Friday, 21 November 2014

A stranger in the Netherlands

Today's blog is coming to you from the Netherlands where I'm visiting for a few days. While it is lovely to catch up with family and old friends, I'm feeling rather out of place. Not only is it a lot colder and greyer than the Côte d'Azur, but it feels just all round a bit alien. I left my native country about 24 years ago. I've visited regularly so all the changes have been introduced in small doses, but in the last few years I've come to realise that my own country is now firmly ''abroad''
I speak the language, apart from some new words that have joined the vocabulary like ''appen'' a verb meaning using an app(lication) but I'm not part of the culture anymore. I don't know the politicians, celebrities and current affairs. So am I still Dutch?

Working with many nationalities at the airport we often discuss national traits. During a training course the other week some of my french colleagues were lamenting the fact that Russian customers are so unsmiling and dour. One of my Belorussian colleagues explained that when you work you are expected to be serious and often her countrymen are taken aback by all these inane smiling shop assistants. Customs are changing as the world population travels more and more. Now and then these days you get a friendly smile back, but maybe just out of pity; ''oh how sweet this care in the community, letting these poor souls work at the airfield''

So what have I noticed here as a foreign observer? Firstly to take great care on the motorway, some Dutch drivers are the most reckless, impatient and aggressive drivers about. Don't be surprised to be overtaken on the left and the right at great speed while the motorist flashes their lights. Luckily there are also some light moments when I enjoyed the dry humour of the train driver. First he announced we were being delayed by a red sign. he finished by saying:
''we will be on our way when the light changes''
after a short pause he added
"that moment has now arrived" resulting in some giggles.
The delay was only five minutes on an hour journey, I shrugged my shoulders and thought this was not bad at all. (excuse the stereo type, but at least they weren't on strike! we are having our fill of that in France at the moment.) but for the impatient dutch this was already worth a sigh.
Yes I'm definitely a foreigner here, but nobody would know. I'm a tall blond alien observing your customs.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

You'll have had your rain

''You'll have had your tea'' is a wonderful Edinburgh phrase. It is said that if you turn up at a home in Edinburgh around tea-time (dinner-time) the reluctant host would say this to his guest, meaning; don't expect me to ask you to join me for dinner. We have adapted it here a bit to say, oh my goodness we had so much rain, we don't expect anymore this month.
After the floods of last week, we had another 3 days of non stop rain, bringing renewed chaos. I thought I would share a photo with you, showing the aftermath of last weeks storms.
A washed up light buoy and a beach covered in bits of wood and other junk. So if you think the Mediterranean is always calm and sunny, think again.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The weather

Unlike when I worked in the UK, my colleagues and I spend little time discussing the weather. Mostly it just to say 'il fait beau dehors, profite bien!' (it is nice outside, make the most of it!) to the fellow worker finishing his or her shift. With 211 sunny days a year we are blessed with an exceptional climate, so visitors were a bit surprised when they experienced some rather heavy rains, strong winds and thunderstorms last Tuesday. When things are bad here, they can be really bad and chaos ensued. Cancelled or diverted flights, mudslides, a river bursting it banks and traffic at a gridlock.

We often say that we have so many good days as all the months rain is received in one massive downpour.

The beach here in Cros de Cagnes is an artificial pebble one. They build a wide promenade between the water and the old fishing village and most of the sand beach was taken up by the road. Every spring a few lorries bring some more pebbles to repair the beach. Autumn waves and storms all do their best to erase the small strip of land. Last years storm was spectacular and I've writen about it in my short story 'the wee baldy man, published in the e-bundle 'Something Short'

High waves picked up the pebbles and threw them over the promenade, leaving a trail of destruction all along the coast. So yes, we don't talk about the weather very often, but when we do, it's the topic of conversation for many days.