Monday, August 31, 2009

Stringing you along.

OK, so I've been a tad busy, and I know there are those who check in from time to time, and I'm sorry. Really.
You probably wonder, "just what the heck could keep the guy busy? It's not like he has a job or anything!")
Well, lemme tell ya. Seems my job over the last little while has been mostly centred around running the roads.
Went down to Bonn on Wednesday night, which wasn't too painful both in terms of the drive and the accomodations, since we stayed at the Hilton. Nice place.
Dropped Gabe off at the Bonn office on Thursday morning and headed back to Kikkerland, since I had no desire to hang around Bonn all day. Besides, this was another "staff meeting", and these things usually run late. I heard later though that they actually finished up in a timely manner, but sometimes it's just not worth the aggravation of hanging around...
Traffic was fine on the way home that time, but on Friday when I went back to fetch Gabe and picked her up at noon, we had some trouble getting through the "Ruhr Gebiet", since that is probably the busiest area anywhere in Germany. This is the second time we've had trouble getting around Essen, and it seemed that every single road was backed up.
(Um, that site is all in German, but there are at least a couple maps. Sorry.)

I was getting a little anxious, since we were due to be home to meet up with a representative from the moving company sometime between three and four. Turns out he was coming all the way from Amsterdam and had been held up by traffic as well.
Such is life in Yurp.

So it didn't take him long to have a look at what needs to be shipped, since we only had about half of a small truck load to start with, and really have only bought the bikes, BBQ and bedding.
I was thinking of picking up some barbells, since I should probably try and keep myself in some sort of tone, but maybe later this week...

You think I'm kidding, and that I'm just hung up on some sort of alliteration high. No! I say! I do want some barbells!


The other thing is, depending on what sort of digs we end up with in Vienna, we may go out and purchase a teak furniture set (the outdoor type) and use it as table and chairs. We won't be going back to the card table routine I'm afraid. Did that in Horseheads, and it was pretty lame. Those fold up chairs are simply a non starter.

The logistics of that might prove a bit of a challenge, and I may end up looking for something in Vienna. The thing is though, we've seen some stuff here in Hengelo that was kinda nice, so we already have some ideas as to what we'd like to have. I might have to ask the Real Estate folks in Vienna if they know of any good Teak furniture stores.....

We'll see.

Speaking of which, we received an email back from someone on the house finding front with several possibilities. Having done this sort of thing last year here in the area, we more or less came up with a "cunning plan" this time around. Using where we are now as a guideline, Gabe simply sent off a list of requirements.
That was that.
We weren't unreasonable, but we do need to have room for guests and well, a half ways decent place to live. Turns out this place we're in now is around 190 square meters, so I figured I'd stand firm on a requirement of something around 150. That's partly 'cause this place is poorly laid out and well, if it looks like you're willing to "compromise", then asking for other little conveniences, like a place to park a car, doesn't seem too high and mighty.

When we first set foot in The Netherlands, we truly had no flippin' idea what was available, since there had be no way of knowing what we were supposed to be looking for. Our expectations were not even that high either, except that I would prefer not to have to come downstairs in the morning by way of a fire pole.

I'm just saying.

At the moment it looks like I'd better pedal my arse up the road and run a couple errands. I just might add a couple words later today.

No promises.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That down home feeling.

Pretty sure there would have been something amiss if I hadn't managed to get caught in the rain at least once more. Of course, I farted around for most of the day, including spending about an hour and a half outside trying to get ahead of the weeds. It was comfortably overcast, without a hint of rain. It's not something I choose to do in the blazing sun, so earlier today was just about perfect, even though perhaps just ever so slightly muggy. I'm one of those people that sweats profusely from my head, which I was told once upon a time was a healthy thing (huh?) so even though it was a comfortable 22, I got a little drippy after about the first hour.
The morning would have been the time to go out on the bike of course, but I just didn't feel like it, so decided to put it off. Typically, when it comes to getting to a place like the bakery, it's always a good thing to get there first thing in the morning, but I figured when it comes to the grocery store, it doesn't much matter. I expected Dirk's to be mobbed, but that wasn't really the case. Quite unusual for four in the afternoon in the Netherlands. I don't think I'll ever figure it out.
So I didn't really think too much of it when I came out of Dirk's and it was sprinkling ever so slightly, but of course, by the time I got in the house here, it was really coming down. Just especially for me.
Kind of makes one feel all warm and fuzzy dunnit??
Oh, and by the way, if you click on the link and go to the Dirk's site, you notice they had Heineken on for €5.99. For twelve. That's a good price in any currency. I was all over that one.
Note: that site changes about once a week, so you might no longer see the beer special. Don't shoot me.

