Nol in ‘t Bosch

Nol in 't Bosch

One of many photos from BJ, before Jamaica. The stabs of lights on the ground make me think of the Mysterons from the TV show Captain Scarlet. Yes, it was one of the cornier series of the times, with the flying Angels and Scarlet talking like Cary Grant, but still, the spooky voice announcing We. Are. The. Mysterons always impressed me. Portishead managed to salvage some cool from the corn with their track of the same name.

I note that I wrote about Captain Scarlet a little over a year ago. Let’s just leave it as an annual thing, eh?

The photo was taken in the woods surrounding the Nol in ‘t Bosch hotel in the Netherlands. It was a beautiful autumn morning with the sun peaking early, sending bright shafts of light through the dense forest. The ground was strewn with leaves of all shades of the season, brown, yellow, gold. Lining the forest path, 10,000 cobwebs hung heavy with sparkling dewdrops, strung out along the baby conifers like Christmas fairylights.

Such mornings I miss.

Schiphol

We arrived at sunrise in a two-car convoy from the northern provinces. Laden with a multitude of luggage, we bore down on terminal two and yea there we wept when we saw the mighty snaking queue at British Airways. And so it was that fellow traveller smote fellow traveller and appendages were crushed under juggernaut trolleys. Yea verily it was the final call.

Well, you get the picture. Two hundred school-term discount seniors flying back to the UK after a debauched weekend in Amsterdam (“mayonnaise with chips! I ask you!!”). The disgruntled muttering was quite audible, but not loud enough to be taken seriously, as the BA staff shunted through late arrivals for flights leaving in 15 minutes.

BA should run a new marketing campaign: hey fluffy girl and stoner dude! Check in one hour before departure?! Yeah riiight! Party hearty, crash and burn! When you finally drag your ass off the floor and stagger into the airport, we’ll be there to push you to the front of the queue like you’re pimp royale. BA: doesn’t have to mean bugger all.

However, Mr B hadn’t forgotten his ninja queue-jump technique from living in Rome for three years. After carefully observing the atypical fluid dynamics of the single snake queue, he noticed the feed-in current petered out by the fourth counter. So we simply circumvented the whole shebang and walked straight up to the furthest desk. We’d carefully weighed each of our TEN pieces of luggage, so smiled smugly when the total came out at only two kilos over. Too bad it wasn’t Ryanair and their sneaky 15 kg limit. Revenge would have been sweet.

Next instalment: sick bags over Montego Bay (sorry)

We zijn d’r bijna, we zijn d’r bijna

Maar nog niet helemaal!

Altogether now …

It’s a Dutch thing.

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The clock’s ticking, in three days we’ll be flying off to Funky Kingston.

Oh, but we haven’t got any tickets.

It was hard enough getting a booking through the office in Jamaica. Frantic emails shot across the Atlantic:

“A BA traveller class counts as an economy seat!”
“You want us to do a stopover in New York? We have to go from JFK to Newark in the middle of the night?!”
“My sista can get you seats in the bulkhead if you fly Air Jamaica.”

Guess who we’re flying with.

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The time in the Netherlands has gone very fast. The weather has been uncannily glorious, with hot, sunny days and cerulean autumn skies.

Candyfloss sunset

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t attend the major social event of the season.

Potato 2005

The slogan for this year’s conference was “Continuing the success of Potato 2000“.

I have a proposal for the slogan in 2010. It needs a little more research, which will be reflected in my fee …

I’ve drafted a stack of insightful and witty posts over the last weeks, but what with one thing and another and another and another, did I mention I was outside IKEA when they opened the doors this morning. So you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I’ve been a tad tardy. Just be patient and check in again soon once I’m settled in Jamaica. I will even satisfy the request for more great b&w photos from Italy. Soon come!

Tot ziens, amigos!

Not quite a Jaguar

Listen loud while you read …



On the road again, to Schiphol to pick up Mr B. from Paris.

After accelerating to 130 km/hr, I noticed that the car didn’t slow when I eased off the gas.

I braked slightly and tried again.

