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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Letters from the Netherlands: Education the hard way

Letters from the Netherlands: Education the hard way: As most of my family and friends know I love acquiring new knowledge, which is probably why being an expat suits me so well – there is al...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Education the hard way

As most of my family and friends know I love acquiring new knowledge, which is probably why being an expat suits me so well – there is always, always something I don’t know.
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I don’t have a photography memory, strong powers of concentration or even a particularly high IQ, what I do have is the ability to be excited by, thrilled even by finding or learning new facts the ways others might be by theme park rides. Right now, today, as I write this I’m at the top of the world’s highest roller-coaster. I’m trying to take in so much information that my heart barely stops beating before the rush of information arrives.

In the last few hours I learnt several new words, here are just four of them:
Ascriptions - the attributing of a relationship between something and somebody or something else
Carious- having caries, especially of the teeth
Interlocutor - a participant in a discussion or conversation.
Schematic- showing the basic form or layout of something (Really? It looks like it should mean something far more exciting like: a Jewish pudding or the science of toy racing cars)

I also found out that I was wrong to believe there are five vowels in English, there are five vowel letters in English but twenty vowel sounds – who knew? And bƱtʃƏ is the sound of butcher, rımƆ:s of remorse

Only a tiny drop, looks innocent right?

Another piece of education was that that water dripping out of a wall is a baaad thing, especially an inside wall. A bowl may catch the drips for the time being but sometime very soon we are going to have to open up the walls and locate the little dribbly bugger.

And the last thing I learnt today and the piece of information that sent me plummeting at neck breaking speed to the bottom of my own personal roller-coaster is that the friendly monthly estimates for your utility bills bare absolutely no relation to the actual amount you will have to pay after a year in the Nederlands. If it had only been double what we were quoted I might have been able to let life return to semi normal, as it is Mr Sunshine is wrapping his ill (again) self in a quilt to watch TV and I am writing this while, peering through the ice crystals growing on my eyelashes.
I just want it to stop!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lemsip – Citrosan same difference

As an expat, sometime it feels as if all I notice are the differences from home. Some things however, are so similar that it jolts you into noticing.

Lemsips the same whereever you are
This week for instance I am recovering, well recovered really, from a nasty bout of flu. Which, as it happens sounded remarkable similar to the bouts of flu my family in the UK have been struggling with, and unless this super bug is carried by an equally super sneeze that can travel 300 crow miles (exactly, I checked) it’s not the same bug. The symptoms; however, sounded so similar that my son asked if I’d caught from my brother, who apparently had passed it on to everyone else, but barring a super strong virus with a seven week incubation period it seemed unlikely.

I don’t know how other people like to nurse a virus, personally I like plenty of biscuits, indulgent TV, microwave meals (for Mr Sunshine) and Lemsip. Luckily for me Mr Sunshine was a nurse in a past life and leaped like a gazelle to provide my cure-alls. Mr Sunshine is as caring as a nurse as I am an indifferent one.  He fought the same virus for several weeks and I had to wonder if I recovered so quickly because he’d taken such good care of me. Would he have recovered in a week if I’d been as caring? It was thoughts like this that sent off my constant companion, guilt, into overdrive.

Guilt is my guilty secret, it’s the sin I indulge in whenever I let my guard down, like a nail biter whose fingers rise unbidden to her mouth while watching TV or sat in the waiting room of a Doctors surgery. The nail biter isn’t aware she’s chewing her fingers until they start to bleed or someone close knocks her hand from her mouth. Well, that’s what it’s like when you make friends with guilt. You are aware it does no good, benifits no one and makes you look ugly but once you start it’s really hard to stop.

Guilt can consume, and spill over into the ridiculous.

My gift
Monday night, feeling too ill to manage the final flight of stairs I slept in the guest bedroom, I fell asleep alone with: throat pastilles, tissues and an empty mug of Dutch Lemsip by the bed. I woke around 5am staring into two bright eyes - Alfies. Sometime during the night he pushed open the stiff door, sneaked onto the bed and rested his head on the pillow. As my eyes began to focus in the half-light, I noticed that between me and Alfie was some rather odd shapes. I felt a lump in my sore throat as I realised that during the night our sweet little dog must have rounded up all his favourite toys from different corners of the house and delivered them silently (even the horrid orange squeaky ball) onto the bed, where he waited patiently for me to wake up and appreciate his gift.

Even the dog is a better nurse than me!

My attempt at the Hairy Bikers pies.. hummm something else
that's not changing fast - my cooking skills

Some things will never change

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Moving house and friendly slugs

It’s been a long time, too long in fact, six whole weeks since I last posted. Anyone would think we’d just moved house.
Just kidding

So much has happened in the last few weeks that I don’t know where or how to start. Should it be with our makelaar (special adviser) with his film star looks, temperamental phone call returning service, and ability to secure us our dream house? Or, perhaps with the Dutch bank and the notaries and their fascination with Andy’s imminent demise?

Nah, that’s all too much for my return post, I think I should start by telling you about our new home.

Bye bye apartment
Three weeks ago we packed up our lives once more into cardboard, had a serious chat with Alfie about behaving and waited by the phone for news of the keys.

Alfie promised to be good (he lied by the way)

Twenty days ago, three strong, selfless men turned up at our apartment at noon with no more incentive than a pint with Mr Sunshine and carried our lives into the hire van, a thankless task really as they had to do the same in reverse a few hours later.

Our new home

They left after several hours with our not only with our gratitude and promise of dinner, but the realisation of the amazing friendships we've made since we became expats. Back home in the UK, it is only family who would give so much without expecting anything in return. Only family would break their backs humping box after box of our useless processions, smile at Mr Sunshine’s off the wall removal techniques or restack my attempts at filling the removal van without even a sigh. But of course our families are miles away and these three lovely men stepped in to fill the void. Thank you Martin, Robbie and Jack you make the world a much nicer place for a couple of middle aged expats like us.

Arriving at our new home was more than a little unnerving. The words ‘what have we done’ danced around my brain more than once as I: gaped at the wreck of a garden, made friends with the giant slug who makes his way into the kitchen via the gap under the door,

Spot the slug

built up courage to descend the vertical, narrow stairs, 
not good with vertigo


found yet another patch of damp
Rising damp?

and listened to the burrowing of the woodworm. 
Same sound as money going down a drain

The heating doesn't work properly, neither does the spare bedroom light, the doors don't close and all the windows come with built in drafts. Corners have been cut at every conceivable point and the builder only speaks Dutch and Polish. But we love it.

Some people may make house buying decisions based on practicality and finance - we’re working on that.  We made the decision based on nearness to dog walks and pubs, space for an office, guest bedroom and extra toilet. For me personally, I can’t speak for Mr Sunshine, I love and I mean really love that fact this house has almost no right angled walls, everything is slightly twisted, off centre, asymmetrical, unbalanced, it feels like a home from a fairy-tale where beauty is found in flaws and the imperfect.

Kinda suits us.

Looking good in his new office

One of our new walks