Sunday, 27 July 2008

Breda, the lost blog days sent by using my mobile

Day 1

Well actually I'm writing this the day after in word since I don't have t'internet at the moment I'll store it up and post it all at once when I get to a hotspot.

Arrived in Breda safe and sound as always, depite the very rowdy mob of apparently lost club 18-30 lads on the plane who were heading to Amsterdam for a drunken/probably debauched weekend of shmoke, shecks and shnapps. Why they all had to shout at each other at the top of their voices, even when sat next to the recipient of their words of wisdom, the whole trip is beyond me. But I was pleased to reach the relative oasis of silence that is Schipol airpot.

Anyway, a pleasant and typically uneventful train ride later, on arrival at the apartment, The enormity of how bare it all is started to become a reality. I had a lot of things to get hold of as quickly as I could to make even the most basic of living possible. I'd made a short list on my laptop while on the train...but of course no printer to print it out..damm, how do these pen things work again?

I switched on the fridge, took a few measurements down using my reacquired skill with the pen thing, and then set off to explore the immediate area, I had a short list of things I had to get as soon as I arrived. Coffee and a kettle being high on the list after my 2 hours sleep and 4-30 rising that morning.

A glorious sunshiny day meant it felt nice to be out and about, though everything was so quiet it felt like an old fashioned Sunday rather than a bustling Friday. I think they were keeping out of the sun...very wise as it turned out.

Fortunately not too far from the apartment, about 20 mins walk I found a handy DIY store, and lucky for me they had most of what I need, including some nice and not too expensive wall paper (which wasn't going to cost €2500). They happily arranged things and even suggested I could pay on delivery by cash if my visa card didn't work..I should explain my visa debit card is a bit hit and miss over here, they're Mastercard people for the most part so Visa sometimes works and sometimes not. I need to wait till some funds arrive in my Dutch account before I can be sure I'll have a working card payment system so I keep some paper cash on me at all times just to be sure.
So step ladders, lights, decorators bits and bobs loaded up, I noticed also a rather neat 2 person sofa bed, on sale there among the fairly limited choices of furniture and household goods (no kettle arrgh) reduced by €100 to €89. Ah...thinks I, something to sit and sleep on while we get the work done that can later stay in the spare room/office.

So purchases made (Visa worked) and arrangements to deliver the next day sorted. I continued my wander around and found a nice little open air shopping mall/square with a chinese/asian food store...aha..all the requirements needed so Bina can make a nice curry for me when she comes over :).....or I could make my own. So Cumin, Turmeric etc all purchased (Visa worked) I then spotted a proper supermarket across the square.

Ah good, a source of the soon to be required toilet roll and just about everything else needed. 3 big bags of shopping later and the reduction of my limited supply of paper cash (Visa didn't work); I’m heading back to the flat. I started to realise something I will now call Brian’s Law of the relativity of nearby things.
Which states,
"The distance between 2 points is relative to the weight of shopping you have to carry while travelling on foot between those two points"
I need to add some extra conditions which cover the devastating effect a blazing hot sun can also have, before I send in a paper to the Nobel prize people.

Thankfully the Dutch have a serious liking for trees, and they're planted everywhere, so several shady stops to catch breath later, I arrived back at the apartment...Loaded up the fridge with much less than I thought I'd bought...and wondered where I could buy a kettle to make a brew.

By now it was mid afternoon, I was flagging a bit so decided to pump up the handy airbed I brought with me to sleep on tonight and have a bit of a lie down for 10 mins, there being no chairs yet and the concrete floors leave a lot of dust on your clothes.

I have another law, which I shall call Brian’s first law of comfort.
"The comfort of a mattress of repose is relative to the level of tiredness in the person using said mattress of repose"
I lay down and dozed for 30 mins or so...I was very tired.

Next a trip to Ikea, or eekeyyah as they call it here. Since it was way over the other side of town I had to take a Taxi, and a was very lucky to find Pim, a student doing taxi work during the holiday who took me to eekyyah and gave me his number so I could get him to pick me up when done. There's no taxi rank at Ikea..sorry eekeyyah...bugger.

So begins the buy buy buy phase of the day, everything from plates, cutlery, pots, pans,cups, glasses, towels (I remembered the towels) , a folding chair and other things were stuffed into a trolley as I went on my, "oh I'll need that" trip, around the homeware section.

