Month: July 2010

Amsterdam

So – I get a phone call on a Thursday, suggesting I join Justin in watching the football World Cup final.  Using the logic that english football fans are idiots – the idea of watching it in a bar in London is unpleasant.  So – logically speaking – we should fly to Amsterdam to watch it.  Unfortunately – I’ve got some rather important work scheduled for the weekend.  So – I say maybe.

Friday afternoon, I start some processes at work.  Then go to leaving drinks for a workmate.  Get home rather late – check on my work, do some more work – and fall asleep on the couch.  Wake up a few hours later – check on work, do some more work, and try to watch the rugby on my other laptop.  Fall asleep again.  Wake up again, catch most of the second half of the rugby – while continuing to work.  And decide that rather than trying to fit in a flight to Amsterdam around my work – I should probably instead try to fit my work around a flight to Amsterdam.  So – book a flight (last one on the flight), and continue working.  Then – when I’ve essentially finished most of my work – I let the project manager know that I’ll be unavailable for an hour – even by phone, as I’ll be on the underground.  And I head towards Heathrow.  Forgetting, of course, that the Northern Line is nearly always down for maintenance recently.  But – I manage to get to Heathrow – and then logon to work again.  Check on a few things – and everything’s looking good.   Call the project manager, and discuss how everything’s looking good – pretty much done.  Oh – and I’ll be unavailable again for the next hour.  And – get on a plane.

Arrive in Amsterdam – predisposed to dislike the dutch.  I’ve always had a thing about them – related to the genetic engineering of carrots.  Ethnic vegetable cleansing.  Not cool.  And it’s an entire country which by rights should be underwater!  It’s not a nation – it’s a lake!  What up with that?  But – almost immediately I find it rather difficult to dislike anybody.  Friendly, smiling, helpful.  And it just doesn’t stop.  I nearly start to dislike them for destroying my prejudices.  But – anyway, we head to the hotel.  The nice man tells me there is only one super-deluxe room for special ‘Platinum’ club members like myself – but it is just the one king-size bed.  Justin & I agree that the standard room with 2 doubles would be fine, thank you.  We get vouchers for free drinks at the bar.  Check in with work again – and everything’s still looking good.  Nothing for me to do at the moment – but there probably will be either later tonight, or early tomorrow morning.  So – that’s the cue for Justin & I to head to the bar.  Drink a few delicious dutch beers – and then head into town to try and find some food and delicious dutch beer.  We find delicious dutch beer, and drink it while discussing how much prettier the girls are in Europe compared to England.  Because they most definitely are.

And then a taxi back to the hotel, where I do a quick check for work-related emails.  Nothing – so time to sleep.  First proper sleep in a rather long time.  Wake up in the morning – and just manage to catch breakfast.  And then head towards town in order to sit in a cafe, drinking delicious dutch beer and watching pretty girls on bicycles.  But – I get a phone call.  So – I head back to the hotel, where a quick check confirms that the issue has nothing to do with me.  Then – I head back out, and catch up with Justin.  And we walk onwards, discussing how much prettier the girls are in Europe compared to England.  And we reach Museum Square.  This is where the dutch people have set up several giant screens in order to allow people to watch football.  Dutch people are renowned for being frugal – and therefore none of them buy television sets, instead waiting for people to set up giant screens in public places where they can watch the ‘moving pictures’ for free.  We sit around for a while, until Justin catches up with his friends in Amsterdam.  They are apparently at a different park/square.  So we start walking towards them.  And I get another phone call from work.  Which went something like “Hi Micheal, are you at home?”  “No – I wouldn’t say that.”  “Oh – are you quite far away from home?”  “Ummm… yeah.  I’m in Amsterdam.”  “…”  “…”  “Have you got some time off?”  “No – I’m working.  Just from Amsterdam.”  “Oh.  … Okay.  Well, we’ve got some serious issues – and we’ll probably need to rollback the whole weekend’s work”  “…  Okay.”  “Okay.  Well – somebody will get hold of you later when we need you to do your stuff.”  “Okay.”

And then Justin & I kept walking.  Me inwardly cursing the timing of this ‘issue’.  But – we kept walking, until Justin went to consult his map again.  Muttering about the street signs being wrong.  I consulted my map, and asked where we were going.  And looked at the street signs.  And pointed at my map – and asked “So – we’re here right?”  And Justin suddenly realised that the street signs weren’t actually wrong – it was just that we had been walking in the wrong direction for the last 15 minutes or so.  But – no problem, we just started walking in the right direction.  Kept walking, until Justin called his friend to arrange a rendezvous point.  Which was 5 minutes walk behind us.  We’d walked right past the people we’d come to meet.  But – again, easily resolved – and we met up with Nicole and Peet (sp?) at the pancake carousel.  We then walked to find some bar – where we stood outside the bar and drank our very very warm and not so delicious dutch beers which we’d been walking around with for an hour or so – and discussed how much prettier the girls are in Europe when compared to those in England.  They really are.

And then – walked back to the pancake carousel to pick up the magnum of champagne which Peet had stashed in the fridge there.  Pick that up – and then walk to Museum Square – where Justin & I had been originally.   By this point, there are a lot more people than there were earlier.  It was a sea of 180,000 orange clothing, flags, football-themed novelty headwear, etc etc.  Oh – and those godawful little trumpets which make that horrible noise.  So – just the kind of environment I love.  We fight our way to the top of a little hill to the side – and wait for the silly little game to start.  Justin keeps telling me to “get into it” – and jump and chant and sing, or whatever.  Which of course just reinforced my steely calm impassive demeanour.  Although – I was kinda impressed at watching such a huge mass of humanity gathered together just to take advantage of free television.  It really was kinda cool.

