Dutchie Goes to the Theatre


Here’s a follow up to my post about cycling outfits :-)

Went to the theatre this evening – so I wore a nice dress, tights and heels. I was warm when I got there (of course I left too late) but my friend, who drove, was very cold! Funny, that.

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No makeup

Let’s be honest: we don’t look that bad without makeup, do we?
Really, I understand the sentiment of wanting to do something to support those suffering from a devastating disease, and it’s absolutely brilliant that these selfies have raised millions BUT is a picture without makeup really such a big deal? Is it really a brave thing? Or have we all just got so used to wearing makeup that we feel it’s a necessity?

Do we really need to be spotless and perfect all the time?

Below my selfies. This is what I usually look like, and I generally like my face. I probably wear makeup 3 times a year (Christmas and ‘do’s).

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I like the English language, and I like English books.

I like the English language, and I like English books.

So when I was challenged to read a favourite bit of text for @accidentobizarro’s text-to-speech Tumblr, I was excited, and torn. Which text? What is my favourite book? I could not choose.

The first book I thought of, was Dickens’ Oliver Twist. It’s the first book I ever read in English. Or perhaps, the first book I chose to read in English. I had read Brave New World, and bits of Hamlet before in class, but Oliver Twist, I chose to read as one of my four books for English. I remember loving that first sentence which takes up a third of the page.

Yet when I tried to read it out loud, just now, I realised I could never do it justice, or read it without getting myself in a tangle throughout its construction. So I picked up other favourites: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings. They, too, are full of looong sentences, which is why I love them so dearly, but makes it impossible for me to read out loud without making it sound repetitive and fake.

A bit of Dorothy Sayer perhaps, or a Wodehouse story on Bertie Wooster? No, that would require a somewhat posh accent, which is beyond the scope of what Blixa called my wonderful Brum/Dutchie mash-up accent. I put my English literature aside, while I selected a Dutch story to read.

I have a book by my bedside, “Heimwee naar Nederland” (Homesick for The Netherlands). It’s a collection of columns written for De Volkskrant, in which the author Martin Bril describes what he sees on his travels through the country. It’s one of my favourites at the moment – it highlights everyday scenes, habits and people in an engaging and quirky way. It always makes me smile, and often makes me long for a rainy bike ride in the polder where I was born.

Flicking through the columns I shortlisted three: one about a dog called Elvis, one about the countryside, and my final choice, about a pear tree. You can read it here. I’ll see if I can get the whole story in my 3 minute limit (Edit: it didn’t fit, so I cut it a little short).

Back to my English choice, then. I couldn’t make one, so I decided to write some words of my own. Hah!

Listen to this post on Audioboo below.

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“Cycle” Style


I keep reading about ‘essential kit’ for riding a bike, which inevitably raises my eyebrows. My essential cycling kit consists of Clothes and waterproofs – stuff I’d need just as much if I were walking to work. So here’s a picture of today’s outfit: my fave Clarks brogues, silly socks and skinny jeans that are on the brink. On the left is Poppy, my little red wreck of a bike that I use to get from the station to university.

I’d make this a regular feature but I’m not sure I’m ready to admit that I often wear the same stuff!

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I’ve moved!

I’ve decided to move my crafty chatter to wordpress.com - find me over at http://craftydutchie.wordpress.com :)

I’m not going to get rid of this blog altogether though – I’m brewing up some plans for it which may well include Dutchieness…

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Proper cocoa

I like autumn. I used to love coming home from school, and having a proper cocoa by the fire to warm up after 6 wet and windy miles on the bike. So what is proper cocoa, you ask?

Why, you need a teaspoon of sugar, and at least a heaped teaspoon of cocoa powder. Stir well, then pour in some cream. Yes, cream – and don’t be stingy about it! Stir this until it all starts to thicken (see picture). Top up with hot milk and stir until the creamy chocolate has melted. Sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy.

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An Italian Souvenir

IMG-20130915-01419When on holiday in Italy I bought some light woollen fabric from a local fabric store.  I loved the idea of bringing home a souvenir that I could tailor-make. The lady in the shop suggested it was enough for a skirt, but I also liked the idea of making a pair of shorts. I have a pair of shorts already that I wear quite often in winter, and I love them, so making another pair would be fab!

I made a pair of culottes late this summer (well almost, I need to add a waistband) but didn’t quite dare to put a fly in them – I added a zip at the side seam instead. I also like the idea of adding sailor style, button closure (perhaps, like these?) – which would conveniently circumvent the zip conundrum…. So now I’m looking through my collection of short and trouser patterns to see which one suits the bill, and figuring out how to adapt them.

The finish line A skirt is still an option – I made a wrap skirt this summer to wear over my leggings while cycling to NL (see right) – perhaps that would work too.

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My Crafty Dutchie Tour

As I’m eating a piece of mum’s Dutch apple pie that was leftover from my birthday celebrations, it’s time to look back on my journey from my home in Wolverhampton to my parents’ home in Warmenhuizen, Noord Holland.

