Monday, 28 March 2011

So long



This blog is moving to a newer, prettier and, most importantly, shinier new home: 
Come pay a visit

Thursday, 24 March 2011

I've had a fall

I've reached a point in my life where I can actually say "I've had a fall" rather than "I fell over" due to the severity of it/the weakness of my skeleton. Whilst cycling through town earlier this week I happened to glance away at the wrong time, meaning when I looked up I was faced with a bollard coming a bit too close to my bike...

Now, I knew these bollards were there and that I was going to cycle through them (four on the width of a standard one-way street - overkill), but when I looked up I saw that I was too close to a bollard on my right. I tried to steer away but was already too close and couldn't get far away enough in time (think the moment the iceberg was spotted on the Titanic). 

What I then think happened (it was all over in about 5 seconds) was that my pedal got caught behind the bollard but my bike and I kept going. This was with enough force to bend a solid metal pedal. My bike then wobbled and believe me, as someone who has cycled daily for years, I am used to the odd wobble, especially when I've had one too many. But there was a hell of a lot of momentum behind it and so down came my bike, throwing me over the handlebars as it went down.

My instant emotion was not pain; but, being British, embarrassment at having caused a scene and having brought attention to myself. I quickly brushed off the elderly lady and young man who were asking how I was. I told them I was a bit shocked but otherwise fine, as I was (or so I thought). I picked up my keys, which had been ripped from my rear wheel lock (they sit in whilst the bike is moving), as the lock key was broken in half, one half remaining in the lock.

I scurried round the corner to assess the real damage and to take my bike to the shop to be repaired (new rear lock and new pedal €27,50). En route I started to notice a dull ache in my elbow, which I  must have landed on, that my jeans were torn and that my hand was bloody. I washed off the blood but as I sat by the canal in the sun waiting for my bike to be fixed, the pain in my arm grew steadily worse. I thought it was just bruised and was stiffening up, but then I realised I only had about a 5cm range of movement and that it was at an odd angle. 

After much deliberation, I found myself in the A&E of the local hospital with a friend from work for company (and to translate if there were any misunderstandings). Thanks to my European Health Card there were no forms to fill in - another advantage of being in the EU, stupid Daily Mail. There was a 5-minute wait to see the nurse, whose job it was to twist and poke my arm in ways designed to extract the maximum amount of moaning and grimacing on my part. 10 minutes later I was being x-rayed, 10 minutes after that a doctor (who didn't look much older than me) was telling me in flawless English that I had fractured the head of the radius and had fractured my ulna as well.  

So, that's why I'm sitting here in a sling, frustrated at being unable to do anything. I want to get back on my bike, I want to be able to cook, I want to go the gym, I want to be able to stretch my fingers. All these simple little things that I didn't even think about before Tuesday...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Zeeland

Yesterday I hopped in the car and headed to Zeeland, the most south-westerly province of the Netherlands ie the little finger-like islands. It's comparable in many ways to Norfolk, in terms of the landscape, the emptiness and the vastly reduced gene pool.



The thing about Zeeland is, hence its name, that it was surrounded entirely by the sea/river delta. In 1953, there was a huge flood which killed thousands in the Netherlands and in England. As a result, the Dutch embarked on a huge series of dams which would reduce the reach of the tide into the river delta, shortening the length of dykes exposed to the sea by 640km. To do this, they constructed a series of huge dams 'twixt the islands.


The Delta Works as they are known are listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and they really are rather impressive, they seem to go on as far as the eye can see and its hard to imagine the sea being able to overcome them, notwithstanding an event like the recent tsunami in Japan. Hence the rather self-confident 'motto' of the Delta Works: 


"Here, the tide is controlled by the moon, the wind and man" ... sounds much better in Dutch. We then went for a drink in the village which we had to share with half the elderly population of the Bundesrepublik



Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Because it's grey outside and I have nowt to do...

So I've been shopping, have done all my washing and the bathroom is smelling faintly of bleach. It can only mean that I have run out of ways to keep myself busy during this week of especially-short days due to meetings. So I shall bore you all with one of those list things, stolen from Katie


A - Age: 23
B - Bed size: single and not particularly comfortable to boot!

C - Chore you hate: mopping the floor, it's so bleurgh
D - Don't eat: Seafood or marmite, those who do are freaks
E - Essential start-your-day item: A shower, I feel filthy without
F - Favourite board game: The Game of Life was pretty epic back in the day
G - Gold or Silver: Silver, as it's not tainted by MC 'massive clock around neck' Hammer
H - Height: 175cm, average height for a UK male
I - Instruments you play: I would say the clarinet as I obtained the dizzy heights of Grade One back in year 7, but I can't read music.
J - Job title: Taalassistent (Language Assistant)
K - Kid(s): Yes, though there would have to be hired help
L - Love or lust: Both!
M - Mum's name: Alison
N - Nicknames: Gway, Garraway and the ever so hilarious Warragay
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Well, I went at night time...
P - Pants or pantyhose: I don't really know what pantyhose are, they're one of those weird American things you hear all the time on telly but never actually find out what they are.
Q - Favourite Movie Quote: I do enjoy quoting Last of the Mohicans when out canoeing, or Gladiator when in a forest.
R - Right or left handed: Right. Because I'm not weird.
S - Siblings: One elder sister
T - Time you wake up: 7am
U - Underwear: Yes
V - Vegetable favorite: Sweet Potato, in a curry. Man I want that now.
W - Ways you run late: I hate being late and will always arrive early to avoid it.
X - X-rays you've had: Some on the ol' ticker
Y - Yummy food you make: I make a good tarte au chocolat, so I've been told (it did take 5 hours, but it was worth it!)
Z - Zoo favorite: Not a fan of zoos, especially bears in zoos. I think it's cruel

