Month: January 2014

Watching paint dry

The first time I heard about tumblr, I rolled my eyes at modern-day spelling. Then I kind of dismissed it as some new-fangled gimmick used by teenagers who couldn’t be bothered to blog properly (but when the site’s run by people who can’t spell properly, can you really expect any better?). So when I started using it to find pretty scenic photos to look at, rest assured I was not oblivious to the quirkiness of the whole enterprise.

Be that as it may. Somewhere in the stream of mountains and glades, I came across this:

Which came with the stunning caption of something like ‘Dance class at the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens‘. It sounded like something out of an Enid Blyton school series, but I learnt (how did a non-academic who’s terrified of public libraries manage to learn anything before the internet and wikipedia?) that it was a finishing school – or rather, one of many – in Imperial Russia.

Cue a variation on the ‘In Soviet Russia’ meme.


Prime books

This year I’m again setting an arbitrary reading goal for myself which is measured entirely by number of books, without any concern or regard for how long these books are, or, to be quite honest, Real Life™ (which we know gets in the way of just about any and everything).

So out of this pile:


I’ve read two. Now to choose no. three….

Do not mistake chalk for a carrot

Last week I flew into Schiphol (my favourite airport in Europe, dah-ling) with some kicking winds going – although as far as I could tell there wasn’t enough to make one of those tactics for dealing with serious crosswinds necessary.

On the one hand it’s always happy if weather co-operates in things like landing an aeroplane. On the other…well, the nerd in me, after having read so much about de-crabs and crabs and what have you, would have liked to actually experience at least one. But then I was in a cute little twin prop, and really I am just a fangirl, so perhaps it’s simply more likely that I’d be unaware of any such measure that was being undertaken. I mean really. I’m not so bad that I don’t know one end of an aeroplane from another (and I am the person who once got off a plane and then promptly marched in the opposite direction than that leading to the baggage hall), but I labour under no illusion that I would ever be able to recognise any of those bookish things I read so eagerly in real life.

Having said that, a rather idealistic part of me wants to take flying lessons now.

But that is not what this is about. This is about what seemed to be the longest taxiway EVAAAAAAAR and about which I will tell you now.

EHAM has six runways. SIX. Well, five, really, if you’re a middling to big aircraft, because the Oostbaan (lit. East lane) at just over 2km long is a bit short for lots of lads and lasses. But even with five you’re doing quite well; Heathrow famously only has two (and lest you innocently ask, ‘But Heathrow’s so busy – why don’t they build a third one?’ you will promptly be lynched by the population of Hounslow and much of the rest of West London, plus all the toffs and scavs thereabouts), but then continentals can be rather ruthless when it comes to demolishing what’s necessary at times.

The newest of the six is called the Polderbaan (lit. reclaimed land lane). It’s so far away from the terminal that it has its own atc tower and fire station. And this is where we landed last week. I know this because I’m the nerd next to a window who strains her neck round to check the runway signs as we’re taxiing past, and yup, there was the lovely big red display saying 18R – 36L. Which is the posh way of saying Polderbaan.

I saw this when we came off and started on – I want to say V2 but it could have been V3 – and embarked upon the longest taxiway in human history* (and probably human future too, barring some kind of interplanetary get-up). Victor. That’s his name. Victor.

It didn’t strike me at the time, but now I think about it, I’m reminded of Victor Meldrew, that bastion of British grumpiness. Straight talking (EHAM’s Victor is very straight) and can go on and on and on, given appropriate levels of grump. Victor was a bit like that.

I’m talking like this was a terrible thing, but it wasn’t – and even if it were, I’m not certain a nerd like me would have noticed, let alone minded. Just an observation. And then, because you’re in a cute little twin prop, you chug along this highway whilst you can just FEEL the 747 behind you breathing down your neck and muttering about old men who stick to speed limits**.

But when I looked up some Schiphol charts and tried to examine just how long this Taxiway Of Doom must have been, you can imagine my amusement when I noticed the following:




LOL. Seriously? 😀

*I have no idea whether Victor is in fact the longest taxiway in human history. But there’s sure to be a geek online who does.

**I don’t know for sure, but I suspect there are fairly serious ground speed limits which people will berate you about should you break them, be you a dinky little hopper or an Airbus Beluga. Which latter, incidentally, must surely be in the running for one of the ugliest aircraft in the world. In a cute kind of way.

Photo by Xeper @ Wikipedia

Photo by Xeper @ Wikipedia

What on earth am I to read?

It’s the perennial cry of the teenage girl who, despite having at least three bookcases in her bedroom, all packed with a variety of books ranging from GCSE texts to Judy Bloom to the latest self-published fanfics involving various members of One Direction, has absolutely nothing to read and must visit a bookstore immediately to fix this problem. Or perhaps that’s clothes? One of the two.

I am recently returned from a short trip to the South West, where I got up to lots of mischief, met up with old friends, made new ones, drank some port, relaxed somewhat, engaged in witty verbal repartee, toasted a birthday girl and went for brisk walks. But less of all that, really, and more of the following very important numbers:

Outward flight baggage mass: 12kg.

Return flight baggage mass: 17.5kg.

I attribute the 5.5kg gain thusly: 500g in new clothes (skirt and top), and 5kg in books.

It’s not as though this is really news to anyone who knows me! It’s not really news to myself either (self-knowledge being the seat of wisdom, though my being wise is an amusing thought). But what strikes me is that for the first time that I’m aware of I now look at all these glorious tomes I’ve acquired – including a gift of three of Thomas Hardy’s works which I’m itchting to get started on – and I just don’t know quite where to begin. It’s not helped by the fact that even before I left I had a ‘To Read’ pile that makes a decent stab at reaching the ceiling. I’m almost tempted to just stack all these books up and take a photo!

Only I know I won’t, because that’s confrontational in the way that making a To Do list is confrontational. You’re aware that you’re in a mess and have to do something about said mess and making such a list gives a necessary overview of the mess…but that clarity has the potential to freak you out. Even though ‘self-hacking’ gurus from here to a therapist’s couch will tell you that that first discomfort is groundwork without which a problem cannot be solved.

So knowing me I’ll probably take a photo anyway….

But whilst I’ll probably give in to my conscience at some point, I’m nothing if not good at procrastination. And so you find me sitting here, knowing where all these books are (I daren’t look at them all just yet – not all at the same time), musing on this enormous task ahead of me, and yet not – if you’ll excuse the mistranslated Dutch – bringing them under eyes*.

So, as procrastination, I give you:

Goodreads 2014 Challenge

I’m aiming for 31 books this year. I wonder how many books there are in this mythological pile I keep telling myself about….

*onder ogen brengen, lit. ‘to bring under eyes,’ means to gain overview of something. ‘Overview’ feels clumsy to me, but that’s because the Dutch word, overzicht, translates literally as ‘oversight,’ which of course is not quite the same thing.