

Rest in peace, Ben. You will be missed.

Worse news

Jan. 26th, 2006 05:25 pm
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Ben's cancer has proved inoperable. He has said his goodbyes to friends and family in the hospital on Sunday afternoon; then later that night, slipped into a coma. He has contracted pneumonia, and the end is near.

His mother and sisters are with him.

I don't know what else to say.

Bad news

Jan. 21st, 2006 11:07 am
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This morning: a 2-line e-mail, letting me know what's wrong with Best Friend's brother. He's been in and out of hospital since November, wasting away. Now they've put a name to it: oesophagal cancer.

He's been scheduled for surgery on the 25th.
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I'm sure this post is going to wreak havoc with my layout, but it can't be helped: I promised you picspam, and picspam you shall have. Remarkably, once I decided to throw out the manual, it didn't take me more than a couple of minutes to work out how to transfer the images from my camera to my PC. I'm not sure about the quality though -- I selected the lowest (VGA) setting because it allowed me the most pictures (71), but then I only took a handful. What setting(s) do you, oh people who have had digital cameras for much longer than me, usually prefer?

On Friday night, Best Friend and J. took me to Brasserie Van Baerle for a pre-birthday dinner. I had skate for my main course, and raspberries for dessert, while for starters I opted for a delicious

fish cake )

After dinner, J. went straight home; but Best Friend and I went for a nightcap and ended up guzzling champagne first in anticipation, and then in celebration of my birthday. The next morning, we had a good solid breakfast at Plancius, and then, on a whim, decided to go for a stroll in the Hortus (i.e. university gardens), where we saw

carnivorous plants )

and huge water lillies

Victoria amazonica )

and where Best Friend took my picture

wet, weary and bedraggled )

and I, hers:

there ought to be a law against anyone looking this hale and cheerful after a night of hard drinking and a morning of torrential rain )

Just as I was leaving Amsterdam, the sun broke through the clouds, and showed the city at its most picturesque:

Amsterdam )

At home, Manasse let me know that he was ready for his closeup, which is why I'll end tonight's post with this

obligatory kitty pic! )
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Thanks to [ profile] phendog's dogged persistance, my Common Rotation collection is finally complete (well, at least as far as the commercially available CDs are concerned -- I'm way behind on the d\l-ing of UMs). Twice the copy she'd burned me of The Hotel Café vol. I went missing in the post; today, she finally resorted to uploading it for me. And, because the link is there anyway, and I'm in a sharing and spreading the love kind of mood, here are the boys live from The Hotel Café!

It's been a funny kind of day at the office, with people from the past dropping in and going "I don't believe it! You're still here!" all day, to which I went "Well, give it a month or two and I might not be anymore!" -- first someone I had my initial training with, 11 years ago; next, a support engineer I used to share the commute with until 7 or 8 years ago; and finally, another long-term co-worker who I'd become friends with IRL too, but who went on a to build a career and a life for herself in Barcelona 2 years ago. You know how these things go; you swear you'll keep in touch, and you fully intend to, but you get caught up in the dailies and before you know it, months have passed without a word. That's why today's series of unexpected meetings buoyed me up so much: here was a chance to apologise for the previous neglect and promise to do better in the future (I'm nothing if not optimistic!). But yeah, it's been good.

Over the last few weeks, independently of each other, Mum and Dad have been pestering me with questions as to what I want to do for my birthday, which translates to "What time do you want us to drop in for coffee/cake/drinks/dinner?". So far, I've managed to put them off by saying I hadn't thought about it, and quite possibly I wasn't going to do anything this year, although last night Mum reminded me I couldn't put off thinking about it for very much longer and maybe I should contact my sister and make arrangements to celebrate it together with my nephew, whose birthday is 3 days later.

The thing is, I don't want to celebrate my birthday. Not because I mind adding another year to the tally, but because every year, it's the same: my close kin come round to mine, expecting to be fed and watered, sit around making smalltalk, and leave me with the dishes. They bring a card and a bunch of flowers and it's nice that they want to make the effort, but...I'm just not that bothered. I didn't like my birthdays when I was a child, and I don't see the point in them now that I'm older. Most of my friends and family are away on holiday, so why should I go to all that trouble?

