Monday, October 11, 2010


So I was in a rehearsal room the other day and I saw a little box. "A present?" I thought. I went over and looked at it. It was already opened at one end. On it was some Dutch. The first word was "giftig." You can't get a more present-like word. The second word was "lokaas" which must be related to lokaal, which means room or place. So this little box was a "gifty room." Before I opened up the box and handled (and possibly even devoured) my present, I bothered to read the English that was also on the box. It said, "poisoned bait." It wasn't a nice gift for me, it was a deadly surprise for mice. It's like Dutch is out there just to trap and poison foreigners.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Amsterdam: Ant Misbehaving

Something I like about the newer Amsterdam trams is they have sand in them. They have little windows here and there (usually near the joints, i.e. the bendy bits) where you can look through and see sand. I haven't seen any signs yet, but my theory is that they are ant farms. You know, the thin layer of sand between two sheets of glass that as a kid you introduced ants to so you could see their tunnelling? It was a huge crazy in 1957.

1950s ant farmer
So in my theory, eventually we'll start seeing ant trails in these little slots and occasional glimpses of ants. And this is a billion times more fascinating than the terrible adverts and annoying twirling news items they have on the TV screens. Eventually, I hope they fill the TV screens with sand and introduce the ants into there as well.

A terminal case of the termites
I have an extension to my theory in that these new trams are run on some form of ant power. This is all well and good, and ecological, if somewhat exploitative, but it raises one huge issue. What happens when an ant-power tram collides with one of the future nuclear-powered superbusses? Huh? Has nobody seen Them!? The movie where giant ants terrorise the middle of nowhere and bog down the US army in a protracted desert conflict. Do you really want to see huge, radioactive ants attacking government buildings and eating tourists? Actually, that would be pretty cool. I'm off to design an atomic superbus and engineer an accident. See you in 30 years.

Them! (1954): IMDB

Friday, October 01, 2010

Did Somebody Order A Plumber?

I'm always impressed when I use my Dutch and get what I wanted. Today I ordered a plumber (loodgieter, or "lead pourer") and within an hour one was at my door. Plumbers normally only arrive this fast in porn films. In fact there they usually turn up uninvited (but definitely welcome).

Ours was too gumpy to be in a porn movie, but he came bearing gadgets. Modern plumbing has changed a lot since the Victorian days when plumbers would send small foetuses down the pipes to clean them. Nowadays, the chief tool of the trade is an ultra-powerful vacuum cleaner that will suck pretty much anything out of the drain. I expected to hear the squeak of sewer rats and the clatter of downstairs' washing up. But instead we got the occasional wet thump of hair, rice, pasta, various unclogging agents, uncategorizable grey slime and some more hair. I blame my girlfriend and our cats for this hair, despite the fact I'm the hairiest thing in the house.

The grumpy chap grew less grumpy the more he got to use his vacuum cleaner and the less clogged our pipes became. Until he was quite chirpy as he dragged his stuff back down the stairs.

We had a great old conversation circled solely on our drains, and our previous efforts and his current efforts to clear them. His strong accent and use of the vernacular meant I didn't always understand him and my inability to find the words I needed meant I spoke without committing too much content. Sometimes I had a blank expression that said, "I didn't understand that," and sometimes he had a blank expression that said, "That made no sense." But in my mind we were two Oscar Wilde characters exchanging witticisms. But actually our dialogue was much more stilted and banal. A lot more like the dialogue in a porn film. But without the undercurrent of sex and the over-suggestiveness. At least I hope so. I never intended there to be any of that, of course, but with my control over the Dutch language, who knows how it came out. It would explain why he got so chirpy. Oh, God! Now, I can't be sure I didn't say something like "That's quite a powerful suction device you've got there; I can't wait for you to wrap it round my piping and start clearing it out." Oh, God!!! And I thought it had gone so well.