From Holland with Love, day 6: 45 years of memories

A group of cubs and boy scouts formed the scouting organisation of the ‘Bisons’ in the town of Zeist in the late 60 and mid 70s. Now 45 years later, the same group still gets together every 5 years. They had a reunion last year, but because of my presence in Holland this month an ‘extra’ reunion was organised. It was great. Most of them I had not seen for 15 or 20 years.
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Ben, Joost, Nelly, Sander, Frank, Anton, Peter, Oscar, Stockly, Han, Paul and I. Waiting for the ferry to return to the main land from the Island of Tiengemeten.

Ben, Joost, Nelly, Sander, Frank, Anton, Peter, Oscar, Stockly, Han, Paul and I. Waiting for the ferry to return to the main land from the Island of Tiengemeten.

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From Holland with Love, day 5: bikes, bikes, bikes

Cycling is a ubiquitous mode of transport in the Netherlands, with 31.2% of the people listing the bike as their main mode of transport for daily activities. 99.1% of the 16 million population of The Netherlands own a bike, higher than any other country. Even in the age group over 65 the bicycle is used for one quarter of all journeys. Even though 20% of all bikes get stolen each year, the bicycle is the main form of transport in the cities.
The extensive bicycle path network, the lack of mandatory wearing of helmets, the legal protection of cyclists in case of collision with motor vehicles, the equal rights of cyclists and motorist in traffic laws and the huge bicycle parking areas (free parking!) are some of the factors contributing to the popularity of the bicycle in Holland.

Ellen places her bike on the first top level of this 3,000 bicycle parking near Central Station Utrecht

Ellen places her bike on the first top level of this 3,000 bicycle parking near Central Station Utrecht

The Dutch BAM company builds currently a new bicycle parking  12,500 bikes, costing € 48 million. It will be the biggest in the world. BAM is also the main contractor of the masterplan of the cycling infrastructure in London.

The Dutch BAM company builds currently a new bicycle parking 12,500 bikes, costing € 48 million. It will be the biggest in the world. BAM is also the main contractor of the masterplan of the cycling infrastructure in London.

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From Holland with Love, day 4: Utrecht

I’ll stay the entire four weeks in and around Utrecht, at the place of my eldest sister Ellen. Today we had a look around the beautiful old city, which dates back to the time of the Romans.

A branch of the river Rijn runs through Utrecht, and is still used for boating.

A branch of the river Rhine runs through Utrecht, and is still used for boating.

Most of the 'Kromme Rijn' ('bended river Rhine')  looks like a canal, surrounding the old inner city.

Most of the ‘Kromme Rijn’ (‘bended river Rhine’) looks like a canal, surrounding the old inner city.

The bridges can be very low

The bridges can be very low

In the 1970s during 'uprading' the inner city some parts of the canals were removed and replaced by roads. Nowadays all of that is reversed: the road is already gone and the old canal is being restored.

In the 1970s during ‘upgrading’ the inner city some parts of the canals were removed and replaced by roads. Nowadays all of that is reversed: the road is already gone and the old canal is being restored.

In stark contrast to the old city, the new Central Railway Station is a contemporary architectural masterpiece.

In stark contrast to the old city, the new Central Railway Station is a contemporary architectural masterpiece.

The roofs of the new platforms are all equipped with solar panels

The roofs of the new platforms are all equipped with solar panels

From Holland with Love, day 3: Schiphol

Ellen picked me up from Schiphol Airport

Ellen picked me up from Schiphol Airport

I landed at Schiphol airport, 5 meters below sea level. During the last leg of the flight, from Dubai to Amsterdam I read in the New York Times that Amsterdam might benefit dramatically from the Brexit. Because it is home to one the worlds biggest and best airports (Schiphol), because of the high level of English speaking skills in Holland and because of educational, cultural and business advantages top executives of Major businesses told the NY Times that Amsterdam is the first option if the move (part of) their headquarters back into the EU.
Jeroen gave a presentation about his new book 'Ik kan vliegen' ('I can fly').

Jeroen gave a presentation about his new book ‘Ik kan vliegen’ (‘I can fly’).

And talking about flying… my friend Jeroen gave a presentation of his new book called ‘I can fly’ at a small Museum near Utrecht. The last time we met was in October 2014 in Far North Queensland.
Happy with Jeroen's book

Happy with Jeroen’s book

From Holland with Love, day 2: Brexit 2.0

At Coolangatta, waiting for the first of three flights.