Now, I have to talk briefly about something that I can only sum up as living in a "fishbowl"....
Seems that each and every time I'm working outside, somebody always comes up to ask directions. Now I realise this happened to me once in Bonn last year some time, so I'm not sure just what the hell is going on. Do I look like I have a clue?? I try keeping my head down and not making eye contact, but they still come up to me....
Seriously, I almost checked the back of my t-shirt when I peeled it off and tossed it in the laundry. Does it say...."Bob knows" ?
A couple weeks ago I was out on a Friday afternoon cutting the grass and a couple on bikes stopped by to ask directions, and I actually knew the street they were looking for. Felt pretty good about that one, especially since the entire interview was conducted in Dutch. Who knew?

Today though, I had two different people stop and ask for directions, and I had no flippin' idea! It ain't the language that's the problem here, OK? I'm not too sure I could direct someone to some obscure street in my neighbourhood back in Canada, and it's not like I'm ever going to know the town like the back of my hand or anything. Thankfully my neighbour's "helper" was out and about, and I was able to at least direct the one person to him, but judging by the convoluted description, I have no idea if she ever found the place or not.

Meanwhile, I've been having some internet connectivity issues, so I'm up in the sewing room just in case, since it seems that I no sooner get back downstairs, that it craps out again. If need be I can piggy back off a neighbour's wifi, but it's painfully slow, and this is the only place in the house where I can pick it up.
My first suspicion was that we had been cut off, and that wouldn't surprise me, since that's basically what happened in Puerto Rico with our phone. We've given all our account numbers to the folks at Settle Services, so I figure we could be without phone or internet at any moment. It's that, "if anything could go wrong, it probably will", rule....

Just now got a phone call from the Mover Dude. Seems he's coming by Friday afternoon between three and four to scope out the move.

One more step.

No pics today, sorry...not much worth showing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Monday.

Hate to repeat myself too often, but there's something about Monday that just doesn't thrill me that much.
This is in spite of the fact that the weather recently has been absolutely fabulous, with sunny warm days. We'll probably be getting a little dose of rain by about Tuesday however. Without the Internet I suppose we could be blissfully unaware of the pounding that Nova Scotia is receiving, or the wildfires of Greece. (there's a pun in there somewhere but no, not grease....Greece)
There was a plan afoot to take a little road trip on the weekend to catch up on some local site seeing, but alas with the amount of time Gabe had spent in planes and taxis last week, that was a non starter. Can't say I blame her really, some times it's nice to just "be".
I wasn't too sure just what sort of label I was going to attach to this post, but I'll try and explain all of them.

First of all, a few days (weeks) back, I had asked one of my fluent Dutch speaking friends to send me some wording for breaking our lease. She very kindly obliged, and sent me something back within a couple days. (there's that six hour time difference thing). Then of course, we discovered that the lease had been changed to run until the end of the month, and that "Settle Services" was going to sort out the letter.

Here's where we get to the "retarded people" part.

Just now got a call from Gabe, since I'm the only one to whom she can really vent about these things, telling me that she had received an email with said letter's in English. I said, "well crap, I coulda done that!"
Now, if it had been the bonehead in Irving, Texas then well, I guess I wouldn't be too surprised but no, this was a Dutch person...."Settle services" is here in Kikkerland!

Then, after we had grumbled about that for a few minutes and got off the phone, she called back to say she had received word from someone in HR about choosing a colour for the new wheels. Once again, how it is that anyone in HR can possibly have any clue when it comes to fleet management is completely beyond me, but hey, what do I know?

Turns out she's using some gargon that doesn't really appear on the BMW website, so trying to figure out what she's talking about was a bit of a mystery, until Gabe realised that perhaps she had to go through the "intranet" as opposed to the "internet", and sure enough, there was information on a page set up by the company that cannot be named.

Why does it have to be such a mystery?