Setting off

On a sunny Sunday, my colleague Edward and I set off and headed for the motorways of the 18th century: the canal. It was the simplest way to get out of Wolverhampton without having to battle with traffic. Avoiding main roads, we also rode on quiet streets, pretty lanes, more canals and a spot of shared route along a busy dual carriageway (yuk). The last half mile we rode on the footpath along a dual carriageway – it may be naughty, but it beat the alternative.

We stayed at Bonehill Farm, an old school farmhouse Bed and Breakfast near Mickleover which provided a welcome rest after 48 miles of pedalling.


Monday we trundled down the hill on the footpath before joining the Mickleover Greenway (NCN54/68) – a disused railway into Derby. We travelled through Derby and Nottingham but thanks to the NCN we never cycled in traffic. Isn’t the National Cycle Network marvellous? The day was hard-going though, as the picture illustrates – they were 45 tough miles! (Pic by Edward – see more great ones here)

We stayed at the lovely Staunton Arms, where we were allowed to wheel our bikes through the pub into an enclosed courtyard for the night. Dinner was fantastic and the staff were brilliant – even running outside in the morning to take a picture of us before we set off!

Railway pathTuesday was the day of quiet lanes and disused railways. We bumped into a Sustrans maintenance team on the disused railway path into Lincoln, and met Sustrans Vince walking a roller racing kit up Steep Hill in Lincoln. There was tea, lunch and ice cream before we joined NCN route 1 which took us to The Limes Country House Hotel in Market Rasen. After our dinner in a nearby pub we saw bats over the fields next to the hotel, and many wild rabbits in the fields too. Another very satisfying 48 miles under our wheels.

Humber Bridge!Wednesday was a hilly day in the Lincolnshire Wolds, following route 1 on hilly lanes to and over the Humber Bridge. It was a quiet day, with few places along the route, so we stocked up before setting off and had lunch on a tree trunk. After that, the route took us along a field (no, really) before joining yet another hilly lane. We finished the day with fish and chips by the Humber, after which Edward got a train back to the midlands and I climbed the ramp onto my ferry to Rotterdam. My knees didn’t like the hills at all, so after dumping my stuff in my cabin I stationed myself in the on-board coffee shop to soothe my soul with tea (and the chatter of a retired Yorkshireman).

Little FerryThursday I met the owners of the other two bikes that were on the boat. We bumped into each other several times after getting off as we found our way to our destinations. I made my way through the industrial port area to a little ferry to Hoek van Holland, where I started following the brilliant LF1 (national route one, also the North Sea Cycle Route and Eurovelo 12). Coastal routeIt goes right by the sea and is traffic-free. I must admit I didn’t really appreciate the fantastic views, because I had a very sore knee and strong head wind. My mum was waiting for me in Scheveningen – she got a train with her e-bike. We cycled further up LF 1 to stay with her uncle in Katwijk. Chinese takeaway, painkillers and lots of chat took the edge off this 30 mile day.

On Friday I woke up with the realisation that by the end of the day, I’d have cycled from Wolverhampton to Warmenhuizen. Crikey! I did pop 2 ibuprofen at breakfast though. My great-uncle led the way back to LF1 and off we went on our long, last day. I can tell you that after 50 miles, I’d had enough of brick roads going up and down pretty sand dunes no matter how pretty!

The finish line

I originally planned to undertake this journey on my own, but I’m so glad I had Edward with me, and later mum! I was truly miserable on my own on the ferry – my knee was buggered, and I was tired and a bit seasick. Still, I cycled quite a distance over the days, with very little training and not an awful lot of special kit. I didn’t have a fancy bike (Dutch Tank and Brooks Saddle all the way). My fancy Vulpine merino jerseys were great though, as was my pair of normal Howies shorts. I did have to buy gloves though as my wrists were hurting too, so I did end up looking like a (shock horror) Cyclist. But that’s okay, because I had a story. I rode my bike 272 miles from the Midlands to The Netherlands. So there!

Using the National Cycle Network

The NCN is quite well signed, although it was very useful to have maps and Edwards GPS. It’s astonishing how far you can ride in peace along these routes – with little fear of being run over. Unfortunately, some parts of the network are not up to standard (like the stretch along a farm track in Lincolnshire) and others are in need of maintenance. It’s often up to the local authority to keep paths in good condition, but Sustrans do own some parts (particularly railway lines) and rely on their network of volunteer rangers and donations to maintain these (please consider a donation!).

Signing the Dutch way

Partners in crimeAlmost everywhere along traffic-free cycle routes in The Netherlands you’ll find white “mushrooms” with red lettering indicating distances to nearby destinations. More recently a system of ‘fietsknooppunten’ was introduced: each area has a number of numbered nodes and signage pointing towards these points. To navigate, you take a map and make a list of the nodes you need to pass along your route. This works really well for longer distances and leisure cyclists. Similarly, the LF routes are signed well – as long as you follow the route you hardly need your map (bring one, just in case eh?). It was refreshing to see a sign turned the wrong way here too, though!

