Monday, June 26, 2017

Dementia...scourge of our time.

Good afternoon to you!
It's been a few weeks and, after some deliberation, I am going to tell you why I haven't blogged my usual happy hippy rambling/gardening/music blogposts.


The thing is, and boy oh boy is it a THING, that I am the caregiver for my increasingly muddled 89 year old Mum.
She is a widow; I am her only child. Thus I have been thrown into the life-altering situation that I have become the mother of my mother, so to speak. And as I am writing this to you, the word 'reluctant' is screaming for attention in my brain.
For it is. I am. Reluctant mother to my mother. 
The little girl in me feels that this is sooooo unfair. I should not be mothering my Mum, I want to be mothered myself (from time to time, as life is pretty hard for a single menopausal lady with two kids and two cats to take care of). Never mind that I am almost 59 myself, I can still access that little girl deep within me, who didn't want to pick up the pieces for my mother when she was 36 and depressed and I was 6 ('unfair'!) and now realizes that if I don't pick up the pieces no-one else will.

Yep. Not a very attractive character trait, I know! And to put your mind at ease, I do do it, I do pick up those pieces, and do the daily shop, and talk to all those professionals who suddenly have a role to play in my mother's life (and thus in mine), and dress her, and bathe her when necessary, and give her her medication, and tend her garden, and listen to her asking me the same question over and over and over.

When I started realizing that something was seriously wrong with her memory, it was 2015, and no-one wanted to believe me. Hey, this was my strong, creative, still driving her car all over the place mother, right? Opinionated, strong-willed, often stubborn and frankly not very flexible in her way of dealing with the world and all those tiresome people in it. But also talented, and in her way very loving towards me and my two kids.
I kept alerting people around me that she was changing, that she sometimes did and said weird things. But people frowned at me and remarked that she seemed the same to them. So what that she suddenly kept the cloth napkins in the fridge...that wasn't life-threatening, surely?

Until November 2016. I took her to the cardiologist for a new pacemaker, after a year of Mum canceling appointment after appointment with said lady, because she 'didn't see the point'. The new pacemaker was put in and my Mum consequently lost her mind.
In December I was phoned by various neighbors, acquaintances and the valued cleaning lady that my mother was acting strange. That she had lost her way on the way to the shops (5 minutes by car). That she didn't dare to drive any more. That she let the mail pile up without opening it. That she didn't tend her beloved garden. That she had told my ex husband that she never saw me or the grandchildren (whilst coming to dinner every Sunday).

I decided enough was enough and took her to the GP. Who at first mumbled something about her being 89, what did I expect. But then admitted that she hadn't reported for her diabetes checkups for some time (1,5 years, it turned out!!!). I instantly lost all faith in him. 
But in my country it is a hassle to get another GP, so I gritted my teeth and decided to work with what I had got - so asked him for a referral to a Geriatric specialist and got it in February.
It took until April for her to have time to see my Mum.

In the meantime I shopped around for help. And felt like Gretl lost in the woods of all the rules and regulations regarding a person with suspected dementia. I need a referral for absolutely everything my Mum needs. Incontinence diapers? Ask a referral from the GP. Zinkoxide for the decubitus wound on her bottom? Ask a referral from the GP. A place at the day centre for people with memory problems? Ask...etcetera. A taxi to get her to the day centre? Ask...etcetera. A personal alarm button she can use when she has taken a fall? GP.

It now has gotten to the point where I am juggling my demanding school work around the appointments for my Mum. I drive to her house every day, to check up on the professionals who check up on her. For she still has her wiles, my darling mother. She blatantly lies (except she doesn't do it on purpose, I suppose) about all kinds of things. A shower? Yes, she has taken a shower (not), she has taken her medicines (not), she has already eaten (not).
She cancels appointments I make for her with her welfare in mind. She refuses to use her rollator.
And at the same time she endlessly tells me she couldn't do without me, she wouldn't know what she would do if I would not take care of her.

Next week we go on yet another trip to the hospital. For the poor thing has breast cancer as well...
Hopefully the Geriatric specialist will tell us that we get Mum a referral to a psycho-geriatric home. My Mum would be safe there, at least. For it is my everlasting worry that she will keel over and break her hip or hit her head.
Until then, and this can take months yet, it is up to me to help Mum find her way through The Land of Dementia. 
The pebbles that helped Hans and Gretl out of the woods, are the pebbles of humor that I doggedly keep throwing on the path behind me. For my Mum can be funny as anything - she has developed a taste for beer (she, who has always deemed beer drinkers 'common') and  thinks nothing of pouring half of it in her discarded glass of  sherry in a restaurant, taking a huge swallow and then gives the shocked waiter a beaming smile and gushes that she simply loves this food and does he come there often?

