Monday, March 28, 2005

I'm Belgian - It's official

Last Friday, whilst attempting to communicate in my drunken Dutch in a crouded, noisy bar, I was accused of being Belgian. This is the third time this has happened. It is now irrefutable. I am officially Belgian.

If I was Dutch it would be an insult. Like being accused of being Welsh when you English, or Australian when you're a Kiwi. But to accuse me of coming from a Dutch(ish)-speaking country when trying to communicate in that language is a compliment . I would take Surinamese, Antillian and South African also as compliments. German in this context would merely get a scowl. And if I were accused of being Japanese, I would have to pull the oddest of faces.

Anyway, enough Belgian waffling, must go watch TV. it is currently trying to break the record it has already set for saying 'tsunami' as many times in one minute. And there hasn't even been reports of one yet. Oh when did the news become so fickle and buzz-wordy?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Musical circles

What I like about the music scene right now, is that half the bands sound like The Clash. I miss The Clash, and it's time they and other early-eighties punk and indie sounds were reinvented/repackaged. That time is now. And I'm enjoying it. Looks like the Buzzcocks were spot on when they sang at the time that "It's all nostalgia for an age yet to come."

Every style and band from that era seems to have it's own tribute band. Some, like The Clash, have several.

Even Led Zepplin have their own Zepteens band, The Music. How sweet.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sneeuw (snow)

The countryside, and much of the townscape, has a magical feel to it at the monement. After a couple of days of snow the place has taken on the character of a Christmas Card. It only lacks a chirpy little Robin to come and stand around in the foreground and eye up a sprig of holly.

Suddenly cycling becomes more akin to snowboarding. At first it's quite pleasurable as you scatter the fresh layer layer of snow without any real hinderence. That is until it starts getting icy. The previously cycled grooves become glass-like and piles of previously-parted snow become solid, impenetrable mountains. Then it's better to take the gritted roads (if they have been by then) or the tram.

Just as it does in England when it happens, the snow all but brings the country to a halt. It takes about a day for the gemeente (council) to find where they left the grit and snowploughs the last time there was snow.

The trains goes into underdrive. The train system in the Netherlands compared to the UK is pretty reliable. Compared to some other places it is not. But when something goes wrong, it becomes a shambles. It takes a long time to not only identify it and make other arrangements, but even longer to tell the long-suffering passengers what to expect and what they can do. And don't bother asking any of the ground staff. They aren't told either and it's not their job to deal with it.

On Thursday for instance, it took the best part of an hour of saying there are severe delays and a reduced service before we were finally told to abandon all hope all ye who seek Leiden on this line. If I'd have been told to head to another station when I arrived, I'd have only been 30 minutes late for work. Not an hour and a half.

The "severe delays and reduced service" were so severe and reduced that the following day there were still no trains running. I know this because I checked the web site before I left. Thgey may not tell their ground staff anything, but the web site is sacred.