At Coolangatta, waiting for the first of three flights.

The English soccer team has been kicked out of the Euro 2016 tournament by…. Iceland: 1-2. The second Brexit in one week. By the way, England’s manager is paid $4.6 million a year; Iceland’s manager is a part-time dentist. In the Dutch parliament, with 17 (yes, 17 indeed!) parties, the responses to Brexit are strongly divided. The extreme right (Wilders) and the extreme left (Socialist Party) agree that Holland should either leave the EU, or the influence of the EU should be strongly decreased. The Greens and the progressive liberals want to see a stronger Europe, and the others are somewhere in between.
In between in the UK John Oliver – once again – summed it all up very accurately:

From Holland with Love, day 1: Boris to rule

89819495-56fc-46e9-834c-685701f3da5727/6/16 I’ll be in Holland till the end of July and share my experiences on this blog on a daily basis. Not really what breakfast I eat or what show I see. It will be more about how Holland is, embedded in Europe with a Brexit and immigration crisis on its plate.

Today I took Boris to his 'Hotel' (thank Ann for looking after him); he liked the heading on the Courier Mail today.....

Today I took Boris to his ‘Hotel’ (thank Ann for looking after him); he liked the heading on the Courier Mail today…..


It’s cold on the mountain, mid Winter, 18 degrees during the day. But dry and sunny. In The Netherlands right now 19 degrees midday and hailstorms…. mid Summer. Headlines of today’s Dutch newspapers: “Abortion pill now available from GP”; “No fear for Dutch ‘Nexit'”; “Urge to implement the Brexit”; “Worries about Scotland leaving the UK”.

Brexit: good riddance to them

Geography book primary school 1965: To a Unified Europe.

Geography book primary school 1965: To a Unified Europe.

The United Kingdom decided to leave Europe today; good riddance to them, I would say. Let me give a little personal reflection on this, based on the way I, as a Dutch boy, was raised in the early 60s with ‘Europe’ in our blood. I don’t reflect on the current situation directly, because I don’t live in Europe and I cannot and will not assess the sentiment about Brexit, or Europe, at this very moment in The Netherlands. I hope to find out a bit about that in my visit the next few weeks.
Back to 1964. 4th class of Primary School (year 6). The war ended only 19 years before, West-Germany was a neighbour and former invader. Holland had lost Indonesia only 16 years earlier. The sentiment at school was ‘Europe’. Of course we lived in the Netherlands, but we were taught about Europe; The Netherlands was proud to be with Belgium, France, Luxembourg, West-Germany and Italy one of the founding fathers of the European Community of Coal and Steel and of the Europe Economic Union. No questions asked, this was it and it was good. As kids we were raised in the knowledge that Germany and Italy belonged with the other four countries to one community. ‘Europe’ in this sense has been part of our default thinking.
From 1960 we did not have border control with Belgium and Luxembourg, and with the treaty of Schengen the borders to the other three countries opened up as well in 1985.
My geography book of primary school, 1964: The six founding countries on a map; in ink (no ballpoints yet!), my handwriting, the names at the right.

My geography book of primary school, 1964: The six founding countries on a map; in ink (no ballpoints yet!), my handwriting, the names at the right.


In discussions with British, here in Australia, I have learned that for them Europe was much more a ‘formal’ thing. It does not have that feeling of ‘unification’ and it never did. Maybe that made the current Brexit so easy for them. I often wonder whether in how many countries that ‘European sentiment’ really exists. I’m sure about France, Germany and the Benelux. But others?
Of course, since the 60s a lot has changed. Personally I would have liked to see the expansion of the political and economic power of Europe with just the original 6 countries, or maybe a few more… Spain, Portugal, the UK, Austria, Ireland. I thought that that was the plan, and then forming a sort of democratic super government that would have got real power on certain topics, like defense, foreign policy and trade. With a democratic European Parliament that could have worked. But things have worked out very differently.
The established European Parliament has been a farce, right from the start; I’ve always refused to vote in its elections, because I considered it an insult to the term ‘parliamentary democracy’. No power, heaps of costs and bureaucracy and it was anything but the law making and law enforcing body it should have been. The individual countries did not give enough power to Europe to make it work.
Another problem has been the rapid inclusion of many other countries, in my view pushed by the USA. The fall of the wall in 1989 made the USA push Europe to rapidly include the Eastern European countries. The vessel to do this was the EU. I believe that that was the nail at the coffin of the EU. In my – distant – vision it has given fuel to the right wing anti-Europe movement and to crisis like the current immigration problems. Issues caused mainly by the USA and the UK because of their Middle East policies, have now to be solved by Europe. And now gets too hard, the UK simply runs away.
In my vision of saving Europe, based on nothing more than a view from far overseas, it is necessary to re-create a hard core of some countries, maybe the six founders, and a shell of loosely connected other, independent countries. Europe should be based again on this strong nucleus of cultural and economic unity. Get a strong core, around the German and French economies, together with Italy, the Benelux and maybe 2 or 3 others and take it from there. That nucleus never needed the UK, and still doesn’t.
Good riddance to the UK, good riddance to many others.
But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The EU is a beautiful baby; it just needs really caring parents. Six of’em will do.