Anyway – everybody watched the game, and a couple of hours later, there was 180,000 sad little orange faces.  Which surprised me, because I’d missed the goal – owing to the fact that I wasn’t really fussed about the game – so nominated myself as the guy to fight through the crowd to buy beers every so often.  And then I was impressed by how fast 180,000 people stormed out of the square back to their windmill houses.  And we found a bar – where the dutchies drank their sorrows away, and I just drank.  And then back to the hotel – where I suddenly realised I hadn’t heard from work – so checked my email.  I think the next 20 minutes or so was of me sitting in the darkness at my laptop, muttering obscenities.  But – the upside was that it seemed people had figured out they could do everything required without my intervention – and the weekend’s work was essentially complete.

But – of course – when I next woke up, it was Monday.  I had already warned the manager that I would probably be working remotely on Monday (his assumption was due to the workload over the weekend).  So – I got up, logged on – and trawled through the emails again – confirming there was nothing urgent for me to do, and I hadn’t missed anything when I’d read them blurry-eyed the previous night.  Forgetting that reading them blurry-eyed in the morning probably isn’t the best ‘double-check’ – but better than none.  And then realised that I probably needed a ticket to fly back to London.  Managed to book the last ticket on the same flight as Justin back to London – and then Justin headed out to find some breakfast while I continued to do work-type stuff.  Fixed a couple of problems, arranged for another one to be fixed first thing the next day – and generally did all the stuff I would normally do on a Monday morning at work.

And then – it was time to return to dirty London.  So – taxi to the airport, and a delicious dutch beer at the airport while playing backgammon and discussing how much prettier the girls are in Europe than England.  And how they all ride bicycles.  Pretty girls on bikes.  It is the first thing I now think of when somebody mentions Amsterdam.  The racial crimes against carrots having been consigned to the past.

And back to London, where Chook & Chris ask me how the drugs and red-light district were.  At which I point out I’m not an English stag-party – and that I went to Amsterdam for the museums.  Which is kinda true.  I think the closest I saw to drugs was detecting a rather distinct smell as I walked past one bar; and the closest to the red light district I saw was a shop window which sold orange football-themed paraphenalia – including a BBQ apron with plastic breasts attached.  And for the rest of the evening I mumble about pretty girls on bicycles, over and over again.

And for the rest of the week – reminisce on how much pretty the girls are in Europe than England.

All Summer-like

It’s Summer!  Like a real Summer!  So – the last few weekends have pretty much consisted of getting as much sun as possible.

Last weekend – we had a BBQ on the Sunday, during which at some point most people disappeared inside to watch some football game.  While Caitlin & I took the much more sensible approach of sitting in the sun – and pretty much following the game by counting the screams of despair vs delight.  It was quite easily done.  I also took this oppurtunity to meet our upstairs neighbours – who were also having a BBQ.  There was a general air of antagonism building between our flat and theirs over time – and I think I have mostly sorted that out.  Except Chook, who refused to come out and meet them.  But – for the most part, hopefully tension has been relieved.  And our friends won’t look at us with scorn when “we” complain about our neighbours – with “our” justification being exactly the same behaviour which we exhibit ourselves.

And – this weekend just been, another sunny weekend.  So – Saturday, headed to Fulham for an afternoon of croquet.  And Jess & I made the final of the tournament.  Very good at croquet are we.  In fact, we only lost the final because we were being rushed for time by Gary – the croquet-man.  But – other than being cheated out of the trophy – it was a good day over-all.  I was on-call, and only had to go full-on-nerd once, pulling out the laptop at the picnic table during post-tournament drinks.  And then – a lazy Sunday.  Spent all day in the hammock, reading.  And finally – I might have something approaching a tan.  Which should last about 1.5 weeks.

Nothing else going on.  Feeling some severe need to do something bigger – ie: other than work and weekend events.  ie: travel.  I need to travel.  I’m pretty sure I’ve left it too late to do the Trans-Mongolian, North Korea, Trans-Siberian trip I was hoping for this year.  I think last time I talked to an agent about it, and asked at what point I needed to get serious about booking stuff – she’d intimated that the deadline would be pretty soon – and that was a month or two ago.  Might have to check on that.

So – instead, I’ve taken an extra step towards getting a motorbike license.  Not a very big step – but a step.  Just getting details on a training course, etc.  But if I start doing something on that, at least I’ll have something to do – with the possibility of some road-trips serving as a light at the end of a tunnel.  And a much nicer way of getting about London.  Which will also serve as blocking the booze, which has got to be a good thing.

Speaking of the booze – on the underground returning from croquet on Saturday, it wasn’t even particularly late – but I was suddenly struck by all the people in stupors.  I suddenly thought of Brave New World – and “soma”.  And then wondered why I’d never drawn that blindingly obvious parallel before.  Similar ‘drugs’ often occur in utopian/dystopian stories – but I’d always just thought the authors shared this premise to help the story.  It really was only on Saturday night that I saw alcohol as a present-day soma.  And that the drugs in all these books weren’t inventions of the author’s mind – but rather just a metaphor, or future equivalent, for the good old booze.  It nearly scared me into sobriety.  But then I got home, and had myself a nice calming relaxing glass of wine, and forgot all my cares and worries for a little while.

Anyway – my new month’s resolutions for July will be to do more reading, and to never drink alone.  See if I can reverse this vicious spiral into stupidity I seem to have of drinking too much, killing brain cells, making a bad decision – such as drinking again, becoming more stupid, making it easier to make the bad decision, etc etc.  I mean – who the hell decides to tentatively have a glass of wine to see if “the hair of the dog” will make them feel better – and then suddenly realise that there’s 3 empty bottles, and work tomorrow?  A certifiable idiot – that’s who.  No more.