Happy days

This week started off very well in Innsbruck, and it ended great as well in Leiden, here’s a short overview: Tuesday and Wednesday were rather straightforward, on Thursday the first Master’s student I co-supervised graduated and I had an excellent yoga class. On Friday mum, dad, Hans and Sara visited Naturalis so I visited the exhibitions as well. “Extreem” was very cool (literally at one point where it includes a big block of ice). Dad and I really liked the anatomy exhibition as well, but mum wasn’t too charmed by it, some stuff we borrowed from the hospital is on display, among which parts of a heart and of a lung with gunshot wounds, Siamese twins in alcohol, dissections of heads and an achondroplastic skeleton.

Early in the evening Sander B. came over for dinner and partying. On the way to my place he took some pictures of the lovely swans in the canal. We also watched the highly entertaining film “Team America World Police” (yes, finally, you’ll get it back now Steve). Absolutely hilarious, though I had expected nothing less from the guys behind South Park 🙂 After that we met Steve and Luke in the English Pub. Luke’s quote of the day “his head looks like it’s been carved out of a potato”. I like Luke 🙂 We ended the day at Olo Rosso, a tapas place/half club, I say half club because Sander, Steve, Luke and I were the only ones dancing, even though the music could not be ignored and was certainly intended to be danced to.

Shopping Saturday. I needed to get some stuff from town, and as usual I came back with more than I went shopping for. No clothes though this time, but food. I meant to get some incense from Xenos (succeeded) but I also bought some basic food (pasta, wraps, guacamole, tom yum soup, olives, yet another jar of pesto, I thought I was running out of pesto but when I was tidying up my cupboards last night I found three other jars, plus the one in the fridge…anyway, I have some stock again). The pasta came in handy as main dish before my chocolate fondue dessert with Arthur. Unfortunately, a goodbye-for-a-while-chocolate-fondue as he’s leaving for Canada for a couple of months later this week :(Our first attempt to melt the chocolate failed due to a pan that was too small in combination with a bowl that was too big, so when the water only started boiling a little bit it would splatter into the bowl, not a good idea.


On the second attempt we took a different approach (bigger pan) which worked marvelously, I had to sacrifice part of my chocolate keyboard (for a good cause though) which it melted gorgeously, almost it was almost hypnotising to see it melt (and it tasted even better!). The chocolate was of excellent quality as it didn’t even need cream to prevent it from lumpy. Mmmm!!! and very healthy too as we had raspberries to dip. Whilst dipping the aforementioned raspberries, as well as bits of banana, kiwi and biscuits in hot chocolate we watched 5 episodes of “Believe Nothing”. A miniseries starring Rik Mayall, this time not as a total loser, but as a “quadruple professor”. His acting reminds me a bit of “Edina” in AbFab..the man is just a comic genius 🙂

Merpel-time on Sunday. There was sleeping late, watching an episode of Prison Break and the very last episode of “The OC” (~snif, but cool). Then another little bit of shopping (fresh veggies) and the rest of the afternoon I curled up on the sofa with a pot of tea and James to do some work. I think the MITCH team is going to have the deadliest faculty poster ever 🙂 Oh and there was cleaning my kitchen, which still smelled of chocolate, delicious!

This evening Judith and I went to a salsa & danson class, taught by people who grew up with salsa, which was very, very cool. It’s a shame there weren’t too many people, but the place is a bit hard to find…this way we had more space though, which came in handy with the danson which is a bit complicated at first as it’s built up out of 11-step patterns, but very elegant (well, it’s supposed to be elegant ;)). Not a bad way at all to end the weekend.

Innsbruck: city of afternoon delights

In a crazy frame of mind, and because I’d already been in Holland for about 5 weeks now I decided two weeks ago to skip Carnaval this year and go to Innsbruck instead to visit Mick, whom I met at ESSLLI last summer and who’s great to talk to online, and even more fun to hang out with. I arrived late in the afternoon on Friday. Getting up had been hard, but fortunately mum rang me out of bed 🙂 The flight to Munich was cool, especially the landing. I usually prefer the take-off, but it was really sunny and I was on the right side of the aeroplane to see the shadow of the it really well, and see the plane and the shadow come together on touching down. This is very hard to describe, but it was very, very cool. It proved to be a weekend full of great light and shadow effects anyway, but more on that later. I was rather knackered but it was good to go out for a little walk and to the supermarket where we stayed for too long because it took ages to find certain things that they had put in places where we didn’t expect to find them, and also didn’t go looking for them. The gorgeous prosciutto and me successfully asking for concentrated lemon juice in my best German made up for it though. Dinner took a bit longer than expected, because the oven decided not to get hot enough, so we had no time for dessert and rushed to the Irish pub for a little ESSLLI reunion/drinks with other DERI people. At some point Graham showed up, but only to drag us to a lovely tiny little cafe called ‘Cafe Filou’ in a tiny narrow street. Cafe Filou was a really cool place, but the local organisers thought I should also see a more typical Austrian (?) joint, so I was taken to a nightclub called ‘Stadtcafe’. It was an interesting place, not really my kind of place though. It was just too big, and too ‘trendy’, in a non-trendy way. Also the look of sheer boredom on some of the people’s faces made us decide to call it a day around 3 am. I think it was 3am anyway…..