  • Distance travelled: 272 miles / 435kmCake.
  • Water on the bike: 10+ litres
  • Cups of tea: 30 (including 2 iced)
  • Cakes: 13
  • Painkillers: 12
  • Bunnies on my path – 12.5 (one didn’t have a head).
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How I came to cycle almost every day

Olga on NCN81In 2006, I moved from The Netherlands , aka cycling paradise, to cycling laggard Great Britain. Moving to Bristol, where I spent a few months as a student the year before, I never even thought about taking a bike. I know now that Bristol is relatively good for cycling but coming from The Netherlands it didn’t feel that way. “To cycle in the UK,” I remember telling my mum, “you have to be a bit of a fanatic”,  and so I walked everywhere.

When I finally graduated, my parents bought me a beautiful Batavus. It took a few months to get it over to the UK where it didn’t get a lot of use for a while. I used it a few times when I lived in a midlands mining town, but with a great big hill between our flat and the train station, and no apparent safe place to park it at the station, I walked half an hour each way, every day. Cue a move to big (ish) city Wolverhampton. For over a year, I’d only use my bike to pop into town occasionally, fretting all the while about it getting stolen. Then one day I had a reason to have my bike at work, so I cycled 7 miles to the office. I took the shortest route which was rather hairy. The next day, I did it again, but chose a canal tow path – adding about 3 miles and a LOT of bridges, mud and uneven surfaces. And I did that for the rest of the week. My knees were not having it but boy did it feel right.

From then on, I cycled to town, to the station, to the retail park. Short distances that I ride mostly because it’s quicker and less effort than walking and I am too lazy to walk. I only do this because I grew up cycling.

Most lazy Brits will drive that 1 mile. And this is something I want to change. Because cycling should be the lazy, easy option – not an expedition. To make it so, we need to make it easier. We need to change how different road users interact. We need to make the bike the obvious choice for a kid who wants to be independent.

Recently there was a discussion about girls giving up cycling when they reach high school age, because it’s not cool. Where I grew up, this wasn’t an issue. The whole village cycled to the nearest town, and this daily journey of teenage cyclists was probably as good a place to interact with friends and boys as school itself – if not better! Cycling in The Netherlands, for my generation at least, is a fact of life. It is How Transport Is Done. (Oh and don’t start about needing lockers and showers. Lockers are for books that are too heavy to carry home all the time (panniers WERE uncool). Showers are what you were supposed to use after PE.)

18 months ago, I joined Sustrans – the organisation that brings you the National Cycle Network. 14,000 miles of cycle routes, and more are added every day. It’s not always easy to get funding to build more routes, but what’s even harder is to find funding to maintain and repair them. And this is why I am fundraising for Sustrans.

In exactly 2 weeks (well, it was 2 weeks this morning) I will be setting off to cycle from where I live in Wolverhampton, to where I grew up in Warmenhuizen. Using the National Cycle Network to get to Hull, I will get a ferry to Rotterdam, and from there I’ll follow the North Sea Cycle Route to my parents’ house. It should be about 250 miles over 6 days. It sounds almost too much fun to be a challenge, but I’m sure I’ll be cursing myself and my backside before the first day is out.

I think, if you put a few pounds into my sponsorship page, that will spur me on.

Go on… You know you want to.

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Update on the Crafty Dutchie Tour!

(Liever Nederlands? Kijk hieronder!)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about next month’s adventure, and since tomorrow it will be exactly one month until my 30th, an update is long overdue!

I’m cycling Wolverhampton to Hull in four days – about 180 miles which I’ll be doing with my lovely friend Edward.

Then, it’s an overnight ferry to Rotterdam, one short day on my own, and the last stretch with mam.

If you were thinking of getting me a birthday present, please consider donating to charity instead: I’ve created a fundraising page for Sustrans the UK cycling and walking charity (who happen to employ me). If you’d rather donate to a Dutch organisation, please consider de Fietsersbond.

I’m really looking forward to this trip – and now the B&Bs are booked and the route is set, I cannot wait to get going. Just a few bits of kit to consider and off we go!

Het is bijna zover… de Crafty Dutchie tour!

Zoals je vast al weet fiets ik komende maand van Wolverhampton naar Warmenhuizen om mijn 30e verjaardag te vieren. Ik fiets zo’n 400 kilometer over 6 dagen – 4 dagen met een lieve vriend en collega, een kort dagje alleen en het laatste stuk met mam.

Ten gelegenheid van mijn reis en mijn verjaardag heb ik een sponsor pagina opgezet voor donaties aan Sustrans – de organisatie die het Verenigd Koninkrijk aan het fietsen probeert te krijgen dmv practische projecten (van het aanleggen van fietspaden tot fietslessen in scholen). Als je liever aan een Nederlandse stichting doneert, steun dan de Fietsersbond.

Ik heb echt enorme zin in mijn reis, vooral nu de overnachtingen zijn geboekt, en de route vast ligt! Nog een paar dingetjes ter voorbereiding en we gaan!

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