30 Oct

Happy Halloween from Invading Holland, in association with Bikes for Zombies

27 Oct

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of the humble Dutch strippenkaart (strip card) as it passes on into the realms of nostalgia to be replaced with the new electronic OV-chipkaart (public-transport chip card) system. Many of you who have gathered here to pay your respects will remember our friend the strippenkaart as a simple means of exchanging money for transportation on Dutch trams, buses and metros. I would like to share some of my memories of it with you too.

I first encountered the strippenkaart in the summer of 2001 when I arrived in Holland as a young and confused expat. I had only been in the country for two hours when I first tried to board a tram and buy a ticket. It was then that I was presented with my first strippenkaart. It was only a small strippenkaart, barely more than a strip, just enough to travel one zone but I was instantly intrigued by this system of transportation payment. It was so new and fresh too me. I think it was something in the way the driver smiled at me and stamp my ticket that reminded me of a simpler happier time, when the teacher would stamp my work with a little star to show that I had done well. From that moment on the strippenkaart had a special place in my heart.

Later, I discovered the larger strippenkaart, the kind with 16 strips that could be used for traveling through even more zones whenever I wanted. At the same time I also discovered the large yellow self stamping machines. At first it was a relationship of some confusion as I tried to work out how many strips I was supposed to stamp for the amount of zones I wanted to travel. However, I eventually came to understand the system (after a lot of very cheap travel and one encounter with a tram ticket inspector).

I will always remember the feeling of accomplishment I felt when I had filled a strippenkaart up with stamps, my desire to shout ‘bingo’ upon doing so and collect a prize from the driver for getting a full house.

I will also remember listening fondly to the *klunk, ding* of the older stamping machines as they stamped the strippenkaart of early morning travelers with the date and time, the sound of which always making me think of a drunk north pole elf with a peg leg stumbling across a wooden floor.

*Klunk, ding, klunk, ding, klunk, ding*

Yes. I will always remember the good times… and so should you my friends.

It is also important that we do not hold any feelings of hostility towards the new OV-chipkaart system. It might feel like it has taken our beloved strippenkaart from us and now fills our ears every single day with the, “don’t forget to check in and check out with your public transport chip card,” announcement at almost every single stop in both Dutch and English without even saying a simple please or thank you. I to hear that announcement so often on a daily bases that I have started to hear it in my dreams, over and over and over again…


What I mean to say is that despite all of that it is important to remember that the OV-chipkaart did not ask for the responsibility of filling such large shoes to be thrust upon it. We must give it time. After all it will be there to confuse the next generation of expats on their first day in Holland as the strippenkaart did with me.

Yes, we will morn but we must also celebrate and remember. I know I will…. Farewell my friend, strippenkaart… You will be missed.

21 Oct

Sometimes a man gets hungry. Sometimes this happens late at night. Sometimes this happens when the man is slightly drunk. If this transpires the best solution is always the mighty sandwich (if there is no Kebab place within the ‘can be bothered’ range). A big, fat sandwich can always satisfy a late night inebriated snackers hunger but it is not without its risks.

The problem with making a sandwich at 1am in the morning while slightly inebriated is that alcohol thins the blood. This fact might sound irrelevant to the sandwich making process (unless you are a vampire) but when you introduce the element of the knife used to cut the bread ingredient it’s alarming how quickly this random fact becomes very relevant. Especially when the sandwich maker accidentally slices through their left index finger (while attempting to cut the bread) and proceeds to bleed all over the kitchen floor.

This is a professional risk in the sandwich making career path and it is the situation I suddenly found myself in after my ill-conceived inebriated plan to make a bread based snack went horribly wrong.

After the initial shock had set in and the swearing was done I quickly started to open draws with one hand, searching for plasters while I held the injured finger up high in an attempt to slow the bleeding (but all it resulted in was blood dripping onto my head instead).

This all happened the day before I was going to move in with my girlfriend (farther highlighting the possibility that men actually do need women to look after them and stop them injuring and/or maiming themselves) so I was still living in a house occupied by two guys, myself and my flat mate Jochem who was out during all this, for-filling his hunger with the much more sensible option of take-away noodles. As most people will know an apartment or any other kind of residential abode occupied by one or more guys is less likely to contain anything practical like plasters in it so I gave up my search as quickly as it had began.

The bleeding was showing no signs of stopping anytime soon so my only other option was to go back and forth between the kitchen and the bathroom while switching between cleaning the wound in the kitchen sink where there was hot water and wrapping my finger in toilet paper in the bathroom where there was no hot water. Because the flow of blood would not stop flowing I had to make this trip several times which resulted in me leaving trails across the floor indicating my route around the apartment like some kind of gothic emo version of Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumb trail.

During all this Jochem came home and found me looking like I had just attempted a cry for help. I quickly filled him in on the details, put my coat on as I did so and finished the story with, “and now I’m going out to buy plasters.”