Saturday we decided to take it easy, so the sightseeing didn’t start until the afternoon. I couldn’t have survived getting up early anyway so this was excellent. The weather this weekend was great and so bright my camera was complaining most of the time that it was too bright, which was a rather new experience because I usually try to take pictures in too dark situations. Anyway, we did all the touristy things: wandering through the cute little streets in the ‘Altstadt’, passing the Goldenesdachsel, looking at some old houses with frescos and we climbed the tower (from which we had a beautiful overview of the city and valley). We skipped the Tyrolean museum because we enjoyed stayed on a terrace on top of a big department store for too long. This place was just so cool! It was very warm so we could just sit outside whilst having a cup of tea on a bench with a bunch of cushions and watching the planes over our heads. When the sun disappeared it got cold so we went to get some hot chocolate, though not before I took some more pictures of the staircase in the department store and we ended the sightseeing tour with a visit to the cathedral. We meant to go out to dinner, but most options included some huge amount of sausage so we ended up getting take-away pizza, watching Austin Powers, listening to The Frames and playing guitar.


On Sunday we took a bus to the Patscherkofel, a 2000 meter high mountain which gives you an absolutely deadly overview of the town and valley. The bus doesn’t take you up all the way so halfway the mountain there’s a lift, swamped with people with snowboards and skis which takes you up to almost the top (the last bit is one of those skilifts, next time I need to bring a snowboard so I can go all the way up!). It was boiling in the valley, but up on the mountain it was rather cold, especially in the wind. But we still decided to have Gluhwein and Apfelstrudel outside because the view from the terrace was just breathtakingly gorgeous. The Gluhwein was cold before I finished it, as was the Apfelstrudel, but it was a good breakfast nonetheless. In the evening we wanted to go out for some Thai, but the Thai restaurant was closed (I made up for it on Tuesday when I tried out my new wok), so it was Austrian food (potato with cream and meat and veggies) in an Italian restaurant instead and drinks at the ‘Galway bay’ with Graham and Jacek.

For Monday we had planned to go ice-skating, but because it was too hot (I was literally sitting in my t-shirt outside) the ice-rink was closed. So we had coffee at DERI (nice sofas!) and after that I started packing (which was done in 5 minutes) and we listened to some more Frames music and exchanged data (I hadn’t brought my harddisk just to stuff my bag, now I just need a couple of weeks to watch/listen to all the stuff) before the little shuttlebus came to pick me up to go to Munich airport again. It took quite a while to get there because of the traffic, but I still had plenty of time to get groped by a security lady and to eat some Weisswurst and potato wedges. In Amsterdam I got off the plane at 22:35, took a train at 22:45 and walked into my apartment in Leiden at 23:15 (only to leave 8.5 hours later again to take a train to Tilburg for a meeting, but that doesn’t matter) 🙂

The Frames (again :D)

So,soon I’ll tell some more about my adventures in Innsbruck, but first things first. I have to tell you about Thursday, which was the best start of the weekend one could imagine. So Thursday was a busy day, first work, then tidying up my apartment and packing, then singing lesson and then yet another Frames concert, this time in Paradiso, Amsterdam. The work, cleaning and packing aren’t so interesting, I’m sure you know how it’s done (stuffing clothes in your wardrobe, splashing around with some water and washing up liquid, and stuffing some stuff into a bag) so I don’t need to tell anymore about that. The singing lesson was really cool, as usual. It’s really amazing what difference it makes to just change the position of your tongue in your mouth slightly, or the difference you hear when you finally find out how to relax the right muscles in your jaw. It’s just cool! And we’re also working on musical ear training a bit now, such as singing two notes which were played on a piano together separately.

