I got back from three nights in Amsterdam on Wednesday and, honestly, it's taken this long to regain my equilibrium. The house is literally upside down. No kitchen sink, no worktops, no oven. Yet Bert has been working flat out. It didn't help that Ikea's picking and delivery service did not come up to scratch. Only today I had to hotfoot it to the Belfast store to get the brackets that hold the oven up. And had to wait an hour to get it sorted. There is no word of Ed the Electric. (We're having to move plug points and light switches around) and the kitchen sink worktop won't be cut until Monday/Tuesday at the earliest as Bert has decided to have the experts do that. Then we'll need a gas fitter to connect the hob. So much for do-it-yourself.
My private secret sitting room has become a flatpack store room as has the hallway. The dishwasher is disconnected so all dishwashing has been moved to the scullery. Still, a week will make a big difference.
A Day Or Two Ago
Amsterdam was lovely. I walked for miles and miles. Walking in unfamiliar cities has to be one of my very favourite things. I set off each of the two mornings with no particular plan. I might go to the Botanical Gardens, I might go to the Van Gogh. I will stop off at any interesting place or site that catches my eye.
Things I noticed about Amsterdam,
1. The men have amazing hairlines.
2. David Beckham must have Dutch ancestors.
3. The people (notably the men) are very polite.
4. The Men! Still sexy in their sixties and seventies.
Some other things.
1. There were no apparent homeless people or beggars. I'm told there are two reasons for this. The Dutch social welfare system is supportive and Dutch people have no time for beggars.
2. The ladies on the trams are very impatient. Not very Dutch. Still, I expect they have to deal with a lot of very silly tourists.
3. The cyclists take no prisoners and they do not wear helmets. Neither do their children.
4. There are hardly any children.
5. In keeping with the Dutch refusal to wear cycling helmets, they are also fairly unconcerned that there are acres of deep water hazards everywhere, and that their stairs are amazingly tricky and steep with no warning signs to watch one's head or beware of falling. I found this refreshing. Dutch people (unlike the British) expect people to take responsibility for their own personal safety.
Where we stayed.
In a hostel! I always thought that hostels were grim, utilitarian places inhabited by penniless youth. The hostel was called Generator, 4 years old and formerly a university building. It was lovely. Great atmosphere and everything one could possibly need except room service and a heated swimming pool. It was well-connected, public transport had one at the centre of things in no time but during the day, I found it more fun to walk.
Other things I found interesting.
1. A huge amount of ring-necked parakeets just like in London.
2. The city felt safe.
3. Walking through the red light district (daylight hours) there was a commotion. A woman, wearing a lacy slip, little else, outside on the cobbles trying to entice a little French bulldog back to their shared apartment.
1. Vacation time means reading time.
2. I brought Ian McEwan's Amsterdam. Seemed appropriate. By the time I got to the section actually based in Amsterdam, I'd already walked those places.
3. I finished the McEwan on the third night and immediately swapped it for another in the hostel's book exchange shelves. The book I picked was The Genocides by Thomas M. Disch. I'd heard of neither the title or author before. It was a thought-provoking and gripping read. I finished it on the plane home the next day.
4. Of course, I found a bookshop. It was wonderful, specialised in English language books and was alphabetized! I bought Sula by Toni Morrison. The bookshop owner seemed impressed with my choice (or maybe he was just being polite?). Still, you never get that fellow intellectual knowing nod when the paperback proffered is a Cecilia Ahern.
Then I ate what Amsterdam calls a space cookie but our friend L. calls home baking. Things might get surreal. Best stop.