Right. I will now have a beer. Tomorrow is yet another day.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Urban Hike: Heenvliet Castle


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Good morning to you!
Last weekend I fulfilled an old wish to visit Heenvliet Castle (Kasteel Ravesteyn).



We have two castle ruins on my tiny islands of Voorne-Putten, one (Burcht van Voorne) on Voorne and one (Ravesteyn)on Putten.
Both had been slowly and silently falling apart, providing stones and bricks for neighboring farmsteads, until folk realized in the last century that having a castle on your doorstep was rather special, and created societies to save and upkeep them.

Ravesteyn is private property, but a couple of times a year they open up their 5 acre garden to the public.



And a very nice garden it is. There is a respectable collection of statues and art in the grounds. Most of the modern variety that either makes me smirk or sigh with incomprehension, but some of them I liked very much indeed.



Would have loved to take this baby home with me! Way above my budget though...Six monthly wages worth of it.

We took a leisurely ramble around those 5 acres, and as it was gorgeous summer weather it was a pleasure to be able to walk in the shade of large trees some of the way.


I don't know if you are familiar with our native trees (probably not, and I don't blame you), but we have a lot of willows (both ordinary and weeping) due to the sogginess of our ground, and horse chestnut, beech and oak, but a lot of birch and poplars as well.

From time to time we caught a tiny glimpse of Ravesteyn, where most visitors stayed in the vicinity of the refreshment tent, so our ramble was quiet and we could enjoy the beautifully kept grass pathways on our own.

It turned quite hot, so I was happy to catch some shade from time to time.




You probably are not familiar with the geographical history of my part of The Netherlands either, so I'll give you a quick lesson (ever the teacher, sorry, professional deformation I'm afraid).

We are a land ruled by the sea.Actually most of my country, and especially the part I live in, is one large delta. In the olden days, the sea would shape the many islands in my part of the country, and travel was mostly by boat. Either in between the islands, or on the islands, as narrow boats were used as transport on the many creeks and rivers.
This made this part of the country rather difficult to rule. Large armies had no business here, they got lost in the marshes.



In the middle of this old map you see the islands of  Noord Voorn (or modern day Voorne) and Putten, with Heenvliet in the middle. (Below is Zuidt Voorn, nowadays called Flakkee, and glued to small Goeree on the left!) Not so important, all those names, but it does give you an inkling what the problems were in governing this bit of country.

Castle Ravesteyn was home to a clergyman called Angelus Merula.








The Remonstrants are Dutch Protestants who, after the death of Jacobus Arminius, maintained the views associated with his name. In 1610, they presented to the States of Holland and Friesland a remonstrance in five articles formulating their points of disagreement with Calvinism.[1]According to 2010 statistics, a 6,000-strong Remonstrant community remains in the Netherlands. There is also a single congregation in Friedrichstadt in northern Germany.[2] 

Source: Wikipedia.





Merula was a remonstrant, and thus persecuted by the ruling Calvin order. Ravesteyn was confiscated and Merula ordered to be put to death by fire. It didn't work though...he died of a heart attack just before they put him onto the pyre. The ruling Calvinist burnt his corpse anyway.
Voorne remembers him though, and in nearby Den Briel a school and orphanage, and many island streets are named after him.



Kasteel Ravesteyn is lovingly kept up, but when it comes down to it, not much more than four roofless walls, where you need your imagination to see a castle. I did find the resident hare though.


We ended our ramble in the refreshment tent, and very lovely fresh cakes were served there!
All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon.

The nitty-gritty:
You'll find Heenvliet on the N218 which starts in Rotterdam. Heenvliet itself is a small village with a charming village centre in typical Dutch style, with the 16th century centre surrounded by a moat. It has some fame as a horse market village.
It will take you an hour at most to visit it, and be sure to check opening times for the castle!
Remember this is cattle country, so cattle flies are around in summer (take precautions if you are allergic).
It would be a very good idea to combine visiting Heenvliet with visiting nearby Den Briel (also on the same provincial road). And please look up my urban hike through Den Briel.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this post. Until next time!

Monday, May 29, 2017

All Gardeners Unite!

Good morning to you!
This glorious sunny morning (the fifth in a row, we Dutchies don't know what has hit us!) I would like to share my passion for flowering plants with you all.