Meanwhile, in local news, I was just a tad surprised the other day to see that a house just down the street is slowly being removed.
I thought I had heard a machine on Thursday morning, so I did a bit of a double take when I had to go by the place on my way out to Enschede later that day.

Now I don't even remember what the house looked like that was standing there.
Remember what I had to say about how some of the houses are designed here?
(whacky stairs, tiny little rooms, cold in the winter, hot in the summer)

Aparently I'm not the only one of that opinion.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

And so it begins.

Most of the time, I seem to wander around in a state of befuddlement, and that doesn't necessarily come from having too much time on my hands. Drifting from room to room (or from my shop to the shed when back home) trying to remember what I was looking for has been a recurring theme for well, a few years now.
Any of you over the half century mark have a pretty good idea what I'm talking about. For those of you not quite there yet....

..... just you wait.

But here's the thing.

I do recall working in a particular school many years ago where power failures happened on the order of two or three times a year. So rather than keep a flashlight in some obscure location, where it's retrieval in the dark was virtually impossible, (I was on afternoons, it gets dark) I made sure getting some light on the subject was as easy as getting to the nearest sink room.

And no, I wasn't about to start carrying one on my belt. That was never going to happen.

There's a segue in there somewhere since, rather than store this one little tool in a tool box, where it would definitely be a chore to find again, I figured I'd just keep it on a shelf in the bedroom where it could be retrieved without a lot of endless searching.

Even though there was a couple minutes there of befuddlement, I knew I had put it some place where it was easy peasy to find.

The time had come.

Um...a warning for anyone wanting to visit before the end of October, the beds are going fast.

I should probably just leave the pictures and let them speak for themselves.

Taking this thing apart got me thinking about just how many times I've had to do this...and why I keep the bloody little hex wrench handy.

Here we go:
Purchased November 1999 in New York State. (put together)

Moved to Puerto Rico 2002: Taken apart....put together.

Moved to Canada 2003: Taken apart....put together.

Moved to The Netherlands in 2008: Taken apart.....put together.

Moving to Vienna 2009.....Taken apart....

and if the movers don't lose it, I'll be putting it together again in a couple months.


We're you counting?

I didn't bother.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The joys of the "ex-pat" experience.

Well, it's Tuesday, so that must mean we're heading to Düsseldorf.

Actually, Gabe has to be in Austria in the morning, and her flight leaves at something like 8:30 out of Düsseldorf, so we're heading there tonight to camp out in a nearby hotel.
At first the address seemed a bit quirky, but it turns out it's close by, yet in a fairly quiet area. I read a whack of the reviews, most of which are in German, so my impression is that it's "functional". Certainly no Sheraton.

You'll note I spelled "Sheraton" right this time....and I've gone back and corrected the spelling in my last post.

The thing is, with the minor exception of the odd bout of homesickness and missing our friends and family, life is good. I was a little down in the mouth yesterday, but that was a combination of it being Monday and we no longer had the pleasure of our Canadian visitors, who by now are sitting on a plane somewhere over the North Atlantic, on their way back to muggy Toronto.

Being here in the Netherlands, we get to see and do things that would be darned near impossible if we were back home. Never in our wildest dreams would we think of going three times to some place like say Paris, in the span of six months.

I'm just saying, who does that?

It's also a hoot to have friends and family come and visit, and have a comfortable home base from which they can either travel on their own, or have us take them around.
We're nicely settled in here, which is why in some ways, it's with mixed emotions that we have to face the challenge of once again getting uprooted and heading off to another country.

Just another adventure. That's what we tell ourselves. It's working so far.

Now, many days have gone by since the word was out that we were in fact going to make a move. July first was the official date, (I know we blabbed to a few of you ahead of time, but told nary a sole on this side of the Atlantic) and here we are almost finished August, and it's taken a bit of prodding to get things going. Yesterday, there were finally a flurry of emails back and forth from the relocation company concerning just what was going to take place....

I'm getting there. Just be patient.

On the one hand, it's very helpful to have the assistance of a relocation company, who sort out all kinds of details in terms of permits, movers and on and on, BUT....the company that has been chosen to do this task (the same bunch that got us here) is not on this side of the planet. They say they're all over the globe, so it's a little disconcerting when I read the signature line from a recent email, and I see our contact person is in...

wait for it....

