Tuesday 27 February 2024

A miscellany of February days

Never mind it being the shortest month, February seems to be dragging on and on as usual, and this year being a leap year makes it seem even longer!

Spring might seem to be around the corner with the above average temperatures luring nature out of hibernation, there has been a distinct lack of sunshine and an overdose of rain. Nevertheless, there's no mistaking that the days are getting longer, and for the last week or two daylight has been accompanying me on my commute, both in the mornings and the evenings.

With the overall gloominess of the weather, one should grab the opportunities to catch those rare rays of sunshine whenever they occur. Which, of course, is easier said that done when one is cooped up in an office all day!

And so it was that on Monday the 12th of February the weather gods sent us oodles of sunny spells, as if to make up for the abysmal weather of the weekend. 

As a lunchbreak errand was taking me into its direction, I decided to walk to the Botanic Garden afterwards. 

For the sake of variety, I opted for a different route this time, passing the neoclassical Bourla Theatre. Designed in 1827 by architect Pierre Bourla, construction started in 1829 but was delayed due to the Belgian Revolution. Eventually, the theatre was completed in 1834, and currently houses a theatre company called Toneelhuis. 

As I was taking its photo from under what must be Antwerp's most attractive bus shelter, I watched a would-be juggler rather unsuccessfully rehearsing his routine (above, top left). 

On the roof of the modern apartment building opposite the theatre is another pair of Albert Szukalski's ghostly figures. Apparently, these ones are called The Cripple and The Blind.

Soon after passing the theatre, I reached the garden's nearest entrance (below, top left), which for some reason is currently closed off. There was nothing for it but to continue past the garden's ornate stone  balustrade which is topped with equally ornate late 19th Century cast iron lamp posts until the main entrance was reached.

The garden lies well below street level, which makes it feel very sheltered.  Dominating it is the statue of its founder, Peter van Coudenberghe, a pharmacist and botanist who lived during the 16th century (above, bottom right).

Apart from the ubiquitous clumps of snowdrops, there were several Spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum, above, bottom left) already in bloom. This is a much taller growing bulb which usually has more than one flower per stem. Isn't it gorgeous?

And speaking of gorgeous: I absolutely loved this pale pink liver-spotted Hellebore, which initially resisted having its photo taken. I was suffering from a - thankfully minor and short-lived - backache that day, but still crouched down to have a better look and almost had to ask a passer-by to help me up again. 

The weather gods' good mood continued into Tuesday and remained until mid-afternoon, with the temperature still a moderate 10°C.

Again for the sake of variety, I took a slightly different route to the office after Jos had dropped me off.
I ended up right in front of the main entrance of the so-called Boerentoren, the Art Deco skyscraper which has now been under renovation for two and a half years. As part of these, the glass awning in front of the entrance had recently been removed, allowing an uninterrupted view of the eight bronze caryatids by sculptor Arthur Pierre (1866-1938) which are taking pride of place above the entrance doors. The caryatids depict the classical themes of Commerce, Art, Science, Agriculture, Prosperity, Technology, Architecture and Shipping. 

It was the half-term break in Flanders - the one we call the Crocus holidays - and Antwerp's main shopping street was inundated with people. Still, for the sake of another errand I braved the crowds, for which I was rewarded with a pair of Miz Mooz shoes at half-price.

Rather than being enamoured by their box, Bess was intrigued by the paper bag they came in ... Weirdly enough, she doesn't seem to grasp the concept of cats and boxes!

The rest of the working week was a grey affair, the temperature eventually climbing to a very unseasonable 17°C on Thursday. But at least it stayed dry for long enough to make it back from my hairdresser's appointment without the rain ruining my coiffure! 

I'd taken Friday off, hoping against hope for the weather to change for the better. Alas, it was another grey and rainy day, even though the mercury managed to climb to a mild 14°C.

I wore this chiffony olive green vintage dress, whose colour the camera insisted on picking up as a grey rather than a green. My blog tells me it was a charity shop find back in April 2022, when I fell for its funky pattern, pussy bow and pleated skirt. 

I added one of my cameo brooches to tame the bow, pinned a crochet and pearl flower corsage to the dress's bodice and accented my waist with one of my stretchy belts. 

An orange perspex ring from flea market friend Rita and a coral charity shopped King Louie cardigan completed my outfit.

As the weather kept refusing to play nicely we went for another rummage, visiting the charity shop we'd been obliged to give a miss the week before.

Finds were plentiful again that day, starting with a yellow printed Wow To Go blouse and a fabulous blue, black and burgundy patterned skirt by & Other Stories in a thick blanket-like fabric.

