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Category: Family

I recently joined a group on Facebook that shares interesting music videos, and that got me thinking about the music of my youth.

Most kids (at least those that I have met) tend to rebel against their parents musical tastes, forging a personal sound from their social groups and media surrounding them, but I was somehow different. My core musical taste came directly from both my parents. Outside influences came a distinct second.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still loved the music around me growing up. I listened to Roxette, Bon Jovi, Queen, Michael Jackson and many more of the (then) current bands, but the music that truly defined me came from an earlier period.

I had just become a teenager when the 90′s started, but my musical taste was stuck in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, and not to mention classical, thanks in a very large part to my parents. I remember spending hours playing with my father’s hi-fi, and the sounds of Glenn Miller, Laura Branigan, Beach Boys, Traveling Wilbury’s and the soundtrack to Caravans are forever etched into my mind.

I also remember listening to Wham in a mix tape my mother had in her car when I was six years old.

When my father passed away in 2004 (already 8 years ago – I can remember it like yesterday), I found his collection of tapes in his estate, and for the next year, the only thing that played in my car’s tape player (yes, my car had one of those even in 2004), was these old tapes which my father adored.

My father and I never really got on very well, with some periods where I barely saw him for months or years at a time, but I did share his love for his music, counting those bands I had listened to on that hi-fi as among my favourites.

I miss him terribly sometimes, especially when I have those songs on…


Bobbie Beer himself

Bobbie Beer himself

Cole turned 10 yesterday, so, to celebrate, we went out for dinner at Bobbie Beer in Almere. This was our first dining out experience as a family since we moved to the Netherlands, not counting places like Burger King, so it was quite exciting for us.

Now, I can tell what you are thinking, and no, I did not take my 10 year old son to a pub for his birthday dinner. Beer is the Dutch word for bear, so in fact, we went to a bear-themed family restaurant. To be fair though, you are able to buy beer there too.

The restuarant has a lovely atmosphere, and is great place to go to with kids. It is also perfectly situated with a perfect view of the Weerwater, a large lake bordering on the edge of the Almere city centre.

Some of the decor

Some of the decor

Being a Friday night as well, you would expect the place to be bustling and unpleasant, but the noise levels were low even though the restaurant was rather busy.

The food was good and came in fairly large quantities ensuring that we did not starve. Cole and I had spare ribs that we perfectly tender and absolutely delicious, while Claudia treated herself to a scrumptious chicken salad.

The service was also excellent, and Cole even got a surprise for his birthday. The staff came to sing to him while bringing his dessert.

The most surprising thing of all though, was the affordability. Restaurants in the Netherlands are not known for their low prices, but Bobbie Beer certainly cost a lot less than we would have expected, especially compared to the quality of our experience.

All in all, they score full marks in my book for a value-for-money family-oriented restaurant.

Me and the birthday boy

Me and the birthday boy


My Swiss holiday has begun on an adventurous note.

We planned to take the City Night Line overnight train to Basel from Amsterdam which all sounded so exciting. The actual trip was something else entirely.

We caught the train last night and immediately we were put off. The carriage we were in had a musty smell, stains on the carpeting, and holes in the upholstery. This did not bode well.

During the journey we also discovered that the train was not well insulated and the lights remained on, so sleep was pretty much impossible.

The real adventure happened at 5am this morning. I woke up smelling a burning rubbery type of smell and a few minutes later an alarm went off with the train promptly stopping at the station in Gundenfigen, near Freiburg in Germany.

We sat for at least 20 minutes not knowing what was happening, and then we were promptly told to leave the train, and again left for ages in the dark on the platform.

Eventually the police and fire department took over and finally gave us information – the train had caught fire!

We stood for another hour waiting for busses to take us to Freiburg to then take another train to Basel, before the train was ok’d for taking us on to Freiburg instead.

We then got a free ride on an ICE train to Basel, which was an incredible upgrade.

We did eventually get to Basel, albeit 3 hours late, and onto Bern by car.

Now in Bern, the relaxing can begin


Noisette, our dog, used to belong to my mother. She first got her as a puppy in 2004, and right from the beginning, I was around for most of Noisette’s life.

However, 2 and a half years ago, my mom left South Africa to go study French cooking at a cooking institute near Paris, France. Unfortunately, Noisette had to stay behind, so Noisette our dog (Claudia and Cole having now entered Noisettes life as well).