Itchy feet

One of the things that binds Liz and me is ‘itchy feet’: we both love travelling. Since we met we have already been three times to Mexico, and two years on the road. Currently the urge kicks in again: Liz took off for Europe for ten weeks, including 3 weeks in Russia and 4 weeks in France. The rest in Holland. We will catch up there mid July, because I’ll also be overseas for a month.
Health restricts me to go longer, but it will still be good to visit Holland this year.
Liz just arrived for a short stop in Abu Dahbi on her way to Amsterdam.
Have a great trip, Liz. Enjoy every day of your journey.

Happiest trio of the planet

On 30 March I posted on this blog a graph, and I explained why it made me happy. It showed that my lymphocytes (white blood cells that cause leukemia when too abundantly present in the blood) were on their way down. They rose to almost 50, but should normally not exceed 4. The expectation at the time was that they would always be higher than 4, go down to 20 or so and remain on that level for maybe two years, thanks to the new drugs I am using (ibrutinib).
The great news is that the drug is so effective, that it has brought those blood cells back to below 4! Officially I am in remission again (a state where the cancer, though present, is not detectable). Most symptoms have also disappeared, And the side effects of the treatment are minimal. This result is incredible. You’re reading a blog post of the happiest man and woman (and even dog) on the planet today.
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Busy with book

Our book Green Island in the Sky is going well. The nature photos are more or less all finished, as are the eight art works which will be included in the book. We are busy to include several sponsors as well. When all of that is finalised the book will be printed, and published during a launch in October.
It’s exciting process, that needs to be ready for print when Liz leaves for her ten weeks trip to Europe, on the 15th of June.
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Cheese

Cheese

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Halo around the moon and Jupiter

Halo around the moon and Jupiter

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Why our mountain is a Green Island in the Sky indeed

The four of us (Peter, Robyn, Lumart and me) have hundreds of night walks between us. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that the high season is over (it’s already autumn), the number of sightings is still great, with almost every walk something we’ve never seen before. Yesterday twice a netcasting spider making an egg sack, a record number of 8 roosting birds, a caterpillar pupa emerging from the ground and a native cockroach. All of these were first sightings. Then we had the great barred frog, a tiny sedge frog, two wallabies, funnelweb and huntsman spiders, giant king crickets, spine rainforest katydids (5), and another katydid, several cloak moths, a leech, low worms, several ant species and leaf curling spiders. Bush crickets, millipeds and weevils are still active. It is getting cooler, but the forest is still very lively at night. What a privilege to enjoy.

Spiny rainforest katydid, and. by the way, this is the real thing: no photoshopping!

Spiny rainforest katydid, and, by the way, this is the real thing: no photoshopping!

