Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

From *In Memoriam*
by Alfred Lord Tennyson (England 1809-1892)

"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the world that is to be."

I wish you all a happy new year. A new year in which peace and fairness can prevail in the world. A new year in which more children will get enough to eat and be able to go to school. A new year in which more people will have a chance to make something out of their lives.
A New Year is the opportunity to start anew, to make resolutions, to try to do things better, to live healthier etc. For me it is the start of a *new age*, as I have just retired, had a rather advanced birthday, and am looking for new opportunities to *do my own thing*, which means crafting, painting, being creative, giving courses and going to courses to get - and stay - in contact with other people.
In the past year I have unfortunately lost a lot of old friends, people who have been a part of my life for many years, and they cannot be replaced. But I have also made new friendships, which have opened up new possibilities and horizons, and given new impulses and ideas. I find that change is always difficult to accept, but the opposite of change is stagnation, and that is a horrible vision! As long as we are alive we can grow, learn, change and start anew.
In the last few days I was rather *down*, wondering if things will turn out as I hope they will. But now I can face the new year with confidence, ready to take things as they come, and to do my best to make them as I would like them to be.

Happy New Year, especially to my friends in England on the DC Forum, who have given me such a lot of support, encouragement and love in the past year. Happy New Year to my friend B, who is also starting out anew, good luck, I know you can do it!

Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Things are brightening up???

What was that rubbish I wrote a few days ago? Here everything is grey-in-grey, cold, raining, not a soul to be seen or heard. Looks more like we are heading for doomsday than brightening up. In a few days it will be new year. The only resolutions I can think of are downright scary, so I think I have 2 options - either I stick my head in the sand (pity, no bucket of sand within reach) or I read a book till it's all over.
At the beginning of January 2008 I wrote a poem about hibernating, perhaps that really would be the answer:
*If I were a bear
I would sleep in my lair
Cuddled up with my mate
From early till late.
In our cave warm and deep
All winter we’d sleep,
We would lose all out fat -
Now just fancy that!
In the spring we would wake,
Our slim hips would shake
Then go out for a bath
And have a good laugh.
We’d catch some nice fish
To eat with no dish,
And enjoy the fresh air -
If I were a bear!* ((c) Valerie-J Tups)

Unfortunately, I'm not a bear, just a (sometimes)lonely person well past her best-buy-before date.
Any suggestions? DON'T TELL ME!!!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Things are brightening up....

Monday the 21st was not only my birthday, but also the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But now we're going back in the other direction. The days will be getting longer, the nights will be getting shorter, we can start looking forward to spring again. Well, it's not exactly round the corner, but it has already started its journey to us. Light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sightseeing in Düsseldorf and aggressive scrap

Yesterday was my birthday, and although it was a cold and snowy day, I really enjoyed it. My best friend B courageously battled her way through the snowy countryside and over frozen roads to get here to breakfast with me. I don't know if I would have dared the drive in that weather, but she did, and it is something I very much appreciate. In the afternoon my friend Dani came to eat some birthday cake with me, and we enjoyed a nice couple of hours together talking about God and the world by coffee, cocoa, cake and pro-secco. Lots of people rang up to congratulate me, others sent mails, many of my friends from England sent cards and presents which warmed my heart. Thank you all. My family kept their distance and left me alone - another big thank you!! And yesterday evening we had a virtual birthday / Christmas party on the DC Scrapbooking Forum with fantasy dates, food and drink, making a bizarre society ranging from George Clooney and Hagrid to Westlife and Alex-the moonlight-vampire. *Fingerfood* and *Katzpiss* wine from Alma rounded the evening off nicely. A funny evening in the company of nice ladies, who felt very near even though we were all sitting in different towns and countries. Thanks to Gina who organised it, and to all who joined in the fun.
Today was back to normal. I had promised to go to *Bettypepper*, our new scrap-café, to talk about my scrap course in the new year. I didn't feel like driving through the town with the chaotic pre-Xmas traffic enhanced by icy roads, slushy pavements and missing parking lots. So I went by tram and bus. No problem. The tram stop is just along the road, and after 2 stops I changed to the bus, which even came on time (a modern day wonder, in spite of snow and ice!) and off we went. The bus evidently does a sightseeing tour of all the districts of Düsseldorf that I have never seen, never wanted to see, and never want to see again! All in all it took 1 1/2 hours! The bus kept filling up with new passengers, who mysteriously disappeared a few stops later, to be replaced by others. But the passengers were friendly, and chatty -could it be that a little Xmas feeling has rubbed off on them? That a little bit of *peace on earth good will to all men* had come down to the 730 bus? Even on the way back the bus and tram were on time, no waiting. And I must admit, I did enjoy my outing a bit, although travel with bus and tram is usually on my *problems to be avoided* list and not listed under the things I like. But I think it's important for me to do things even if the weather is bad, instead of thinking up excuses, and I hope in the coming year I will be able to see more things as a challenge, as an adventure, instead of as problem to be avoided.
And of course, while I was in the scrap-café, those strange phenomena that all scrappers know happened - things flew from the shelves into my basket, and I felt obliged to buy them. Tattered Angels, Tim Holtz, My Mind's Eye - need I say more?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The sounds of silence...