In spite of my self-imposed coat and jacket ban, this plaid swing jacket came home with me as well. 

Both the skirt and the jacket have already been worn in the meantime.

My final find was one with a bit of a hiccup. When I spotted these raspberry pink suede Tamaris boots which to my delight turned out to be a size 37 (UK size 4), they were instantly added to my cart and taken to the fitting rooms. After trying on the blouse, skirt and jacket, I quickly tried on the left boot only, as this is my so-called difficult foot. All seemed to be okay so I was happy to hand over the princely sum of € 5,90 for them.

Back at home, I was about to show them off to Jos, when I found myself hobbling around. Turned out that both the sole and heel of the left boot were considerably higher than those of the right one. Their original owner must have had one leg shorter than the other ...

I could have hit myself for not having noticed this in the shop, and was about to add them to the donations bag, when Jos suggested taking them to the cobbler. The guy didn't bat an eyelid when Jos told him the story and did a fantastic job. At a multiple of the price I paid for the boots, obviously. But never mind that: they are totally worth it! Now all I need is some dry weather so that I can actually wear them.

Saturday was grey, but mainly dry, for once and at 13°C again quite mild for the time of year.

My tweedy turquoise skirt - an old Think Twice find - came out to play that day, its companion a recently charity black blouse with a groovilicious blue, yellow, tan and white pattern. 

I found the brooch, which was made from a shard of old pottery, at an antiques and collectors fair taking place on Ludlow's Castle Square last June.

My burnt orange tiled necklace, a regular of the blog, was a charity shop find, as was the tan belt which picked up the tan from the blouse's pattern. The perspex ring - in yellow this time - is another one from Rita's flea market stall.

I spent the morning doing some long overdue kitchen cleaning. Although Jos diligently cleans floors and surfaces on a weekly basis, deep-cleaning our burgeoning collection of kitchenalia often falls by the wayside.

When I finally get around to this, it offers the perfect opportunity to look at it all with fresh eyes, marvelling at the wonderful stuff we've managed to collect over the years. So, why don't you join me and feast your eyes?

As a reward for all that cleanliness, we did go for a wee rummage later that day. Plus, we had February's addition of the indoor flea market to go to. But that, I'm afraid, will be for next time!

See you soon!

Thursday 22 February 2024

Dreary February

In spite of its above average highs in the low double digits, the grey, rainy and often windy weather in the first week of February was nothing short of dreary. 

In the wake of our whirlwind Sunday afternoon abroad, I'd had the foresight of taking Monday off.  However, I was instantly punished for my sins when I returned to the office on Tuesday. It  took me the better part of the morning just to go through my emails, and that's before I could make a start with all the issues which had popped up during my absence, so that my extra day off was soon forgotten. 

The only rays of - virtual - sunshine were a quick cappuccino-fuelled catch-up with Inez on Wednesday and some bargainous retail therapy on Thursday, the results of which you'll get to see later in this post.

After such a hectic week, you won't be surprised to read I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the weekend finally rolled along. What's more, Saturday the 10th of  February was mainly dry for once, with the odd sunny spell and springlike temperatures of up to 15°C.

Although I hadn't slept well, I felt better and more energized after breakfast. Striking the iron while it was hot, I ticked a couple of long-overdue chores off my list until it was time for our lunch of homemade tomato and paprika soup and crusty baguettes.

The burgundy button-through dress with its sprinkling of tiny teal and white flowers is one of my charity shopped King Louie's. Instead of the matching tie-belt it came with, I opted for the minty-green unstructured leather belt I found at the end of January. This, in its turn, inspired my choice of necklace, which alternates pale grey and minty-green beads.

My brooch matches the teal bits in the dress's pattern almost exactly, as do the boots, which were a holy grail charity shop find in December 2019.

A delicious aroma was wafting towards us as we opened the back door. Indeed, it was that time of year again when the tiny flowers of our Sarcococca (a.k.a. winter box, above, top left) were wooing us with their heavenly scent. Although the shrub isn't much to look at, for a handful of weeks in late January or early February its perfume, which gets trapped under the glass awning outside our back door, is taking centre stage.

Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is another one of our garden stalwarts, producing its twinkling yellow stars between November and March.

The Euphorbia I planted in the passageway last year is coming along nicely, and lo and behold, we even spied a handful of Snowdrops brave enough to show their pretty little faces at the back of the junkyard jungle!

