Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes!

I knew before we went to Holland that bicycles are very popular there, but no one could have prepared me for the sheer scope and number of them! 85 percent of the population own at least one bicycle. They use it regularly, most on a daily basis. There are about 16 million bicycles in Holland, slightly more than one for every man, woman and child in the country. It's cradle to grave biking; Whole families with the youngest child in a seat in front of the rider, and another child (or two!) in seats at the back. Business men and women in smart suits. Teenagers. The elderly.

From the first day of our holiday, I was fascinated and started taking pictures of bikes.

The multi-tiered bike parking garage near the train station in downtown Amsterdam. Never, in a million years, would I find my bike again if I were parked there!

Mother and children out on the family bike. This was a common sight in Holland.

There’s the wheelbarrow approach as well: a big bucket in the front. Great for hauling shopping and children.

Often we saw bikes decked out with a personal sense of style. We came across these on various walks in 'our' neighbourhood. My granddaughter thought they were very cool.

Mum perches at the back behind Dad.

I didn't see anyone, old or young, wearing a bike helmet the entire time we were in Holland. The laws there are very strictly in favour of the biker. In all cases the law says that if a vehicle is involved in an accident with a bike, it is ALWAYS the vehicle's fault for insurance purposes. Thus, drivers in Holland are extremely careful of the masses of bicycles around them. Also, there are numerous safe biking paths everywhere. We found that it's the pedestrians, who share the narrow streets with the bikes, who need to be especially careful. The first few days it was quite daunting. I clutched A to me tightly at every step. Later, though, we became more comfortable and learned to nimbly and swiftly step out of the path of passing bicycles without a second thought.

A row of bikes, A and I by the train station in Haarlem.

We watched in fascination the ingenius method for negotiating bikes up the stairs from the station; a grooved ramp alongside the stairs.

I took this picture of bikes silhouetted against the sky from a canal boat.

Gem's cousin's son, Marius, waves to us as he arrives home from work.

One lovely evening Gem called me out to the balcony of our hotel room in Haarlem. From there we watched as a couple, a beautiful young woman in a summer dress, her hair in a blonde chignon, and a handsome young man in a suit and tie, arrived at a restaurant from two different directions. They waved at each other and then got off their bikes. He greeted her with the bouquet of flowers which had been resting in the basket at the back of his bike. Obviously a date. It was like a scene from a movie, only it was real.

"Can you believe, we're really here?" Gem and I had said to each other at various times since our arrival in Holland. The romance and beauty of that moment spilled into the fragrant night and remains etched in my heart.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


This easter was a rare occasion when all our grandchildren, from three different families and cities, were able to spend time together. The moment they saw each other love rushed from somewhere undefined and settled deep. They shared a wonderful two days with us and each other; hiking, bowling, swimming, reading, playing, sleeping, eating meals, creating the connections which are both life-giving and life-long.

On our walks, trees, their new buds swollen with the hope of new life, mirror the children, whose greening hearts leap towards spring. Chattering, giggling, sharing tidbits of each others' lives, calls of "Nana, Papa, look!", abound. The boys get show-off silly. A, physically only a month older than her considerably taller next in age cousin, grimaces indulgently at their antics.

Most of us are far better at affirming arrivals than departures. Saying goodbye is both difficult and painful. I stand waving, blowing kisses over and over again, blinking tears from my eyes. As each family drives away, my heart is pulled along with them.