I woke up this morning (afternoon)at 12.20, I couldn't believe my eyes that it was so late. And as I listened to the sounds of the morning, I realised there were none. No faint sounds of the planes taking off or landing at the airport, no traffic, nothing. Then I got out of bed and looked - snow, everywhere snow. A thick white blanket of powdery snow covering the ground, the trees - and even my balcony. Never had that before, the wind must be blowing hard from the east to blow it there, my chairs and table looked so surreal sitting there with this coating of perfect, glistening white. Before I start getting sentimental, and to make it quite clear, I DO NOT like snow. Looking at it, yes. Pictures and post-cards, yes, very pretty. But I neither like going out in it nor driving in it. Of course, sometimes I have to. Last year it snowed at Xmas and stayed for weeks, so had to take my daily walk stomping through the snow along the Rhine, wrapped up in multiple layers of warm and wooly clothing, and then a hot coffee in *Café Schuster* in Kaiserswerth to warm up before attempting the way back. (That's the café where I got stung by a wasp back in those lovely hot days of summer) Now it's just the cold that's stinging! I can see three little birds sitting on a branch outside my window, all huddled up and looking a bit sorry for themsleves, poor things. At least I am sitting inside, next to a hot radiator, and with a big bucket of hot coffee to keep me going.
And what about all the homeless? What must it be like having to be out day and night in weather like this, alone, hungry and probably both desperate and destitute. Poor people, hope they find a shelter for a few nights while it's so bad.
Some are dreaming of a romantic, white Christmas, hope they get it, and can enjoy it. But I'm dreaming of a warm and peaceful Christmas for the whole world. For children in need. Children and adults who are ill. For all those suffering from war, hunger and hate. For all who are alone, ill or sad. *Tis the season to be jolly??* Well, I'm not quite so sure about that.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Silent night....

It's snowing now quite heavily, I think I will be staying home tomorrow!

Goethe's secret tales....

Yesterday evening I made the Chanukkah supper for B and her Mum. Managed to clear enough stash out of the kitchen to have room to lay the table and sit down, grated potatoes galore, this time without taking the skin off my knuckles, chopped the onions, added all the *secret* ingredients and started frying. (No, I was just doing the frying, not being fried.) Got the *latkes* all fried beautifully, rolled the smoked salmon slices, put the crème fraiche into a bowl, I don't think I forgot anything this time. By the time the guests arrived I had the feeling that I smelt like a big latke myself, but supper was ready. Before we ate, I lit the Chanukkah candles, said the blessings and sang *Maos Zur*, a beautiful Chanukkah song, and translated it all for my visitors. Was lovely to have company and not be alone. We enjoyed our meal, which, much to my surprise - as I am not a good cook - tasted delicious (I ask you, how stupid would you have to be if you were NOT able to get such a simple dish on the table?!) and sat for a long time drinking coffee and eating German Xmas biscuits. I wanted to serve ice for dessert, but we were all full up - enough is sooner or later enough! We talked for ages, telling stories, reading poems and trying to guess the authors, and just enjoying each other's company. I don't have a Xmas tree, but I do have some glass baubles which I have been given in the course of the years, and *Goethe*, my flat mate (see picture) has also been decked out for the season of festivities. All in all, a lovely evening with good company, presents, nice food, and the feeling of understanding and being understood. If *Goethe* could hear and speak, I wonder what he would have had to tell?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The First Snow - Well!

After the ice cold weather of the past days and the permanent warnings of the weather men that SNOW was on its way, some fell last night.....It was just about enough to put an icing-sugar powdering on the fields behind our house. It may have been more other places, but that was all that came down here. I am NOT complaining. Snow is always very pretty, love looking at postcards or photos, but it is not nice when you have to drive over the dirty, slippery mess it leaves on the roads. So, I am not dreaming of a white Xmas, just of the time when the sun will be shining all day and I can sit at an outside café and enjoy my coffee without freezing....