I gave in last year. I invited my Mum and sister round for lunch. Mum was there around lunchtime. My sister and her family didn't bother showing up until 4 o'clock, and then had the gall to appear miffed when I said I was meeting friends for drinks in town at 5. Meanwhile, lunch was perhaps it's not surprising I'm not chomping at the bit to organise a party this year.

Thankfully now, I won't have to. My best friend called and said she was going to treat me to dinner and a special birthday breakfast in Amsterdam this year, and she wasn't taking no for an answer. Now all I have to do, is break it to the family...gently.
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Excuse me if I slur my words slightly; I've had more alcohol in the last 48 hours than I've had in the whole of 2004, or feels like...

Every once in a while, Best Friend and I treat each other to dinner. Yesterday was my turn again, and I turned up on her doorstop at around 5:30 pm, finding a post-it on the door saying the bell was out of order and could I please phone? Luckily, whilst fumbling for my mobile in my tote, Best Friend's ex materialised laden with groceries (apparently, he now rents the top floor of her Amsterdam townhouse), and let me in. BF was all excited, as she'd just been to the pound that afternoon; one of her cats died last week, and now she'd gotten herself 2 'new' ones. She proudly showed them to me and G., and then brought out the sherry. When G. left about half an hour later, we decided we felt like Italian, and called to see if Rosario could squeeze us in. He's a Sicilian we've known for some years, and owns the restaurant, listed among the finest in the city, that bears his name. He said "Sure, for you, anytime", and when we got there, he came and sat at our table and insisted we toast the new year with a glass of prosecco. He told us he'd recently expanded on his winecellar and before we knew it, we'd embarked on a serious tasting session. Meanwhile, the food he had his cooks prepare for us was magnificent. I had 2 antipasti: venison with cabbage, mushrooms and wild berries, and maltagliati with cinghiale (wild boar), followed by a main course of wood-grilled rombo (tarbut), washed down with a light Sardinian white and the highly recommended Sicilian Sanagostino red. For dessert, we had a pannacotta and a hazelnut mousse, and a very nice dessert wine compliments of the house. Considering the quality of the food and the copious amounts of wine we'd imbibed, the bill when it came was surprisingly reasonable, although it did take me out of the black for this month.

BF, always more of a drinker than me (for every glass of wine I drink, I always make sure to drink 2 glasses of water) had to be supported all the way home, and since it had already gone past midnight, I decided I'd sleepover -- the second floor of BF's house is my usual pied-à-terre whenever I have to stay in Amsterdam overnight. I had a leisurely soak in the bath, and must have gone to bed later than I thought because I overslept this morning. BF brought me breakfast in bed, and only then did I notice that I ought to have been at the office an hour earlier. It didn't take us long to devise a devilishly wicked plan: I'd call in sick, accompany BF to yoga class and then we'd go shopping and she'd buy me lunch.

Yoga class was brilliant. After 6 months of not having practised it at all, I was surprised to find that even with an injured ankle I was still able to effortlessly get into the positions, remembered the chants and the respiration yogi-style, and felt so much better afterwards. I stayed for tea and chatted with someone who'd been in my Teacher Training class, who's got the qualification I would have had by now too, and teaches at the centre. And found out that one of my former teachers, Adithya, now has a class on Saturday mornings! So, I'm going to surprise him by showing up for class tomorrow -- and maybe he and Ganga will relent and let me start Teacher Training over...because I have missed yoga so much over the last few months, and I am convinced that if I'd been able to continue with it as before, not only would I now have been a fully qualified yoga instructor, but I would also not have suffered a burn-out or whatever it is they want to call it.

After a full morning's work-out, BF and I headed for our favourite department store; and as we passed the shoe section, I showed her the what I call 'Pocahontas boots' I'd been lusting after for some time. She agreed that they were 'so me' and that I had to have them, but I resisted, telling her of the silver-brushed boots I'd bought last week and the buckled pair of granny boots I'd purchased a month ago and still haven't worn because of this damn ankle, and explaining that I was skint anyway. So off we went to have lunch -- a steaming bowl of soup, a nice plate of salad, and a bottle of beer to celebrate the fact that we were being naughty while I should have been at work. Afterwards, we trawled the store from top to bottom picking up countless items (and me, 5 kilos of wholemeal breadmix at 50 cents a pound -- what a bargain!), until, passing by the shoe section again, I just couldn't leave there without the boots. Because they're the mocassin type, I can actually wear them; they have no heel to speak of. Makes a nice change from wearing trainers. ;-)

By then it was time for a sit-down, and BF insisted we had another salad and bottle of wine to give us something to sit down to. Then I decided to treat her to tea with a selection of friandises, after which she reciprocated with pink champagne. The sun was already setting when, one more round of shopping later, we finally emerged into the street and went our separate ways.

