It peddeljend pear – The pedalling pair

We, yes we! We are planning to start a new cycle journey together. But before we set off on our bikes, we need to make some arrangements, like getting a proper bike for Ydwine for starters (done though!) and getting the gear to match the bike (a saddle that doesn’t feel like a torture device after 10 kilometres for example). In the meantime we are rounding off work assignments, handing over board tasks, collecting outdoor gear (we are now proud owners of a tarp too) and clearing out our humble abode from all the books, furniture and all the other stuff that we had gathered in the brief period that we lived there. An top of this, we both still have several trips planned abroad for work and poetry.

Despite all these tasks and activities, we have planned to start our cycling journey in Mid-May.  But because of all the other stuff we still don’t have a clear route yet, except for a very rough idea for a round trip through Europe which will start with going down to the Balkans. Guess we’ll figure it out while we go. We’ll see.

Because of the simple fact that Geart isn’t travelling alone anymore (oh how times have changed), this blog won’t be written by only himself anymore. We’ll spice things up and both contribute to this page. Since we both have our own interests and have our own way of experiencing things, we’ll both write our own posts on this blog. Be prepared, these alternate blogs will be different and irregular (we have the idea to write in Frisian (Frysk) too besides English). You’ll see as we’ll find our way for the new style of blogging. As we’re now travelling together, we have given the blog a new name too. Hope you like it, and otherwise tough luck, because we did our utmost to come to this very, very creative name.

Also bear in mind that we don’t do this trip entirely for ourselves, so if you like the stories and photographs we share, we hope you want to support Cycling out of Poverty.



Why I have to go out

I was fiddling with my camera, and all of a sudden this short story about my urge to go out on cycle trips came out.

Frisian spoken, but with English subtitles.

The idea of being on an adventure

The question when you’re on an adventure is usually answered that you’re on one as soon as you have left your doorstep. You can have an adventure in your back garden, if you want to. They say. One who inspires me greatly to get started in long distance cycling is Alaister Humphreys. He cycled the world around in four years and is now promoting microadventures in order to motivate people to go out and about. Take your bike and sleeping bag after work and go to the hills, cook your beans, sleep under a starry sky, boil water for your morning coffee and be on time for work again.


Our wildcamp site close to the German city of Coesfeld.

All well and good, but it wasn’t until we reached Germany that we both had the idea of being away, of being on an adventure. We had time for a bike trip of approximately a week. We thought it would be nice to cycle along the river IJssel to Nijmegen and then a bit of the Roman Limes (the border line of the Roman Empire along the river Rhine). A bit touristic from the start, but what the heck we said to each other. Why not discover your own country a bit more?
We left Harns in the early morning and cycled along the old dyke to Spanga where we would meet a friend of mine (and my sponsor of my first big trip, Kleine Beer Brouwerij). Next day Kampen was our destination, where Ydwine’s sister lives.



After Kampen we followed the IJssel and there the ‘trouble’ started. The weather was really good, maybe a bit too hot and because then it was still a holiday so a lot of people were out and about. Above that The Netherlands is a bicycle country as you might now, so elderly couples on their e-bikes overtook us whistling and chatting while we panted on our loaded bikes in the blazing sun.
We still don’t know if we missed a turn or haven’t looked on the map properly, but all of a sudden there weren’t any other cyclists anymore. You would say that was a relief, but it was even worse. We got in the village of Giethoorn, which is called Venice of the North. Very small paths with loads of tourists that walk from one side of the village to the other side if they weren’t on the water. We struggled, but we survived!



In short, we didn’t make it to Nijmegen, we took a turn to the left in the direction of Germany, to Münster. Away from all the day-trippers. As soon as we were over the border and there wasn’t a living soul in sight, we could breathe again and said to each other that we now had the idea of being away, of being on an adventure. For me a big part of being on an adventure is wild camping. We did it once, since there are far less campsites in Germany than in The Netherlands. Wild camping is almost impossible in the crowded Netherlands where you can see a house or a farm in every field you’re standing in. Is that also why microadventures are more for countries like England and in Scandinavia for example. Or did we make a mistake from the start to follow a popular route? Or is it that I think The Netherlands is a bit flat and boring, so that I only have the idea of being away when I’m abroad, in unknown territory?

