Tag Archives: love


5 May

My husband and I got together a few years before apps and iPhones appeared.

Which means we have never been on a Tinder date.

But we have something better.

Tender dates.



Migraine and Yet a Beautiful Day

27 Aug


7.30h and I wake up with a migraine. Immediately I send a whatsapp to the group of friends/co-parents:

Migraine! Can anyone take care of Elena today, please?

and I put my daughter in front of the tv to watch The Last Unicorn.

By the end of the film, Irene has told me she´ll be taking Elena out for lunch to eat pizza with her son. And Olga says she´ll take care of her for the rest of the day and that she can even stay the night.

Fernando and Teresa say they can take her out on an excursion with their sons, but I tell them : thank you so much, but I´ve already got it covered.

So at 12:00h Irene comes to pick up my daughter, and at 16:30h she passes my house again to pick up a mermaid doll and drop off a pizza for me (which I didn´t even ask for). Then she takes Elena to Olga.

At 18:30h Isabel comes over for a short chat and brightens up my mood with her warm and energising stories. She leaves at 19:30h.

Half an hour later Olga passes by my house with Elena, her daughter Anastasia, and a dog she´s taking care of. She´s come to pick up my dog to take him for a walk, and she won´t take no for an answer. I walk with them until the orangetree fields, and there she sends me back home. Forty minutes later she brings back the dog, and takes my daughter to her house where she will stay the night.

Okay, I have migraines.

But I have the best friends in the world.






22 May

Like a shy child

covering its red cheeks

he tries to hold back the love

that radiates from his face.


But she´s seen it

and beams it back.

Oh, to find your moon

in this infinite space.



You´ve Been… Alfonsified

19 Mar

So I´m working on the computer, while my husband is chasing bandits on the Playstation.
Suddenly he says: “You know, I was thinking…”

“Yes?” I say.

But no answer comes.

I take my hands from the keyboard and turn my chair towards him.
“What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking,” he resumes, his eyes still fixed on the tv screen, “I might go to the supermarket to…”

Then silence again.

“…to…” I prod.

“… to buy…”

“…to buy what?”
Now that I´ve interrupted my work, I might as well get to the bottom of this.

His fingers keep clicking away at the controller, and he´s still intensely gazing at the screen, when he makes another attempt at finishing his sentence.

“… to buy a thing…”

At this point my frustration turns into fascination.

“Really?” I tell him. “You want to go to the supermarket to buy a thing?”

He grins, but the mystery remains.

It takes me three more questions (“What do you want to buy?”, “What´s the message here?” and “Can you please finish your sentence?”) to lead this Echternach conversation to a satisfying conclusion.

“… to buy some wine,” he says at last. “I was thinking a glass of wine would be nice.”

“Yes,” I say. “That would be very nice indeed.”

They say that to keep a marriage alive, you have to keep talking.
Score for us.



Aiming For The Bicycle Guy

13 Jan

Do you know that song from Hozier called Someone New?

I fall in love just a little, oh a little bit
every day, with someone new

Keep that in mind, I´ll get back to it in a second.

Today I decided to finally get that rattling front light on my bike fixed, and get something done about the chain falling off all the time. So I went to the bike shop of an ex-student of mine. I arrived there at 10.55 am to find the lights on but the door closed. There was another customer waiting, saying he´d been there for half an hour. A note on the door said the shop owner was out for breakfast (well, almuerzo) between 10 and 11.
“He´ll be right back,” I assured the other customer.
“Well, he´d better be. And I hope he´s got my bike fixed,” the man grumbled. “Next time I´m going to another bike shop. I know one just a few blocks away.”
By 11.10 am I decided to choose pragmatism over loyalty (yes, that took me only 15 minutes, shame on me). I asked the grumpy guy where that other shop was, hopped on my bike and took off.

The other bike shop appeared to be a lot closer to home and a lot bigger. In front of the counter a few older men were engaged in little-village-conversation, and behind it stood a man who I assume was the shop owner. He called to the back: “When you´re done, can you take a look at that girl´s bike?”
A few minutes later a slender young man emerged from the workplace in the back. Thick black hair, brown eyes, energetic gait. But the most notable thing about him was how he seemed to radiate peace and happiness.
He studied the bike, asked me some questions, and told me to come over to the counter, where he literally pushed one of those older men aside to make some space for me. I wrote down my name and gave him my phone number. “We should have it fixed by Friday,” he said, with the friendliest smile in the world. And then he gave a thumbs-up with both hands as I said goodbye and left the shop.
That´s how today I fell in love just a little, oh a little bit.

