“Patrick! That was Patrick!” I shouted enthusiastically to my group of friends as I franticly pointed towards the man who had just walked into the very same cafe which we were sitting outside of.
I expected them to all share my excitement but instead I was met with blank looks of confusion. Normally I would not get so excited by a guy called Patrick walking into a cafe but I recognised him from the Dutch telly.
“You know! The mole from the last season of Wie is De Mol?” I continued expecting that this would jog their memories. It didn’t.
“What are you talking about?” One of them asked.
I guess I should have expected it. I was sitting with a group of mixed expats after all and it was only thanks to a Dutch wife and a former flatmate that I even knew about the shows existence. I forgave them their ignorance. However, there was one Dutchman in our group. He had no excuse.
Wanting to explain my excitement I happily launched into an overly enthusiastic explanation of how the show worked…
“It’s this game show were a group of celebrities work together…”
… right at the moment that Patrick (Mole 2011) walked back out of the bar…
“…to complete challenges for money…”
… and moved towards a table across from us…
“…and someone in the group…”
…while being able to hear everything I was over enthusiastically shouting…
“…is secretly… trying to… subvert their attempts.”
… and I trailed off quietly and shyly having realized this.
I don’t know why I thought using fancy words like ‘subvert’ instead of ‘sabotage’ or ‘mole’ might suddenly conceal the fact that I was talking rather loudly about him but it clearly did not pay off because as he took his seat and I fumbled my way through the end of the sentence he smirked to himself.
This was not helped any farther by one of my friends, having noticed my rather obvious embarrassment and enjoying it, suddenly shouting very loudly, “Tell us more about this show Stuart.”
I went very quiet and spent the rest of the evening trying not to stare at Patrick like a stalker collecting celebrity kidneys while he had dinner.
This brings the grand total of ‘Wie Is De Mol’ celebrities contestants I have seen in real life up to four (Patrick Stoof, Pepijn Gunneweg, Jon van Eerd and Froukje Jansen). I keep on seeing them everywhere I go. However, this is possibly because they are the only Dutch celebrities I know.
“On the bright side, at least this means I am finally fully integrated.” I said cheerfully.
My wife did not seem to share my enthusiasm.
We were standing in front of an empty bike rack. However, it was not supposed to be empty. It was supposed to contain a bike. My bike. But it did not.
We were house sitting for friends in Amsterdam while they were on holiday and it was the bike rack outside their house which I had been using during our stay.
The reason I was so bizarrely happy about having my bike stolen was not because I didn’t care. I did care. But I knew that no expat could call themselves fully integrated in to Dutch society until they had had their first bike stolen, no matter what size of clogs they wore or how much stampot they eat. Having a bike stolen in Holland is all part of the Dutch experience. It’s a rite of passage. I was finally fully Dutch (apart from being able to speak the language and all that stuff)!
“Are you sure you cycled back here last night?” My wife asked.
It seemed like a reasonable question. I’m not saying I normally forget these kind of things but the night before had involved quite a lot of alcohol and as a result I did not actually remember leaving the bar and arriving back at our temporary home. However, I took the fact that I woke up in bed the next morning and not on a pool table as a good indication that I had.
“Yes. I think so. I mean I have a vague memory of cycling back… Yes. I definitely. I definitely remember falling off my bike.” I said with a smile.
“Ouch. Are you sure?”
“Yes and that explains this bruise.” I said far more excited about a bruise then any man should ever get about a bruise.
“Well are you sure you locked it up here?”
“Yes.” I said unconfidently.
I sort of remembered ‘trying’ to lock my bike to a bike rack. In fact, I remembered trying to lock my bike for some time. I remembered it being quite confusing and troublesome. I remembered…
“What is it?” My wife asked.
“I think I might have left my bike unlocked.” I confessed.
“Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know. I was drunk. The lock confused me. I could not remember how locks worked. I was getting cold… At least I think that’s what happened.”
There was no way for me to be sure. I did not know if I was remembering a drunk memory or if it was my imagination simply filling in the gap of what it thought might have happened (although when my imagination is involved there are usually more robots). Either way I had to accept the fact that my bike was gone. Lost forever. Suddenly I felt a lot less alright about it. It did not matter that I was finally integrated into Dutch culture and society. My bike was gone. I started to feel quite upset. In fact I started to go through some kind of bike grieving process; Cheeriness, Depression, Anger, Denial…
Two days passed. We were walking back to our temporary home again from a day out, taking a different route than we had the previous days. I was still grieving the loss of my bike. I’d had it for ten years. We had so many memories together like the first time I took it out for a spin and suddenly realized it had no hand brakes. I’d never experienced a back peddle brake until then and I’d almost crashed trying to stop myself. And so many crashes into tourists that were not looking. So many good memories. How could I ever replace my bright red bike? I couldn’t. Sure, I could buy another bike but it would never be the same. I lifted my head, sighed and then something caught my eye. Something across the street. It couldn’t be!
I ran across the street, leaving my confused wife behind. I had to get closer to be certain. Could it be? I covered the ground quickly, getting closer and closer until I was there, looking at it. It seemed imposable but there it was, right in front of me. I cheered and started pointing enthusiastically to it to my confused wife. I had found my bike.
In my drunkenness I must have cycled to the wrong street and locked my bike up two streets away from where we were staying. I could still operate a lock while drunk after all. It was just my sense of navigation that was rubbish. The rediscovery of my bike did raise another question as well. If I had parked it in the wrong street how on earth had I found the right house? How many wrong doors had I knocked on before finding the right one and was let in by my wife?
I didn’t care. I had my bike back.
