We had planned to go to a party in Belgium, but it was cancelled at
the last minute. Seeing as we had arranged for our babysitter to cover
the whole weekend we decided to take the opportunity to celebrate 10
glorious years of marriage with a weekend just for the two of us. We
had a very nice time and so we hope that this will be the start of
a new tradition.
When we came back Marjolein paid the babysitter and
Daniel asked why. After we explained he scampered upstairs and got
two euros out of his
piggy bank for her “because we like you looking after us so much”.
She is very fond of them and it seems to be entirely mutual. Daniel
tends to be less “in your face” than Matthijs and his affection
are less quickly granted, but when it is, it runs deep….
also wanted to know why his and his brothers’ birthdays
were not neatly in sequence, from small to big for instance. A typical
Daniel question: he likes things just-so and sensible reasons for everything.
Explaining was difficult: his time-sense is in the early stages: anything
that is in the future is happening “tomorrow” for Daniel
and anything in the past (even far in the past) is “yesterday”.
The first two weeks of this (holiday) month Marjolein mostly just
took the toads out to the local playgrounds, but after that I was off
work and we expanded our range.
First of all we went to “Apenheul” (Monkey
Hill), a monkey safari-park which has the reputation that you can get
to the monkeys. It was quite nice, but less interesting than Marjolein
remembered from her own childhood visit: we saw a few small monkeys
at arms length but the rest were far off behind nets and moats, doing
their own thing.
We had a small party for Falco’s birthday, just his (Dutch)
grandparents, but we shall have a combined celebration of Falco’s
and Matthijs’ birthdays
next month. Falco got a nice present from his grandparents: a small
bouncy castle that produced great joy him and his siblings but nearly
deprived them of a father due to the excessive strain of inflating
the damn thing.
We also discovered the Haarlem municipal plant nursery.
It is a beautiful garden and park at walking distance from our house
a ruin/folly, climable cows (really) and stacks of kiddo activities:
in the picture they are following a “Gnome trail” which
has just told them to pretend they can fly.
We spent a rainy day inside
the beautiful and ancient Teylers Museum, situated on a curve of Spaarne
river in the middle of Haarlem. It is
actually a rich man’s enormous cabinet of scientific curiosities
and art collection. Mammoth skulls and encysted amethysts rub shoulders
with Dutch interiors and Leyden jars. They have attempted to broaden
their appeal, undoubtedly entirely in the spirit of the founder: he
was obviously not above astounding the incredulous with electrical
wonders and convex mirrors. Unfortunately their kiddo-friendly expo
on volcano’s threw rather too many complex scientific terms for
types of lava into the mix even for Matthijs, so the show was somewhat
uneven. The rest of the collection actually worked better: weird wooden
and glass machines, shiny mineral marvels and the mammoth skull which
Falco adopted as a “dinosaur elephant”.
We would have gone
further than playgrounds and such, but our beloved Jimmy became
very ill at this time. Despite antibiotics and all other care the
cancer advanced and he became quieter and slower, until he
could no longer walk or eat. When we saw that even the permanent
unflagging wag was gone from his tail we knew that it should not
go further and
gave him such mercy as we would want ourselves: he went peacefully
to sleep on the 25th of August.
Jimmy was the sweetest, gentlest dog you can
imagine. In all his eight and a half years he never growled and the
only biting he did was
fiendish habit of slowly “grooming” people, so softly that
they only realized much later that the friendly attention had left a
large hole and we needed to buy a new sweater.
The children rode
on his back, curled up on his stomach, pulled his ears and tail (until
we caught them) and even in one instance used
his uncomplaining head as a step to reach the biscuits. Sometimes it
was too much and he excused himself and fled to his basket, but the
draw of company was too great and he would be back after a few minutes,
thumping down like a cheerful furry bolster in the middle of the game.
really, truly loved being with people and wherever you were sitting you
would soon find a large furry object encumbering your feet and
shedding long black hairs on your trousers. His tail was always, always
wagging, particularly if you dared to pay any sort of attention to
him, and it was powerful enough to sweep smaller people off their feet.
Everyone always thought he was a big puppy, because he bounced around
with all four feet off the ground, playing with anything and anyone
available. He was a real retriever, two things made him happy, sniffing
out where you hid his ball and walking tail up, chest out, mane bristling
with some enormous piece of timber (literally doors and a five meter
planks) in his mouth. People used to think we were stealing building
He was a joyful, gentle and innocent soul and we are sure
that a kind and just creator will provide him with an infinite beach,
smells and cheerful people to throw his ball forever.Ave atque vale