29 Jun


They always say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. I’ve always found that hard to belive because I can think of a lot of things I would find far more stressful. Trying to defuse a bomb with only child safety scissors for example, or trying to make a parachute during a skydive.

However, having recently moved I now find myself forced to reevaluate this misguided idea. Although I still can’t say that my move to Friesland was ‘that’ stressful I can’t say it really went to plan either. It ‘had’ been going to plan right up until the last two days. Then it was as if some unseen force had suddenly decided that it rather liked us living in Rotterdam and started doing everything it could to make sure we stayed. This was abit problmatic because we’d already moved most of our stuff up to Friesland.

We only needed to pickup a few last things from our old apartment before we handed the keys over to the new owners and said goodbye to the place forever. So my wife and I hired a van for two days and drove back down to Rotterdam. We spent Sunday morning cleaning up the apartment and loading the van. There was more work to do than we realized and the van was a little smaller than we thought so things were already getting a little diffcult. Around mid day we decided to take a short lunch break before I started physically breaking stuff in half to make them fit in the van (like a frustrated Tetris player).

We went up stairs to visit our neighbours who kindly fed us (because the last of our kitchen items were berried somewhere under a box of light fittings in the van). We spent about an hour with them chatting about how the move was ‘theoretically’ going well before saying our goodbyes and returning to work… At least that is what we tried to do.

As my wife walked down the steps towards our apartment her pace started to become slower and slower. I could not see her face (because she was in front of me) but I could tell that something was wrong. It was the kind of ‘try to act natural’ slowing of pace people use when they start to realize they have forgotten something important and are not quite sure what to do about it yet. She stopped before she reached the bottom step and after a moment’s pause started to pat the pockets of her jeans.

“Oh no. I think I’ve…”

She didn’t have to finish the sentance.

My wife had forgotten her keys. She’d left them inside the apartment. In fact, she’d left every spare copy of every key we had re-collected from friends and family inside the apartment (including mine). Basically, we were locked out. This was made worse by the fact that there was still stuff in the apartment that had to go in to the van and the keys (currently locked inside the apartment) had to be given to the new owners the next day. We started to go though our options.

  1. Phone the real estate agent and get his copy of the key (“But it’s the weekend and he won’t be at the office”)
  2. Break down the door (“I don’t think the new owners will like that and you’re not that strong”)
  3. Look up lock picking tutorials on youtube (“We already disconnected the wi-fi”)
  4. Climb up the outside of the building and get in over the balcony (“We’re on the third floor and you’re not spider man”)

We stood in silence for a while, just looking at the door and trying to think up other solutions. I was about to try a combination of option 2 and 3 (using a screw driver) when my wife suddenly remembered that there was actually one spare key left. We’d not collected the one from our downstairs neighbors yet.

We quickly collected the key, averted disaster, got back in to the apartment, continued working and I spent the rest of the afternoon taking the micky out of my wife for what had happened. This would later turn out to be a bad idea because within less than 24 hours I would be the one making things difficult. In fact, I’d already done it. We just didn’t realize it yet.

By the end of the afternoon we had finished loading the van and cleaning the apartment. We left the van parked outside the apartment, took a tram into the city center and checked into a hotel for the night.

The next morning we returned to the soon-not-to-be-ours apartment and met with the real estate agent for the final inspection. Surprisingly, everything went according to plan. All that was left was to drive to the notary, sign the last of the official documentation and hand the keys over to the new owners. It was just a short 15 minute drive away and we still had 40 minutes until our appointment, plenty of time to get there.

The real estate agent drove ahead in his car. We got into the van, planning to meet him there. I turned the key to start the engine and… nothing happened. I tried again… not even a whimper. The van refused to start.

“Oh no. I think I…”

My wife started laughing before I even finished the sentence. I’d left the lights on since we’d arrived the morning before. The battery was dead. We were not going anywhere, not in the van at least.

We had to phone the office of the real estate agent, and ask if they could phone him, to ask if he wouldn’t mind turning around and coming back to pick us up. He could not help laughing as he picked us up 10 minutes later, having heard the whole story from his secretary.

Luckily everything else went as planned. We made it to the notary on time, signed what had to be signed and handed over the keys. The real estate agent was even nice enough to drive us back. He couldn’t jump start the van for us though. He didn’t have any cables.

So we called the ANWB and asked if they could come and jump start our van. As we waited outside the apartment that was no longer ours, with the van that was temporarily not working, the new owners arrived to have a look at their property. They seemed surprised to see us. They must have thought we were having real trouble letting the place go. The truth was more the other way around.

12 Jun
Friesian Passport

I don’t think it gets any more official than this; a Friesian passport and country sticker (given to me by my parents-in-law). I had no idea that I had been illegally visiting Friesland without official documentation for all these years. I now keep my Friesian passport with me at all times when I am crossing ‘the boarder’ into Holland. The train conductor does seem a bit confused whenever I show it to him with my ticket though.