Netcasting spider weaving her egg sack

Netcasting spider weaving her egg sack

It looks like a trilobite fossil, but is a native cockroach

It looks like a trilobite fossil, but is a native cockroach

huntsman spiders have 8 eyes

huntsman spiders have 8 eyes

Tiny frog: 12 mm at most

Tiny frog: 12 mm at most

Very good results

Today’s blood tests reveal further improvement. The value of the lymphocytes, which are below 4 in a healthy person, rose quickly to 45 earlier this year, but came down since the start of treatment: one month ago 26, and today down to 8. The symptoms of the leukemia and the side effects of the medication are easily manageable.
This very new treatment is, money wise, way out of reach, with annual costs of about one house. I receive the medication for free, because it is donated to me by the pharmaceutical industry making it, ‘on compassionate grounds’. This is great, but also causes anxiety, because every eight weeks I have to apply to get a new lot for two months. I don’t have any right to it, it is really waiting for generosity every eight weeks. The reason for concern is also high because no similarly effective other treatment is available: this one is sort of last resort. And it is necessary to keep using it: as soon as you stop, the effect is gone and the disease will worsen.
All together the situation is very strange, compared to normal life or ‘normal’ disease, given the combination of excitement and happiness about the great outcomes on one hand, and the threat of the disease and the lack of any control about the treatment on the other.
So far, so good.
We are both looking forward to our overseas trips in June, July and August.
So does Boris, because we found a great ‘hotel’ for him during my 4 weeks trip to Holland in July. Anne and her two golden retrievers will take care of him. He reckons it’s great because “I really need a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and duties.” Just look at his ‘work’ during Anzac Day last Monday… all that attention….

Anzac Day Tamborine Mountain  2016. Popular as ever

Anzac Day Tamborine Mountain 2016. Popular as ever

The proud veteran with daughter and grand son on Anzac Day

The proud veteran with daughter and grand son on Anzac Day

I always attract a lot of attention.... rightfully so.

I always attract a lot of attention…. rightfully so.

Green Island in the Sky

Our new book, Green Island in the Sky has been printed in a proof edition. It looks great. 184 pages of photos of the natural environment of our beautiful mountain. We are now finishing the final editing, adding photos of 8 art works by local, professional, artists to the book and Liz is arranging partnerships. When that is done, the book will be printed, and then launched in September/October. A thrilling new project is reaching its final stages.
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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

From the Dress Circle of MacDonnell Theatre this curious young ring tail possum is enjoying Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” unfolding right in front of his eyes. At the left we see Valentine graciously expressing his love for Silvia in an R-rated act, while at the right his close friend Proteus is ready to enter the stage when Valentine’s needs are fulfilled.
Our little ringtail can’t believe his eyes.
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I disgust the Palmers, the Trumps and the Murdochs

Call me a communist, but I wonder what on earth can justify earnings of one million a year or more; by whoever? That sort of income also seems to come with the option to get enough legal and financial advice to avoid paying taxes.
All of this in a world where 800 million people live at or below $1.90 a day. In a world where 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. In a world where even in developed countries healthcare is so expensive that many people don’t have access to – even life saving – treatments.
In that world we see Mr. Palmer collecting vintage cars by bankrupting a business that provided jobs to 700 people, Mr. Trump buying his way to the White House with racist and misogynist propositions and Mr. Murdoch enjoying a wealth of 12 billion dollars by reducing ‘free press’ to ‘his own opinion’.
We call this democracy, Greek for ‘the people govern’. But we don’t govern: they do.
no drinking water

Netcasting spider and more

Don’t tell me that a rainforest at night is NOT paradise.

Netcasting spiders make a very small web. They hold it between their 4 front legs, a little bit above a twig. When an insect walks over the tine branch, the spider throws the net over the insect and catches it: lunch.

Netcasting spiders make a very small web. They hold it between their 4 front legs, a little bit above a twig. When an insect walks over the tine branch, the spider throws the net over the insect and catches it: lunch.

the trapdoor spider opens the door to its funnel a little bit to see what's happening outside

the trapdoor spider opens the door to its funnel a little bit to see what’s happening outside

glow worms

glow worms make a little curtain with sticky, pearly drops to catch insects attracted to the light they produce

glowing mushrooms with flash light

glowing mushrooms without flash light

with flashlight

with flashlight

A leech... on eof many

A leech… one of many

Roosting bird an a flimsy palm branch: no snake can get to it without waking it up.

Roosting bird an a flimsy palm branch: no snake can get to it without waking it up.

Happy with graph

graph (Custom)Today’s blood test results are very encouraging. The graph explained in a few words.
When you’re healthy, lymphocytes are always below 4 (horizontal line).
In 2015 my values were always above that, but only a little bit, between 4 and 8. In December things went wrong.
The increase accelerated in January. Thanks to my hematologist I got access to a very new treatment. That started at the end of January (vertical line), and today, end of March, I learned that the results are dramatically improving: the curve is going down. That is great, because high values are finally not compatible with life.
We are both thrilled about today’s outcomes.
It is reasonable to expect that the drug will be effective for at least another two years.
I am booking a trip to The Netherlands for the entire month of July.
And I feel encouraged to keep going with photography…. a fly on a fence near Hartley Road.
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