Thursday, May 28, 2009

A quick hello!

yes I'm back, but I'm snowed under with work. Italy was ace, and many great things were there, and on that trip.

more to follow!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Away to Italy!

I'm away in the UK, and off to Italy on tour with an orchestra tomorrow. I cannot possibly name the orchestra, since the last visit to Italy resulted in the whole orchestra being banned from a hotel.

The players' contracts are fairly stiff this time - much like the talking to we all got last time, when 'a person of great authority' flew out especially to give it. '...Most of you are professional musicians embarking on your careers, and I can stop these careers dead in their tracks'. Imagine having nothing better to do than to fly out to Ravenna, and give a telling off to a young(ish) orchstra. Lovely man, great preparation for the televised concert. Maybe he'd've been better off working out why the television company didn't pay the orchstra fees (maybe it's because it was for the Easter Sunday broadcast, and he felt religious).

This tour's players' contract says that the hotel bar is out of bounds, and that any more than 3 people in a room is classed as a party. I'm sure that these clauses will pose a large problem to those who would like to have a party, given that it's 30 degrees outside (86 for the Yanks) and the bar lined sandy beach stretches for miles.

But, the reputation of the orchestra thankfully wasn't sullied by the previous visit. The posters proudly stated that we were the London Symphony Orchestra*.

* don't bother trying to sue the organisers - they no longer exist!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tulip Tourism

We took advantage of the lovely long evenings, - the sun doesn't set until 10 - to see some tulips. Fields upon fields of tulips each filling a piece of the rainbow.

The fields go on forever, which reminds of a lack of hills & mountains, and the sheep that would devour demolish the tulips in no time. So, plenty of demand for the tulips, and even before they're picked and arranged into bowls, jugs and bicycle decor, there are a few that come from afar to look and enjoy them.

Some were from Sweden, Finland, Germany, France & Italy. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The thought of driving so far in such a vehicle makes me think that the tulips don't really matter - it's more that it's possible to be a snail, and take everything with you - the point being the journey and not the destination. Tulips are great while on your doorstep, but why on earth drive hundreds of miles with everything you own? (they weren't tulip pickers - they can't afford these). It's neither camping nor staying in a hotel, and it's an expensive folly that gets used less than a barbeque at the top of Everest.

Why not get a decent car & camp or stay in a hotel? That way, at least it's possible to enjoy the drive, enjoy being outdoors/in a nice hotel. I guess that while in campsites & hotels, the problem is that they may meet people that point and laugh.

it seems that the people who drive them choose them because they match the white flat caps, and beige jackets they all seem to wear. Maybe a fashion statement. Though if they can't see colour then why drive so far to see such colourful tulips?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"I can't take it..."

Why wouldn't she take my card?  It is a debit card after all...  but it's a Visa debit card.  I persuade her to try it in the machine.  No luck - machine rejects.  Argh.  Ok, it'll have to be cash.  Do I have enough?  mmm.  Only just. Gah.  Now I've got to find a cash point... 

Later, I ask the relocation agent what is going on with no shops or anywhere normal taking credit or debit cards...  It turns out that while the Dutch have credit cards, they're not actually credit cards.  They have to clear them monthly.  So, it's a sort of credit card that gets cleared every month.  They do have debit cards, but they're not on Visa, they're on Maestro.  Isn't Maestro for 16 year olds who can't get credit?  I guess not, since it's pretty much the only way (save cash) to pay for stuff in the Netherlands - though I'm sure there are exceptions...  

This difference in how people pay for things reflects the society's attitude to money, and it looks like the Dutch didn't get hooked on credit like the UK.  Which can only be good news.  Unless you have a Visa debit card.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Welcome to Amsterdam"

We're getting there - the living room looks like a living room, and the small bedroom is now a procrastination room.  A room that we've put boxes of things in to sort out later.  

Much later. First things first, Claudia's 'specialized' bike needs to be secured.  In London, this would be a normal run of the mill bike - a bike that thousands commute to their offices on - whilst wearing the latest lycra, bouncing off buses, prickling the pedestrians and cutting up cars.  Here in Amsterdam, cycling is a very different story.  It's commonly known that the Dutch share their wombs wth bikes.  This familiarity breeds a whole number of uses.  In London, bikes are a singular weapon in the war of commuting. In Amsterdam, they're used for pretty much everything - and often modified to suit.   

The couple of pictures here aren't difficult to take - they're images that are so frequently played out that nobody bats an eyelid (see this site - a photo essay on bike usage). Enough photos & surfing - time to get down to the hardware store to get a good lock.  

Thankfully, there's a hardware store nearby, rather than out of town on a ringroad (I'll talk about chain stores later... - no pun intended).  I give the guy some door keys to copy while I browse locks.  There doesn't seem to be your normal run of the mill bike lock - no little U type locks, or little chains with little padlocks - just the gargantuan chains and padlocks normally seen on motorbikes & heavy digging equipment.  Well, I need a lock, so why not get one of these?  The extra weight will keep Claudia fit, and it's better to over deliver - she'll have the best secured bike in the 'Dam.  I heave the lock & chain onto the counter. "Welcome to Amsterdam" the assistant chirps. Job done, I say.

The move

Our belongings were brought succesfully all the way from Kentish Town, and sent up an elevator into our new flat on Van Eeghenstraat.

View Larger Map

It's a long way to the top!

We're settling in ok, though my office 'set-up' has had a slight set back. My lovely desk, had 2 legs removed by the other storage company. The obvious plan to reattach the legs would be easily executable, had both legs come with the desk. However, one of the legs, is still in the UK, and will hopefully be joining us soon. Hope it has a nice trip. ;-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First post

So, I'm lucky enough to go and live in Amsterdam? The place that conjures so many different images for so many different people - the beer, the drugs, the orchestras, the architecture, and last but not least, the canals. let's leave the tulips, clogs and windmills for later! First impression is that the longer you spend here, the more you like it, and the more you see of the diversity on many levels - culture in all its forms. This blog is meant to be a place to capture my thoughts as I progress through the Amsterdam adventure. D.