Begonia 'Angel' in my tiny garden.
When I was a teenager, I watched my Mum on her knees in her (very large) garden, and I can remember thinking I couldn't see the attraction. At all! Of all the boring things to do!

But when I moved into my first very own house when I was 28, the gardening bug attacked. I looked at the tiny neglected plot in front, and thought I should "do" something with that. So I dug it over, and nicked some wild rosebushes from our local dunes (money was tight. Come to think of it, things haven't changed in that department), and accepted some seedlings from my old downstairs neighbour, and was chuffed to bits when the children of my street voted my flower bed the best.

Then, at 34, I moved into my very first actual house -with-a-garden, and went wild. Amongst the unpacked crates and boxes were dozens of seed trays, the entire house smelled like a greenhouse and family and friends coming round to view the new house were bewildered and asked if all that earth around wasn't bad for my (9 month old) son.
I adored my garden.
But alas. After 27 years the marriage failed and I had to leave my garden behind.

Campanula
And here I am, in a temporary garden, which I inherited from my landlord and is user-friendly (as he complacently informed me when I signed the lease) - meaning filled with evergreen shrubs, two ailing Japanese acers and just day lilies and alchemilla by way of flowers.
I have no funds to spend on my garden to speak of; so what to do with this rather green-on-green greenness?
My solution was pots. For, as I convinced myself, the money spent on flowers in pots is well spent, as I can simply take the pots along when I have to move out again.

Lobelia


So in between all that green (you can just see the lilies and leatherleaf in the photo below left), I have now dotted my flowers.
I have added ferns (I love ferns, they remind me of England) and splashed out on Campanula and Hydrangeas (that last was a bad choice, although looking good. But it needs constant watering; my soil turns out to be parched in that spot).
A friend surprised me with a box of Spanish daisies, which are everywhere.
And yesterday I bought some French pelargoniums to replace the pansies, who are on their last legs by now.



Before work, I take my first cup of herbal tea outside and water my plants, and the world is at peace for a few blissful moments.
And I think that is the essence of gardening for me.

One of the flower boxes


However sad I am, with stuff going on, with the violence in the world, I always recover when I am amongst my plants. They comfort, and bring joy. 

Fuchsia and the violets
Yes, we do have rain, and lots of it usually.
So there you are. Everyone should start to tend a garden, and the world would be at peace. Easy-peasy solution to heal the world :-)




Have a good day (in your garden!)

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Urban Hike: Den Briel

Good afternoon to you all.
I am writing to you looking out on a grey overhung sky, so I am certainly hoping that you are enjoying better Spring weather!


part of the Den Briel ramparts

The poppy was last Saturday, when it was sunny and lovely.
Anyway, I totally ignored the fact that it was grey and chilly and windy and threatening to rain yesterday, when I took another urban ramble. This time I walked around my old haunt, Den Briel (or Brielle as it is also known), to view a WWII event.


The "Americans" 


Den Briel is a famous town, and its fame is based on a long-ago battle. Well, battle...Opinions differ quite a bit, there are two versions, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle I suspect!

The official town council version: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws were defeated in the battle of Den Briel. They were beaten and chased out of the town by the Watergeuzen (noble and courageous seafaring Dutchmen who came by ship), effectively starting the end of the 80 year (!) war against Spain. Encouraged by the example of noble Den Briel, other towns followed and threw out the Spanish enemy.

The historical version now adopted through new evidence: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws saw the changing of the wind, knew they were in for a beating, and fled Den Briel, leaving the town gate wide open for the Watergeuzen (assorted rabble who came by ship)to march into the town, killing and/or maiming those unfortunate Spaniards who were not swift enough.

My version: On April 1st, 1572, Spain had a tough time hanging on to this soggy, wind-flogged piece of land, filled with a troublesome stubborn race of merchants, fishermen and farmers who wanted nothing to do with Roman-Catholics any longer and especially not Spanish ones. It came to blows when the Watergeuzen, tired of being on their ships and in search of food, water and women, decided to berth in Den Briel. The Spaniards lost.

And there you are; you can pick the version which appeals to you most.

Last weekend Den Briel celebrated another war remembrance day, namely the liberation by the American troops in 1945.
Even though I am all for remembering those days (if only to learn lessons from historical events - somehow most governments omit to do this), I suspect this is yet another ploy by Den Briel town council to draw as many tourists as possible. And who can blame them?