And I wondered, as I have done many times before, why so many people look down on vocational education. Why they tell their children to “aim higher”. I thought of all those doctors I´ve seen these last few years, locked up in their little offices, frustrated, burned-out, prescribing me the wrong medication (no joke), failing to diagnose just about everyting that was wrong with me (unfortunately no joke either), snapping at me, trying to get me out of the door within 5 minutes because they were behind schedule, etcetera, etcetera.
How´s that for aiming higher?
I´ve come across some marvellous, decent doctors too, of course. But you can tell the ones who chose medicine out of vocation (there´s that word again, see!) from the ones who were told to “aim higher”, while their heart was with something else.

How can you possibly aim higher than being like that guy at the bike shop, who happily goes around making money doing what he likes? Who, maybe one day, will have his own shop and avoid a burn-out by going out for long almuerzos, who knows.




Supermarket Serenade

3 Nov

I can´t count the times when I fled from a store simply because of the background music. I walk in, become instantly overwhelmed, and just walk out. Or I try to cope, grab some clothes to try on, head for the changing room, and then leave without trying on a single piece, spurting out as if some monster were on my heels. And I know that when afterwards I relate my unhappy adventures I sound like an eighty-year-old. (“It wasn´t music, it was just noise! And why do they put it so loud?” Yes, grandma. Get over it.)

I used to have only one Happy Background Music Memory (“Love me tender” in a secondhand bookstore), but now, I´m delighted to say, I have two.

It happened last week at the supermarket. I was trying to decide what brand of cereal to buy (another high score on the grandma-scale), when I heard flamenco. Live flamenco, sung by a booming male voice. Following the trail of sound I arrived at the supermarket´s fish department. The South-American saleswoman who always smiles and puts extra parsley with my salmon, had come from behind the stalls with fish and crushed ice and was standing in the aisle. Before her were three men, all dressed in the same darkblue tracksuit. Jobmates, I suppose. They looked like they had been driving around in a van and had popped in at the supermarket to get a snack for on the road.

The tallest of the three, a slender, grey-haired guy, who looked more like a retired James Bond than a gypsy, had gone down on one knee in front of the saleswoman.
Esa mujer,” he sang, with that typical flamenco vibrato. The whole department vibrated along with his love song. The woman smiled -she always smiles, but this man had managed to make her smile even wider. When he had finished, he got up and they chatted a little, like the old friends they probably were.

Nothing like a decent bit of serenade to lighten up your shopping.

Sing At a Wedding: Check

15 Sep

(Number 4 on the list)

Take everything you know about weddings and store it in a far corner of your mind for the duration of this post.

Now think bellydancers and paper airplanes. Think festivalbracelets and foodtrucks. Think blonde female priest. That´s the kind of wedding I was invited to by Tim and Tina. And they had asked me to sing. What an honour!

It all started off a lot less glamourous than I had imagined. Excruciating pain in my left eye the day before, frenzied search for an eye-doctor. Damaged cornea, he said, and an infection on top of that. I was in a bigger panic than the day before my own wedding. Luckily the eye-drops I got worked wonders, but I couldn´t wear my contacts, nor any make-up. So I had to resign myself to singing to strangers while wearing my glasses. Uh-oh. I know how silly that may sound to you, but I have a dioptry of -13, which means my eyes look very, very small behind my glasses, which gives me that hyper-intelligent, but far from sexy, nerd-look. But apparently it´s a lot easier to get over something when there´s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

The wedding took place in a beautifully restored Flemish barn, where a stage had been mounted and decorated with colourful Indian lanterns. Tina, who is a gifted belly,- and Bollywooddancer although Belgian by birth, wore an amazing cream-coloured Indian wedding dress. She had bought it in Mumbai, just after Tim had proposed to her in front of the Taj Mahal (which is a super cliché thing to do, and therefore a very original thing for Tim to do, who usually keeps himself very far from clichés).

The ceremony was lead by our friend Leen, a teacher, singer and actress. She did a marvelous job, with lots of love and humour. There were many moving speeches, Tim´s brother and his wife gave a wonderful performance of “Head Over Feet” from Alanis Morrisette, and then I got to sing an a capella version of “Don´t cry for me, Argentina”. I had adapted the lyrics -the chorus going something like this, to give you and idea:

I love you so much, Tim, said Tina/ and I promise I´ll never leave you / all through my wild days / my mad existence / I´ll keep my promise / don´t keep your distance – etc.

I´d been very insecure about the lyrics – unlike the chorus, the verses had nothing to do with the original text anymore and were very personal. It´s quite a risk, taking something you´ve made up all by yourself and throwing it out into the world. It makes you very vulnerable. So I was super-nervous, hands trembling like crazy. But everybody was listening attentively, like they didn´t want to miss a word, and I got so much positive feedback afterwards that my fear of coming across as the Ultimate Nerd slowly evaporated.