We were all set to go on a wee charity shopping trip but were initially defeated by the fact that we couldn't find a single parking spot at either of our chosen shops. As a last-ditch attempt to satisfy our rummaging urges, we decided to stop at our most local shop on the way home, where it turned out to be a lot less busy.

Finds were plentiful here, but I'll start by showing you the results of Thursday's retail therapy. 

I picked up the green floral maxi dress (above) as well as the groovilicious green and blue maxi skirt (below, top and bottom left) at an outlet shop for the Belgian Green Ice label in the small shopping centre near my place of work. Already selling their stock at 50 to 70% off, prices had been reduced even further, so that it would have been downright silly not to make use of them.

The pale green diamond patterned swing cardigan - the first of my charity shop finds - makes a wonderful companion for the skirt. It's another one by retro label Zoë Loveborn to join my collection.

I swear, hand on heart, that I didn't set out to colour coordinate my finds, but surely there was no way I could have left these bottle green ankle boots behind? Made in Italy for a Belgian label called Ciao Ragazzi, they were a no-brainer at just € 5,90.

Although I've got more than plenty straw an wicker bags and the IKEA coat stand we bought last Spring is already groaning under their weight, I didn't think twice to make this one mine.

It wasn't my intention to buy colour-coordinated books either, but there you have it. I'm reading the Maeve Binchy at the moment. She's one of my guilty pleasures when in need of a comfort read.

I dithered over my final find, particularly since we've only visited two of the castles pictured on this tray. At € 0,10 it simply begged to be taken home though.

We woke up to a grey and mizzly day on Sunday which, in spite of the moderate 10°C claimed by the thermometer, initially made us ditch any plans of going for a walk.

Instead, I spent a lazy morning washing my hair and photographing my latest finds, as well as making a half-hearted attempt at writing a new blog post.

My outfit that day was a mix of vintage, new-to-me and the odd item bought on the high street. 

The pinkish-red skirt, a blend of polyester and mohair, is vintage and an old Think Twice find, while the floral blouse from the defunct Belgian Wow To Go label was picked up at Oxfam in December 2021.

As for my accessories, the pink beaded necklace was charity shopped and the enamelled brooch displaying a posy of white Daffs was a flea market find. The belt with its Celtic knot buckle is the odd one out, being a retail buy from the aforementioned Green Ice outlet shop. Having joined my wardrobe in the Autumn, it has already more than proved its worth. 

Our weather app insisted it would stay dry for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so we decided to risk it and go for a much-needed walk to clear away the cobwebs.

A 10-minute drive is all it takes to the nearest entrance of Fort 5 - which I most recently blogged about here - and after having parked our car and taken our walking poles from the boot, we proceeded along the main tarmacked path which skirts the domain.

The offerings of the book sharing box (above, top left) were decidedly meagre, but we have made a mental note to bring our bag of non-keepers next time instead of taking them to the charity shop.

Continuing on the tarmacked path would have taken us on quite a detour around the moat, so we veered off onto a muddy path which would take us into known territory. We were wondering about the length of red and white plastic tape tangled up in the undergrowth near the path's entrance, until we came across a fallen tree blocking the path and halting us in our tracks. Some nitwit must have found it necessary to fool people by removing it.

There was nothing for it but to retrace our steps and make our way towards the eerie passage (below, bottom left) which takes you into the fort's heavily graffitied inner sanctum. This would eventually bring us back to the narrow winding path along the moat.

En route, we once again passed the long row of low brick and sandstone buildings of which make up the old fort. Almost swallowed up by the undergrowth, with its peeling woodwork and chained and padlocked doors and gates, this would undoubtedly be an urbex explorer's dream location.

As the next batch of rain announced its imminent arrival with a darkening of the sky and the first and the lightest of drizzles, we hurried back to our car.

The cobwebs were suitably cleared, so mission accomplished!

Friday 16 February 2024

Made of clay - Part 2

Thursday the 1st of February presented us with what felt like the first stirrings of impending Spring. At 8°C we might not have made it into double digits that day, but just look at that bright blue sky! So far, the week had been grey and mizzly, so when the sun bathed Antwerp in a golden glow that morning, I was champing at the bit to go outside and bask in her soothing presence during my lunch break. So, as soon as the clock struck 12.45, I made my escape and strolled to Antwerp's Botanical Garden.

Just a leisurely 10-minute walk from my office, and a mere stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of the city's main shopping thoroughfare, Den Botaniek as it is locally known, is an oasis of peace and quiet. It's the perfect place to unwind after a busy morning, and indeed lots of people flock here on their lunch breaks, eating their sandwiches or reading a book on one of the garden's benches. Or perhaps just sit and stare, contemplating life as I am wont to do.