Than I’m lucky to say that we want to go on a longer trip to experience something beyond the packed, planned paths of The Netherlands and make an adventure of our own.


At the fortress of Bad Bentheim.

Writing course

Last week Thursday I got a mail if I could and want to stand in for a writing course on the island of Skylge (Terschelling in Dutch) from Friday till Sunday. The lady who was going to give the course had sprained a knee. Was I up to it with no experience at all in giving such a course? On such short notice? Who am I to comment on what other people write? As a whipper-snapper. But if I didn’t do it, the whole weekend would be cancelled. I didn’t have any ‘hard’ appointments, although I had to miss out the birthday of my girlfriend, but as a writer the Frisian literature always comes first.


I was glad in a way that I didn’t know it weeks in advance, otherwise I would have a longer period of slight nerves. Now I had to go the following day, get the papers and stuff from the teacher and get on the boat. In that short time I read as much as I could. Fortunately I actually have some experience with judging other people’s stories and poems, since I’m an editor of a literary magazine (Ensafh) since a couple of years. So I do comment on what other people write. And there would be only three participants and not a whole class. That made some difference.
Of course I rented a bike when I got off the boat to cycle to the beautiful Folkshegeskoalle Skylgeralân (Folk high school). A pittoresque place for courses, retreats, but you can also stay there as a ‘normal’ guest. The director gave me a short guide round the place, showed me the room where we had the course and where my room was. She told me that someone mentioned that if she had known beforehand that there were so little participants, and there was a stand-in, she probably would have cancelled the weekend. Luckily the participant told me that of course it wasn’t because of me and my very short notice of taking up the course, but the fact was that there actually should have been two teachers and the year before there were more than ten participants. But here we were and we had to make the best of it.


One of the buildings at the Folkshegeskoalle (behind the top most windows was our ‘classroom’)

And so we did! They got all various kind of assignments: write a piece for the newspaper, write an exciting story about a dead horse that is still sometimes seen by fishermen, write visual poetry and what not. All that creative writing went accompanied with beautiful weather, so that we could let the nature and the island influence what we did, and therefore we could sit outside and write.
Soon it turned out that there was an advantage in being with such a small group. The participants got way more attention than with a large group. Last year they had to hear all the stories, get a few points of feedback and that was it. Now they could even quickly change some things and ask me for information after the feedback round. In another case I could go out with a single participant to read her story and talk about how she could improve it. You can’t do that with more than ten participants. That and the fact that I joined in with most of the assignments was greatly appreciated.

I got the chance to bike a bit, to swim a bit and learn a great deal about giving a writing course and about my own writing. So it was a very fruitful weekend which I would love to do again without hesitating!

Translation showcase

In this final blog post about StAnza I’m going more in depth about curious things we ran into translating each other’s work. As an example I picked out one poem, that is Selkie by Rachel Plummer. The others participating in the Showcase were Stewart Sanderson, Sigrid Kingma, Robin MacKenzie and Tsead Bruinja.

First of all, here is the original and the Frisian translation:



The first thing we ran into was the title. Most people in Scotland know what a ‘selkie’ is, but we don’t have such a mythological figure in Fryslân or The Netherlands. A selkie is a seal who can shed her skin when she comes onto land and can transform to a woman. In principle she can put it on again to submerge under water. The tale goes that a man hides her skin, so she is forced to stay with him. The poem draws inspiration from this mythical creature as it is written for a project combining LGBT-issues with Scots folktales and myths. The Selkie then is a perfect transgender reference.
To come back to the title itself. I chose to keep the typical ‘selkie’, knowing that it would have to be introduced in Fryslân either way. I did changed the ‘ie’ into ‘y’, since every word with that corresponding sound ends in an ‘y’ in Frisian. Like ‘taksy’ (‘taxi’) or ‘anty’ (‘anti’).

‘The secret me is a boy.’

