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Along the edges of the map

I spent a day cycling with Sidsel. We started off at 10.30 from her place in the south of the city, in the direction of Roden and Leek, keeping an eye on the weather to see if we might have to turn around early to avoid the thunderstorms that we'd been warned for. In Leek, the clouds were still scattered, so we carried on to Zevenhuizen and then Ureterp, a Frisian town right at the bottom left of my cycling map. When we arrived there it was still mostly sunny and in fact pretty hot, so we stopped for ice cream (lots of ice cream, in my case. Enough to go into a caloric coma. When I start doing some serious speed-oriented cycling I'll observe dietary discipline but when I'm just touring I'll eat ice cream when I damned well please) and plotted our journey back. Distance covered at that point: some 36 kilometers, which is nice enough for a trip we'd planned at short notice with a dramatic change in the weather later in the day in mind.

The good thing about cycling with Sidsel is that she dislikes going back the same way we came. She also dislikes traveling along car roads with heavy traffic. These are two incentives to experiment with unfamiliar, scenic routes, which outweighs my deeply-routed fear of getting lost. So we decided to go north, along the very edge of my map, through a series of Frisian towns: Drachtster Compagnie, Surhuisterveen, then back into the province of Groningen through Grootegast, Sebaldeburen, Eekeburen, Zuidhorn and Briltil - at least that was the plan. Somewhere north of Surhuisterveen, we (meaning I - after all, I was the one with the map) made some errors of judgment meaning we went a bit farther north than we had planned. Not really a problem as it was still sunny and warm, but it did mean we ended up cycling 25 kilometers along a straight canal, on a busy road without real cycling lanes, which isn't a lot of fun. At this point, we were getting a bit tired and saddle-sore, and we were both getting a nice itchy sunburn on, and more worryingly for me, my knee injury sustained while running started giving me some discomfort. We eventually got back on our normal route in Zuidhorn, and came home at 17.30, having covered about a hundred kilometers in only slightly more time than it took Lance Armstrong to cover twice that distance over terrain incorporating 9 nasty mountains, with an army of baying hounds on his tail. But he didn't get to eat ice cream or take in much of the scenery.
Or birds! Among the usual suspects (crows, oystercatchers, gulls, swallows), we spotted a cormorant (common but hard to spot), storks (rare but easy to spot when they're around. We saw two in a manmade nesting tower -working to get their EU subsidies, as Sidsel said - and one in a field snapping up little froggies) and ostriches. We actually passed an ostrich farm closely enough to get off our bikes and take a good look at them. They're imposing birds, with big, hoof-like feet the better to kick you to death with. Ostriches are curious enough not to kill you the moment they see you, but they do have vicious tempers, and if they don't like the look of you, they'll kick first and ask questions never. These were behind a wire fence though, and too busy plucking themselves anyway. They all looked like they were in serious moult. Or maybe mould.
We got home, safe and dry. Or at least I did. I invited Sidsel to have dinner with me at my place. I cooked up a witches' brew soup from my own diseased imagination, and while we were eating it, the world went dark, some nasty, evil skies became visible out of my window, and the radio warned everyone to expect the worst. She rushed her second bowl of soup and hurried out of my apartment to get home in time, but at that point the wind was already gathering and some rain was already falling. I'm pretty sure she ended up getting a soaking.

So, that was how I spent my saturday on a rare, rare day when I didn't do any work. Now you know where I get the ideas for the funny place names in Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan. In fact, Sidsel again pointed out while we were poring over our map that the entire area, well into northern Germany and Denmark, uses very similar naming styles, all from the same Saxon tradition. Funny sounding names are easy to come by 'round these parts.

Sidsel, incidentally, starts talking in Frisian when she's in Friesland. I always forget that she was in fact rasied trilingually (Dutch, Frisian and Danish).

Comments (2)


when i wasn't even halfway home last evening, i got scared enough of the storms to call a friend of mine - if i could please please come for shelter in his house. i didn't really feel like cycling 5 kilometres in heavy rain and frontal storm, so actually i ended up in some student accomodation with nice people and lots of beer and other stuff. i did get soaked, but not as bad as expected ;) and i haven't caught a cold.

Some people get all the luck, eh?
Me, I sort of collapsed with fatigue.


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