Irving, Texas.

I'll just let you think about that for a minute.

How many folks from Irving, Texas have lived in Europe, or even would know how to get here??
These are the same geniuses who thought it was somehow a good idea to use an American insurance company and send us a cheque in US funds to our house here. (Hello....ever heard of Euros?)

I'm just going to copy and paste a small section from what is a rather large email that I received this morning. You can draw your own conclusions.

Here ya go.....

and I quote...


Thank you for your time today. Please see below for the benefits for your assignment to Austria.

(That's because she ended up having to phone these people to light a fire under them....

so far so on)

The Role of your International Assignment Consultant (IAC):

I will be your single point of coordination for the services and benefits provided for your assignment and will be initiating the various services providers to assist you with your relocation as you prepare to move to Iraq. You may work directly with each of them to set appointments and ask questions of the services they provide. Although you will be in direct contact with local experts and service providers, I will remain your primary point of coordination. Please call me or e-mail me at anytime with questions. My office hours are Monday – Friday 7:30 am CST to 4:00 pm CST. I can be reached at Tel: .......

Um....excuse me?? Hello there? Not sure about my travelling companion, but I won't be going.

Way, way down at the bottom of this email, they've put in a tag. Kind of like a company might get a chuckle out of that one too, in this context....

Our Inspiring Purpose: To deliver an exceptional experience to every customer, every day. that part right. Moving to Iraq would certain qualify as "exceptional".
Except....don't take me.

Oh, and the response from this person when it was pointed out that we were not going to Iraq...

Sorry- this is a standard template for LTA benefits; my oversight.

Wow. Aren't we clever?

Oh, and I forgot to mention. First they thought we were being "repatriated", which would have been at least a helluva sight better than going to Iraq, except that it's a brutal commute to Vienna....

Just an oversight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The irony of the blog. that, when I've got a few things to say, I never seem to have the time or impetus to say it. Then of course there are days when I seem to have all the time in the world and bugger all to talk about.
This can make for a few gaps from time to time, but I do hope that you appreciate that I'd prefer not to bore you to tears any more than I already am.

You need to refer back to the sailing analogy I guess, since we've been tacking a fair amount in the last week.

It just so happened that I was on the way with the car to refuel on Tuesday afternoon when my cell phone rang, (or whatever it is that it does....some sort of vibrating/bleating conniption) and it was Adriana, who confirmed that she and Bonnie were in fact now in Amsterdam, and that we could meet on the Wednesday at the airport and the two of them would come back to Delden with Gabe and I.

This was a "cunning plan" that I had put forth when we knew that Gabe and I would be staying at the Sheraton at the airport on the Tuesday night.

Now I realise that I am repeating myself just ever so slightly here, but it never hurts to do a little "review" from time to time. And since Bonnie is a retired teacher (seven years! where did it go?) and Adriana is still in the trenches, I thought a review would be appropriate.

At this point I need to digress just a bit and talk about the airport.

Whereas most airports seem to be just another form of urban blight, I find that going to Schiphol is an experience I'd almost call "pleasurable". I say "almost", since well, it is an airport. But it just seems to have a lot to offer is all.

There's shopping, accommodations, a museum....a train station...
bus station....

Just a couple random pics taken around the time I got there Tuesday evening, after checking in to our room at the Sheraton.

is the view down to the lobby from the sixth floor.

These kind of things always remind me of the Friendly Giant

I'm just saying.

Living at the airport would be do-able, although you'd certainly need deep pockets, since our room would have normally been in the range of €400 for the night. I mean it was nice, but c'mon? We didn't pay that, since the other part of the cunning plan was that Gabe used some of her points that she gets by staying at Sheraton Hotels whenever on business.
Sometimes it doesn't completely suck to travel a bit.
As long as one doesn't spread oneself too thin, loyalty schemes can pay off...

So saving a whack of dough, not having to drive home at night, picking up our visitors so they needn't take the train, plus the fact that the 11th was our wedding anniversary meant it was all good.

As I was wandering around evaporating some time, I couldn't help but take a photo of this airstream sitting outside the front entrance, since these rather iconic trailers have a way of showing up in some of the darndest places.
It may seem like a rather obscure thing to do, since we don't own an airstream, but there are a couple airstream blogs that I follow, so now of course this sort of thing isn't about to escape my attention.