Instead of wedding rings, Tim and Tina exchanged festival bracelets -how cool is that? Imagine a bride with a pair of pliers in her hands! Then Leen and I sang “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin movie. By that time I wasn´t trembling anymore, and it was beautiful. It´s so nice to sing a duet. It´s one of my favourite things in the world.

And then came the most spectacular surprise: a live show of belly-dance and Bollywood performances! Fourteen dancers taking turns swirling and swaying around, tying bells at their feet, throwing scarves in the air, through the movement of their bodies invoking all the emotions on the spectrum of love. And of course Tina was there, dancing as we had never seen her dance before, with that irresistable joy and conviction that brides radiate on their wedding day. We just stood there, gazing at her with our mouths open wide.


Things I´ve Learned Along The Way

6 Jun
  1. We are vulnerable but resilient
  2. Adults don´t know what they´re doing either
  3. You have to take care of yourself
  4. We have to take care of each other
  5. Dualistic thinking is incompatible with understanding nature and therefore ourselves
  6. Your heart does a lot more than just pumping blood around
  7. Your body does a lot more than just carrying your brain around

and 8:

“Over time, she had painstakingly erased all womanly urges to question her shape, looks, role in life, or effect upon other people. She would watch, analyse and conform to codes as she observed them, without allowing them to affect or compromise her own identity.” (Helen Fielding, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, p 12)


(picture by Katerina Plotnikova)

True Love

12 Mar

As it is taught in Disney films, Love is about finding The One.

The trajectory is rather simple:

  1. you have eye-contact
  2. you fall in love (which usually takes about half a song)
  3. you fight the external forces that keep you separated from your loved one
  4. you get married (compulsory)
  5. you live happily ever after (or: the union of lovers with perfectly matching personalities guarantees a life of eternal bliss)

When you grow up, however, you start realizing that it´s not that simple.

  1. many things can turn making eye-contact with someone you fancy into a trying undertaking. Low self-esteem for example. Or bad eye-sight.
  1. romantic songs to guide the mood are usually only played during a short time span at parties and almost never during daytime (or you have to be really lucky to be locking eyes with someone in the supermarket exactly at the moment when there´s some Barry White in the background.)
  2. the forces you have to fight are mostly internal: the loved one´s unpractical manias, childhood traumas, weird hobbies. And yours.
  3. “Should we get married?”, “What if (s)he doesn´t want to get married?”, “When is he going to propose?”, “Why isn´t (s)he proposing?” Ever heard those questions in a Disney movie?

and as for number 5: Well.

I´m starting to realize that I can´t send my daughter out into the world with only the images of Cinderella riding off in a carriage and Ariel waving on a boat, both in weddingdresses and linking arms with their new spouses, and a voice-over saying that they lived happily ever after.

So I decided to give a twist to the idea of “renewing wedding vows” and I renewed them entirely, hoping to get a little closer to the truth while doing so.

(Though I wouldn´t want her to read these things out loud at a wedding ceremony of course, but just so that she knows what she´s getting into.)

I will always be there for you.

I won´t. I might be at work, at a party, or on holiday with friends.

I might not realize what you´re going through or understand your pain.

But when you need me, call on me, and I´ll come running (see: Carole King: “You´ve got a friend”).

And when other people hurt you, I will unconditionally defend you and choose your side.

You are the love of my life.

Yes. But my children are too. And maybe a dog, a cat, some friends and family members.

There isn´t a first place, because it´s not a competition.

You are the only one for me.

You are, but that doesn´t mean it couldn´t have been someone else.

I´m sure you could´ve built up a happy life with another person –someone who irritated you less in certain aspects and more with other things. And the same goes for me.

(See the unsurpassed Tim Minchin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeZMIgheZro )

But you are the One for me, because we made it happen. And when I count my blessings, meeting you is always at the top of my list.

kasteel Tina denk ik


14 Jan

I remember every place I´ve ever lived in like I remember ex-lovers. Every house, every apartment, every student room had its particular soul, which was expressed through the distances between the walls and ceilings, the colours of those walls, and how much light the windows let in or kept out. The intimacy of our relationships has been saved in the memory of my senses: my bare feet on the old wooden floorboards or warm cork tiles. The back-pressure the doorknobs would give when pushing them down. How every space would give my voice a different resonance.

Every first night in a new place would be like touching a strange body in the dark: unfamiliar with new proportions and sounds I would stumble when getting up, listen attentively and slightly worried, catch the first hints of the neighbours´ routine and a streetlife that would gradually unfold itself during the next few weeks until I had it charted in my mind.

Then I would live inside that house for a while, protected or not so protected, but almost always in love, because every place I´ve lived in had something to love. A terrace, old pink bathroom tiles, a strip of Indian wallpaper, a seascape, room for a cat. And I would stay there until my dreams had grown too big or the love for a human being would pull me away.

picture house