I translated the first line into ‘De geheime ik is in jonge’. Very literal, but it is a bit forced in Frisian. We came up with ‘Stikem bin ik in jonge’. Sounds good, but a bit off compared to the original. ‘Stikem’ is more ‘on the sly’, thus not completely what is meant here. We had to have that ‘secret’ in, which is ‘geheim’. But then we had an explicit ‘I’ (= ‘ik’) in the translation and not in the original. We had to have the third person singular in it and therefore we chose for the comma at the end of the sentence and then beginning the second line with ‘dy’t’ which is referring back to ‘in jonge’ (‘a boy’). After that we could easily use ‘hy’ ‘er’ (‘he’ when it’s net stressed) and ‘him’ and we would be back to the third person singular. The problem could thus be solved in a very natural way.

‘the big fish’

Swimming with the big fish is a figure of speech in English. Not in Frisian. But the English expression is well known in our region. When a reader wouldn’t know it, the meaning in Frisian is still the same. That he/she wants to be part of it all, but in all its frailty is different, ‘he swaggers / like a mermaid’. So we could keep this beautiful line without it losing meaning in Frisian.

‘He’s whiskered’

Doing a translation sometimes plays tricks on you: you are thinking too hard and you’ll miss the obvious solution. At first I translated ‘He’s whiskered’ into ‘Hy hat burdgroei’. You have the facial hair, but not the meaning that he has whiskers as a seal. Tsead cleverly came up with the most evident solution of using ‘snorhier’ which means both ‘whiskers’ as ‘having a moustache’. Beauty in its simplicity.

‘Thick-skinned / Quick-finned’

The doublet ‘Thick-skinned / Quick-finned’ couldn’t be translated straightforwardly. ‘Thick-skinned’ became easily ‘Tsjokhûdich’, but ‘Fluchfinnich’ would be very artificial. I lost the rhyme, but I hope I gained something with the alliteration. The indefinite article ‘in’ is assimilated when you would read it aloud, so the rhythm would remain.

‘always turning tail’

The line ‘always turning tail’ is ingenious because of its double meaning. By just translating it with ‘sturtswaaiend’ or ‘swaait mei de sturt’ would only have the literal meaning of the sort of flapping motion the tail does. Sigrid came up with the even inventive ‘sturtswyljend’ which has a second figurative meaning to it: to do the last bits and pieces of ones work, to do some last things. So the word has the movement in and a deeper meaning of getting done and out and be out of the way.

‘Rough-voiced / Black-eyed’

Then on to the last one. Another doublet: ‘Rough-voiced / Black-eyed’. The ‘-ed’ couldn’t be translated like that without sounding forced. But the black eyes were interesting. Having a blue eye in Frisian has the same figurative meaning as in English, it means that someone has punched you in the face. Of course, seals have black eyes, not blue ones. That’s a little freedom we took here, since we thought the figure of speech was equally important, not to say more important.


This blog may be quite different from my regular travelling blogs, but I hope I could take you on a different journey in the world of languages. I hope I have showed you what great puzzles there can be with words, meanings and sounds when you translate. And of course, how much fun these puzzles are when you have found a way to lay all the pieces together.



StAnza – St Andrews: Fourth and fifth day

Have I already mentioned that StAnza 2018 was the best poetry festival I ever went to? But then again, it was my first…

“A poet is always dissappointed. It’s the essence of life.”
– Maud Vanhauwaert

On Saturday it rained all day, but we didn’t care about that, since we were tucked up in this lovely and warm Scots house. The thing was that Sigrid Kingma, another Frisian poet, and I were collaborating with two Scots poets, Rachel Plummer and Stewart Sanderson, to translate two of each other’s poems. We already made drafts back home, but now we had a chance to talk about it and ask each other questions. We dived into each other’s work, trying to get the meaning behind every sound, every sentence break and point. Then it goes further than just a close read. Every nuance has to be right, but still it has to sound good in Frisian as well. You want it to be so natural, that the reader has the idea that he is not holding a translation in his hands.
We had the Frisian-Dutch poet Tsead Bruinja and Robin Mackenzie with us to guide the process, but moreover to think with us. Later on this week I would like to go more into detail about that process on the basis of one or two poems. During a venue on Sunday we read the original poem and the translator would read the translation and talk about some matters he/she ran into, that could either be a difficulty or an interesting component. Actually are those two things one and the same. The audience had the poems on a print-out, so they could read along or come with questions or even suggestions.