And so I walked around the streets of Amsterdam, at 1:10am, trying to keep my bleeding toilet paper wrapped finger held high enough to slow the bleeding but not so high that it made me look crazy. Instead I ended up holding it half way up in the hope that I would only look half crazy but in reality I probably looked full crazy. After sometime searching for an open late first aid shop I had to face the fact that there was nowhere open for me to buy plasters. I was left with only one choice. I had already thought about it when I had first passed the place but I really didn’t want to do it if I didn’t have to. However, I could not keep on walking around and bleeding all over Amsterdam.

All of this is why at 1:20am on a Tuesday morning I found myself standing in the Leidseplein police station, looking like a serial killer as I clutched my blood covered hand wrapped in soggy wet red toilet paper and used my best ‘please don’t arrest me’ face in the hope that as I asked, “do you have a plaster,” the officer behind the desk did not hear, “I just killed six people.”

You might be thinking this is the point in the story where things take another comedic turn and I ended up on the floor with mace in my face, handcuffs around my hands and the knee of a shouty police man in my back as he pinned me to the floor while thinking about his shiny new medal for capturing a crazed mass murder… well you would be wrong.

The reaction I got was… Dutch. By this I mean he helped me but he really did not give a damn. He did not want to know the story behind my incriminating bloody hand and cut me off mid-sentence as I tried to tell him by asking me how many plasters I needed. He was probably thinking about the amount of paper work he would have to do if he listened to a confession of six murders.

He then proceeded to take a large plaster out of the first aid box behind his desk and cut the minimum amount possible from it instead of just giving me the whole plaster. He looked slightly annoyed when I asked for more. He cut an even smaller piece and pointed in the direction of the bathroom, telling me that I better clean my injury (while still managing to show nothing that could be classified as concern).

I entered the bathroom, proceeded to clean my finger in the sink and once again tried to get the bleeding under control. By the time I accomplished this I had also managed to cover the sink, tiles and some of the floor with a lot of DNA evidence. Since it did not seem like a good idea to leave a police station bathroom covered in blood I quickly cleaned everything up before the CSI team could be called in to figure out what the hell had just happened.

After exiting the bathroom I made the Dutch policeman even more grumpy by asking if I could have another plaster ‘just in case there was another breech’. He cut the smallest possible amount again, probably in an attempt to avoid it being counted as aiding and abetting in court.

I returned home to discovered that Jochem had been nice enough to clean up the blood I had left all over our kitchen. This seemed like a good idea as it would avoid any awkward questions about my wear abouts and well being after I ‘moved out’ (especially since builders had recently ripped out one of our walls and done a bad job of rebuilding it).

I stood in the kitchen and thought about eating the sandwich to help counter act the blood loss weakness. I looked my finger, picked up the sandwich and threw the damn thing in the bin.

In hindsight I probably should have gone to the hospital when it happened. It was a very deep cut, it took several days to heal and I now have a permanent scar.

I keep on thinking about the officer in the police station and what he must have had to write in the overnight log book. I imagine it was something like:

“Idiot Englishman came in after doing something stupid that resulted in him cutting his finger. Could not be assed. Gave him a plaster so he would go away.”

17 Oct

Today we have our last post from our guest writer Alex de Leeuw as he tells us about his time in Amsterdam. Here are his first and second posts.


Vandaag was het zonnig weer dus Stuart laat mij Amsterdam zien.
Today it was sunny weather so Stuart shows me Amsterdam.

Dit is de Dam. Maar waar is het Paleis?
This is Dam Square but where is the palace?

Wij kijken op de plattegrond om het paleis te vinden.
We looked at the map to find the palace.

…maar dit is niet het paleis.
…but this is not the palace.

… dit ook niet!
… neither is this.

Wij kijken overal of wij het Paleis kunnen vinden.
We look everywhere for the palace but can’t find it.

Waar is het?
Where is it?

Oh. Hier is het Paleis.
Oh. Here is the Palace.

Later eten wij friet met hamburger.
After we found the palace we eat burger and fries.

Stuart leest mij nog voor en dan ga ik slapen.
And at bed time Stuart read me a bed time story.


That is it for now from Alex de Leeuw since he has to return to the class room but do not fear, he will return.

15 Oct

We continue with another post from our guest writer Alex de Leeuw as he tells us about his week in Amsterdam. His first post can be found here.


Vandaag regent het, dus ik blijf thuis. Maar Stuart moet gaan werken.
Today it was raining so I stay at home but Stuart had to go to work.

Ik heb een nieuw vriendje. Hij heet Mr Koala. Hij is een vriendje van Stuart
I made a new friend. His name is Mr Koala. He is a friend of Stuart’s.

Wij schaken.
We played chess.

…en wij computeren.
…and we played computer games.

Toen kwam Stuart thuis, dus kookte ik voor iedereen…
Then Stuart came home so I cooked for everyone…

…en wij kijken de film Finding Nemo.
…and we watch the movie Finding Nemo.

Dan wij gaan slapen na een leuke dag.
Then we went to sleep after a fun day.