Thursday and Friday can be summed up by the following photos.

Research....and development....

For whatever mysterious reasons known only to those who are vastly more familiar with the Internet than I, it was easier to do local research from our home base here than from Canada. I've had similar issues with some online stuff from I sort of get it.
The thing was, Adriana's sole purpose for coming here was to try and re-connect with a host of relatives, both living and dead and over those two days, we did manage to pick up the trail here and there.....
I should mention that, in the above photo, she's holding a map of Hilversum to the right, and a laminated map of one of the local cemeteries on the left.

This was all part of the adventure.

We were assisted by a very nice gentleman at one of the administrative offices attached to the larger grave site in Hilversum.
The somewhat amazing part to me was that, he was willing to lend us the laminated map of the other cemetery, and then made sure he explained to us all the little nuances we should look for. He knew his stuff, (i.e. cemeteries) and we could see that he was in the midst of cataloguing all of the burial information and putting it on computer, and ultimately online. It may have very well been that we were a welcome diversion from that job, but he was fabulous just the same.

My biggest challenge, and I dare say Bonnie's as well, was trying to keep a lid on our emotions each time we made a little discovery and were able to put together yet another piece of the puzzle.
I'm pretty sure I was never the same after Old Yeller, since I'm getting a lump in my throat just typing this.

Thankfully, each little new piece of news was delivered while we were in the car, so there was no need to worry about any blubbering in public.

We'll just gloss over that, shall we?

Needless to say, our visit was all too short, since our intrepid travellers had been invited to stay at an Uncle's place in Utrecht, and then will go on to the airport and back to Toronto on Tuesday.

There's always Vienna.

Train travel in the Netherlands can be quite simple, if you in fact know all the nuances. Turns out that tickets can be purchased on the train if you can't manage the vending machine.

We did manage to extricate one ticket, but didn't have enough coins for the second, and the only card that worked was my ABM-Amro card.
I didn't think to try my new visa card that came with a chip, and we'll never know if that would have worked.
Having messed about in this fashion meant that the train was coming and I knew for a fact that you needed to be on the platform, or you were out of luck.

There was some hussling.

We made it.

I did receive an email later yesterday that they had in fact made it to Utrecht, and had managed to stop off in Apeldoorn, which just so happens to be a twin city to Burlington, Ontario.

Who knew?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And they're off!

Since Gabe was headed for Vienna on Sunday night, we decided we'd have our "last supper" a little earlier in the day. Really it consisted of Sunday afternoon soup, and a few sandwiches.Sunday afternoon soup is a bit of a tradition that we haven't really been observing all that much here in the Netherlands, and it was certainly a nice thing to have.

Originally Gabe was going to take the train to the airport, and that wouldn't be that much of a hardship, but they were working on the tracks somewhere along the way, and it seemed all the trains were being rerouted through Utrecht. Bad enough if you're coming home, but if there's a plane to catch, that's a different story.

So we hit the road in the car at five.

Fortunately, in keeping with the "Bob's bed and get yer own breakfast" theme, our guests had scrounged up enough food for a later meal in my absence, which worked out for me, since there was pizza left over when I returned at 8:00 p.m.
I had no problem snarfing it down.

If the traffic is permitting, it takes me exactly an hour and half to get to the airport. Allowing for roughly two minutes to punt out any passengers, I can be on the road again and back home in three hours.
This was the case once again on Monday, when I took our visitors back for their return flight to Toronto.
One of the recurring themes at airports seems to be "hurry up and wait", since I got a call from our party later in the day to say their flight had been delayed and wasn't due to depart until some time after five. The time stamp on the photo above is 11:22 a.m.

Such fun hanging around airports, isn't it?

Now, Gabe is coming back from Vienna some time this evening, so you guessed it, I get to go back again tonight. The only stipulation was, I made the suggestion that we stay over night at the Sheridan at the airport and come back in the morning. This is for two reasons: Flights have a nasty habit of being delayed, which means getting back here at some crazy hour, plus it just so happens that it's our wedding anniversary, so I figured we'd spend the night in a hotel.