Tiny it may be, it is a whole world in one garden, with a collection of exceptional trees and shrubs, an incredible 2000 plants and a conservatory housing a number of cacti and other exotics.

Started almost 200 years ago, it initially only grew medicinal plants to supply St. Elisabeth’s hospital next door. The city has managed the garden since 1926 and in 1950 the garden was listed as a valuable landscape for the city of Antwerp and its inhabitants.

Ah, the first stirrings of Spring! My heart always makes a little leap when I spy a carpet of cheerful yellow hula-skirted winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis).

There's also a plethora of hellebores which, apart from several clumps of Helleborus foetidus 
(two collages up, top right) includes lots of  different Helleborus orientalis varieties, like the dusky purple bloomed one (above, top left), which was more than willing to have its portrait taken.

I was charmed by these tiny delicate-looking flowers (above, bottoms left), which belong to Chimomanthus praecox, a deciduous shrub commonly known as wintersweet due to its highly fragrant flowers.

In a bid to make my walk at least semi-circular, I exited the garden by way of the premises belonging to the luxury Botanic Sanctuary hotel. Opened in 2022, it is housed in a former convent and hospital complex called  Elzenveld, whose history goes back to the 12th century.

Two ghostly figures have taken up residence in the garden next to the restored 15th century chapel. By Antwerp-based, German-born sculptor Albert Szukalski (1945-2000), they are relatives of those which have been having a conversation in the sculpture park (Dialogue, 1974).

Thursday clearly had been a one-off, as we were back to the customary grey skies on Friday. The dismal soul-sapping weather wasn't conducive to a lunch break walk. In fact, I wouldn't even have ventured outside at all if I hadn't had an errand to run.

It was when I was taking a shortcut through the shopping centre near my office that I happened to pass a pop-up clothing shop which was having a closing-down sale. With items going for € 10, I decided to have a look, not really expecting to find anything to my liking. How wrong I was, as I walked away with a bottle green long-sleeved maxi dress and a blue bishop-sleeved blouse with a flower meadow print, both by the London based Louche label

I was quite exhausted by Saturday, my hectic 5-day working week clearly taking its toll. 

Yet another grey and mizzly day, its highs of 10°C were neither here nor there. Without any sunshine to boost my energy levels, and feeling a bit off with a stomach upset, a day of rest was just what the doctor ordered.

Both the plaid skirt and the thin knit jumper got their very first outing that day, even if it was only for posing for outfit photos in the passageway.

I picked up the skirt in an outlet shop for the Belgian Green Ice label back in September, while the Missoni-inspired faux-wrap jumper, by C&A's Clockhouse label, was charity shopped last month.

I layered a green long-sleeved t-shirt underneath, pinned a brooch embroidered with a posy of Gentians to the jumper and added a navy beaded necklace to tie in with the background colour of the skirt.

Having finished my Anne Tyler novel, I picked one of the previous week's finds as my next read.

Three Houses is a nostalgic childhood memoir by Angela Thirkell (1890-1961), based on the three houses in which she grew up. Apart from her parents' home in Kensington Square, these are her maternal grandparents' London home, as well as their seaside retreat in Rottingdean, East Sussex. 

A not unimportant detail is that her grandfather was the Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer Edward Burne-Jones! Although Angela clearly admired her grandfather's work, as well as that of his friend William Morris, she wasn't impressed with Pre-Raphaelite furniture, which she describes as utterly uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the stomach bug thing, whatever it was, had upped and left by Saturday evening and, after a good night's sleep, I was feeling right as rain again on Sunday morning.

Strangely enough it had quite a while since this 1970s does 1940s dress made it out of my wardrobe. Green being my favourite colour, I fell in love with it and its blowsy flower pattern when I found it on the Think Twice rails many years ago.

A trip down bloggy memory lane revealed that I usually wear it with aqua opaques and a ditto cardigan, so I decided to shake things up a bit, opting for burnt orange and tan this time around.

The belt - by the Belgian CKS label - was a fairly recent charity shop find while, if my memory serves me right, I found the brooch on a flea market. My necklace with its colourful wooden discs, which pick up all of the pattern's colours, was bought brand new from Accessorize back in the mists of time.

Our plan for the day was to spend the afternoon abroad! Mind-boggling as this might sound to some of you, it only involves a drive of just under an hour, which is considerably less than it takes to drive to Belgium's west country.