I don't often indulge on shopping sprees with my friends. I should do this more often, because I can honestly say that it's much more fun (considering) buying stuff when there's a like-minded individual with you than when you're on your own. It's more fun trying on things. And it's definitely more fun to have a good glass of wine and a good conversation in good company than to have a cup of coffee on takeaway.

The phone rang when I arrived home at last. It was my mother, telling me her favourite sister, and my favourite aunt, died this morning, quite unexpectedly. She was only 75 years old.
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God, that was a lovely dinner I had last Tuesday! It wasn't just the food, but the company as well -- although originally my friend and I had agreed to have a cosy little bite to eat just the two of us, seeing as how we hadn't seen each other in months and desperately needed to catch up on what was new for either of us, people just kept joining us at the bar and in the end we decided to all have dinner together, all seven of us. And so I became embroiled in a deep and meaningful discussion about Catholicism today on my right, the complete and utter fascism of the Italian traffic police on my left; all while simultaneously trying to find out more about the wonder diet the person opposite me was following successfully without having to give up chocolate as a food group. Wine and champagne flowed copiously and the evening ended in a bit of a blur...but hey! you've got to let your hair down every once in a while so why not on an ordinary Tuesday night?

I suppose it's going to be a late night again tonight -- Senior Management is treating me and some other high flyers within our organisation (don't ask me how I came to be on the list, because I haven't a clue) to an afternoon of go-karting followed by a lavish dinner in a top notch restaurant. We're leaving here in about half an hour so I'd better check if I have any outstanding business to attend to...or better yet, go to the bathroom and check my makeup.

Still, it's not all fun and games -- at the beginning of this week, the news reached us that one of our colleagues who'd gone on maternity leave a few weeks ago, had died during childbirth. She was only 40 years old. We were all shocked at the news. None of us had any idea that in this day and age, and in this part of the world, it was still possible to die like that.
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...has always been my motto. Not very original, I know, and maybe even a touch conceited, but I just never felt the need to regulate my social life in this way. Over the years, I've been introduced to numerous Rotary style clubs both here and abroad, and although I've spent many a pleasant afternoon or evening at these, I've never been tempted to join any of them. So far, I've been perfectly happy meeting my friends for lunch at the New York Stock Exchange Club, even if I have to subject myself to being frisked before I'm allowed up; or to stay as a paying guest for a couple of nights at the Royal Thames Yacht Club if my London chums couldn't put me up for one reason or another...but I've always declined whenever I was offered a full membership. Yesterday though, I was tempted.

It turned out that where we were going was the annual fireworks dinner at the venerable The Hague club 'De Witte' - founded as an ostensibly literary society in the time of Napoleon, it boasts an immense and extensive library as well as several interesting 'tables'...and I got invited to two of them, with people almost falling over themselves to sponsor me. A weird but at the same time, quite flattering experience.

Anyway, I made the acquaintance of some very nice people there last night: 2 architects, a project developer, and a stockbroker and his wife; and I have a feeling that I will be seeing these people again quite soon. I'm still a bit taken aback by the instant connection we shared, chatting away as if we were old friends about everything under the sun, from architecture to holiday plans to politics and traffic accidents...all in all, I'm glad I let myself be dragged along to this do. The food was absolutely fantastic (but then it always is at these sort of places), the ambiance was magnificent (an 18th-century pavillion on top of a dune and looking out over the North Sea from every window) and the company jovial and entertaining. When they asked me if they could put my name forward to the committee, I very nearly said yes.