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Xmas market in Kaiserswerth

Just hopped into *town* to do my shopping, and thought it would be a good opportunity to take some pictures of the Xmas market as there were not many people about and the sun was shining. Just got one picture before I had to flee, there was a very drunk and dirty tramp trying to grab the few people who were there and kiss them - eeeeeeeeeek! He said he was Santa. Well, he did have a very red nose, so perhaps he was related to Rudolf!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Quo vadis?

After retiring just over 2 weeks ago, I have got to the stage where I am wondering what to do next, where my journey will take me. On the one hand, it's great to be at home, not to have to get up and go out, to be home all day on Friday instead of staggering home at 7p.m., to have time to do what I want to do. But as Shakespeare said, "Ay, there's the rub". What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? I've spent more time in PJs the past 2 weeks than I have since I was a toddler. I need to get up, get dressed and go out, and that is very difficult at the moment. Yesterday I managed to push myself out to go into *town* to get my meds from the chemist. Today I managed the same trip again, along the Rhine and past the Kaiserpfalz, in spite of the frosty weather, and enjoyed it. And when a friend rang up, and asked if I would like to come over for a couple of hours this afternoon, I said *yes* instead of making excuses. Wonders never cease, and I enjoyed it! Tomorrow I am meeting with my ex-colleagues at a restaurant, *The Chinese Wall* for dinner, it's my farewell present from them. After trying for the last 2 weeks to think of excuses why I shouldn't go, I have decided that it's a good idea to go for a nice meal, have a chat, talk about (not so old) times and enjoy a bit of company. While I was working, the thought of being able to be at home, on my own, all day was wonderful. In the meantime, I have realised that it's the contrasts that make life worthwhile.
In the new year, I will be able to do some scrap courses at the newly opened scrap café here in Düsseldorf, as I have been chosen as one of the team there (, and this will give me the opportunity to combine my hobby with getting out and meeting other people, instead of scrapping alone. And on Thursday, my friend B and her Mum are coming to eat *latkes* (potato cakes) as it's one of the traditional foods for Chanukkah, the festival of lights, which celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BC. There was just one little container of oil, enough to fuel the lights for one day, and miraculously, it lasted for 8 days, till new oil had been ritually cleansed and prepared. To commemorate this wonder, candles are lit for 8 days, first one, then two, then three etc, and things which have been fried in oil, like potato cakes and doughnuts, are eaten. And if you haven't gained a kilo or two by the end of the eight days, that's a wonder, too! And I think that the wonder of Chanukkah reminds us, that you can't win if you don't wager something yourself. So, I will be trying to get out and about more inspite of being retired. An occasional day in PJs is good. Every day in PJs is bad, at least for me.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Fat Book from my DC scrapbooking friends

Firstly, this book is so fat it is really obese! But gorgeous. Yesterday the postie rang and brought it to me along with some other things. After I had opened the carton and the paper packaging, I couldn't believe my eyes - just had to keep looking, crying all the time, but for joy this time. It is a book to commemorate my retirement, and after my not very successful Xmas Market weekend, it was the solace that I needed. the reminder that friends are more worth, much more worth than money. So many of the ladies in the group are ill, have debilitating illnesses, bad operations behind them, sick children for whom they lovingly care day and night, just to mention a few. But they took their time and energy and love and let it flow into this wonderful little book, which I will always treasure. Thank you all, I am proud to have had this book made for me, I am proud to have such lovely friends, and I feel as good as if I had been packed into a warm cloud and could float. Thank you all!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Preparing for Noah....or *Far, far away in a little town in Germany* - Xmas Market 2009

