Reflections #21: Closed for Summer!

Zarina birdwatching with binoculars

On the last Sunday of the month I write my personal review of the previous four weeks. This month I had a strange encounter with a magical creature in the forest, fixed and broke our washing machine and made a decision about the future of Dutch Girl in London. Finally, I’m sharing the latest updates on my lockdown vegetables and sixpack, and of course my monthly recommendations for films and series!

My July: the highs and the lows

Looking back at the last four weeks, it feels like the days have just flown by yet also lasted forever at the same time. It’s strange how doing so little distorts all perception of time. Like all previous months, the month of July was filled with personal ups and downs.

Marking the 6-month ‘anniversary’ of my best friend’s death, this month once again triggered a whole spectrum of different emotions. Feelings of grief, acceptance, loneliness, peace, unrest, anger, frustration, abandonment and so on.

His funeral was exactly six months ago this weekend. It seems both so long ago yet so fresh at the same time. It was also the last time I saw my family and friends in real life. The longest time ever. But after hearing and reading the chaotic situations on planes and at airports at the moment, I’m not too eager to travel back to the Netherlands at the moment. Perhaps when things have calmed down again after the school holidays are over, depending on how the virus develops over the next weeks with people travelling internationally again of course.

Zarina's Laphroaig plot indicated on an online map
My plot of land at the Laphroaig distillery in Scotland

Not sure how useful my Laphroaig passport will be for my future travels, but I’m very pleased for having one! Laphroaigh is a single malt whisky which is distilled in Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland. Its distinctive peaty smell and flavour might not be for everyone but this feature actually makes it one of my favourite whiskies.

When I bought one of their bottles recently, it came with a code to claim your personal square foot of the island. I hope I won’t have to pay taxes on it, but I’m eager to visit my plot of Scottish land one day!

Encounter with a Chinese Muntjac

These last weeks Hubby and I have been going on long walks on Sunday mornings. Living close to country parks thriving with birdlife, we even bought new binoculars as you can see in the photo at the top of this post.

Zarina birdwatching in a bird hide
Spying on birdlife from a bird hide

On one of these mornings, we crossed paths with an almost mythical-like creature. A few metres away from us we saw a strange animal appearing from the bushes. Hubby thought it was a dog while I thought it was a baby deer. Yep, we’re both proper David Attenboroughs with our knowledge of animals.

Luckily I had the binoculars at hand and when I looked through them to inspect the mystery creature, I saw something I’d never seen before. Was it a faun? Had we stepped into Narnia? Or had my eyes simply deceived me? Look at the photo below. What is your guess?

Chinese Muntjac deer
Chinese muntjac deer (Photo: Nilfanion on Wikimedia Commons)

All three of us stood frozen for a few minutes, never unlocking eyes. The animal even had its hoof hovering in the air all that time, as if he was pretending to be invisible. But then just like that, the animal ran off again, making us doubt if it had ever happened. It really was the most surreal and magical moment ever.

When we returned home, I did a quick Google search and discovered the animal we had seen was a Chinese muntjac, also called barking deer for the sound it can make when startled. Luckily it was quiet as a mouse when it saw us. Just imagine hearing a mystery animal barking loudly. How freaky would that have been?!

Closed for summer!

Yes, you read it correctly, Dutch Girl in London will be closed for business this summer! Although I enjoy writing my weekly posts about unusual things to do in London or London history for you, it’s been feeling like a stressful chore lately. Just being totally honest here.

Not feeling at my best at the moment and having no real direct ‘rewards’ from my writings right now is not really motivating. Although I’m not a fulltime blogger and don’t make income from advertising, my blog is more than a hobby. It does usually lead to work for me, either copywriting projects or bookings for my Dutch-language London walking tours.

That latter is obviously not happening at the moment and judging from my reader stats, people aren’t really looking for London travel articles either. And to be honest, having to come up with a new entertaining topic every week, finding appealing photos for it and doing research is a lot of work and takes a lot of energy. Energy I don’t have much of right now. (It also doesn’t help that I might be the slowest writer in human history).

So that’s why I’ve decided to take a break from writing new Dutch Girl in London content over these next weeks. Instead, I’ll be going back to my archive and update old articles with new information and re-edit photos. I’m actually quite excited about what forgotten gems I will come across and will share them on my Facebook page so make sure to follow me there!

I’ll still be writing my monthly updates though so I can still keep in touch with you here. And I will also be using the time to create more content for my travel blog Miss Travel Clogs and rethink my topics for Dutch Girl in London that might be more suitable for the moment.

My favourite Instagram photos

Besides updating old blog posts, I’m also hoping to have more to time for Instagram. Below are some of my favourite photos I posted on my Dutch Girl in London Instagram page this last month.

Miss Travel Clogs in Instagram

And let’s not forget my Miss Travel Clogs Instagram account. You might understand now why I’m feeling slightly exhausted at the moment, trying to maintain several social media accounts and blogs, ha ha!

Screenshot of Miss Travel Clogs Instagram feed

I treated myself to a book on London architecture

Having barely earned any money these last months, I haven’t spent much money on things other than food. But this week I decided to treat myself to a book on London architecture by one of my favourite publishers: Hoxton Mini Press.

Based in East London, this independent publisher has now published several gorgeous photography books on London. Their beautiful small book called London Architecture came beautifully wrapped in paper with illustrations of East London. It really felt like a great present to myself!

