29 Jan

We are almost a month into 2010 which means a month of intending to start New Year’s resolutions has almost passed us by. So far my reverse psychology plan to get healthy by continuing to eat unhealthy food is progressing slowly but my body is sure to fall for it soon.

One of my other new year’s resolutions was is to write an ‘Invading Holland’ book made out of words and pages, the majority of which would be taken from posts written here on this blog of the same name (which also includes words but not pages). However, I am trying to decide the format in which it should be written. I know I want to re-work things a little rather than do a straight one on one blog to book translation. But how?

Should it be a categorized guide to Holland including witty observations and personal experiences? Should it be a chronological diary of my comical time in the land of tulips and windmills? Should it be a pop-up book with brightly coloured images of waving Dutch men and women? Should I forget the whole book thing and instead translate my tale in to an interpretive dance and tour the country in a leotard? The possibilities are endless (until you reach the end) and I find myself being quite indecisive. That is why I am asking you, the readers and friends who have been so good to me; what do you think I should do? What would be a good idea?

How should it be written? Which previously written stories do you think should really be in there? What un-answered questions and mysteries would you like answered (which I could also answer in post form for quicker replies)? Maybe you have some advice about turning a blog into a book or a large check you would like to give me for doing so. Or maybe you have more general comments, feedback or name calling on this whole blog thing in general so far. I’d like to hear what you think because to be honest I haven’t got a clue.

Thank you.

PS – I should point out that despite its name this book (and blog) will not actually depict any sort of military encroachment upon Dutch soil. I tell you this now to avoid the biggest literacy disappointment since readers of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ discovered that it was not a festive song book full of good musical cheer for the whole family.

25 Jan

Dutch Integration Checklist

Thank you for agreeing to take the Dutch Integration test/Inburgering Exam. The aim of this test is to determine how well you have integrated into Dutch culture during the time you have spent in the Netherlands. Please answer the questions below truthfully and honestly to the best of your knowledge for the best test results:

Dutch Integration Checklist/Inburgering Exam

What is your name?
Stuart B (aka: InvaderStu)

Are you able to communicate in Dutch?
If by ‘communicate’ you mean order beer and bitterballen; yes.

Do you know why it is important to pronounce “Scheveningen” correctly and are you able to do so?
Yes. During World War 2 the Dutch used to shoot people who were unable to pronounce Scheveningen correctly because they were most likely German spies. Since I neither wish to be shot or mistaken for a German I have tried very hard to learn how to pronounce it right. Sometimes I get nervous when a Dutch person approaches me in the street and I just randomly shout Scheveningen at them.

Do you own a Dutch flag?
No but I do own a pair of socks with the Dutch flag on them. They were a Sinterklaas gift.

Have you ever skated on ice?
Not intentionally.Do you own a bicycle?
I do but it is a German bike. The last time I had to get it repaired the Dutch bicycle repairman I took it to was not very happy about this fact. I shouted Scheveningen several times to reassure him.

Have you ever had a bike stolen?
I thought I did once but it turned out I’d simply not noticed the large construction sign stating; “Do not park your bike here or we will take it away with the rest of the bike rack we are replacing!” In my defense the sign was in Dutch and I got my bike back after a week.

Have you ever decorated a bike in an outrageous fashion?
Not yet but I’m thinking about taking my bike on Pimp My Ride.

Have you ever eaten stamppot?
I have tried most kinds of stamppot and have even invented some of my own. However, I am still trying to find someone who is willing to help me market M&M stamppot and speculoos stamppot.

Have you ever made a joke at the expense of a Belgium?
Don’t be daft. Not even a Belgium is going to pay to hear a joke… Only the Irish would do that.

Have you ever visited the red light district?
Only to do some window shopping.

Have you ever celebrated Queen’s Day?
Yes. I love Bohemian Rhapsody and know all the lyrics.

Do you know what a Zwarte Pieten is?
Yes. However, I had no clue what they were the first time I saw a parade of them marching, jumping and skipping towards me on a crowded street in Haarlem. It was one of the most puzzling experiences of my life (only just beaten by the time a woman wearing a fake rubber penis approached me in the same street a few weeks later followed by a camera crew).

Thank you for completing the Dutch Integration Checklist/Inburgering Exam. If you feel that any important integration questions have been left off the list please let us know.

19 Jan
Categories: Drugs

Weed Plantation

“It was a weed plantation.”