We were off to visit our friends Kris and Marnix, who live about 15 kilometers from the Belgian border in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, which is part of the Dutch province of Zeeland. 

Kris, who used to be my colleague for many years, moved here to run an arable farm with his husband Marnix, growing potatoes, onions, wheat, brown beans, sugar beet and carrots.

What with life - not to mention that pesky thing called Covid - getting in the way we hadn't seen each other since December 2019. As if that wasn't bad enough, our plans for a get-together at the end of 2022 had to be cancelled at the last moment as I got the flu, so it was obvious that we had quite a bit of catching up to do. 

In true Dutch style, we were welcomed with typical Dutch pastries called tompouce, after which it was time for Kris to show us around his pride and joy.

About six years ago, a friend took Kris along to a ceramics workshop, and the rest, as they say, is history! Kris was instantly captivated by the creative possibilities of working with clay.

Soon, his new-found hobby had taken over his life and KB Keramiek was born. 

As Kris wanted to share his knowledge and passion, Kris and Marnix converted part of their barn into a studio, where Kris is now giving his own workshops and courses. 

Next to the ceramics studio is a multi-purpose room which can be rented for courses, meetings or gatherings. This used to be the old cowshed, and I love how Kris and Marnix have integrated some of the authentic elements like the old ceiling beams, the drinking troughs and the feeding troughs which have been converted into benches (above, top and bottom right, and below, top right).

There's also a small shop where Kris sells his own unique creations. I was quite impressed by those gorgeous leaf dishes!

Our catch-up continued with drinks and nibbles, during which we were introduced to alcohol-free gin, which was absolutely delicious.

We stayed for dinner, and then sadly it was time to say goodbye and make our way back home. Promises have been made not to leave it too long until we next meet.  And who knows, one day we might very well book one of those workshops ...

Thank you for the lovely afternoon, guys!

Sunday 11 February 2024

Made of clay

 While time is slowly but surely making its way towards mid-February, my blog, as usual, is still struggling to catch up with the past. January's final weekend might only be a matter of two weeks ago, it somehow seems a lot longer to me. 

Meanwhile, I'm feeling as if life keeps dealing me the wrong cards. There's nothing I can put my finger on exactly, but work-related stress keeps on poisoning my days (thank you Janice for this very apt description in my comments) and I'm sure the ongoing grey and rainy weather hasn't been any help either.

Here's to hoping Spring will bring solace!

However, the weekend which is this post's subject was a good one. Although I was still suffering from the odd coughing fit, they had definitely subsided, which in its turn had brought back some of my joie de vivre and revived my energy levels.

We'd slept late on Saturday the 28th of January, waking up to a layer of frost and lots of sunshine, with highs of about 8°C. In short: the perfect weather for my beloved flower basket frock!

The frock in question is vintage, and if you've guessed it was a Think Twice find you are spot on! I fell hard for its pattern, its midi length and dropped waist, which, together with its wool content, makes it the ideal jammy dress, as Sheila would say.  

I picked green for my opaques and charity shopped Mango cardigan, its tired and worn out buttons replaced with more appropriate vintage ones from my stash.

My berry-coloured necklace and flower corsage were charity shops finds as well, while my brooch - which for some reason I'm wearing upside down - is part of my haul from January's indoor flea market.

If Vix's garden is a bewildering wilderness, ours is a junkyard jungle, with the bags of compost mixed up with building rubble from next door's kitchen extension still cluttering up the courtyard at the back. But our revived passageway, sheltered by the new and higher wall, is a triumph. 

It was only a matter of a couple of weeks ago when I noticed the first of the flower buds in the Hellebore (Helleborus sternii) I re-homed here last Spring, and lo and behold: not only had they multiplied, the first of its creamy, pink-veined flowers was showing her pretty face.

That morning, I worked on a blog post while Jos ran an errand and made a pot of delicious tomato and paprika soup for our lunch, after which we decided on a wee trip to the charity shops. Or rather, shop, singular, as we only visited our most local one.

Among my finds was this short-sleeved millefiori vintage dress, in perfect condition apart from missing its belt and needing a couple of split seams repaired. No big issue, even for someone with limited sewing skills like yours truly.

I wrestled the marigold jumper from a shop dummy, and stumbled across this zig-zag patterned item, which is a pair of velvet-y lounging trousers. Much appreciated by Bess and me alike.

The wide, unstructured, minty green leather belt with its round white metal bucket is Italian made.