I have only briefly flicked through it now, but it contains beautiful photos of familiar London locations but also some new gems I can’t wait to see for myself soon!

Related article: 5 Books about London I Love

Blog posts I wrote this month

As mentioned earlier, I sometimes receive paid copywriting assignments through my website. One of my latest clients, the art website The Net Gallery, even found me through Instagram! In my first article for their art journal I wrote about current two Andy Warhol exhibitions in London (and online). You can read the fun piece here: What Was Bubbling in Warhol’s Creative Saucepan?

On my own blogs I wrote about:

Finally, I put together an article about surprising things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand, combining information from my own two visits and insider tips from a local! And I also updated my article about the amazing street art in Málaga, Spain.

Dutch Girl in London blog posts I wrote in July 2020

Mural on Mile End Road of famous people in Whitechapel, London history

Notable People of Whitechapel: London History

Steeped in history and intrigue, Whitechapel might be one of London’s most chronicled neighbourhoods. Formerly part of the infamous East End of London, Whitechapel has been home to several famous people. This article reveals the most notable Whitechapel figures and residents, from Jack the Ripper, to James Cook to Vladimir Lenin.

Read More…

Slapstick DIY adventures

One of the most exciting events this month has been ‘The Tragedy of the Washing Machine’. I’m not sure how long this has been going on for, but this week we noticed a failure on our Bosch washing machine. While it never gave a proper error message, we noticed the programmes took about three times as long to finish.

After some online research we figured it could be a fault with the heating element. Upon watching some YouTube tutorials, Hubby figured we could easily repair it ourselves. I was less certain but since we’re such a great DIY team, I figured we could give it a try anyway.

Following the tutorials, we dismantled the washing machine taking off the top, the front panels and spring that keeps the rubber around the drum in place. Of course this all took much longer than in the videos but that wasn’t the worst. Because where the heating element should have been, was a big brick instead! Screwing off the back panel, the only panel still attached to the machine, we found the heating element sitting right there within easy access.

The good news is that we clearly found the reason why our machine wasn’t working properly anymore. Compare the (only 4-year!) old heating element covered in limescale and other nasty things on the left to the nice new shiny heating element on the right.

Washing machine heating elements one new and one covered in limescale

As for the bad news? We haven’t been able to assemble the front of the washing machine properly yet as the door isn’t closing anymore. It’s frustrating that we spent hours on this while all we had to do was simply screw off the four screws at the back.

We really could have fixed it all in twenty minutes but instead we’ll be spending most of today trying to figure out why the door isn’t closing anymore…

My sixpack progress

Since the beginning of lockdown, I’ve been exercising at home using the Les Mills On Demand classes. Alternating between cardio, strengthening and yoga classes I now work out five days a week. Since most of the classes focus on core strengthening I’m hoping to have a sixpack one day.

Below you see the ‘before photo’ taken in week 1 with a current photo taken this week. As you can see from the expression on my face I’m not that impressed with the results yet. What do you think?

Update on my lockdown vegetables

These last months I’ve not only been cultivating abs, but also vegetables. I was so happy to see three baby tomatoes appear two months ago but until last week, they remained the only ones.

I spotted about seven more tomatoes on my other plants, but considering the amount of time and materials spent on them, these must be the most expensive tomatoes available in the UK right now. I’m still waiting for a special occasion to devour our first three ripe tomatoes. What and when will it be?

The cavolo nero I sowed at the same time as the tomatoes have been doing much better though. See how this Italian kale variant has thrived over the last two months!

Films and series recommendations

Looking at my list of the films and series I watched this month, I was amazed at how forgetful the majority of them was. I haven’t seen that much but still had to look up most titles to remember what they were about again. You can tell from my personal recommendations, indicated with a *, I haven’t been impressed with most of what I’ve seen this month.

I do still vividly remember the Amazon Prime series Little Fires Everywhere featuring Reese Witherspoon. Just like in the great HBO series Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon plays a seemingly perfect mum but has her major flaws which has disastrous consequences for her family and people around her.

Also the film Personal Shopper deserves a special mention here. Starring Kristen Stewart, this is a quirky mystery thriller that keeps you guessing, even well after the film has finished.

Films

  • *7500 (Amazon)
  • *Ali G Indahouse (Netflix)
  • A White, White Day (original: Hvítur, hvítur dagur) 
  • El Camino Christmas (Netflix)
  • Greyhound
  • *Inheritance
  • In the Line of Fire (Netflix)
  • Like a Boss
  • Ode to Joy
  • *Personal Shopper (Amazon)
  • Results
  • *Safety not Guaranteed (Netflix)
  • Super Dark Times
  • The Hunt
  • The Reflecting Skin
  • *The Wave (Amazon
  • True Lies

Series

  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine SE02-03 (Netflix)
  • *Little Fires Everywhere (Amazon)
  • The Kingdom SE01 (original: Riget)

What has your month been like? Tell me in a comment below!
Looking forward to hearing from you, either here or on my Facebook or Instagram. Talk soon again!
Zarina xxx

2 thoughts on “Reflections #21: Closed for Summer!

  1. kareninlondonblog

    Wat een mooi en eerlijk verhaal. Ik hoop dat je snel weer meer energie krijgt. Ik ben net terug van een tripje naar NL. Vliegvelden waren uitgestorven. Vliegtuig zat vol maar iedereen netjes een mondkapje op. Als je vrolijker wordt als je je familie ziet, zou ik het zeker aanraden. Hang in there!

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