Now it's all starting to get a bit atmospheric; the fairy lights in the centre of town, early twilight and the stalls purveying all manner of arterial-clogging deep-fried delicacies are starting to crop up all over. Welcome to winter in Leiden!
First some essential information about Sinterklaas. If you're new to this particular celebration, click on the Sinterklaas link on the left, where we've collected relevant information from previous years. If you have children under ten - or even over ten - this is essential reading! The real run-up to his festival (5th December) starts here this weekend, when he arrives simultaneously in Leiden and in Oegstgeest.
In Oegstgeest, you see, he steams in along the Oegstgeesterkanaal, mooring at the end of Hazenboslaan at 10am on Saturday 19th, proceeding around 10.30 to the Lange Voort shopping centre. He stays there till around 12, when he moves on to the Kempenaerstraat. In Leiden, however, he arrives on the Beestenmarkt (for which, exceptionally, the Blauwpoortsbrug - the one with the souvenir stall on it - has to open) at 12 noon. I am currently struggling slightly with presentation of this temporal anomaly, since one child will be meeting Sinterklaas in Oegstgeest while the rest of us go see him arrive in Leiden. With luck my children's still fairly hazy grasp of precise time will get me through...
Sint's arrival: How they used to do it in Oegstgeest!
I was again struck last week by what a fantastic set of markets we have here in the Leiden area. You probably already know the Saturday bustle; did you know there was a smaller, more peaceful version on Wednesday? That has a wonderful organic section-cum-farmers'-market (not present on Saturday) down by V&D, with everything from meat through veg, bread and cheese - well worth a visit. Plus the smaller, local ones at 5 Meiplein (Tuesday mornings), Lange Voort in Oegstgeest (Tuesday - also boasting an organic butcher), Stevenshof (Thursday) and the Merenwijk Kopermolen (Friday).
Seriously: the fruit and veg are in general better quality than the supermarkets - I think simply because the supply chain is shorter - not to mention cheaper. Quite apart from it being a lot more fun at the market, especially if you have children with you around this time of year...
Two stalls that particularly caught my eye recently:
- the Bernadiner woolly-slippers stall, on the far side (where the fish stalls are), by the narrow pedestrian bridge over the canal. Fabulous hand-made suede woolly slippers; we all have them!
- the brand new Italian delicatessen with its place at the far end of the market, just off the Breestraat. In addition to oil, pasta and the obvious, they have a range of delicacies including cheese and bread from a wonderful Italian baker in Haarlem, Complimenti . [ link naar www.complimenti.nl] They deal with small businesses and avoid the large importers where possible, and have a large organic range. Their ciabatta is delicious.
Apart from making Leiden the vibrant, lively town it is, the students here are also working hard at their chosen subjects. One area where international families can help make a real difference is for the international research students in the Psychology department doing a Master's in Child and Adolescent Psychology. A key skill for the students is to learn to work with normally developing children, and for the Dutch students, with a network of friends and family to work with, gaining the experience is relatively straightforward. International students, however, working in English and with no local contacts, find things more difficult - and this is where HomeinLeiden readers can help!
This year there is a fresh bunch of students starting the course 'Psychological Assessment' from (among others) Greece, the UK and Spain. Corry Donner from the Behavioural and Educational Psychology unit is keen to contact parents of English-speaking children aged between 8 and 16 who would be willing to let them participate in her students' 'intake interviews' and mock 'intelligence tests'. It would mean two appointments with the student, both carried out at your home (or at the faculty - behind the LUMC - should you wish), as part of the course 'Psychological Assessment'. She says:
"Our students and instructors would very much appreciate your child's participation in this assignment. If you would like more information or would like to register your child, please get in touch with Corry Donner (firstname.lastname@example.org; 06-15553043). And please feel free to contact the head of the Developmental and Educational Psychology unit: Professor Michiel Westenberg (email@example.com; 071-5273628).". You can find more information in her letter here.
My two oldest are the right age, and I've already signed them up. In the past my son has had his brainwaves studied and my youngest sat on my lap aged eight months or so and had his attention span measured while watching animals on a screen. They've had enjoyable experiences and each time I've seen a bit more of what they actually do at the University. Do get in touch!
I've recently met a couple of people involved one way or another in special needs education - both those providing it and children using it, and shall be adding info to the site about this in the near future. If you have any relevant information which you can share then we would like to hear from you - whether it's your experiences with GP or specialists at the diagnosis stage, how to work through the admin to get your child 'in the system', or what the reception has been like at school, anything! Write to the usual address, firstname.lastname@example.org.