Depending on how things go, there may very well be a third reason for staying over, although it turned out to be more of a coincidence than anything else, since two more visitors will be in Amsterdam by then, and may very well get a ride back here with us. I won't know that until tomorrow. I'll be keeping my cell phone close at hand.

Meanwhile, I went this morning first to get a haircut and then to pay a visit with our Landlords at their store. I explained in my pidgeon Dutch that we were in fact going to be moving to Vienna, and that I'd have a proper letter for them before the 15th.
If the relocation company actually comes through with a letter in the meanwhile, I didn't want it to come as that much of a "verrassing" (surprise). It was the Mrs. that I was speaking to, and she seemed to take it reasonably well. As best as I understood it, her reaction was that, that's the way it goes with business some times. We chatted a little bit about Vienna, how I have no idea where we'll end up....that kind of thing.

Then I more or less ran out of vocabulary, so that was that.

Although I had the car earlier, the plan was to head back out on the bike (easier to park) but it looks like I'll be dodging the rain. We'll see how that goes.
I do have to fuel the thing up and yes, I've managed to put in the proper fuel at least twice so far since our little unfortunate incident.

Pretty sure we won't be revisiting that little episode ever again.

There's still more laundry to finish up (it's those visitors!) along with a little vacuuming here and there, a couple beds to make and we'll be good to go.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Farm Report

But perhaps not the one you're used to.

In local news, the farmers around here are just now taking in their second crop of hay, and with a number of them already making a cut in the last week of July, it's a given that they'll get three crops this season. No wonder they have so many cows.

Throughout the countryside in France, as we were on our way from Bonn to Paris, this was the recurring theme....Anywhere there was a cloud of dust, grain was being harvested.
Seems there's a need for some bread to go with that wine and cheese....

I caught this activity since we had to briefly stop so Gabe could be on a conference call. It's typically best to be stationary for these things, since signals can come and go when underway.

It was a good chance for me to get out and stretch my legs anyway, since it's just under five hours to get to Paris from Bonn.

See, this is now a perfect segue back to the travelogue.

And here you actually thought this was a real "Farm Report"?
I ain't gonna be takin' no hogs to market any time soon, so not too concerned about their price.
At least not right now.

That reminds me. I forgot to pick up bacon this morning. Ru-roh.

In a nutshell, our visit to Paris once again consisted of eating..
seeing the sights....
and generally walking our feet off....

That last one is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Even though I lived in Paris for three months in the fall of 1978, I never ever did get to the top of the Arc. Just one of those things I guess, and so now, with this being the fourth trip back in what? 31 years? I decided it was about time.
I lost track of the number of steps after around the hundred mark...(shoulda done it 31 years ago)
My ticker didn't give out, nor did my knees, but it did get a little dicey there towards the end of the assent.

Now that I think on it, I never did see anyone up there who was carrying any extra pounds....
....but we'd best not go there. Yesterday's diatribe was as controversial as I'd like to get for a little while.
It was a little toasty up there, but certainly worth the climb for the view.

This other arc....which is the
"Grande Arche de la Défense" ,has unfortunately been outgrown by the surrounding "gratte-ciels" (sky scrapers).
It would seem that the rules that had dictated the architecture around Paris for let's say, the last 400 years? ended up going out the window when the planners got to the 'burbs.

This little poignant snippet becomes a relative aspect of the visit when travelling with an Architect.

Personally, I probably would have never noticed. Also, he knew enough to not clog up my pea brain with each and every detail of all the buildings we stopped to gawk at.

I'll not bore you with gobs of pics from around Paris. You can go to facebook for that. Providing of course there's not another outage again today. Somebody in the former USSR? We'll see if they can track anyone down.

Meanwhile our guests are headed back to the Netherlands and should be on our doorstep once again some time this evening.
What this means is, I need to pedal my arse into Hengelo to pick up a birthday present.

Best put me hat on. Don't need a repeat of a couple weeks ago.

................................/..................a little later....

Rather than do a new post, and have it screw up the order, I'm just going to add a
couple things.
Instead of coming straight back from Hengelo, I took a slight detour to do a little exploring.
By the way, this is what happens when work is being done to a bike path around here. I can't think of any other place where they'd bother to give you a hard detour like this...
In most places in Canada, not only would you be "on yer own", but they wouldn't even bother to put up a sign to let you know.