Quite a few wanna-be American soldiers, complete with tents, material, heavy rolling material and even anti-aircraft guns, pitched their camp on the town ramparts. I must say it always makes me smile, those earnest fanatical historical re-enacting folk. I mean sincerely smile, not condescendingly!
Piet Heine made a short documentary about the mock battle for Den Briel in 1945; this is the link: Mock Battle WWII 2016


South Gate and Bastion
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Den Briel
the historical town within the ramparts; the route shown is not ours

The ramble:
We started at the South Gate (now less than a ruin), but the actual place where the Watergeuzen entered Den Briel in 1572, and walked along the ramparts, to the "German" camp. Due to the fact it was extremely chilly and there weren't many tourists about (we were their only visitors), they were breaking up camp. 
So we rambled on, stared at by sleepy sheep. 


View on Den Briel from the ramparts, with the Catharijne church
The American camp was next to the North Gate. It was pretty quiet too, but that quickly changed when a long snake of US army trucks and jeeps slowly rumbled in. They had just done a tour of the town. 
I must say this was an impressive sight! Too far away to photograph for me with my iPhone, sorry.




"American" soldier


On the Turfkade, one of the two harbours of Den Briel, there was a war memorabilia market, and that is where we met the re-enactment parade of the troops entering the town. The documentary shows you the aptly named Slagveld side of the harbour (Slagveld means slaughter field).
Personally I thought the Wisteria on the gable of one of the buildings prettier though.


But then I am a self-professed flower geek...
We ended our ramble in one of the oldest bars of Brielle, the Kont van 't Paard (The Horse's Arse), where a band of shockingly young guys played music from the 1940's.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Kont van 't Paerd, Brielle

All in all we walked for 1 hour.
If you would like to visit Den Briel, it is 35 km South of Rotterdam, but due to the always heavy traffic in this part of Holland it will take you an hour to get to it from Rotterdam. Getting there by pubic transport will take even longer.
The town is charming, has some nice restaurants and shops, and the town historical museum is worth a visit.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Urban Hike: Where Were We??


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Good morning you all, everywhere (but mostly in The USA - nice to see you checking in!),

A friend suggested that it would be fun to let you guess at our destination of the latest ramble. So...sure!
Where were we?

It didn't take us overly long to get to this destination. Especially for you lot over there in the good old US of A, or Canada, you are used to driving long distances, so for you this would be like a visit to your local supermarket.
For us Dutchies though, this drive is...well, a proper drive, for which we have to steel ourselves and make sure we have enough provisions etcetera in the car. But one full tank would get us there and back from Rotterdam. (First clue)


This was our aim. It is a museum, and a very modern one at that. On the roof, the tenth floor, there is a Panorama, which gives you a wonderful view over this harbour city. (And there is your second clue!)

This museum has amassed the collections of several old museums in this city. So we saw the most eclectic collection possible, with old paintings, historical earthenware and chamberpots, religion, chocolate tins (third clue),photographs, and a load of boats.


This, (your fourth clue) is a beautiful painting of the quay, with the city in the background. I loved it, the artist has captured the expressions of all those people so well. For instance the woman on the right, in the severe black dress, she gazes into your face with great suspicion! I know that look, it is the exact same look my old neighbour gives me when I'm rolling out of my car with my musician friends!
And the young waiter (in the long white apron), he has the look of a hard working youngster who is used to being ignored unless the toffs need to order another beer. 
The guitar player is in the zone, and has captured the pretty lady's interest.


This was another exhibit which captured my heart. It is part of a pre-Colombian collection.

We went to the roof, obviously, but it was so cold and grey, and the photo has not turned out very well. (Still. It is your fifth clue)


Now, I am giving you a massive, massive hint here: you are looking at the river Schelde.
Well? Have you guessed already? No? Let's continue.

This city used to be part of my country. In fact, it was more important and powerful than Amsterdam at one point. 
They still speak a form of the same language as we; let's say we understand each other's language, but we are very different temperamentally.


The city centre streets are crooked, and so are the shops and buildings. To me, that is quaint. The weather was dismal, so hardly any folk on the pavements to enjoy their beers (sixth clue).
And there were many ancient buildings around, dating from the seventeenth century.


Like the one on the right, with the step gable. 1614, It said.



I like café staff with a sense of humour!(The beer brand is your seventh clue; oh, come on, you must know by now?!)


And here we are. The end of our ramble. This is on a market square. And no, I did not take a photograph of the world famous city hall with its many flags and gilt statues, as I thought it too garish. I prefer the other side, with the typical gables. Your last clue is staring you in the face, by the way.

Hope you enjoyed this different take on my usual ramble. Leave a comment if you want to check with me whether you've guessed my destination.