Right after my lesson I rushed to the train station, where Steve was already waiting. Around 19:15 we were in Amsterdam, and I was immediately impressed with the Paradiso building. It wasn’t too busy yet so we found Michiel, a fellow CATCH’er, out there to his first Frames concert, and who’d arrived earlier right away.

As in Antwerp, BellX1 were up as support act, Steve and Michiel thought they were a little too sweet, but that’s only because they were in ‘acoustic mode’. They’re playing Paradiso again in March, as main act, and I’m tempted to go and find out how they are live in ‘normal mode’. Even though I like the acoustic versions of their songs very, very much.

The Frames were fantastic again. The band seemed more relaxed and enjoying themselves more than the weekend before in Antwerp. I can only say that for me they’re magical. They were very happy the audience could sing along with every song. Glen Hansard was so relaxed that at the end of the concert he performed Star Star while lying on his back on the stage (‘since it was written while lying on my back in the grass’). It was just fabulous!!!

On Youtube there are a few movies of two songs performed that night: leave and an improvised medley. And here’s a movie of Colm Mac ComIomaire doing the solo he did in Amsterdam, recorded in Brussels, a few nights before. Really, do not go any further until you clicked those links, to see what you’ve missed. And after that, go get tickets for the Frames.

After the gig Paradiso turned into a night club, so we stayed for another drink and for some dancing. At a certain point we spotted, Johnny Boyle, the drummer of the Frames really nearby so I went up to him and got to take a picture, Yay!! Weird (but cool) thing was that he recognised me as someone in the audience at a concert earlier that week…maybe I should stop going to see the same band all the time 🙂 Anyway, he was cool about it, and I just said I couldn’t help myself and was addicted to their music. On the way out we almost bumped into Glen Hansard on the street, so we also thanked him for the great concert. Now we only need to talk to Rob Bochnik, the guitarist, and then we will have chatted to all of them 😛

Lucky me

Today I left Tilburg University a bit earlier to increase my chances of making it to my dance class in time (you never know with trains). Anyway, in case things went really wrong I already took my dance gear with me, so I could go straight from the train station to my class. So I had two bags, one with my laptop and work stuff, and one with my dance gear, and also very important, mine and Steve’s tickets to the Frames concert tomorrow (yes, again, it’s becoming an addiction, but music is good, music heals). I had to change at Den Haag HS, so I got off the train, walked happily along the platform because my train to Leiden wouldn’t be delayed, and as the train behind me left the station I realised I had left my bag with my dance gear and the tickets on it!!! But, because I’m me, I didn’t panic, not a lot anyway, and I found out the train was to be cleaned at Den Haag CS. So I took a tram to the Central Station, rushed to the platform, ran through the train and YAY!! Found my bag again!!! With everything in it! Phew! So I did a little happy dance, jumped on a train to Leiden, made it home only 10 mins later than I would have had I not been so stupid to leave the bag on the train, quickly cooked myself some experimental pasta with mushrooms (good though) and went to my dance class 🙂

Oh btw, yesterday I found a live album of The Frames on emusic I hadn’t heard yet. It’s called Breadcrumb trail and it’s lovely. I also found some nice classical music there and some jazz…so don’t worry I also still listen to other music (but the Frames are the ‘bestest’ live band!).


The Single Life: Week 4

This week has known some big downs and some big ups. Fortunately most of the downs were are the start of the week and the ups at the end, so hopefully this was it for the downs. At least the new-singleness-status-downs. One of the downs did make me crash back into reality, I guess that’s a good thing. *big Sigh*. Someone still has a lot to learn about interpersonal relationships…I guess M. was right that men are 10 years behind mentally.

Anyway, the ups:

  • Jammin’ with Steve on Monday evening. I had brought over my guitar and half a bottle of Bailey’s 🙂
  • On Tuesday I had a lovely dinner at Jill’s with Sander, a fellow PhD student. Afterwards I had drinks with Arthur and Judith. Cycling home through Leiden at 0100 was lovely.
  • Something truly fabulous might happen. Once-in-a-lifetime fabulous. My reaction is still a bit mellow because I’m not quite back to my own-happy-merp, but inside I am very excited about it.
  • On Thursday I had a marvelous yoga class. Our regular teacher was away for a few days and it’s nice to have another teacher every now and then. I think our regular teacher is a bit more careful with us, but this was cool, and tough 🙂 It was also very warm in the studio so it was quite intensive but I felt really good afterwards.
  • On Friday I had an excellent CATCH meeting at the Instituut voor Beeld and Geluid in Hilversum. Interesting talks, albeit a bit shallow, and a great tour of the new Media Experience.
  • Saturday: shopping!!! I just bought the most fantastic mittens. I’ve never spent this much money on mittens or gloves, but I just had to have these. I also got a comfy jumper and a sexy shirt. And I assisted Sara in finding the right outfit for Carnaval: it involves a lot of pink 🙂
  • BIG BIG UP: The Frames in Antwerp, see my previous post for more on that
  • On Sunday: sleeping late, and in the afternoon I went to see in the cinema with mum, dad and Hans. Not a very complicated plot, but great scenery and just a good film to watch.

