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Randomness

In theory, what I am doing now is getting out a bunch of broadnibbed Pilot pens designed specifically for lettering and calligraphy. I have a lot of them. They come in 4 sizes and at some stage I discovered you could, if you had one of those fantastic tool things that cost a fortune, hack them. I don’t have one of those tools but I am hoping my brother in law does. So I have quite a few of them with a view to getting some of them hacked to draw parallel lines.

Also you can do cool things mixing colours (probably not with black but I will try that later on tonight). The thing is, I’m currently useless at lettering, but I have one calligraphy book with me (there are probably 2 or 3 in Ireland – this is not a new thing with me) and I am now putting some time into practising (admitting this may be the kiss of death for the skill actually). I’m learning to do Foundational Script and I am struggling with the letter S. I’m also interested in learning how to do illuminated initials (think Book of Kells for a ball park idea of my current aspirations). So instead of mooching around on the internet, I really should be practising the lettering so that soon, I can do exciting renditions of everyone’s names.

First though, some updates. I’m leaving Luxembourg. Job transfer, moving to Brussels. There are worst places to go than Brussels (Dublin is on that list for example) and I’ved lived there before. But Luxembourg has been an unexpected joy. It’s a stunning city, and it is a great country. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make most of my hobbies work here apart from going to the seaside. Here is the first place I had a piano in the apartment, I’ve safely lived on my own for almost 4 years, and it’s been easy to go to France, Germany and Belgium. Of course, this is absolutely not the greatest time to be trying to arrange an international housemove and my hope that things would be reasonably okay until I had at least got the furniture moved is looking somewhat faint at the moment.

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But this isn’t (yet) about the practicalities of moving. I was walking around the city this afternoon doing things I won’t be able to do many more times – this consists wandering around what is an exceptionally gorgeous city full of banks, admittedly, but lots of gorgeous buildings, often hidden around corners. I found shops to support most of my hobbies (and thus, take money off me, including today with another couple of parallel pens so that I can ink two or three the same size in different colours). I hired a piano for the last few years; it’s going back, and I’ve been very happy with my friends at Kleber who also allowed me to play any of their display pianos, including the most beautiful Steinway Model D which made my heart sing. Thanks for everything. I have also spent quite a bit of money in Ernster, Hoffman and Buropolis mostly on pens and mechanical pencils. My Caran d’Ache collection has grown as has my Pelikan. When I arrived here, there was also a bookshop called Libo where I did stationery damage too. Bookshop wise, the aforementioned Libo, every branch of Ernster, the Librairie Francaise and Alinea got quite a bit of money out of me. FNAC did not for some reason, not sure why. These are the kinds of places I browse.

Food wise, I had some regular places like Siegfried near Glacis, Ambrosia, Kin Khao and Oberweis on the Grande Rue which I will really really miss. A big shout out to the staff in all these places.

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It’s hard to pick out a favourite place in Luxembourg. I just liked walking around the city; there are some stunning buildings there, like the the Ministry for Culture, the Palais Ducal, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Chambre des Deputés but frankly, it’s much better to walk around the city and be overwhelmed by the numbers of turrets and crenelations. The former HQ of Ar Bed is also a stunning building in the Gare district and of course, there is the Adolphe Bridge.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

That Bridge was being restored/reinforced when I arrived and it was rather beautifully covered in a wrap which looked like a sticking plaster. Heal the Adolph Bridge. They built a temporary bridge next to it to take the traffic. I could not imagine them doing anything like that in Ireland.

Dismantling the temporary bridge

When I arrived in Luxembourg in November 2016, the Christmas markets had just started. I’d left a cold miserable Dublin behind where I’d had troubles with the car, issues with the skip country, and other minor stresses. Arriving into what looked look a total winter wonderland in Luxembourg was magical. It was extraordinary and I loved it.

