Saturday, June 26, 2004

Week 5 - Small World

So, that's the end of my fifth week in the Netherlands. The mood here is good, after Holland came back from certain defeat just as England was snatched from the jaws of victory. Tommorrow I finally move out of my cell in the Hotel Fidder into my new digs, in Kampen, ten minutes up the railway. Hopefully, that should be a massive improvement in quality of life.

The world of coincidence grew again this week, as I started working with a new signalling designer who's come across from England. His name is John Caddick, he's from Chippenham, and he worked at Westinghouse twenty-five years ago. Welcome to the twilight zone.

Friday there is a market in Zwolle, and a few of us fancied a fresh fish lunch, so we headed into town. Everyone else had bikes, so work lent me one. Now, I haven't ridden a bicycle in fifteen years, but I figure it's just like riding a bike, right? It's a bit big for me (the Dutch are seriously tall), but that's cool. It's got a bell but, get this, no brakes. You have to peddle backwards to slow down. Oh, yeah, and the whole wrong side of the road thing is fine till you have to turn left, which is seriously disorienting, or use a roundabout. Still, I got back in one piece, a bit sore (for people who cycle so much, they haven't got comfortable saddles).

Anyway, I'm off for a swift pint before I finish packing to move. Live from Zwolle.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Zpit or Zwolle

Well, tonight marks four weeks with Grontmij. I guess I'm settling in. Yesterday we moved offices up to the first floor, and we did all the moving ourselves. It took a good few hours, into the evening (but we're credited the hours) and then, afterwards, the company got in a Chinese takeaway for all of us (about thirty) in the canteen. You don’t get treated like that anywhere else I’ve worked. Then Alfons, Shahram and I went to a Belgian pub for some liquid refreshment. Man, Belgian beer: it's, like, 9% - that's virtually wine in the UK. You don't notice, though, until you try to stand up - and that's the other thing, table service in pubs: wow!

How's this for a coincidence: a few months ago I was working in London with an Iranian designer, then I change jobs and now I'm working with another Iranian designer (Shahram) in Zwolle, Netherlands - I don't know what the odds are against that but I'd imagine they're pretty phenomenal.

They're putting me on a large job next week to re-draw the track layout into Amsterdam station for a new scheme we've won to increase the capacity through the tunnels - but, get this, they don't have Plan software or an equivalent, and they don't work to scale! Yet another disturbing aspect of a methodology which, surprisingly, provides a railway which works far better than ours in the UK.

Only one more week of living in the cell, then it's out of the hotel and into the three room house I'm renting in Kampen (ten minutes away on the train). And when I say three room, I mean it. It has a kitchen/bedroom downstairs, and upstairs is a bathroom and a lounge. That's it. I can't complain, though, because rented accommodation is like gold dust in this area, and I'm getting it for €450 a month, which is like 300 pounds sterling (no sign for that on this keyboard, I'm afraid).

Anyway, time to get out of here and back to my room. More news as it breaks.