Friday, February 04, 2005

Week 37 – Festina Lente

Well, last week, just after I posted, Dewi dropped by the office on her way back from the hospital in Groningen to her folks’ place in Haarlem. It was great to see her again, and she’s looking really well and keeping quite chipper, despite the still present swelling in her cheek from the second operation. Hopefully she’ll be her old self in no time.

The Feestavond (Party Evening) that night in Apeldoorn turned out to be superb. I got a lift out there with Arjen and his girlfriend Paulien, and we were greeted by waitresses in the traditional Dutch garb of green skirts with white aprons, white blouses with a red panel, and bunches (see for details and images). We kicked off with a continuous stream of coffee and cake that kept coming for about half an hour before we were assembled randomly into teams (which gave everyone an opportunity to meet people from different offices and departments) and the games began. This was a fabulous and apparently typically Neder experience, where we were taken into the games hall and competed in various events. There was pugel stick fighting, Gladiators style (tried, lost - well, slaughtered to be honest); curling (tried, won one game); sliding beers along a bar to the highest scoring zone; arm wrestling; milking artificial cows (tried, with Frank, won but humiliated); hammering nails into a log; and dressing in a Velcro suit and throwing yourself at an inflatable Velcro covered wall to see how high you can stick to it (tried, no idea how I did, too dizzy and shaken to tell). Despite how odd this might sound, it was actually tremendous fun and helped build up our appetites. We then returned to the main hall and the free beers started coming (oh, so many beers) while the results of the games were announced. Fortunately for me, this part was all in Nederish, so when they told us we were to get our food in order of how our teams were placed (ours was sixth) I didn’t understand and so just got my food anyway. There was an enormous indoor barbecue, so we loaded our plates with steak, sausage, beef stew, egg salad, potato salad, chips, pork chops, rice, pasta – I’m sure there was more, but I didn’t manage to eat everything, despite making two trips to the servery stack. It was, however, all really very good, and then we continued to drink until the staff switched off the music, turned on the lights and started looking at us threateningly, at which point we made our excuses and left.

Schiphol 24 has actually, finally, once and for all, at long last been sent away into the cavernous abyss of ProRail’s jobs-not-to-be-done archive, hopefully never to be seen again.

Presumably to prevent the economy overheating, all cashpoints here work very slowly, I mean really slowly, to the extent that it would often be quicker to go into the bank and queue.
From what I’ve seen, people in Nederland drink coffee in coffee shops through straws. Go figure.
Despite the prodigious number of bicycles here, train passengers still haven’t got the hang of collapsing their bicycles before getting on the train, or of waiting till they’ve got off before opening them out again. I’m still undecided whether this says something about train commuters or something about people who ride collapsible bicycles, but I’m fairly confident of what it says about them.
Over here morning (morgen) lasts till noon, afternoon (middag) lasts till six o’clock on the dot, then it’s evening (avent). Spring starts on the 21st of March, Summer begins on the 21st of June, Autumn on the 23rd of September and Winter on the 22nd of December. Now, is that a regimented system or what?
Festina Lente: this was spoken to me by our Project Engineer, and it appears to be the country’s motto: Make haste slowly – how chilled is that?

Not much other news for the moment. I’m back to Blighty this weekend to celebrate getting my first thirty-five years out of the way on Saturday, then Mary comes back out here with me to check out life with the night-stalkers for a week. Vile from Zwolle.

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