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During the last few years, I was privileged enough to meet Xavier Bettel and attend a talk by Leo Varadkar. I got to explore extraordinary Roman ruins in Trier. I explored all the evidence of dragons in Metz. I went to Nancy. I don’t feel I have come anywhere close to seeing enough of the country or the region around it. I’ve had the luxury of public transport direct to work, or walking when the weather was helpful (most evenings). In terms of life quality, it is the best I have every known. The best street parties I have known are the National Feierdag in June – a much more sensible time to have a national holiday than March. Sure the fireworks are late but hey…

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I leave it in highly unusual times, however. The newspapers in Luxembourg are talking now of the second wave. March to June 2020 were tough; I live on my own and during the lockdown, that was really, really hard. We did not have National Feierdag parties this year; SChouberfouer has been cancelled although the city of Luxembourg has put effort into scaled down summer activities at the moment. It really is a great place to live. I’m sorry to be going now; not sorry to be washing up in Brussels, another stunning city, but all the same.

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I used, when I lived in Dublin, say that once you’d been travelling anywhere at all it was hard to settle down anywhere else; you left pieces of yourself all over the place. I’m leaving a good chunk of my heart in Luxembourg, with its people, the colleagues I have known through work who have become good friends, the businesses I dealt with, the cash assistants in my local supermarket who were the only humans I met for 3 months this year, the way it’s just such a cool city to live in. I’d like to think I’ll be back but who knows. But the sun will always be shining in my memories of this wonderful country and its capital city.

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It is a truth universally

I missed yesterday. In fact, I was lazy having done broadband battle and really, I had just Had Enough. But I now have a decent data cap on my broadband which should hopefully support the whole homeworking lark. I just had to queue for half an hour to get into one of the shopping centres to go to one of the three Orange phone shops left open in Luxembourg. The country, not the city. We are truly living in weird times and now my laptop refuses to play audio. This is a pity because I’m inclined to play more stuff from youtube courtesy of more data.

Anyway, today, apparently, was Thursday. I have to confess that it’s only taken this many days for me to realise the days of the week almost have no meaning for me at all. At some point, I suppose, it will be Saturday but I may have to get up anyway because I am managing the whole grocery shopping thing. I went at 7.10 this morning. Mistake. I need to go at 7.05 to try and avoid the queue. There were already ten people ahead of me so I had to wait. But it wasn’t for long. You fly through the shopping when the place is empty and there are no queues at the cash desk.

Then you find out the bread is no longer at the bakery, but somewhere inside the grocery store so off you go in again, this time looking for bread. There’s an added dollop of feeling stupid. Of course they are limiting queuing at the bakery by simply closing it.

Today has been an odd day for many reasons but not least the fact that as of Monday, there will be no passenger flights in and out of Luxembourg; and also, the TGV link to Paris is being canceled. CFL’s train service is being drastically cut back as well. People just aren’t moving all that much. The city bus service will be down to a Sunday service if they chop it much more. There are a few cars, but still not that many. Today, more people were out walking. It’s as if they realised, we need to do this while we can; before they tell us we cannot leave at all.

Today it was the smell of daffodils I noticed. The weather has been beautiful; gorgeous sunny during the day. I hung out washing at some point. I’d love to say it’s the first sign of summer except I looked at the five day weather forecast and it’s going to start freezing again. Properly. Like, minus five level of freezing. Of course that is five days away and we might be lucky. It might be so cold. But the queuing, if it is, will be hard.

I’m finding teleworking hard. I’m not sure I am temperamentally suited to it and I really don’t like the isolation. I feel sorry for the cash assistants; they’ll be the only people that people like me even see on a regular basis. They’ll be engaged in so much chat at a time when they just want people to move on, at least 2 metres away please.

There was one beautiful shine on the day. Jennifer Ehle, a British actress best known for playing Elizabeth Bennett in a 1995 BBC television series, started reading Pride and Prejudice live on her instagram account today. It truly was a thing of beauty.

