Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Strange listening to myself on BBC Radio Cumbria this evening whilst sat in a Hotel in Amsterdam. Wonder if anyone I know was listening in the UK? It would be nice to think my kids were! I'm on for 2 whole weeks, and the search details for the blog are given every night; they even pronounce my name right! Put 'Daniel Prostate Cumbria' into Google and you get me straight up.

This morning we hired bicycles, I had not been on one of those beasts for around 20 years. We listened carefully to the instructions and were told that bike theft is big business in this city and if you don't follow the rules, then you are not insured. Amsterdam is fairly flat and the whole place is geared up for cyclists, you almost feel out of place if you are not on one or pushing one. I decided that as long as I followed someone then I couldn't go wrong. However, at the first major road crossing and seeing the lights were against me, I decided it must be OK to go because the old lady in front decided too. How was I to know she wanted to die! The cars all let rip with their horns as they sped down on me at full throttle; the old lady blocking my escape. The big badge on the bike which clearly showed I had rented it, bought me no favours. After that, I played it with far more caution. I think I learnt some dutch swear words as I swerved through the other bikes and traffic, or maybe they were just shouting words of praise and encouragement as I courted death at every corner. There was no part of the city centre that at least didn't sniff a hint of our presence, as we went from an old orphanage to an amazing park and onto the Handbag Museum. Don't laugh! The oldest handbag belonged to a guy in the 16th century and had 18 pockets.

People in Holland are generally fairly lean in build. They cycle everywhere and towns are laid out in such a way as to encourage this. People in the USA are generally overweight. They drive a car everywhere, footpaths are rare and they would probably ask you what a bicycle is. As a country, England is in between just now, but which way are we going?

When we returned the bikes, I asked the guy what 'broken arse' was in Dutch, because mine was truly broken. I had not felt like this since I had practised my undecided sexuality at the age of 16. No. that's not true, I just couldn't think of anything that had made my bum hurt as much, ever! There are some great things about the modern dutch bike. There is no cross bar! Why, when I was a kid, did girls have a bike with no cross bar, when it would have caused them no damage to fall on one? Yet boys, with so much to lose and far more likely to act stupid on a bike, had a steel bar just waiting to crush their testicles as their feet slipped from the pedals and their entire body weight headed down! The locks are just to die for. It's a double system which allows you to lock the back wheel and then, lock the bike to any nearby object that is unlikely to move. There are dozens of rusty bikes that were probably left there in the 60's and still haven't been stolen. There are just 3 gears, but the bearings are so good that the bikes just glide along; who needs 21 gears? But the best bit of all, nobody wears cycle helmets! If you did, so many people would stop to laugh, you would skid on their tears! Let's face it, when I was at school, cycle helmets had yet to be invented. We all dashed around on our bicycles, colliding with each other and everything, and yes, falling off frequently. Did we fall on our heads? Well sometimes, when we couldn't right ourselves in time. It hurt for sure, but I don't know anyone who suffered brain damage from falling off a bike. Just another 'health & safety' joke, adopted by us so that the rest of Europe can laugh at us; and they do!

Thank you Sue for the information regarding 'Jock Itch'. The good old jock strap worn by many a sweaty male, trapping the moisture and providing the heat to allow the fungal infection to thrive.

It is "Freshers Week' here in Amsterdam, or 'Intertree xxx' as they call it. Different to any other start of a student's life that I have experienced. Activities all revolve around the canals and lots of drink, barges brimming with young faces, full of hope for the future, ready to play their deck in life.

I almost forgot I had cancer for long periods of time today, it didn't seem to have meaning somehow. Why should it, it's not giving me any pain yet and might never; well apart from the surgery. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I pretended that I had never been diagnosed and just carried on if nothing had happened. Maybe it would forget, and just go away?

When you order a 'cup of tea' in Holland they do one thing right, they bring you a cup of boiling water. Great, because from then on you can do the rest. Today, our lovely waitress did just that, but then she made 3 big mistakes. First she brought 'Earl Grey', then UHT milk; the sugar was fine. I explained that Earl Grey smelt similar to my after shave and that UHT milk just didn't taste nice in tea. She brought us 'English Breakfast Tea' and a small pot of fresh milk; perfect. The 3rd mistake was the biscuit, because I took one bite of it, decided that I didn't like it and threw it to a nearby pigeon. His mates, dotted around any available perching position took this as the signal and all took flight at the same time. You would have thought I had thrown a dozen loaves of bread onto the ground as hundreds of pigeons swooped down to join their jackpot winning friend. Nobody was impressed but it was fun to watch.

We head back to the Ferry tomorrow, and the overnight sailing to Newcastle. This time we are below the 'car deck', sounds creepy but surely it has to be quieter than the journey here. I hope I can get some sleep because I have to drive to pick up my younger daughters, Maria and Sofia on Friday afternoon. I am really looking forward to spending the weekend with them.

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