I work as a translator, but that is merely prose. I did some poetry once, but not all that much. Last year I sat with the Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen in his apartment to translate some of my poems into Danish just before I had to go on stage with it. That was the first time to collaborate and to talk about your work neatly and precisely to get the translation as smooth as possible. Working with another language makes you really think about the work you’ve written in your own language. It’s fun to work with different languages you have some basic skill in yourself, as you expand your vocabulary at the same time.

“If someone doesn’t like it, they can translate it themselves.”
– Henri-Paul Campbell

To stay at the translation theme I’ll say something about a panel discussion I went to with the already mentioned poet Tsead Bruinja, the Flemish poet Maud Vanhauwaert, the American-German poet Paul-Henri Campbell and a publisher of translations (I’m sorry I didn’t write her name down, and I couldn’t find hers on the website either). After each poet said something about their poem and the English version, there followed a “regular mud-slinging about translations”. It goes too far to state everything that has been said, so I’ll expand on one thing. Paul-Henri asked the other poets whether if the translator should be a poet himself. Tsead answered that David Colmer, who translated for him and Maud, is a novelist, but what makes him translate poetry well, or any translator, is the feeling for musicality and rhythm. Every poet on the panel, but I guess every other poet and readers of poetry, can agree that how a poem sounds is equally important as the meaning of the words themselves. As Tsead put it very nicely: “There is a story in the music of the poem.” The hostess took that even a step further by stating that “sounds are forcing a meaning into the poem”.

“Translators are not slaves of the author.”
– Maud Vanhauwaert

And I was sometimes lost in translation in the poetry culture at StAnza. As I’ve written in my previous blog, a poet was told after his performance that everybody should feel comfortable, not awkward and especially not insulted. This notion was at times strange for me for example, Andy Fierens read his mommies and daddies and daddies, which sketches the abundance of love that some people have so they’ll share it with someone else. The poem was on the edge of humour and seriousness, and contained no moral judgement: that was left open for the audience. It was obvious too that because of this openness, the audience interpreted the poem in different ways. While I thought it was an nice way to discuss societal issues, a guy behind me asked his girlfriend whether the poem was promoting adultery. Andy even got told he shouldn’t read that poem anymore. For me this difference of what should and shouldn’t be read is more open, as I prefer edgy, rough poetry where the poet him/herself can set the limits. So coming to a place where poets were corrected for content was curious. What does such a setting do to the language and message of poetry?

“Jazz comes from America, so that’s why Al Qaida gets my vote.”
– Andy Fierens

To go back to the musicality within poetry, I want to say something about the slam poetry contest. Believe it or not, it was actually my very first one I went to. To be frank, it’s not completely my cup of tea (as I’ve expected), but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. Andy Fierens was the mc and was that in an enthusiastic, but not in a too exaggerated way, which I found good. The fact that there was a wide range of age, style, quality I found great as well. And I agreed on the winner, Jo Gilbert, although I wouldn’t have mind if Emily Elderfield had won. The one had a more absurd humour, where the other was serious.

When Eleanor Livingstone and Annie Rutherford asked me to have a seat in the plenary wrap-up of the festival I immediately said yes. Not because of the money but I agreed upon the fact that as the Guest Blogger my input couldn’t be missed. Later on I regretted it a bit, because I don’t see myself as super talkative. But I managed without saying something stupid and I have had moments I trampled more over my words. How much more comfortable it is to lose oneself in a poem and the fact that you can hide a little behind a piece of paper.

This isn’t the last blog post about the festival, like I said. But I do want to thank Eleanor and Annie and everybody at StAnza for everything. All went smoothly and the communication was sublime. The accommodation and the bike were perfect. Now I would like to give a couple of people the floor to say what they think of StAnza.

Light up the darkness

This time no report about what I did, experienced or whatsoever. There is coming a blog post about yesterday and today, don’t worry. But that will come tomorrow or the day after. It gives me a bit more time to reflect and for the writing itself. And for once my mother-in-law doesn’t have to check my English. Its at the end Sunday, right.

But what I do want to do, is to show you St Andrews through my eyes. Not in a too touristic kind of way. I searched for a different perspective. It was a nice oppertunity to play with my camera. It’s a rather new hobby to me, so I grab every chance I get to further explore photography. But my goal was still yo show you the characteristics of St Andrews. I hope I succeeded in that. And if I would have to give this series of photographs a name, it would be ‘Light up the darkness’.