I bought a hand blender lately

I’m going to spare you an ode to the iron I bought; I haven’t yet unpacked it. 

But I bought a handblender yet. You don’t need to know any details about it except it has a metal blade attachment, came with a cutter tool that resembles a baby food processor, and it also came with a jug type thing. That jug type thing, and the metal blade attachment were my selection criteria, that and not costing 120E while not being a supermarket own brand that I have never heard of. 

I wanted to make my own smoothies. I wanted to do this because most smoothies I buy seem to have added sugar in them. I don’t want or need this. I have a basic recipe and it goes like this. 

You will need the following stuff

  • a hand blender
  • something to blend the stuff in
  • a citrus squeezer of some description. 
  • a knife. 
  • a dessert spoon
  • a banana or some papaya
  • strawberries or blueberries or mango
  • some no-sugar added natural yogurt. I use a set yogurt with very low sugar content
  • some orange juice
  • some ground ginger, 
  • a lime

Here is how you do it:

  • Chop some (say, four) strawberries/some mango, some blueberries) into your something to blend the stuff into. 
  • Chop the banana/papaya into that something
  • Add the juice of one lime, or half a lime if you are a wimp
  • Add “some” ground ginger. Err on the side of caution (I like a lot, but that should be no reflection on you. 
  • Add two dessert spoonfuls of yogurt
  • Top up with orange juice. I generally advise against the stuff with pulp as cleaning that out is a hassle, particularly by hand. 
  • Use the blender to liquidise everything. 
  • Remove and rinse the blender attachment immediately. Dried on smoothie is a bitch to clean off. 
  • Decant some smoothie into a glass. Enjoy. 

I bought a sewing machine lately

On Good Friday, 2019, to be precise. I had been angling for one for around 10 years but had never quite….got there. Until now. 

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I had a conversation with a friend lately on the question of clothing; we both focus on the comfort of clothing, in my case, because I am so damn glad to find clothes that fit me that the colour matching is completely a secondary concern. I am Between Sizes. I have always been Between Sizes because I have DD cup breasts. It doesn’t matter what size I am, I am between sizes. 

I live with it. 

The problem is when you find clothing styles you like and the vendor discontinues them. I have serious issues sourcing nightwear at the moment, and swimsuits are a hassle too, causing a decision to quit Speedo after nearly 25 years of loyalty to the brand. And it occurred to me that in theory (note those two words as they may come back to haunt later) it should be possible to dismember clothes I like but which are no longer respectable to wear in company (that would be those two purple/lilac coloured tops, there, which I bought at least 7 years ago but refuse to give up because I like how they fit) and use them to creat basic patterns, particularly the non-stretchy fabric (that would be that last remaining shortish satin nightdress that I need to fix the dart on and really should throw out as I can’t even begin to remember when it was bought but we’re probably talking ca 10 years ago). 

One of my friend bought an overlocker. No, I didn’t know what one of those was either but she made a skirt using it, and it did not appear to have been a particularly high mountain to climb. I am a logical person sometimes. I reason, this works like computer stuff and knitting patterns. There are instructions, you follow them, and 10 years later or so, when you get around to finishing stuff, you have a wearable. 

I kind of need a shorter timeline than ten years would be helpful but recent experience of finishing two doilies started ten years ago gives me a fresh view of my motivation sometimes. Anyway. I went looking at the three sewing machine shops and found one with staff I liked/found friendly/found helpful, and agreed to buy a Brother A16 sewing machine. It cost 30E more than its older brother, the A15. The A15 was a beautiful looking machine. The A16 was a bit boxier looking. I asked what the difference was and was told that the needle threading mechanism was easier to work on the A16 to the A15. As I expect to have the machine for at least 10 years, I ignored the more esthetically pleasing A15 and bought the miracle of engineering that was the A16. The fact that the single most common complaint about the A15 in amazon reviews related to the needle threading and my lack of patience with that may have contributed. The shop s