It was not the usual kind of text message I expected to receive from my girlfriend during an average working day but it certainly explained the small collection of police and security vans I had seen parked outside our apartment building that morning.

“They broke the door down early in the morning and found over 500 cannabis plants all set up with heat lamps,” she informed me upon my return home later, relaying information from a neighbour.

It also explained the loud banging that had woke me up at five in the morning. It had not been an insomniac handyman doing some early renovation. It had been the police forcefully entering one of the apartments in our building as they carried out a drug bust.

“No one was there though. They don’t even live there. They just use the place for growing weed.”

That ruined my metal image of a tall blond Dutchman dressed like Al Pacino in Scarface, standing in the middle of his two bedroom marble decorated apartment, screaming, “Zeg hallo tegen mijn kleine vriend,” before he opened fire upon the finest of the Dutch police force with a machine gun as they tried to take him down.

“All the plants were two weeks away from cultivation. The only reason they found it was because the watering system had started to leak through to the apartment below.”

That just proves that you should never short change a plumber.

When I had first seen all the activity outside in the morning there had also been a large white van reversing up to one of our apartment building’s exits (the one next to ours). At the time I had thought an eviction was being carried out and they were getting ready to throw some one’s furniture into the van, not 500 plants worth of ganja.

“They were carrying cannabis plants out of the building all morning so the fumes started to fill up the stairwell and apartments. Our neighbour said she has been feeling high all day.”

I imagined that a few of our other neighbours had probably experienced the same. I imagined the old couple from 212 having an attack of the munchies while calling each other dude, the normally hyperactive child from 204 being extremely calm as he discovered a much deeper level of philosophical meaning to Sponge Bob Square Paints, the old lady from 234 no longer complaining about her arthritis and the little puppy from 201 suddenly developing a taste for Bob Marley music and dreadlocks.

Now that everything is over there is a big anti-drug sign displaying a cannabis leaf with a red line through it stuck to the window of the former weed growing apartment, declaring that a drug bust recently took place there. It looks slightly like a ‘For Sale’ sign from a somewhat questionable real estate agency of college kids. It’s very nice of the police to put it there but it does not really help us with our plans to sell our apartment if potential buyers see it (unless they are interested in starting their own ‘greenhouse’).

“Legally you’re allowed to have five plants…”

Maybe the ex-owner of the apartment had miss placed a decimal point somewhere but somehow I doubted it.

“…so we were joking that it was a shame we could not have taken five plants each,” she finished.

Joking? Or spotting a hole in the market now that the local marijuana plantation has been taken down?

17 Jan

…or rather it is more accurate to say he found us. Alex appeared on our doorstep this last week with a note asking if he could stay with us. As you can see from the photo he has grown a little during his time away (and has found some cool new sunglasses). Thank you to all our friends and readers for aiding us in the search for Alex. We are very happy to have him back in our lives so he can continue to appear as a guest writer on this blog.

Thanks everyone from Stuart and the Girlfriend.

15 Jan

I looked back down from the window, sighed and reached for my phone. I dialed the number for my beloved girlfriend, put the phone to my ear and waited for her to answer.

“Hello.” She answered happily.

“Hi honey. What’s the train station after ours?” I enquired; trying to sound like nothing was wrong which anyone can tell you simply makes you sound like something is wrong.

“It’s [station name]. Why?” She answered and counter questioned with a sound of child like curiosity, as if she knew my question meant that an amusing story was about to follow… I was not going to disappoint her.

“How far away would you say that is from our station?” I asked, trying to avoid her question like a game of intellectual dodge ball.

“10 minutes. Why?” Answer, counter question, giggly anticipation, direct hit.

“Wellllll…..” I added a few extra l’s to the end of the word, hoping to buy myself some time to think of the least stupid sounding way of explaining my predicament.

“…I might have just missed our station… kind of… just now.” It was the best I could come up with. I clearly should have added more l’s.

“Hehehe. Oh oh oh. How did you manage that? Did you fall asleep?” She asked. I got the impression that she was not disappointed with the level of amusement in my simple tale.

“No. I was writing a blog post and didn’t realize we had arrived at the station until we were leaving it again.”

This was true. When I had looked up from the screen of my laptop and gazed out of the window into the winter night the station on the other side of the glass had looked very familiar. The sound of the train door closing was only matched in volume by the sound of the penny dropping as I realized it was my train station, the one I should have just gotten off at. Half an hour, two trains and a phone conversation later I finally arrived home.

This is what this blog costs me occasionally; time… time and stupidity.