Tiny downs:

  • When I got back in Leiden on Sunday evening I found out that my bike has a flat tyre. And I didn’t manage to fix it. Every time I closed a puncture and put it back on again a new hole appears. I’ve taken it to a bike repair shop in Leiden, see what happens.
  • I am still not capable of brushing my teeth without spilling toothpaste all over the place
  • Steve’s front door got kicked in by firefighters who wanted to rescue him because there was a fire at his neighbour. He wasn’t home, and other than his door and the bit of wall around the door his place is OK.

Ireland’s darlings in Antwerp

Yesterday evening was all about good music again 🙂 Last night I went to one of the weirdest venues I’ve ever been too (a big bunker-like building, surrounded by mud, in the middle of nowhere on one of the river banks in Antwerp, in one of the areas Barbarella was projected constantly, though they did iterate through the different subtitles, the weirdness of the place also seemed to affect Veronique’s Dad’s car’s navigation system as it didn’t seem to want to guide us there, luckily Steve’s phone’s GPS helped us out). Anyway, we went there because the Frames played there last night, supported by Minguz (a local band that won a competition) and BellX1. Minguz was interesting, amazing what a full sound only two guys can achieve, though it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. BellX1 were fab. Only three of them, in acoustic mode, but really, very good stuff. But, we all came for the Frames. At least Steve, Vero and I did, most of the people in the audience didn’t seem to have come for the best live band I’ve seen. But that was good, it made it easy for us to occupy some great spaces right at the front. I could even touch the stage!!! The crowd was a bit weird, weird enough for Glen Hansard to urge the crowd to come forward. There were also some people shouting stupid things, but well, I had a great night. Singing along with ‘Devil Town’, an intermezzo thrown in by Hansard to get the crowd to participate more, was really cool. And everyone joined in, as they should have from the beginning. They were only supposed to play for about an hour, but they took their time and played at least:

  • Turbit
  • The Cost
  • Keepsake
  • Rise
  • God Bless Mom
  • Leave
  • What Happens When the Heart Just Stops
  • Falling Slowly
  • When Your Mind’s Made Up
  • Finally
  • Revelate
  • Fake – Private Dancer
  • Santa Maria
  • Sad Songs
  • Mighty Sword
  • Devil Town
  • Star Star – Hotellounge

Being so close to the stage was really, really cool. It gave the event an unusual intimate feeling 🙂 That was already enough to make it a fabulous night. But it got even better 🙂

After the gig we were chilling out in one of the dancing areas (with projections of topless ladies above our heads), then all of a sudden the fiddler of the Frames, Colm Mac ConIomaire walks by. A few minutes later he walks past again, so I, crazy cow rushed up to him and thanked him for the great gig. He was very nice, actually thanked me for coming to the gig, but in a rush, so he shook my hand and disappeared through a to-backstage door again.Some time later, the bass guitar player, Joe Doyle walks by and disappears into another room, only to return again after a few minutes, so Veronique rushed to him (followed by me of course) to thank him for the great gig. He was also very nice, and said himself, almost apologetically, that it was a bit of a weird gig. Woohoo!! Of course Veronique and I behaved, but we just felt the need to let them know we had really, really enjoyed the concert. It’s a pity not the whole crowd was as ecstatic (in a totally grown-up and appropriate way of course) as we were, because I think the Frames are a very giving band. Of course they’re just doing their jobs. But I’ve been to gigs of artists who are so busy with themselves that they hardly noticed that there was an audience who are actually there to see them and they left after exactly half an hour, leaving you with the feeling “staying at home and listening to the CD would have been just as good”. Whereas The Frames’ music really comes to life on stage, and they make you, the audience, feel good to be there, feel special because they’re giving you their music in the most direct way. It was a night to remember 🙂

(More pics on my flickr page!)