A Family Weekend in the Ardennes

17 and 18 July, the erpeltjes+entourage spent a weekend in La Roche en Ardenne. The occasion was that a certain someone did not want to throw a big party for her big 5-0, but instead wanted to have a nice weekend with her family, and I think we succeeded in that. On the morning of July 16, I travelled down to the South to try on my wedding dress, which (thank god) fit this time, although some adjustments still needed to be made (another few cms smaller around my waist for example :)). In the afternoon Paul also arrived in Etten-Leur with our rental car for the weekend, a yellow Opel Corsa πŸ™‚

After dinner, the caravan went on its way. We would stay in Frank’s work place: a house near La Roche with a huge patch of grass, delimited by the Ourthe. Since his company is not using it during the summer, we didn’t have to camp out in tents, which was nice. Anyway, we got there around 22:00 pm, and after moving our stuff from the car and making our beds we sat down for some drinks and music.

On Saturday morning Dad, Frank, Hans, Peter and I went out mountainbiking. Peter only did the bit uphill because his hand was still in a plaster cast, so he couldn’t really do the downhill bit (which, unfortunately for him, is the most fun bit). Frank and Hans had done it before so they kind of raced down, dad is a lot more used to race bikes so was quite fast too, and then they all had to wait for me all the time but they were nice about it :). It was my first time mountain biking and I loved it, although it does take quite some getting used to sitting bent forward when you’re used to a regular Dutch bike…

After the mountain biking we had lunch and hung around the house a bit, reading magazines and relaxing. Sara got her first guitar lessons from Frank, Peter and me, so she was busy trying to switch fluently between the Em, C, D and G chords.

Later on in the afternoon mum, dad, Hans, Paul and I went to the La Roche to get some bread. Turns out, I’d been there before (several times already actually) but I’d forgotten. So we walked around for a bit (as tourists do), admired the shops (kijken, kijken, niet kopen) and laughed at someone rather unsuccessfully undertaking a watersports activity that revolved around this person being locked into a big plastic ball and trying to walk on water.

When we got back, the whole family tried out the zipline on the premises after which we set Frank and Hans to work to find wood for the camp fire we planned that night (OK, other people were doing other tasks, such as making salad, putting up the barbecue etc but they did the hard work). We had a truly splendid barbecue in the sun that evening.

Followed by a big campfire that lasted until well into the night Β πŸ™‚

On Sunday we all got up a bit late, and were a bit slow to get going. We had intended to go for a hike, but the weather was so great that it was just nicer to hang out around the river (building dams, as you’re supposed to do as a Dutch person) and sit in the grass. At some point Frank did bring out a crossbow and a handbow and some targets, so we had a go at those.

The afternoon went by way to fast, so after we had tidied up the bows and targets it was time for (an early) dinner before the drive back. We got back to Etten-Leur around 20:00, where Paul and I had a quick drink, after which we drove on to Amsterdam. Because we didn’t want the holiday feeling to end yet we decided to stay in town for another while after we returned the car, enjoying some drinks on a terrace near the Leidseplein. On to the next holiday! πŸ™‚

P.S. More photos on my flickr page.

Dr. M.

Four and a half weeks ago I defended my Ph.D. thesis at Tilburg University, so I’m a dr. now! I’m glad that it’s over, although I had a great time at Naturalis, Tilburg and exploring the world (OK, the last few months going through the text over and over again to spot any more typos, sloppy wordings, inconsistencies and generally prettifying the text to improve readability were not the most enjoyable). Then, since I got word that the committee had approved of the manuscript another fun part started: preparing Β the document for printing. In the Netherlands, Ph.D. theses are to be printed properly, so with a snazzy cover, copyrights notice, particular format (17.0 x 24.0 mm) etc. An ISBN number is optional (but of course I got one :)). So, the day after my Scotland-England trip, I went by the printer’s office on my way to Amsterdam to check out different paper types, get some help on choosing the right black for the cover and various other bits and bobs. After mucking around with LaTeX to change the margins a few mm (it just made it look that much better) and a crash course in Adobe InDesign for the cover and bookmark, it was out of my hands on May 17. A few days later I already received some test prints, and on June 9 I held my book in my hands, well, all the 210 copies. About half of which I immediately had to part with because they needed to be sent to various institutions and people.

Cover of my book :)

After drooling on the books for a while, I had to get to work to prepare my introductory talk, get a shirt (I looked around for a new suit, but couldn’t find a nice one), prepare for the questions and try to get enough sleep (which was hard, because I was so excited, hell, I’m still excited!). The day of the defence itself went really fast. I got to Tilburg early in the morning because TiCC had organised a symposium with talks by two of my opponents (profs. Ed Hovy and Piek Vossen). Of course the talks lasted longer than expected, so when I thought I’d have some more time to flick through the book again before the defence I didn’t; instead I had to get changed immediately and rush to the main building where I would meet my parents and one of my paranymphs, my brother Hans (my other paranymph was Steve). When Hans and Steve got changed into their suits, we went to the auditorium to plug in my laptop and to get the instruction of the beadle about where to stand and which way to walk etc.

At 14:00 I started my presentation (in Dutch) which I managed to time exactly 10 mins, so that was a good start. At 14:15 the committee, chaired by Harry Β (my BA and MA supervisor) entered and the questioning began (in English). The questions were tough, but fun, and varied, and actually it was almost a shame that it was over after 45 mins. Although my paranymphs were quite happy it was over, because standing still for 45 mins in the heat in black tailcoats with all the trimmings turned out to be quite a challenge. After a while the committee returned, and they had decided that my answers were good enough so I got my diploma!!!