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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Texel Island

   Hey everyone! I'm back! Well, I have been since last Sunday, but I've only just found the time to sit down and write this post because as soon as I got back I was plunged into a mess of shop prep and orders that needed filling. That's all done now - at any rate the back-orders have been made and shipped and I've done as much on other projects as I can for the moment - paint drying and light for photos and all that.
   But yes! I had a wonderful time on Texel Island. The flight to Amsterdam was smooth and only 5 minutes late, the weather was excellent throughout the week, barring Sunday, our second full day, which saw the only rain. It was a very active and contrastingly fat week, and I absolutely loved it.
   The island is small - it takes about 30 minutes to drive from one end to the other - and we visited all compass points over the 4 days staying in the south and going for an evening walk on that first day.
   I actually had no internet access throughout and didn't use my laptop once. None of that was necessarily by choice, but I didn't resent it for a moment. It was a wonderful break. There was wifi in the bungalow we were staying in, but it wasn't working. But, even had it been, I forgot to bring my power adapter (UK to EU) and I couldn't get one there because it's such a specific thing, which meant we landed with only 3 hours of battery life left on my laptop. As a result, I simply didn't use it, and while I admit that I did still get work done the old fashioned way (paper and pen, yo), it opened up much more social evenings.

   On Saturday, the first day, we headed north to Cocksdorp where Ron, Seeg's dad, picked up a telescope he'd hired for the duration, and we took it along the coast for bird spotting. We saw spoonbills, snipes, oyster catchers and other waders, which I quite liked because I'm rather fond of waders. Seeg embraced it, though birds aren't his thing unless they're raptors, but that meant he was quite pleased when we eventually spotted a hen harrier. We walked along the coast for about 3 hours, stopping every twenty minutes to have a look about, and passed the northern lighthouse.


   On the Sunday it rained a fair bit, so we stayed in playing Scotland Yard until mid-afternoon, at which point we headed west towards Ecomare, a coastal wildlife rescue centre. There were lots of seals there, many of them blind or mentally damaged and unable to return to the wild, others were stranded and are being prepared to be released. There were also gannets and cormorants, and there were two beautiful and very curious porpoises who had been abandoned by their mothers while they were calfs and weren't taught how to fend for themselves.
   We went out to dinner that evening to Het Kompas (The Compass) which was quite an experience, as it's a famous whisky bar run by a lovely old fellow and his wife - and only them - and he's particular about who he lets in. So it was actually an honour to be able to go inside and have a gorgeous meal of wild rabbit, following a starter of smoked eel. Um, yum. It was amazing, and truly home cooked, all by his wife.
   The sky was amazingly clear that night despite the previous rain. There was very little light pollution, so there were so many stars that even the constellations were difficult to pick out, and the milky way itself was very, very clear.


   On the Monday we went to the west coast and stopped at each bird spotting site. We saw more or less the same birds as we did on the Saturday, so it wasn't quite as exciting, but it was still good to tick the west off of the list, and also nice to be up on my feet and out in the very fresh air instead of sitting at a computer like I would have been at home.


   Tuesday was our last day on the island, and we headed east again and wandered along the coast. I walked barefoot along the sandy beach, and ran along in the sea. This is a majorly big deal because I've not had the opportunity to do that in about 10 years. The coast near where I live is pebbly or muddy and the tide quite brutal, and even then I tend to go out with my mum and taking a wheelchair onto the sand is just not doable. So that was simply wonderful and I took full advantage, as you can see.
   It was the longest and most difficult walk that day, however. After the beach, we moved into the dunes and the grass beyond for three hours, and it was quite uneven - the closes thing to hills there, I swear - and with the sun deciding to shine as brightly as it could that day, it was hard going. But it was still really nice to get out.
   I admit I had two complaints that day, though. First of all, the scenery did not change. It was quite flat and there were few trees, so you could see very far - but there was nothing to see, which made the walking harder. But I didn't voice that complaint because I knew it was good for me, so I embraced it as best I could. But I wasn't so quiet about the next. The Dutch are not good at public loos. Not as in "they're dirty" but rather "they don't exist." So it was peeing in bushes, and when there's little around to conceal you, it was a bit...well it was something.


   We headed back to Arnhem the following day, but as it was a 4 hour drive, we had a mystery stop over which seemed to be for my benefit. Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden has just displayed Trix, one of the three most complete T-Rex fossils ever found, and the only one that can be seen outside of the US. All that was missing were a few vertebrae, its back feet, one back leg, and both its front arms. That is incredible. Bones so often get swept away or scattered by other creatures and scavengers after death, so to have remained so close together for long enough to be buried and fossilised (it takes certain conditions for fossilisation to take place) is truly amazing. Trix is thought to be female because she has bigger bones, and she was old. There's evidence of injuries - bite holes in her jaw and broken ribs that had healed, as well as a hole in her upper jaw caused by an infection - and she looked simply incredible. People were saying (so I was told) that they were surprised it wasn't all that big, but that's the thing: T-Rex was not the biggest carnivorous dinosaur, and even then it's our imagination that has made them so huge. They were still certainly a force to be reckoned with, and the T-Rex still certainly ruled where it roamed.


   The following three days were a mix of meetings with friends and family, and on the Thursday I was abandoned when Seeg left to play games with his friends and his parents went to work, so it was just me, Falko and Isis, both of whom were asleep. You may have caught that on my twitter. Fortunately we were able to get a UK-EU adapter on the Wednesday and the house had its own wifi, so I was able to get back online, see to business and work on my book in those five hours. I got some damned good work done, and Seeg stopped in a bakery on his way home to buy me a slice of spekkoek, a lovely Indonesian cake that the Dutch brought back during the time of the Dutch East Indies. So that was more than all good.


   It was a wonderful week, but I admit I am exhausted and I'm happy to be home. I didn't eat healthily while I was away - while most meals were home made, I had a lot of bread and not very much protein, and I had cake every single day, alongside other Dutch niceties like kruidnoten, spiced and filled cookies, spekkoek and all the Chocomel I could find. I gained weight. And I regret nothing. Piit28 is turning out to be as challenging as I'd hoped, and I'm glad to be able to eat well and exercise properly again. Holidays are great at reminding you how nice routine can be. That sounds awfully negative, doesn't it? I don't mean it that way. Holidays are great, and so is coming home.
   Even if you get back in the middle of October, just as Christmas shopping begins and my shop isn't as prepared as I'd thought...




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