Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Keep those wagons rollin’ …

Life is rollin’ on chez les Bacon — school’s almost out for summer, my contract at the university has been extended for another year, baby Didi is up and walking, and we interviewed a woman last night to come help clean for us, which of course meant we spent a mad hour tidying up before she came so she wouldn’t be frightened off.

On the work front, I see that a big translation I did recently on child witches in Africa has made the news. As with many of the texts I do for UNICEF, it produced very mixed emotions: on the one hand, it feels good to contribute to improving the lives of the kids; on the other, their lives are just so goddamn miserable, and people can be so extremely cruel and sadistic that I sometimes felt physically disgusted.

Meanwhile in my day job at the university, I’m alone in the office, having opted to push my holiday dates back to better match our oldest two kids’ break (the summer holiday is staggered in the Netherlands over three different periods to reduce the mass exodus in August).

The IT people have “upgraded” (sic) our system to Outlook and Office 2010, so I’ve spent the first hour reinstalling my own apps. If you consider we have upgraded from using Novell for our email, then you will understand that we are running about five years behind the cutting edge.

Now, everything seems to have stopped running … maybe I shouldn’t have tried to install Adobe CS4, Flash Player, VLC player, and 17 Firefox add-ins at the same time …

Back to work. Rawhide!

Family lives 4 years with dead brother

The northern province of Friesland is considered to be on the outer fringes of the Netherlands, with its own language, cows, and … weirdness. Proof of just how weird was the following news story from last night:

In the village of Minnertsga, the body of a man who died four years ago has been found lying on his bed at home. His remains were discovered by his family. His brothers (61 and 67) and two sisters (44 and 71) live in the same house.

They last spoke to their 50-year-old brother at the beginning of 2006, when he told them that he was going to his room and did not want to be disturbed. According to local people, the family is known to be very religious and never joined any social events in the village. “No one managed to make contact with them,” said a local official. “They refused to go to the doctor because they believed that the Lord would heal them.”

This week the local housing authority contacted the family about some maintenance work that was needed in the terraced house. One of the residents then entered the bedroom where the dead body was found. A doctor was called, who in turn alerted the police. The man is presumed to have died of natural causes.

Reactions among the Dutch were surprise (What about the smell?!), amusement (Only in Friesland!) and cynicism (They were just happy to keep getting his dole money).

I wonder how the story will be perceived abroad.

Orange was the color

In between the creche and the day job is Balans, a cobbled street that splits at a hilltop, curves behind the Abbey walls and rejoins in front of St Joris, built in 1582. And within Balans is a small fountain with four jets shooting straight up. Best appreciated by students who love throwing in a pack of washing powder and watching the foam, the Mayor’s office has decided to include the fountain in the city’s royal festivities next week by colouring the water orange, the symbol of the Netherlands, still nominally ruled by the House of Orange.

In between the creche and the day job, I pulled the car over and dusted off my camera for a couple of shots:

Orange sets the tone for the visit of the Queen
With the royal visit drawing near, the fountain by the Abbey walls has taken on a patriotic colour.
Fanta coloured foaming fountains
Imagine it was Fanta!

The previous night being Students’ Night (Thursday), the fountain was foaming with suds whiter than white, but with the water turned orange for the Queen’s visit, my son licked his lips and grinned: “Imagine it was Fanta!”

Blue and yellow

Back to work on Monday after an exhausting IKEA weekend: long trip to the mainland on Saturday, then six hours shuffling round the blue and yellow megabox, sustained only by Swedish meatballs and a family-size bag of Daims; Sunday busy with the allen keys, baffled by pictogram instructions simplified for our 23-language community.

What did we buy? Well, after Mr B decided that we’d made too many hasty decisions (during our six-hour visit), you can already find half of the stuff on marktplaats.nl, the local, most popular equivalent of eBay.

Mr B is right, of course; IKEA specializes in the borderline of the acceptable; the grey zone of style where no one feels exactly at home but is at a loss for anything better, or affordable.

As part of my extensive research for this post, I came across this song by The Used.

[audio: The-Used-Blue-and-Yellow.mp3]

As far as poignant adolescent longing goes, it’s … apparently much appreciated by fans who bicker about whether the lyrics refer to romance, friendship or dope. Of course, it’s none of those things. Check out the lyrics from the chorus:

Should’ve done something but I’ve done it enough,
by the way your hands were shaking,
rather waste some time with you.

The references are so obviously IKEAN: the tension between the desire for Scandinavian design (kräap) and the fear of having “an IKEA house”; the way your hands feel after screwing together several flatpacks of mdf with a 4mm allen key;

… and the realization that time could have been better spent with the ones you love.

Life’s too short to visit IKEA.

Call me stupid

It’s heading for 1 am. About to shut down for the night, I carelessly copied over the whole folder of my current editing job in progress onto my USB stick, thinking that I’d be super efficient by having access to the files during the day tomorrow. Two seconds later I realized to my horror that I had already been super efficient by working on the document directly on my stick. By copying over the original version of the file, I deleted all of this evening’s work.

I don’t know whether to cry or give myself a slap for being so stuuuupid!