Sunday, August 2, 2009

Final thoughts

Well...this is my final Dutch Cheese blog entry as I will be leaving the Netherlands on 5th August and, after my Grand Asian Adventure, will arrive back 'home' in England at the end of the month. My stuff is already there having been transported back to Leeds courtesy of a friendly lorry-driver passing by on his way back to the UK from Hamburg in Germany. I had been thinking of buying/hiring a van but getting a part-load space in a truck turned out to be a cheaper option. It was all a bit short notice but I manged to pack my stuff up and have been living in a rather bare space for the past month although my various visitors have added welcome warmth and decoration to the place.

My first visitor of the month was Anne, who came to celebrate her retirement and our joint birthdays. Added together, we are now, quite shockingly, aged 97! Although the weather was rather mixed, we had a lovely weekend wandering around the city and sampling its edible delights including a wonderful Moroccan banquet at Moro. On my actual birthday we went to see a very good exhibition of Cuban art at the Groninger Museum and I was most impressed by my edible art birthday cake! Unfortunately, Anne had a rather long journey home due to train delays. In fact, all my visitors and prospective visitors have had difficult journeys this month.

My second set of visitors, the Bedford family, arrived a little later than planned having unfortunately missed their original flight (oops!) and been delayed on their re-booked one. The delay had its upside, however, as Alex, my three-year-old godson, was allowed to sit in the cockpit with the pilot's hat and sunglasses on once they eventually landed at Schipol Airport. A real treat for Alex who was very excited to finally be in Holland. This is the fourth time Alex has visited me in a foreign country and it was lovely to once again see the world through his eyes. It was his brother Olly's first trip abroad and I hope to experience many more holidays with them both (and their parents, Annie and Jon) in the years to come.

Unfortunately, the weather over the weekend the Bedfords were here was again somewhat mixed and involved a couple of torrential downpours which left us soaked to the skin at times. Nevertheless, we had a super time seeing the sights in and around Groningen. The highlight for me was our trip to the zoo at Emmen (Emmen Dierenpark). As the bus driver on the way there informed us, it's the nicest zoo in the Netherlands! We saw sealions, monkeys, butterflies, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, warthogs, meerkats, moose, prairie dogs and some rather excitable red-bottomed baboons amongst other animals. However, I think it was the kodiak bears and tiger that really stole our hearts. You can see a few more pictures from our day on my flickr site.

Disappointingly, my final set of visitors who were booked in never actually made it. Helen and Phil were due to be here for my final weekend in Groningen but, unfortunately, Helen was taken ill. I hope she is now recovered and that we can reschedule a weekend away together at some other point.

I've now come to the end of my time here in the Netherlands and as is now one of my traditions when I leave a country I have been living in, I have been reflecting on some of the things I will and won't miss about the place.

Things I won't miss:
  • Dutch directness

  • the low sky (i.e. the grey and damp winter weather)
  • bureaucracy
  • the evil looks you receive if you don't walk on the right-hand-side of the pavement/corridor/stairs
  • the flatness
  • the proliferation of dog poo

  • Sunday closing
  • single beds
  • people pushing in front of you
  • high taxes
Things I will miss:
  • Clogland-based friends
  • free coffee in the supermarket
  • the excellent thrice-weekly market
  • free toiletries in the loo

  • free gift wrapping in shops

  • the underground rubbish bins

  • the coffee shop 'aroma'

  • the range of different beers

  • the bells

  • car-free living

As many of you are aware, this past year has fortunately not seen any major personal disasters but has not been one of my most enjoyable or easiest. However, despite some grey days, it has had its good moments and I have some fond memories of time spent here with friends - both old and new, Dutch and non-Dutch. I've learnt a lot about what I do and don't want/need from work, life and my surrounding environment which, I hope, will bode me well for the future...whatever that might entail. So...thanks for sticking with me's to the next adventure!