Monday, August 02, 2004

Neder Neder Land

So, ten weeks now, and the time seems to have flown by (or maybe that’s just because I’ve been flying a lot). The job continues to be interesting, and ProRail seem to be quite impressed with the Speed/Train Profile we’ve been producing. It’s now a twelve metre long A0 drawing including gradient profiles, headway curves, points and signalling in both directions and it’s, frankly, awesome. Well, I think it is but, then, I’m easily pleased.

I’ve still only managed to eat in one place I would go back to (Thor, a restaurant in a boat moored in the moat which surrounds the centre of Zwolle), though I am assured there are many very good restaurants about; but I have come across a fair few decent drinking dens (and have learnt to rely on my watch – there are no licensing hours out here, they just close when they run out of beer, so I have to be careful not to run over my alcohol tolerance threshold, which has never been terribly high anyway). On the other hand, everywhere I’ve been does wonderful things with fish; though, for a country technically below sea-level, that’s hardly surprising.

Summer has finally arrived, and it’s glorious: clear blue skies, high twenties temperatures and cool, soothing breezes – perfection. Consequently, people are spending more time outside and I’m getting to meet my new neighbours. The Nederish (Nederese?) love to practice speaking English, so once they realise where I’m from there’s no stopping them. It might be worth a study into why it is that they find the language so easy but making a decent cup of tea is frankly beyond every last one of them as a nation.

As I said, this Schiphol feasibility study we’re doing is currently one of the most high profile jobs on the railway in the Netherlands, so obviously, this being the Sunday afternoon before the Monday morning when ProRail come to collect it, I am, once again, the only person in the office finalising the drawings and getting all the documentation out. Some things just don’t change, do they?

All the people here seem to be tall and thin.
Nobody goes out until really late, like ten or eleven o’clock.
The platform at Zwolle has a whole bunch of photographs of missing persons stuck up around it.
The country is called Nederland, like Never Never land in Peter Pan, where the boys never grew up.
Vampires, man, I’m telling you, bloodsuckers the lot of them.

Other observations include general levels of fitness, which are generally really good – men, buy your woman a bicycle, you won’t regret it, I promise you.

What else? Oh yeah, I’m going to be in the Grontmij magazine for writing a song about working here. It’s not all that, but it goes to the tune of Streetlife by Randy Crawford, and when Shahram (my Persian colleague) and I sang it we got applause from neighbouring departments and Martin (the boss) asked for a copy and sent it to the magazine people in De Bild:

By Randy Crawford and Julian Self

We work for Grontmij, because there`s no place we can go
Grontmij – it’s the only life we know
Grontmij – and there`s a thousand tracks to lay
Grontmij – until we work our lives away

We let designers see
Just who we wanna be
And every night we sleep,
And dream of working more
That’s how the rail gets laid
In Euros we are paid
We CAD, drink coffee, talk
We’re who you think we are

Grontmij – we get to work on time
Grontmij – to help run the railway line
Grontmij – do whatever we are told
Grontmij – for like slaves we have been sold

There`s always track and rail
A signalling fairytale
Pro Rail always smiles
As silly deadlines loom
And if we make it fine
Connections run on time
Your train will chuff away
Beneath the silver moon

Grontmij – Grontmij
Grontmij - Grontmij

We work for Grontmij, because there`s no place we can go
Grontmij – it’s the only life we know
Grontmij – and there`s a thousand tracks to lay
Grontmij – until we work our lives away - ooh

Grontmij - Grontmij
Grontmij - Grontmij

I guess they’re pretty easily impressed, huh? Anyway, best check on the printing situation. Next weekend, thankfully, I’ll be back home relaxing. More news as it breaks.

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