Friesian Car Sticker

The country sticker has been added to my car as an indication of my willingness to integrate (they don’t need to know that I still spend a lot of time in Holland). I expect that I will soon start to receive the secret Friesian benefits that come from having such a sticker (free parking, cheaper petrol, the right to overtake tractors, etc).

Next step is learning the Friesian anthem, which luckily is in my Friesian passport, next to the page advertising the model railway in Sneek.

I will keep you updated on my progress.

5 Jun

At The Zoo

It was our last weekend in Rotterdam and we had decided to take a break from packing boxes by taking our daughter to the zoo. The day was a great success. Our daughter had a great time running around from animal to animal. We saw big animals, small animals, flying animals, crawling animals and everything in between. Our daughters favorites were the lions, the fishes and the snakes (she is now convinced that every worm is a snake and is not afraid of them at all).

By the end of the day we were all very tired and it was time to go home. We decided to ride the little zoo’s train back to the car park to save us walking. During the ride I spotted an animal that I had not seen yet during the day, a Rhino.

“Oh look.” I exclaimed loudly, “ They even have an…”

I quickly searched my brain, trying to recall of the name of the animal in Dutch. I knew that I knew it but it was eluding me. I could have just finished the sentence in English but I was trying to show off. What was it again?

“… eenhoorn.” I quickly finished when the word suddenly popped into my head.

I heard a couple behind me begin to chuckle immediately. It only took me a second to realize why. I’d got the name wrong. The Dutch name for a Rhino is not eenhoorn. It’s neushoorn.

What I had actually just shouted was, “Oh look. They even have a unicorn.”

28 May

Friesland Stu

Every once in a while it is time for a change. It was just such a change that brought me to The Netherlands fifteen years ago and I have enjoyed every moment of it. However, it is time once again for a change, a new location and a new challenge. It is time to move on… to Friesland!

Ok. I know Friesland is technically within The Netherlands but I’m not entirely convinced that it is not its own country. After all it has its own flag. It has its own language. It even has the word ‘land’ in the name. The only thing its missing is its own currency, king and border control.

But yes. I am moving to Friesland. In some ways that bit of news is probably more of a shock than if I had actually been moving to another country. You probably have questions. I’ll try to answer them.

“Wait! What?! Friesland?!”
Yes. Friesland.


“Does this mean that you will be changing the name of your blog to Invading Friesland?”
No. The name is still going to be Invading Holland. After all, until I can prove otherwise Friesland is still a part of The Netherlands. Plus, I’m going to continue working in Amsterdam, so I’ll be spending just as much time around the Dutch as I will the Friesians.

“Wait… What?! You’re going to travel back and forth between Amsterdam and Friesland every day! Are you crazy?”
Possibly… but let’s be honest, we already knew I was a little crazy. The good news is I do most my writing on the train so I’ll have more time to spend here.

“Soooo…. does this mean you’ll start writing about Friesian stuff now?”
Probably… but this blog won’t suddenly become 100% Friesian. There are still lots of things to explore about the Dutch and there will always be stories about my own accident proneness to share. So don’t worry about a sudden theme change. It just means that there will be some extra stuff. It also means I’ll finally be able to answer questions like; What is the difference between a Dutch Circle Party and a Friesian Circle Party?

“So why are you moving to Friesland?”
It’s something that’s been in the planning for a while and we’re finally getting an opportunity to do it. My wife and I have always loved the area and we think it will be a great place for our daughter to grow up… I’ve been telling other people that we are moving there to raise cows but that is a lie.

“That sounds reasonable. Is there anything else we should know?”
Oh yeah… our new house has not been built yet so we’ll be spending the next few months living with my parents-in-law (in Friesland) but I’m sure that won’t lead to any crazy or amusing stories… Nop. Not at all.


Friesland Flag Stu
11 May

Speculoos Ice Cream

Most of you already know about my unhealthy Speculoos/Speculaas addiction and about the many Speculoos products that I have tried. I’ve written about them so many times that I am in danger of becoming Holland’s leading expert and reviewer of Speculoos products. I’m honestly surprised that none of you have tried to hold an intervention to put a stop to it.

But I guess you didn’t have to. My addiction came to an end last year when I tried the terrible Febo’s Speculooskroket. It broke me. I couldn’t even finish it. It was so bad that I turned my back on all things Speculoos related. They were all forever tainted. Speculoos would have to do something pretty amazing to win me back.

Something like…

Ben & Jerry’s Speculoos Ice Cream

Well played Speculoos… well played.

As soon as I heard about Ben & Jerry’s Speculoos Ice Cream I knew that my time free of Speculoos’ control was over. There was no point trying to avoid what I knew to be true; I had to try it. It seems that I was not the only one to reach this conclusion either. The entire population of Holland has been feverishly buying the stuff too. It took me two weeks to find a shop where it was not completely sold out. I even had to enlist the help of other people in my search. It was my wife who eventually tracked it down and presented me with a tub. She might be regretting this now though because (a) I didn’t let her have any and (b) I am once again addicted to the amazing taste that is Speculoos. The trauma of the speculooskroket has been forgotten. Long live Speculoos