I didn't actually take that one today, since today it's quite warm and sunny. Which would bring me to a second observation:

After spending roughly an hour and a half on the bike, and coming in the door slightly sweaty, I discovered that I've shed the five pounds or so that had been creeping up on me over the last couple weeks. Just like that. An hour and a half of "spinning class" will do that for you.

If there's too much sitting in the car, and all that extra beer when there's company, I'm in trouble.

I'm just saying.

As I mentioned earlier, the hay is indeed getting scooped up.

...and under the category of things you see that makes you say, "wuh?", I've noticed this little display many, many times, but today was passing by with a camera.
This place does not look like it sells McCain french fries.

and yes.....this is on Bornsestraat in Hengelo. No photoshopping here folks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

President I'm yer Jimmy Dad.

Just a couple random thoughts on some of the cr*p we have to endure on the TV over here. Seems the news mongers think we give a rat's tiny behind about some guy in the middle east who clearly is in need of a shave.
Shouldn't we be sending these people razors?

OK so, this guy ....... gets "elected"....(wink wink, nudge nudge) and a bunch of towel heads are protesting in the streets.

And somehow I need to know this?

(seems to be getting that thumb awfully close to his nose, isn't he?)

Isn't the supreme towel head the guy who's really in charge? Isn't that why they punted out the Shah?Ya....that guy.

Personally I'm not sure I could wander around a hot country like that with a towel on my head, unless of course there's some way of getting and keeping it wet.

Maybe that's it! I've figured it out! It's to hide from your enemies!

Get the towel wet and wrap it around yer noggin'!

OK so, shopping list for the care package we ought to be sending these guys.

(hey, I'm trying to be generous here)

1) Razor blades.
2) Fresh towels.
3) More of those GPS tracking device remover thingies so they don't need so many towels. Note glowing red object in Arnold's schnozz.

No shaving cream, they can dry hell with 'em.

Now while we're on the nauseating presidential theme, this story reminds me of a more recent development, where three "tourists" were captured on the border between Iraq and Iran.
All I want to know is, what were they doing there? What were they thinking?
Same here....there are some countries you need to stay away from. Unless of course, you don't mind if they decide to keep you.

What makes you think you're so special?
"Oh I'm an American Journalist....I can go anywhere!"


Is there going to be a list of damsels in distress that need saving? Who decides?

I guess if they were my two daughters then yes, I'd certainly be concerned. But I think I would have been more concerned much earlier on when they started to show signs that they were total retards.....

This is a very strong argument for teaching your children throughout their formative years that in fact, there are some things that you simply cannot do....

Such as...

1) Dash out in traffic without looking...
(how many times have I seen hapless parents telling their children to "stop", only to have their head strong little miscreant do what ever the hell they want anyway)

2) Go to foreign countries and think you can do whatever the blazes you choose.
(I've been in a few "foreign" countries so far, and I've really tempted to just slap some of the visitors I've seen. Honestly! What? You don't like it here? Go home!)

3) oh...I could just go on....

Now that I'm in a thoroughly pissy mood, I'll leave it at that.

No travelogue today. Sorry. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A brief diversion.

We'll get back to the "travelog" at some point in time.

I'm sure you care.

Remember when people would go to far off places and bring back slide shows, and you'd pay a couple bucks at the library and they'd do a little show and tell?
I guess blogging pretty much put an end to that little cottage industry.

But I digress.

Today's plan involved Gabe going to the salon for "kleur" (colour) so I had made an appointment yesterday for first thing this morning. That's because I'm the "go to" guy when it comes to making reservations or appointments on the phone. Ya gotta know the lingo...
This usually involves me dropping her off with the car and then fetching her again after an hour or so. There was also some treats to be picked up for the accounting staff (I guess since she's getting out of Dodge).
and well, the long and the short of it is, I ended up with the car for the day.

This meant I could go to my favourite store ever, and see if I could find a couple things.

Here's the thing.

If all goes according to plan, and notice is given to our Landlord by the 15th of this month, that means we're still effectively here for another 60 days.

That's the deal.

What this means is, Muggin' here has to cut the grass what? eight? nine more times? That would be my guess.