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Eurovision

It's almost upon us, the crowning glory of post-war Europe - Eurovision. (For the readers of this blog from outside Europe). All countries have now chosen their entries, whether via extensive voting/television shows like in Sweden or, as the UK has rather unusually done this year, announcing our entry without public input. However, democratic qualms aside, the UK's entry this year is a sure-fire success, especially when contrasted with the majority of this year's entries which have yet to shine. 


It remains to be seen whether this year will see a return of the political voting that has characterised recent Eurovisions (previous two years excepted), but as the UK has the second best record in Europe for winning Eurovision (with 4 first-places beaten only by the stars of Eurovision, Ireland with 7 wins), maybe, just maybe we can bring back Eurovision 2012 to The Island.


A selection of snapshots from Eurovision 2009/2010:





Sunday, 6 March 2011

Rotterdam

My parents and sister spent a few days here in the Netherlands recently. They caught the overnight ferry from Hull-Rotterdam and I showed them the sights and sounds of a carnaval-ridden Breda (this had its upsides as there was a lot of life in the city, but on the other hand we couldn't really go to any of the restaurants/bars I had intended to take them to). The day they were due to go back, we went to Rotterdam to see the sights. Rotterdam is a complete exception to the standard Dutch town of small winding streets, canals and gabled houses; it's a completely modern city, with all the plus and negatives that entails. 


The skyline of Rotterdam when coming over the Maas from the south is really quite impressive, with towers stretching as far as you can see. On the 14th of May, 1940 the city was nearly completely destroyed by the Germans during the invasion of the Netherlands, in a successful attempt to force the Netherlands to surrender. 


As such, unlike the vast majority of dutch cities largely untouched by the Second World War, Rotterdam was an open playing field for post-war architects and planners who envisaged a more modern city with wider streets and higher buildings. It's hard to explain how the atmosphere of Rotterdam is so different to all other cities I have been to in the Netherlands, it can only be put down to the architecture and design of the city.


The Netherlands beats Britain hand down on modern buildings. In the UK, we have a tendency to think that anything new is by definition bad, as such we ham buildings up to look as old as possible (hence the chocolate box Wimpey homes and Prince Charles' Poundland development). The Netherlands allows its modern buildings to reflect the fact that they aren't built in 1750, so why should they look like that? Whether or not these are better due to their modernity is a different matter, there are considerable problems with ill-thought out high-density developments - look at Le Corbusier and his towers built to solve the post-war housing crisis. Striking buildings, but due to a number of factors they have declined into places where people do not want to live - anathema to a building.


The Cube Houses by Piet Blom are another such development. Architecturally impressive and unique (but for their sister development in Helmond, NL), the Cube Houses or Kubuswoningen in Dutch are an insight into what can happen when you allow modern buildings to reflect their modernity. 


The occasional building escaped the blitz of 1940 and this can be seen in the details of their fa├žades. Decorative features are a staple of pre-1920s architecture, when their use began to fall out of fashion in favour of more practical, simplistic designs whose (often unappreciated) beauty is derived from their scale. 


In conclusion, Rotterdam is (to quote Bart Simpson's hastily-improvised model UN report on Libya) a place of contrasts...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Good Book

So, it's been a while since I last updated my blog, the reason being - I have been without the internets. My oh-so reliable landlord decided not to pay the internet provider, so I was duly cut off. But, worry not dear readers as we're now back up and running with supersnel (supposedly) internet. 

The lack of a connection to the outside world has, however, meant that I could catch up with some reading. Or, to be more precise, to finish off the three books that I've had on the go for a while now...


The first book was 'Twitterature', a selection of the world's classics condensed into a series of tweets. I have to say, the number of classics I hadn't read was rather disturbing, as such a lot of the tweets I didn't really get. When it came to books I had read, it was really rather entertaining! A few examples: (1984) "I found a little journal and a tiny place in my room where Big Brother ISN'T watching. Now I can record my dissident thoughts/jerk it", (Die Verwandlung) "I seem to have transformed into a large bug. Has this ever happened to any of you? No solution on Web MD".


The second was 'Niets' by Janne Teller. The book was originally in Danish 'Intet', but I decided against reading the original, as Danish is quite literally praten met je mond vol tanden! The story is about a group of children, who under pressure from one of their friends who declares there to be nothing worth living for, embark on an adventure of sorts to show him that life has meaning. They settle upon the idea of collecting items that mean a lot to them, with the item bearer allowed to demand something from the next person. The objects requested quickly spiral out of control, with some really quite disturbing consequences. This was really quite a brutal book, considering it dealt with 11/12-year-olds and I was really quite shocked in parts.


The third and final book I got through on this little readingfest was 'Cities for People' by Jan Gehl, danish architecture and designer. This book documented how cities around the world should strive to become more people-friendly through their planning and development plans, ultimately resulting in more sustainable cities where people actually want to live. For anyone interested in design, I would heartily recommend this book (there are lots and lots of pictures too!)