Sunday, 23 September 2007

Gadgets and Widgets

In an effort to get a little fitter before my holiday in November, I have now signed up for the fitness club at work, and, even more unexpectedly, joined the running club. I must admit that I attended my first running session with quite some trepidation, not in the least because I am the only beginner in the group and my recollections of school athletics classes were not encouraging. Still, I have now survived three running sessions and I begin to feel that there is hope yet!

Ever one to require verification of my progress through measurement, I have also acquired a Nike Plus sensor (and, ahem, a beautiful shiny blue iPod Nano). I took them out this evening for my very first solo run, and here are the results.

On a more indoor note, I have recently received my marks for the latest Open University course, Molecules, Medicines and Drugs, (I passed!), and am now embarking on a new short course in Nutrition, as well as challenging myself to a longer course, Understanding Health Sciences, which will take 9 months to complete.

As you can see from the nutrition chart (from , the "measure it" principle doesn't only apply to running, and the Nutrition course has lead me to investigating websites which will log your food intake, and give you a nutritional summary. A nice feature of the course is that part of the assignment involves analysing your own diet (or that of a willing guinea pig... any volunteers?)

Analysis of over the last week already shows that my diet is low in Vitamin A (interesting, as Vitamin A is good, amongst other things, for night vision - something which I've always had problems with). Although walrus liver is apparently a good source of Vitamin A, I've decided to go for the more practical, not to mention palatable (I hope!) approach of drinking carrot juice (guess there's some truth in the saying the carrots help you see in the dark, after all).


Monday, 17 September 2007

Of trains and harpsichords...

... you could say that two features defined this last weekend - singing and transport problems.

On Saturday, I sang in Amsterdam at the St Nicolaaskerk, with the Anglican Singers and a couple of my friends from the choir in The Hague. Travelling to Amsterdam is generally straight-forward - a single train ride from Delft, but even so, it's not a place a visit very often. I decided, therefore to set off a little earlier than necessary and do a little shopping in preparation for my trip to Namibia. Unfortunately my plans were rather scuppered by rail-works on one route, and an accident on another. My simple train journey ended up taking nearly two hours, and involved 3 trains and a bus. Needless to say, I had to abandon the idea of my shopping trip.

Although a number of people turned up late for the rehearsal become of the transport difficulties, the service itself went very well. This was my first time singing at the St Nicolaaskerk, and it was a very enjoyable experience - both seeing the very impressive church, and meeting up again with my friends from the ECS.

(many choir members, especially those with music qualifications, have an academic hood for every occasion. I feel like I'm starting a similar trend with choir robes recently, having been seen in red, purple or blue, depending on the choir I'm singing with. Come to think of it, that's a hood per robe!)

Music List, Choral Evensong, with Anglican Singers in Amsterdam:

  • Introit - Bless o Lord, us thy Servants (John Harper)
  • Preces and Responses - Jackson
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis - Brewer in D
  • Anthem - Lord, thy Glory Fills the Skies (Darke)
Being the third of the month, Sunday was a busy day with the choir in The Hague, singing at both morning and evening services. It was also the Sunday before Prinsjesdag (the day on which the Queen addresses the Parliament in The Hague) which means that there is a practice procession from the palace to the parliament buildings. Last year I also fell foul of the procession, as my cycle route to the church takes me straight past the palace. Again, this year, the first thing I noticed was the whistle of a policeman, and the sudden appearance of a couple hundred horses, being ridden by men with swords! A real shame I didn't have my camera handy, as the procession is quite impressive, including the mounted trumpeters, a marching band and a number of golden carriages. Pretty much everything and everybody, in fact, apart from the Queen herself.

But perhaps you're asking, where does the harpsichord come into things? Well, to fit in with the music we were singing at evensong, Christina had brought her harpischord along (again, would have made a nice photo), and located it in the only space available - the middle of the choir stalls. So, not only road and rail blockages this weekend, but also "the wrong kind of harpsichord" in the middle of the choir stalls to add an extra dimension to the procession.

Music List, Choral Evensong, St John & St Philip, The Hague:
  • Preces and Responses - Davies
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis - Daniel Purcell
  • Anthem - Thou Knowest Lord - Henry Purcell

I'd like to be able to report at this point that my travel annoyances of the weekend were over, but sadly, on the way home from church in the evening I braked too hard as I came flying down the bridge, and bust a brake cable on the bike... a week of tram riding follows...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

It is delicious...

Jen's trip flew by, but despite the short amount of time we had, we managed cover a fair bit of ground. As well as a visit to Maastricht (a little blighted by the Belgian beer of the night before), we also visisted Dekxels restaurant in The Hague to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday. The food was quite inventive, including strange combination such as steak tartare with duck liver ice-cream. Sounds bizarre, but was actually very tasty, and the various combinations provided a good way to break the ice with the many people we hadn't met before.

No get-together would be complete without a chance to eat sushi, which we managed to fit in at my local Japanese restaurant, a slightly strange place where every dish is accompanied by the words "it is delicious".

Wednesday brought more homely fare - I came home from work for lunch and a friend joined us for lasagne, and an extremely competitive game of monopoly. Quite a change from my normal lunchtime routine - I felt like I was playing truant from school, and I can highly recommend the experience.

Taking Jen back to the airport, she was most anxious to have one last kroket (see "In which Jen discovers the kroket"), a wish that we were fortunately able to fulfil at Schiphol Airport. After all these years, Schiphol still manages to turn up a few surprises!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

In which Jen discovers the kroket

So, I picked up Jen from the airport yesterday and brought her back to Delft. During our 20 minute change at Den Haag H.S., she decided to investigate the Dutch snack counter, and discovered that most Dutch of snacks - the kroket. I think it's safe to say that she's hooked... as soon as we polished off the first kroket, she ran back to the machine to pick up the next one.

Once we got back to Delft, we quickly (ish) rustled up a roast chicken and then headed off to Locus Publicus to meet my friends Fiona and Ivo, and introduce Jen to Belgian and Dutch Beer. Guided by Fiona, our resident expert, she sampled the Zatte van de IJ, Afligem Blond and the Popperings Hommel, accompanied by the traditional kaasplank - a selection of (primarily dutch) cheeses. We rounded the evening off nicely with a visit to Alef's snackbar, for, yes you guessed it - another kroket!