Dutch Delights & Netherlands Nasties.
26 July 2016 | Or Daniel - Chapter 5, Verse 27
Well, things appear to have moved on a tad. We are now in Liege (Belgium) and have a year of living in the Netherlands under our belts. Congenital idleness has resulted in my being so seriously behind in this blog that I now have to work out how to bring it up to date without being so prolix as to drive our already emotionally precarious readership into the blessed relief of strangling themselves with their own small intestines.
In tune with the title of this entry, I originally intended to approach this in a spirit of 'compare & contrast', with the pros of Netherlands living weighed in the balance against the cons. This, however, turned out to be too concise even for the rapidly dwindling attention spans of our internet-conditioned society. The balance is quickly and easily described. Effectively, it can be distilled down to the following:
• The people, their friendliness, their helpfulness and their easy, confident manner.
• The efficient, effective and reasonably priced public transport system
• The fully integrated and thoughtfully designed system of cycle paths
• The almost universal, fast, and frequently free WiFi access
• The neatly manicured towns and countryside
• The extensive and well-maintained network of waterways
• The fact that everyone, almost without exception, speaks fluent English (and German, and French and usually 2 or 3 other languages)
• The history & culture
• The range, quality and availability of foodstuffs and consumer goods
• The comprehensive, efficient and well designed infrastructure
• The tradition of tolerance and respect for others
• The intrinsic pragmatism of the national psyche
• The ingrained sense of community, even in large conurbations
• The weather
It's a close-run thing.
I think the weather won on points.
In fact, I know the weather won, because we have changed our plans. When we moved onto Birvidik II last July, we were so impressed with The Netherlands in general and its waterways in particular, that we revised our travel plans. Plan A had involved buying the boat and heading directly south, neither passing Go nor collecting our £200. Winter was planned to be somewhere in France, preferably as near to the Tropic of Cancer as we could get without having to leave the inland waterways for that nasty, salty, wavy stuff.
Our positive experiences of The Netherlands prompted a reassessment and we decided on Plan B. This, by contrast, involved making our way to Amsterdam for the winter and then touring The Netherlands throughout the next summer before wintering again in Amsterdam.
The more attentive amongst you will have noted that this decision was made in the summer.
The Netherlands' winter, which appears to last from around the 7th September until The Second Coming, has a consistency that would be the envy of even the most stringent of OCD sufferers. I could save The Netherlands' government a fortune. They could put their entire meteorological office on unpaid leave from September to July and issue the following every day:
Good Morning. Here is the weather forecast for the whole of The Netherlands for .
It will rain. The duration and intensity of the rain is so erratic and chaotic that it stretches the laws of physics almost to breaking point. We won't even dignify these two parameters with so much as a blind guess, but it will definitely rain.
It will be overcast. Melancholy stratocumuli will scud mournfully across the sky, occasionally interspersed with the odd lowering thunderhead. The sun may put in a fleeting appearance for a couple of nanoseconds but this is merely a cynical and sadistic tease so don't get your hopes up.
It will be windy. The wind will be blustery, bitterly cold and ever-present. It will occasionally ease to the merely torturous in order to lull you into a false flash of totally unjustified optimism before screaming back in from the east with vindictively renewed vigour and unparalleled ferocity.
It will be cold. Not an interesting cold like ice and snow and stuff, but cold enough for the combination of low temperature, biting winds and driving rain to gnaw into the marrow of your bones, make your very soul ache with despair and drain your spirit of all hope, rendering the prospect of any degree of human happiness a hollow joke.
Other than that, it will be a nice day.
We should have known really. What else should we have expected from a country whose national emblems are windmills and dykes, the latter usually liberally festooned with little boys bravely averting a watery Armageddon by sticking their fingers in them for days on end; a country whose inhabitants wear shoes made by chiselling vaguely foot-shaped holes out of a couple of logs? Shouldn't that have given us just the teensiest bit of a hint?
So it transpires that after a winter in The Netherlands we have reverted to plan A and are plunging headlong south, albeit at walking pace. Next stop Namur, then into France.
We haven't given up completely on The Netherlands though. Perhaps in a year or two, when the raw memories have faded, when our vitamin D levels have crawled off the bottom of the scale and the more overt symptoms of rickets have eased, we might reconsider.