Now, last year sometime our good ole' landlord said he would fix the lawnmower, since the handle was showing signs of wear but alas, that never happened. He was also going to come around and fetch the thing, have the blade sharpened.....bla bla bla.....

('s his flippin' lawnmower, OK?)

Whatever. In two months, he can....well, I won't say what he can do with his "wonder machine" or the dryer....or his lawn mower. But you kind of have the idea that there's a metal recyclers around here somewhere who really needs to be paid a visit.

The thing is, I don't really mind cutting the grass. I never really minded cutting grass. It all has to do with the equipment. If you're using a piece of junk, it's not a lot of fun. Our last lawnmower was a two stroke, and in spite of the several good features that it had, the fact of the matter was, it stunk.
So getting others to use the thing was a bit of a chore, and I wasn't overly keen on using the thing myself either.
What that meant was that way, way back when we went to Puerto Rico and got a lawn service, we decided that grass cutting was no longer going to be high on our list of things one simply did as a matter of course.

Meanwhile, here I am, once again stuck with a piece of junk, and I somehow have to keep the handle from breaking off.
See, the machine is heavy, and under engineered. To simply order a new handle isn't going to fix the problem, since it's too frail to start with. It was beginning to give up the ghost last summer already.
If you look closely just to the right of the knob, (click the pic) you can see the bloody handle is nearly fatigued all the way through.

Ideally, finding a piece of tubing just one size smaller and inserting it would probably work.
Good luck with that.
I could probably come up with a couple places around Burlington where I'd begin to search, but over here? C'mon! are the items that we have to work with.
Oh ya. That's duct tape. I do have some grey in my tool box, but decided to spring for some black, just for the aesthetics. Plus the hope is that the little "splints" will keep the thing from completely coming asunder for a few more weeks.

I just can't wait until next week to try it out. Phuh.

It's still a little bit wobbly, but the handle's not going anywhere.

Keep yer sticks on the ice.

(just in keeping with the duct tape theme)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A need to be consistent.

Remember the analogy I gave not long ago to sailing? Well, that seems to be my problem since, in spite of my best intentions, I failed to utter a peep over the last several days. (we've been frantically tacking....or something)

The thing is, after traipsing around Paris for an entire day, it was all I could do to even turn on the computer, let alone figure out what to say.

Meanwhile.....since our guests were going to be taking the train to Paris on the Wednesday, I offered to once again get them to Amsterdam. This time though, by making a slight detour to have a look at the Afluitdijk

We were making use of the replacement car, which surprisingly had enough room, including for four suitcases. By enough, I do mean barely, but we did it.
Betty is pretending she doesn't mind sitting there....
On the way, we stopped in a little village called Giethoorn snarf down some lunch since, even though we wanted to look around a bit, we really weren't too sure how much time we actually had, since the train was leaving Amsterdam Centraal at something like 16:20.
Giethoorn is supposedly the "Venice of the north", although we all agreed that it was certainly on a much smaller scale. If you wanted to step out your front door and go almost anywhere in the Netherlands on your boat, like these folks...

Giethoorn is the place.

And now for a brief Dutch lesson. Like the "ch" in the scottish "loch", the "G" in Giethoorn is pronounced in a similar fashion. Also, the verb "gieten", means "to pour" and a watering can, is a "gieter".
Not like James Cagney carrying a "heater", but the pronounciation is close.

We did manage to get to the train station at something like five to four, which worked out perfectly. I only took the following two photos to give an impression of the bike parking at the train station. Some quarter million passengers go through this station every day, and around 6000 of them leave their bikes. That's just an estimate however. Could be more.
I didn't quite make it back to the Hengelo area in time to pick up the Audi, so we had to do that in the morning. Since we were on the way to Bonn, that meant having to transfer luggage yet again...
They had drained the fuel, changed the filters and acted like it was not a big deal. Total cost €270. The biggest surprise was that the costs were covered by the leasing company.
They must have some sort of idiot clause in there some where...

I had a fairly good idea that it wasn't that big a *deal, but you just never know with car dealerships. I figured we'd be in for some sort of nasty surprise.

*there are those who will run up to 20% gasoline in their diesels when the temperature gets down below -20°C. Keeps the fuel from crystalising....

That's going to be about it for now.....with just a couple interuptions, this has already evaporated a considerable part of the day. I might just float on in later though.