Pee would stay with me that night; but unfortunately, she had acquired an unbelievably obnoxious admirer who just would not leave her alone -- and when I came to rescue her, attached himself to me as well. He jumped into our taxi at the last moment, and we had quite a hard time getting rid of him. In the end, we did manage it, but not without leaving him with the conviction that we were a nasty pair of frigid bitches. Well -- maybe, but I can't see that it's any of his concern. God, I hate gropers!

Meanwhile, in NYC, my Lushette friends witnessed the CoRo-gig at The Bitter End. Can't wait to hear how that went!
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Yesterday, work and personal stuff was getting me down, and when stuff gets you down, what do you do? You turn to your friends, have a good moan, have them say 'there, there, my dear' and go home with a renewed spring in your step.

I had to work overtime last night, and when I finally left the office I decided to drop in on my good friend Pee, who I hadn't seen since Christmas. Chances were she wasn't going to be in, but uncharacteristically, I didn't let myself think about that. The look on her face when I let myself into her flat! She was just sitting down to dinner, lambstew and salad, and had poured herself a nice big glass of Chianti. For a minute, she did a very good fish impression, then broke out in a huge smile. Within minutes, we were both munching and talking away animatedly, catching up.

I told her about the troubles at work, and the course I'm putting together for the Women's Institute; and my upcoming visit to America. She told me that her contract wouldn't be renewed come April 1st; the last ball she'd been to in her grandmother's green-and-gold Chanel (Pee is an Hon., and noblesse oblige: the season's started up again and balls are the order of the day, rather boring occasions unless you make your arrangements beforehand) and the stir that caused among the older generation, unaware of the current vintage craze; and her recent trip to India. Next time, she said, she wanted to go to Morocco, and asked me to come with. Unfortunately, she's planning it right in the week after my return from the States, so it may be a bit difficult for me to get the time off...or the money together. I expect New York is going to clean me out!

I told her all about the trip I'm planning to Nepal next year, and she decided then and there that she's going to come along. She's been to that part of the world before, once in the company of the Dalai Lama even, and loves the idea of going back. So who knows?
She showed me her latest art acquisition, a beautiful 16th century thangka mounted on antique Tibetan silk, and we discussed the possibilities of us going on another shopping spree in London next month. By then, I felt a whole lot better.

To round off the evening properly, we went out for dessert to a small Italian restaurant of which we know the owners. We were welcomed like long lost sheep, even if Pee'd only been there the night before, but it's always nice to be made a fuss of. A prosecco to get the proceedings underway, then a huge dolce miste with home-made zabaglione ice cream and lime sherbet on the side (being lactose-intolerant, I usually leave ice cream alone and gorge myself on the sherbet, but yesterday I thought "what the hell"...paid for it this morning, though), and a nice sweet spumante to wash it all down with. In the end, I felt happy and relaxed enough to pick up the tab and wave away Pee's protests with a smile.

I declined her offer of a bed for the night and went home feeling much better than I had in weeks.
gamiila: (Default)
I woke up with a helluva sore throat this morning, which means I'll probably spend New Years on the couch in my pjs with the tissues within easy reach. That's fine with me because I hadn't made any but the vaguest plans, and if I'm honest, I'd say that I've had enough champers, chow and company in recent days to last me for a few months at least.

Christmas Day was wonderful, truly it was, but despite my best intentions, I still ended up eating and drinking far too much. Even if you just have a nibble and a sip here and there, if there's too many dishes to nibble and too much wine to sip, you'll still end up feeling bloated.
There were 10 of us at dinner, which was of the traditional variety: oysters, salmon, and eel for starters; followed by a course of lobster soup; then the main course which was venison, served with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, Brussels sprouts, chestnut puree and stewed pears; chocolate pudding and finally an assortment of cheeses and cream crackers to conclude the meal. All washed down with copious amounts of wine (2 kinds of champagne, 3 kinds white, 1 red and a dessert wine).

The next day, after a hearty brunch of scrambled egg, salmon and toast; and a brisk walk in the park and a heart-to-heart with P. who'd recently broken up with who she'd believed to be Mr. Right, I took my leave of the company and headed toward my next engagement: dinner with the family. Still feeling a little shaky, I forgot to stop off home first and collect the children's presents, resulting in my complete embarrassment when I got there and got presents thrust at me from every angle.
I've resolved to give them theirs now for New Years.