In the furniture section I located the bed I'd already scouted out at Leeds Ikea, and also spied a really nice low cost settee which I decided was better than the one I had planned to buy from my scouting trip last week. I checked that they could deliver ok and yup no problem (and visa was ok), but I held off buying those till the total of my buy buy buy streak had been worked out...ermm it was kinda high at €255 ..but you can't really go without a toilet brush and chopping board can you...not in the same room though of course.

Pim helpfully collected me after I called him and helped me load and unload the goodies at the other end and I then wrestled with the lift to get everything in before the doors closed.

But I still hadn't found a kettle, the long day and lack of caffeine had me on my last legs, so necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I built up my small milk pot I'd got during the buy buy buy streak and boiled some water on the hob.....boy those halogen hobs are fast.

No sugar (I'd forgotten) but that was the best cuppa I've had in an age.

And that’s it, I hadn’t brought any light fittings home since they were all being delivered tomorrow and I needed the step ladder coming in the delivery to fit them, so as darkness started to take hold, I fired up the laptop to watch a couple of episodes of Top Gear I'd downloaded before I left.

I had bought one ikea lamp though, which I could move around the rooms so time to plug it in the bathroom (yes they have power sockets in the bathroom here) then have a nice hot bath in the HUGE bath..(I mean huge you can snorkel in this thing) and turn in.

And this is where Brian's law of comfort kicks in, in a bad way...despite being totally shattered, I'd had a nice semi- doze in the bath till it got cold and was feeling a little more refreshed than I was during my earlier nap.....this was clearly the most uncomfortable bed I'd ever lay on, and sleep would prove to be a long time coming...

It will eventually...and tomorrow the hard work start... at least I'll have a different bed to sleep on if everything arrives as promised.

Day 2
Oh what a rough night, took ages to get to sleep, all sorts of strange new sounds..the underfloor heating for example is water fuelled which when its quiet you can hear sloshing around the pipes...and though not loud you can certainly hear the trains from the station a few hundred yards away, ah..and the garage doors...oh yes...the garage doors...hmmm that could be a problem.

The airbed partly deflated during the night so I had the middle part of my body sleeping on hard concrete, but eventually I did get to sleep though I start today feeling quite knackered....hmm not a lot of difference from the usual then.

The sofa bed arrived at 10-30 and it looks lovely. I don’t know if that’s because it actually does look lovely or thoughts of a more comfortable nights sleep are making me see anything that has cushions as lovely…Whatever the case, its nice to sit down on something other than a plastic eekeyyah chair. The first home comforts feel good.

I add to that soon by buying a kettle at a cook shop, pretty expensive at €75 but I suppose it’s a keeper so might as well get a good one. The lady in the cook shop suggested I try the dept store D&V for a vacuum cleaner, which I need to suck up dust and stuff while sanding, so a cheap, almost disposable item is what’s needed here..

And sure enough like most dept stores in the UK the 3rd floor was homeware and had a franchise of Dixons in place. Kettles there were actually about the same price, with really cheap looking plastic kettles going for €55. Suddenly my €75 for a decent kettle didn’t seem so bad.

Fortunately, a cheap vacuum was available. And €61 later, including a €1 disposal tax. I was walking back to the apartment with a big box and a small box just heavy enough to have me stopping every 200yards to rest my arms.

Getting home I now again appreciated the joy of a cushioned sofa. I’ve now realised the need for transport is more important than I thought, Breda isn’t a big town by any means, but to paraphrase Eric Morecombe, I wouldn’t want to paint it. And the walking to and from the DIY store and supermarket and town are starting to take their toll on my aching feet. (remember to buy some comfy shoes Brian...soon)

So today I become an honorary Dutchman and bought a bicycle…which had a puncture before I rolled it out of the store. Fortunately they fixed it for me since I don’t have any of the essential bike owners tools…like a pump.

I got the bike from the same local DIY shop, it seemed to be cheaper than Halfords in town, and also I needed a few more bits and bobs from there, including a pasting table…which they loaned out for a €35 deposit. I knew I’d have to make another walking trip despite buying the bike as the table was too large and heavy to carry on the bike, so while they repaired the puncture, I walked back to the apartment cursing every tiny puff of wind that caused he table to pivot around my arm and cause the bottom of the table to clip my ankles. Brian’s Law of the relativity of nearby things came into play again and once I’d got home, I had to have a sit down and a brew on the ever more appreciated sofa, before I walked back very slowly, to pick up the now pumped up bike.

Here she is…what a beauty eh…0-20 in whenever I can be arsed.

Bikes are rather expensive here, I guess because they are pretty much in demand and considered essential, so no need to do many special offers. Also they get nicked a lot I’m told, so have to get hold of a good heavy chain as soon as I can, as the nifty on board locking system on the back wheel won’t stop the seasoned bike thief.