All in all, Noisette has loved being part of our family and is a very happy dog, having travelled with us from SA to the Netherlands, but she still remembers her past well….

Yesterday, my mother and brother (who both now live in the Netherlands too) came to visit, and it was only the second time in 2 and a half years that Noisette has seen my mom again (usually we visit my mom’s house and Noisette does not get to come with on those trips). She was overjoyed to see my mother and brother.

Noisette really took it hard when they left though. Last night, instead of sleeping next to us on our bed, she chose to sleep by herself on the bed in our spare room, which she never does.

She really misses my mother, and now, even years later, and living in a loving home, she still remembers her younger days and remembers her original master fondly.

On the positive side, my mother is planning on moving soon from Haarlem to Almere, thus making it easier for her to visit us more often, and for Noisette to see my mom more often.

You certainly would be hard-pressed to find anything quite as loyal as a dog….


I got a phone call from my mom today that is the one type of phone call that everyone dreads. She had called to let me know that my gran had passed away.

This is not a complete shock, as my gran has been steadily declining for the last few years, but it is still not great when it finally happens. We are going to miss her, even though we didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

So, who was my gran?


My gran, Olive Johanna Levine, was born in Cape Town, South Africa on the 15th Feb 1930, to Joseph Asmus and Johanna Reid. She married my grandfather, Robert Levine, in the early 1950′s, and had 3 kids, one of which was my mother (rather obviously).

My gran was a person who was never scared of hard-work, and all through the years she could never sit still for a second. She always had to be doing something.

She also had very strong opinions about everything, which, since I was young, I used to my full advantage. I used to enjoy winding her up by asking her controversial questions, often just to get her strong reaction. This particular trait earned her the unofficial nickname of “The Old Battleaxe”.

My gran has never had particularly good health while I was growing up, but in recent years she had really deteriorated quite badly.

We spoke to her via Skype a few days before Christmas, and Claudia and Cole spoke to her again on Christmas Eve. We remarked that my gran really looked like she has aged severely in the 8 months that we have been in the Netherlands, and the last time we got to see her.

We will miss her…


Christmas time is here again officially. I heard Boney M heralding in the season at the mall today. The season of reindeer, Christmas parties, presents, and general merriment.

There is another side of it though that as adults we tend to forget. Children are not as patient as adults are when having to wait for things – such as Christmas day.

Think about it. Every day, children see shops brimming full of expensive cool toys (ever notice that the cooler the toy, the more expensive it is!) and know that they have a stash of presents waiting for them under the tree, but Christmas day seems so far away when you have the latest Ben 10 action figure staring you in the face at the local store.

We had a few issues with Cole this weekend with this. He grew quite huffy when he realised he could not get a toy or computer game, even when reminded that it is less than 2 weeks to Christmas, and thanks to a generous Aunt and grandmother, he has quite a few nice goodies coming his way.

Sometimes us adults struggle to contain ourselves too, but at least for the most part, we can control ourselves…….until the day of unwrapping ;) .


Last night, Noisette (our neurotic staffie) was sleeping with Cole when she gave a single bark – which is normally her signal that she has heard something outside and wants to go investigate. When we ignored her, she came into our room and stood there next to the bed, waiting for us to notice her, for what must have been a good couple of minutes.

Then she did something I have never heard her do before. She gave a short yelp, and wanted me to follow her. She often wants us to follow her to investigate noises, but her yelp was a first, so up I got to see what was wrong.

Well anyway, she took me back to Cole’s room, and then stood looking at the window.

Lo and behold, standing on the windowsill, on the outside, was Garfield, our cat. He had managed to jump out the window, and then could not get back in, so was trapped out in the street (Cole’s room is street-facing).

The interesting thing about this whole story, is that Noisette seemed to actually show concern for the cat. I did not see the usual aggression when she was alerting us to the problem.

And to make it even more strange, Noisette and Garfield get along like…well…cat and dog. Garfield is always trying to swipe poor Noisette with her claws, and Noisette is always trying to chase Garfield. Your typical canine-feline relationship.

But I do think, after last night, that as much as they don’t get along, they are actually, deep down, fond of each other. Like most human families – they may fight a lot, but when it matters, they watch each others back.