My sister is a strict vegetarian so we sat down to a dinner of tofu and mushrooms prepared in every conceivable way, and loads of broccoli. This made a welcome change from the previous night's plenty; and when I got home, I fell into my own bed happy and relieved that I didn't feel so full as I had the night before.

I went to see my Dad yesterday. I swear he's getting worse by the week. He made absolutely no sense at all.
gamiila: (Default)
It's Christmas Eve and I'm still here, at the office, remarkably lacking in Christmas cheer even if I've chosen to wear my glittery jumper today, and my colleague continues to bombard me with his home-burnt seasonal CD...I mean, how many times can one listen to Merry Christmas Everybody, Last Christmas and Santa Baby on an endless loop, without experiencing the homicidal urge?

Actually, that brings me to one of my pet peeves: Walkmans. As a commuter, I'm frequently exposed to someone else's crappy taste in music set at an annoyingly high, tinny volume. There's not much I can do about it, so I bear my lot in silence; secretly wishing a pox on their ears and smiling at the thought that if there is a God, I'm sure he'll make these louts go deaf or else suffer from severe tinnitis in later life, and so compensate me for the aggro they've caused.

Luckily, I also have other, less uncharitable ways to get rid of my pent-up anger and frustration. Immersion in fanfic is one of them, and therefore I am extremely pleased to find that [ profile] bogwitch has seen fit to publish her evil Christmas-fic, [ profile] db2305 has finished her inspired Dawn-fic , [ profile] fauvistfly has been updating Crushing Friendship at her website, and [ profile] gwyn_r has written a wonderful Spike/Wesley vignette in recent days. Not only that, but [ profile] ginmar has updated Ever After and [ profile] automatedalice_ has surprised us with a thirteenth chapter to her brilliant Half-Gifts. And finally, the first Riley-fic I've ever truly enjoyed: [ profile] annakovsky posted Christmas, Iowa Style.

I know there are very, very many new stories out, but I haven't time to read them all this Christmas. Tomorrow, I'll be celebrating with some of my friends, one of whom owns a castle where we'll all congregate and spend the day conversing around the fire while sampling their excellent wine-cellar; and Boxing Day will be held in the bosom of my family, my sister having pipped me to the post and volunteered to do the Christmas cooking. 2 Days to recover and I should be back at work, and this computer, on Monday...Things could be worse.

Oh, and [ profile] queenmaab wins the prize for most original icons this Christmas. Go over to her LJ and look!
gamiila: (Default)
Robert Palmer died in Paris yesterday, only 54 years old. I heard it on the news, and was instantly transported back in time to the one and only concert of his I've ever been to. A friend of mine had tickets for it, but at the very last minute decided that she'd rather "work on her relationship" instead and gave her ticket to me (I'd arrived to mind her little boy, my godson Lars), waving me off in the company of a bunch of strangers, people I'd never seen before or since. God, it must be 10 years ago, or more. Lars was still a toddler.
I'm glad to have had this opportunity to see him live, as I've always liked his music; but it soon became apparent that Mieke ought to have saved herself the trouble of 'the talk', because her then boyfriend (Lars's dad) left her anyway.

Spent the evening at my Mum's, discussing the practicalities of moving my Dad into a nursing home; and found that Gérald had stopped by my place while I was out. He'd left an envelope with the key to his Brussels apartment and detailed directions together with a sweet, sweet note. I don't know how he got to hear of my best friend's and my plan to spend the weekend in the Belgian capital, and as I haven't been able to reach him I don't think I'll find out anytime soon, but I'm very touched, and very grateful for his hospitality. Especially since I hardly know the guy - so far, we've only met on two occasions this year.

So, the plan is to get the kitty nosh in before Pee shows up...I'd better wrap this up. But not before pimping [ profile] estepheia's challenge for a 500-1,000 word ficlet for the recently started [ profile] spiketara-community. I've had a few ideas for it myself, but the words don't seem to want to come. Maybe that drabble I did a couple of days ago really was all I was capable of...:(

Oh, and [ profile] julchek: I think that TV Guide you said was coming my way has arrived. At least, there was a thick brown envelope with your name on it sticking out my letterbox this morning -- so cheers, love!


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December 2012

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