The trip to eekeyyah cost me €50 in total, for both trips, €20 each way and €10 tip for the helpful and on call Pim. So the €200 for the bike does represent a bit of a saving as I’ll have to make several more trips to Ikea for more blinds, curtains and other bits and bobs,.

So off I went to Ikea (no need to for the funny pronunciation now I am mobile for myself) on the bike. No problems at all, took 25 mins of easy cycling. The Dutch bike lanes are amazing, you can go pretty much anywhere on bike without having to worry about the cars, on the way I passed the new IGAD offices where I’ll be working and timed it at 13 mins to get to work, at a very steady pace. Once I get used to cycling I think 10 mins should do it, 5 if I am in a major hurry after the inevitable oversleeping.

I took the chance to have a look around some of the other stores at the retail park where Ikea is located, about 7 km from the apartment. The most interesting one was MicroMarkt which is basically like a huge Comet/Dixons place with all manner of TV’s Hi Fi’s White goods etc. So probably the place I will buy my TV and washer at some point.

One thing there amazed me, and I’m annoyed I forgot to take my phone with me so I could get a photo. They had a TV which must have measured 16 feet at the diagonals. I was the size of a wall, and plasma, not a projector. Amazing..I want one…but the €79995 price tag might put me off….I’ll get a picture of this amazing screen next time I’m over have to see this thing to believe it.

So having checked out reasonable if not spectacular prices for tv’s and so on, I popped over to Ikea before they closed at 8.

I got a quilt and some knives at Ikea this time, didn’t want to take too much this trip as it was really just a scouting trip on the bike. Before checkout, a much needed cuppa and refillable cola, in the restaurant gave me the chance to swipe a handful of sweetener packs for home (still no sugar) but I’d missed the last serving for food.. Wisely I picked up a blue Ikea bag as I paid for my things, since these can act like improvised backpacks, and that proved to be a good idea, when I couldn’t get the quilt to lock into the parcel shelf.

My trips around town and to Ikea have taken their toll though; I’m shattered, not much chance of getting any sanding done today. So I do the next best thing and put up the blinds in the bedroom…a perfect fit and I can now get a bit of privacy in the room. I also have a look at the light fittings for the bath and WC but its getting too dark now, so that’s a job for tomorrow.

I put down some paper carpet protector in the bedroom, I bought from the DIY shop this morning and pull the sofa bed into the room and open it out on to the paper to avoid it getting covered in cement dust.

I was looking forward to an early night, and settled down in much more comfort than last night to snooze; that is until one of the smoke detectors in the flat started pinging for no apparent reason…..Lucky I have the ladders now, so could get to it. I tried to remove the battery on it…only its main’s power…I try pressing the reset and it goes off for 3 rings but then stays silent.

So tired now, must get some sleep.

Day 3
Another rough night, the smoke detector pinging had me on edge for ages, it never did it again but all the same, it had woke me as I was dozing and I became aware of all the sounds in the flat again and found it hard to settle…even in this level of luxury/

The heating system is also a cooling system, and since it was such a hot night last night (25degrees) the cooling system worked hard to try to keep the temp down. And that means the ventilation system in the store cupboard behind my bed was whirring away all night. I tried to find a way to switch it off but couldn’t find out how…I’ll need to get Henk, the carpet guy, to help me with the Dutch instructions for the system tomorrow, I don’t want that whirring away all night.

Its Sunday……now something I didn’t realise, was that unlike the UK where shops and stuff are open at least till 4…here they close….pretty much everywhere is closed….damn that’s something I hadn’t thought about. I had planned to buy the bedroom wall paper today and get that done but not going to be possible. So today I think the best I can do is sand and size all the walls and then clean up in preparation for the carpet coming tomorrow.

Despite my best intentions, the enormity of the tasks involved in getting the wallpapering done before the carpet is laid is too much for the time and my tired old bod to manage. I’ll have to just make the process as clean as possible today, and buy more carpet protector so I can do the walls when the carpet is down.

I’m going to go over to the Asian store again now , which I hope will be open (and easy to get to on bike) and get some chillies…curry tonight :D


1 comment:

Neil Rennison said...

Ah Mr. Brian. Loving reading your blog dear sir. I can feel you pain with moving as we had similar issues when getting to Aus. Especially daunting when you move into a shell of a place with nothing and have to buy the essentials - its actually quite overwhelming! Sounds like you're doing just fine though and look forward to your continued adventures.

Hope you get a better nights sleep soon though!