It was barely noticeable since I was going flat out, but still, I felt anxious. Then I chided myself for being silly, as if denying it would make the problem go away.

Shortly after, I saw a service station up ahead and pulled off the highway in neutral. As I began to slow, the noise of the engine became more audible. I realized with horror that it was still revving at top speed. I parked quickly and turned off the engine. … The revs slowed until the engine was hiccuping and shuddering. But it didn’t stop! I took the key out completely. It kept going! Aaagh! It’s a ghost car! It’s possessed!!

I jumped out in case it was going to explode. But it simply shuddered and shook a final time and stalled.

Jeezus!

What now? It was 106 km to Schiphol, I had a full tank of petrol, a half-loaded cellphone, it was getting dark and yes, I was wearing sunglasses.

I hit the cellphone. First the Dutch highway help-thing department. Goede middag, mevrouw. What? You have a car with Italian plates? You have to call the Italian highway help.

Buona sera, signora. What? You have Italian insurance? Call them *click*.

Okey-dokey. Got Aldo on the line at the insurance company in Milan.

Ciao! What? You are British, you have a Dutch car with plates converted to Italian ones … and a French driver’s licence?! … … It’s hokay for me!

Just before my cellphone battery died, we concluded that the insurer’s Amsterdam office would send out a tow truck. My car would be towed to a local lockup, then after the weekend, towed to the nearest Nissan garage.

Pfff. What a hassle.

Maybe, I thought, maybe if I keep a steady high speed without changing gear, then I could drive myself back home…

I set off at low speed with a banshee under the bonnet. I flipped on my emergency lights but that only encouraged people to honk their horns.

(What is that about?)

I turned off the flashing lights, doubled back and headed home.

It was very unnerving, driving with no feet on the pedals. The engine accelerated by itself up to its maximum revs, which was fine when there was no one in front of me. Otherwise I had to brake softly in order to rein in the screaming revs.

It was inevitable that the Ketelbrug (lifting bridge) would be up, so that I had to sit in the waiting line of cars, pretending that I was on the starting grid for a Grand Prix and ignoring the stares.

Look back in wonder

An hour later, I cruised into the residential area, sounding like a boy racer looking to burn someone off on a Saturday night road race.

I pulled up in front of the house and switched off the engine. The ba-DAM ba-DAM ba-DAM of the dying engine sounded like hardcore techno and the kids ran out in their pyjamas and started dancing in the headlights.

Yayyy! We’ve got a dancing car! they screamed with delight.

Postscript

When I took the car to the garage the following week, it was fixed in 30 minutes and cost 40 euros.

I swear … this car has a Teflon cost-resistant coating. We’ve spent almost nothing on it, almost begging the mechanic to do more checkups. Thirteen years old, 250 000 km on the clock and ready to rumble!

I almost thought about shipping it to Jamaica, but the local mechanic has offered to buy it for 250 euros. Deal!

Of all the gym joints (part 2)

While you’re reading …

Shortly after arriving in the Netherlands, I signed up at the local gym, determined to get my ass in shape for this year’s Bubbling Championships in Jamaica.

By a double coincidental quirk, the first time I went, I found that my “personal trainer” had the same name as the one in Rome, and, to my horror, they were playing the same song as in Abidjan (read Of all the gym joints [part 1]).

I always take my mp3 player now.

My co-sweaters are very different from previous experiences. I usually go straight after dropping the kids off at school, so perhaps that’s why there are no people of working age at the gym. Seniors hobble between the machines leaning on Zimmer frames, the men still wearing their Sunday best clothes – the only concession to sportiness is that they take off their tie. They treat the gym like a social club, gossiping about their children and the state of the world. It’s better than hanging around the post office waiting for a chat.

Sometimes I think I must be in the injury hour special, as the gym fills with wheelchairs and crutches. Yesterday there was a guy with both arms amputated just below the elbow and a huge skin graft scar on his leg. He had some trouble shifting the pin in one of the machines, so I leaned over and asked if it was OK.

“Fine!”, he replied cheerfully. “It’s just a bit unhandy (onhandig).”

Wiseguy.