After a rather short sleep we rolled out of bed at 6a.m., drank our coffee, got showered and dressed in loads of warm togs, and set off for the market. We took my *Panda* as it has loads of space when the back seat is folded. It's only a few minutes drive to get to the market, and as we arrived at the park where it was being held, we were a little perturbed that we couldn't see anything or anyone. The tents had not been sent up, just the metal frames, there were no lights, and nowhere to go or nothing to do except to stand there in a bedraggled group in the pouring rain by 4° Celsius. Well, sooner or later, the *organisers* turned up, and started to put the plastic roofs over the frames, so at least we could stand somewhere dry and start unpacking our tables and things. But strangely enough, we were still getting wet - the roof was letting water through. We hollered for help and 2 youngsters came, said *no problem* and pulled another roof over the first one. Our tent still had no sides, so an evil wind was icing up our wet fingers. By 8 it was beginning to get light, and the sides arrived, which we had to fix to the support-poles with plastic rings like you use for hanging up shower curtains. Not a difficult job ususally, but with cold and numb fingers not exactly easy either....and there was still rain trickling through holes in the roof. Sonia - the third one in our Xmas team, phoned her parents who arrived on the spot almost immediately and covered the back wall and roof of the tent with a really waterproof tarpaulin. I was very surprised what other people always have to hand, things like that do not belong to my standard equipment. In the meantime B & I drove back to her house to fetch the rest of out gear. We had a trolley (one of B's golden ideas!) but as the next parking lot was at quite some distance we had to huff and puff to pull this unruly beast through the quagmire of mud that had once been a path. Then we did the decorations in our now (more or less dry but still very cold tent. We twisted Xmas lampion chains with green garlands and Sonia stood like a heroine on the ladder and tied them to the cross supports under the roof although her fingers must have been deep frozen, too. After all was decorated, the tables covered with white and green cloths, and we had placed our wares festively and strategically, it even stopped raining for a few minutes, but only for a few minutes every so often. And we were already wet and cold through to the core. And it was dark. On a grey December day you need light, and the organisers had problems getting their generator to work. We had a few minutes, sometimes a few seconds of lights, and were then plunged into blackness again. We even had some customers who came by in the dry minutes and bought things....And the stall next door was selling hot egg-nogg, which did help to keep the spirits (or the spirit level) up for a few minutes at a time. At Midday B's Mum brought us some wonderful hot spicey soup, delicious, just the thing to warm us up. She lives just round the corner, so in the afternoon I went round to her place for half an hour to get warmed up. She is a very kind lady - took my cold, wet jacket off as if I had been a little girl, sat me in the armchair with my feet up and covered me with a cashmere blanket. And dried my cap on the hot radiator, brought me coffee and biscuits, and made me feel like a kid again, and it was a good feeling. When I left half an hour later I felt warm and dry again, and it was so goooooooooood to pull on my warm cap....absolute luxury! Then the day went on . And on . And on. It was freezing, it was pouring, and the lights kept going out. Some nice person used one of the dark phases to pinch the notes out of my cash box. But nobody is completely bad. The 5,00€ small change was left in the box....After we all complained non stop about the lighting - or lack of it! the organisers got the THV - a voluntary technical help association who help by catastrophies, earthquakes and dark Xmas markets. After about an hour the lights went on, so we were able to see each other shiver in front of a background of sparkling, well-lit raindrops. We kept going, with the help of egg-nogg and spiced wine till 8 p.m. Then we packed our cards and things together and dragged the trolley again through the mud to the car, and B drive us home. It was a wonderful feeling to stand on the hot floor in her house (she's got underfoot heating) and feel the warmth slowly coming back. Then a spot of supper, a lot of tears - from me - I was so cross that someone had pinched my money that I had worked so hard for! - a bit of TV and then shower and bed. Sunday we didn't have to start till 10.30, which meant we could sleep longer - very good - and started out again full of hope. The weather was a bit warmer, and at first it looked like it was going to be a nice day. Then Noah emptied bucket afer bucket of water over the park, turning everything into a sea of mud. Well, to be quite honest, I wouldn't have gone anywhere to buy things in that weather either. The few people who risked going out stamped past in the direction of egg-nogg, spiced wine and edibles. Sold enough cards to almost pay the stall-fee, which they had reduced because of the lighting fiasko of the day before. At 6p.m. we called it a day, packed up and started to transport the things back home. A friend of B's was there, so she drove half the things home for us in her car, although she had had a long day at work behind her. As we then dragged the last trolley full through the sticky mud path along by the old mill, we had to laugh in spite of it all. We were happy to get home, get out of our wet clothes, put on PJs and flop onto the couch. B's Dad brought us some supper, which was delicious, and made a nice end to a hard day. OK, ít didn't go as we had thought or planned. It was cold and wet. We sold next to nothing from the things which we had made over weeks. But I had a weekend with B, my best friend, we met nice people at the market, and it could have been worse. We could have had a tornado or earthquake or a major flood, but we didn't. And next time will definately be better!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

My Smile Award from Sue B

Sue got this award from Donna, because she is always making her smile, No wonder, then Sue writes scandalous stories about sparkly nipples, lady-bird porn and paper bills, to name just a few, Chaos follows her through life leaving a trail of funnies in her wake. And now I have got this award from Sue, together with 4 others because, I quote: *Valerie as she always has a funny story to tell - those darned spiders have kept us very amused lately! Valerie also tells a moving story, and is a constant inspiration with her mind-blowing flow of stunning creations!* (She just hasn't yet realised that my mind blew long ago). And I am choosing for my five award recipients SusieJ,(This Is My World) Alyson (Crafting to keep sane) Joanne (Take life by the hand), Crafty Tracy (who will soon be downloading her buba) and Slightly South of Sanity, whose hilarious antics often keep me amused.
Thanks Sue, thanks to all who make us smile even when the world is sometimes sad,mad and bad.