Friday, March 04, 2005

Week 41 – Snow Way Out

First off, I want to add some points about the Amsterdam museum, which I kinda skated over on my last posting. As Mary and I went through the galleries, it became apparent that the artists had all been very bad at doing noses, because all the people portrayed in the paintings seemed to have unrealistically long, thin, almost comical noses; but worse than this, when we left the museum, we noticed that most Amsterdamers actually do have unrealistically long, thin, almost comical noses. Honestly. The other thing worthy of mention in the museum was that the same faces kept appearing in all the paintings of the town fathers, by many different artists, over a period of hundreds of years…..

Anyway, the following Sunday (Zondag) (or whenever it was, I’m beginning to lose track) Dewi’s sister Grace, who lives somewhere in Kampen, kindly gave me a lift to Haarlem to visit Dewi, who had been allowed a weekend out of hospital, at her parents house. The inclement weather was beginning to come to fruition at about this time, and powdered snow swirled across the roads much in the manner of the wraiths in Ghostbusters. Our ninety minute journey also gave me my first sighting of any windmills since I’ve been in the Netherlands – and I kid you not, there are hundreds of them, and they’re all kept very busy. On arrival, I was heartened to see that Dewi was in fine form, and the scarring (which was quite extensive, initially) has thankfully all but disappeared from her face. So I spent a few hours in the company of Dewi, Grace, parents Michael and Jessica, and additional siblings Jennifer, and Jeff (they’re certainly fond of their ‘J’s over here) while they treated me to Indonesian coffee (sweet, very nice), home-cooked Chinese food (superb) and cheery conversation. Good news from Arianne, meanwhile, since she is apparently getting on well with her new knee and is able to run with crutches and drive (at least as well as anyone can drive in this dodgem car hell).

The weather went from bad to worse over the ensuing days, and I promise you it’s no laughing matter cycling in blizzards – suddenly all that facial hair starts to make some sense. I was quite impressed to find that the Neders, whilst not really at the forefront of technology with their cars, have developed some kind of cabriolet gloves, with which the fingers lift up and fold back as with convertibles, only with velcro fastenings – which is really very handy. I realise that it’s been quite cold in Blighty, but quit your whinging because, trust me, you have no idea – it’s always 5ºC colder here than it is over there. Last night it dropped to -19ºC, which is apparently a record low for March. The rivers are ice, and the ducks are walking around on it like, “where’s my water?” For the first time ever, I’m starting to worry about the freezing point of beer.

Tuesday brought us 18cm of snow – oh, so much snow. They don’t grit the roads or pavements in the Netherlands because there’s never a sufficient break in the snowfall for it to be effective, they claim. One potential upside is at lunchtime, when snowball fights break out regularly; however, this rapidly lost its appeal for me when I remembered, as I have mentioned before, that nobody cleans up after their dogs in this country, and snow may be masking some unseen nastiness.

Yesterday (Thursday, Donderdag) I had planned to come back to the UK for the weekend; but, what with the snow and rail engineering works, it took me three hours in the freezing cold to get to the airport, where I arrived just in time to watch my flight drop from the screens while I was queuing to check-in [there is only one runway open at the moment for all outgoing and incoming flights at Amsterdam] so then I had to change my railway ticket (amidst a throng of similarly inconvenienced fellow travellers, most trying to get the Eurostar to Brussels) so I could get back to Kampen on the Thursday, rather than the Sunday as I had originally planned, then deal with more changed routes and cancelled trains and trains which were so packed that every seat was taken and the gangways were filled with standing passengers and the doorways were jam-packed with more passengers so the doors were only just able to shut, until I was finally (eight hours after setting off) able to get back to the village of the damned. I was no longer hungry by the time I got back to my digs, but I ordered a take-away anyway, just so the delivery guy had to ride his scooter through the snow (why should I be the only one to have a bad day?).

So to Friday, and I find myself once again expressing consternation to my colleagues because I find a drawing (an engineering design) where the wires are labelled 1.5 squared – I mean, what’s that about. Back when I was in school, they would have whipped you to within an inch (25.4mm) of your life for that. 1.5 what squared? “It’s normal,” I’m told. Yes, I suppose it is…..

Well, that’s about all for this time, except that it’s been suggested to me that I am sometimes a little caustic in the way I express myself, and that therefore perhaps I ought to apologise to anybody I may have offended over the years: so listen, I’m, like, really genuinely sorry – especially for everything I’ve said about blondes and people in admin., oh yeah, and I.T. support people. Whatever. Till next time. Live (or, at least cryogenically preserved) from Zwolle.

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