Monday, July 12, 2004

Week 7 - Kampen

So, seven weeks out here now and I’ve been in my new digs for a fortnight, but haven’t really had a chance to enjoy them since I’ve been doing overtime every night since I moved in. I’m working on a Sunday as I type. The rest of Kampen, meanwhile, is in church. The population is 30,000 and there are 36 churches. All with bells. Bang goes my lie-ins.

The Monday of the first week in Kampen was the most surreal: I was walking home from the station and the police stopped me for carrying my briefcase under my arm. I explained that I was English, and this seemed to satisfy them, so they said “Welcome to Kampen” and drove away. I don’t know, it seems that guys in suits with ponytails who bounce when they walk seem to attract attention.

Then, when I got home, it was too late to cook so I thought ‘I’ll order pizza’. Well, try as I might I couldn’t make the guy on the phone understand where I wanted it delivered, I repeated the name of the road three times, then tried spelling it out (it’s written ‘Bregittenstraat’ but pronounced, I now know, ‘Brekkhitenstraat’) so in the end I just told him to stick it in the oven and I’d come and pick it up myself. Good pizza, though. Spent the next week trying to order it again but only got the answering machine, but I walked down there yesterday and it’s closed for a fortnight. Ah, holidays in the Netherlands: because of the way the tax system (40% basic) works out here, at this time of year everybody gets a rebate equivalent to a fortnight's salary and the whole country goes on holiday for three weeks at the same time. The office where I am is almost empty.

Anyway, the bars are okay and the people seem friendly enough, but once they find out you’re English they just don’t stop talking to you, which can be a bit exhausting. Maybe it’s a language thing, but when I chat with people they seem to be unnervingly content with everything in life in a spooky kind of Stepford Wives manner. And all the trains run exactly on time all the time. Welcome to the holodeck.

Anyway, I’m not going out in the evenings very much now because for the last three weeks it’s rained every day (like it wasn’t wet enough here to start with). Plus, everywhere I go I keep running into ex-pat English and Irish, and they love to talk because they don’t get to speak English very often, but all they talk about is what the UK was like ten, fifteen or twenty years ago.

That’s all for now.