I'm always on the lookout for leather watch straps and unearthed these ones, in two different shades of blue, from a box of boring black sisters and brothers. I initially thought that there was only one of each, but found two matching pairs when I released them from their plastic bag at home. Not bad for € 2 surely.

Finally, the book shelves yielded no less than four new additions to my TBR pile!

We stopped for wild bird seed and some packets of bread mix at the garden centre on our way home. No risk of making any impulse purchases this time, as most of the plant tables were quite bare. 

In spite of a frosty start, Sunday developed into a deliciously sunny, almost springlike day, with the mercury climbing to 12°C.

My dress of choice was another Think Twice find and its label claims that it's a Ralph dress and was made in West Germany. Needless to say, the Internet wasn't very helpful in finding any information about this label, as my searches resulted in links to Ralph Lauren, rather than just Ralph. 

Appearances can be deceptive, as rather than black, the dress's predominant colour is a rich chocolate brown. It's got three buttons at the cuffs which echo those decorating each shoulder. 

From its clusters of flowers, I picked turquoise for my belt and pink for my beads, both items being charity shop finds. As was the blue Zoë Loveborn cardigan with its orange buttons. 

The cameo brooch I pinned to my dress is another one from my recent flea market haul, while my cardigan was proudly displaying a single orange paste gemstone in a nest of gold thread.

After lunch, we drove down to De Schorre in Boom, a Provincial domain and nature reserve at the site of yet another former clay pit.

In fact, De Schorre isn't just your run-of-the-mill place: it is the the scene for Tomorrowland, the largest Dance Music festival in the world, which takes place for two consecutive weekends in July. If the wind is right - or should that be wrong - its deep thumping basses can be heard and felt at Dove Cottage, more than eight kilometers away.

A quick trawl on the blog revealed that our last visit was almost two years ago to the day! It was in January 2022 that we first came across some of the trolls installed in the summer of 2019 in honour of Tomorrowland's 15th anniversary.

Sets of wooden steps take you from street level about 25 meters down to the bottom of the former pit, where a network of boardwalks leads you through the wetlands created by months of rain.

Soon we spotted the first of the trolls - there are a total of 7 to be discovered - sitting astride the boardwalk. This one is called Arvid and apparently she is looking for dead branches in the forest, with which she is making of works of art. 

Judging from her back view, she's been using some of those dead branches for her wild punky hairdo as well. 

Eventually the boardwalk ends at the junction with a broad path which leads to the domain's commercial heart, which has venues for parties, events and meetings. It is home to some sports clubs as well and there's a climbing and adventure tower which makes me wobbly-legged by just looking at it. We wouldn't even have ventured that far if it weren't for its sanitary facilities!

About one third of the domain is coloured in as a nature reserve, where nature has reclaimed what was rightfully hers after the brick-making industry declined and clay-digging came to a stop in the 1980s.

At the sight of such natural bounty, it is hard to imagine what it must have been like in the industry's heyday, but here's a photo to give you some idea.

On our return journey we came across another one of the trolls. This one is Hannes, who apparently loves making necklaces with wooden pearls he forages in the forest.  

On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, there were lots of families with children out and about, and it wasn't easy to photograph Hannes and me hanging out together with a constant stream of children wanting to tickle the poor giant's feet!

The trolls, by the way, were created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo using old pallets, recycled wood, broken branches and fallen trees, and they vary in height between 7 and 18 meters.

The ruined brick building Hannes is perched upon, and the elevated track on tall brick pillars, are remnants of the area's industrious past.

The fabulous graffiti artwork was added in 2023. It is called 'Formica' (which is Latin for ant) and was created by the artists of a collective called Treepack. The worker ants refer to the many workers who used to mine clay and make bricks here. 

This photo, which was made by Jos who used to live in the area, shows what it looked like in the early 1980s, before the factory closed down. 

On our way up to where we'd left our car, we spotted a third troll on the further reaches of a pool, which is of course actually a water-filled former clay pit, ruled over by a rusty dredger.

This is Mikil, who is scooping water from the pool with a bucket. There's a rather vertiginous muddy path leading down to him, which we didn't dare to attempt.  

We've still got the other three trolls to check out, which we are planning to do on a less busy and muddy day. Perhaps on a Friday in April?

We'd managed to avoid the worst of the sticky clay, but in one's hour of need there's this contraption.

Boomse kleiverwijderaar translates as remover of Boom clay ... I do wonder who those shady characters in front of it are?

Back at home, I settled myself on the sofa with my latest read, which was quite good. In fact, Anne Tyler never disappoints, and it's testimony to her talent that I finished this one in no time.