During my celebration I suddenly noticed that I had locked it through the wheel of the bike next to it so I quickly unlocked it and left with my wife before an angry Dutch man who had been unable to use his bike for the last two days suddenly showed up.
As I walked home with my wife on one side and my bike on the other I smiled. Everything was right with the world again. I was reunited with my bike. I did not have to find a replacement. My bike had not been stolen. My bike was…
I suddenly stopped and the smile fell from my face as I realized something.
“On the down side,” I told my wife, “this means I am not fully integrated at all.”
Today our young guest writer Alex de Leeuw is very excited to tell us all about his visit to The Efteling with myself, my wife and my parents who were over visiting from England.
Vandaag was ik heel erg blij! We zijn naar de Efteling geweest, mijn favoriete pretpark in Nederland, misschien wel van de hele wereld.
Today I was so happy. We went to the Efteling, my best and favourite theme park in the whole of Holland, maybe the whole world.
Er waren heel veel leuke atracties, zoals Fata Morgana.
There were lots of fun rides like Fata Morgana.
En hele enge atracties zoals Villa Volta.
“Ga daar niet in, het spookt!”
And scary rides like Villa Volta.
“Don’t go in there. It’s haunted.”
Mijn favoriete atracties zijn Carnival Festival…
My favourite rides are Carnival Festival…
…and Dream Flight.
In het sprookjesbos kun je grote paddestoelen tegenkomen…
In the fairy tale forest you can find really big mushroom…
…en slapende reuzen.
“Ssshhhh. Maak geen geluid.”
…and sleeping giants.
“Ssshhhh. Don’t make a sound.”
Ik was te klein voor een paar grote achtbanen.
I was too small to go on some of the bigger roller coasters.
Dus ik heb gewacht met een zakje chips.
So I waited with a bag of crisps.
En gekeken naar Stuart in de achtbaan. Hij werd heel erg nat. Ik ben blij dat ik er niet in ben gegaan.
And watched Stuart go on the roller coaster. He got soaked. I’m glad I did not go on it.
To fully understand this story and the length of the train delay it chronicles it is important to know that the Fyra train travels between Rotterdam and Amsterdam via Schiphol every day, twice an hour. It is vitally important to know that it does this journey just in forty minutes which is twenty minutes faster than regular trains which cover the same distance in just over an hour. It is because of this that the Fyra train cost extra compared to regular, slower trains. It is also important to know that about the only fact that they got right was that it costs extra.
We’d already stopped moving shortly after leaving Schiphol and had been sitting in the middle of nowhere for the past ten minutes before there had been an announcement informing us that we were experiencing a small delay (which most of us had worked out by then).
A short while later there was another announcement, upgrading our short delay to an unknown delay (completely skipping medium and long delay). There was a slightly eery synchronised groan from all of the passengers upon hearing this announcement. I did not blame them. I preferred the short delay too. A short delay sounds nice. It’s kind of like, “There is a delay but don’t worry. It’s only a short one.” It’s the kind of delay you laugh jovially about afterwards over cocktails.
But an unknown delay is unknown. It’s more like, “We do not know how long this delay will last. It may last forever or it might not. We do not even know how many of you will survive it.”
I phoned my wife to let her know that I would not be home for dinner and continued my attempts to distract myself with my laptop.
An hour passed and tensions were already starting to raise. The offer of free tea and coffee had done nothing to calm the nerves of my fellow passengers. Perhaps they feared, as I did, what would happen once the supplies of hot beverages run out after the panic buying started. I hoped that there were not many other English people on the train because an English person without tea is not a pretty sight. I tried to put it out of my mind and tell myself that we would start moving again soon.
But a second hour passed and there was still no rescue in sight. Small arguments had started to break out between passengers and staff. The smokers had it the worst. They were starting to go through withdrawal. Eventually the train conductor was forced to give into pressure and opened one of the doors for them before he had a nicotine patch fuelled riot on his hands. He pleaded that they stay on board, huddled around the open door and under no circumstances step out on to the tracks in case they got hit by a passing train. I imagine that some of them tried to make a break for it anyway.
A third hour passed and disaster struck. My laptop battery died. I considered making a break for it with the smokers. With my only form of entertainment gone I was forced to face the full reality of our situation. It was getting dark outside and I had not eaten. I was starting to consider searching for gum under the train seats. I wondered if I would ever see home again.
A fourth hour passed and playing eye-spy with myself was starting to get really boring. It was night time. Other trains continued to pass but we remained unmoving. I was starting to forget what my wife looked like. All hope seemed lost. What if the train never moved again? What if we were forced to stay on the train forever? What if we died on the train? What if…
I jumped up and was about to scream when the whole train suddenly shook and lurched. I froze, unsure of what was happening. A second later there was a huge cheer. People started to clap and high five each other. Could it be? We were saved! Yes we were!
The engine that was going to get us moving again had finally arrived and was being fitted onto the train. A short while later (the good kind of short) and we were being towed… back the way we came. I did not complain. I was happy to be moving again. I sat back down in my seat.
When we stepped off the train at Schiphol it was with a feeling of triumph. We had survived the ordeal. We had faced disaster and come out of it as survivors. I felt closer to my fellow passengers. I wanted to hug one of them and shout, “We’re alive,” while bursting into happy tears of joy but the train conductor I had approached with my arms wide open looked very stern so I decided against this course of action.
Instead I boarded another train home and prayed it did not break down.
My original train journey started at 6:26pm. I finally stepped through the front door of my home at 12:15am the next day. Forty minutes my arse.
Today I did the manly-est thing ever known!
No one has ever come close to being as manly as I have upon this day in the entire history of world. Early cave men who sat around their newly discovered ‘fire’ while eating raw meat from the bones of their prey used to tell each other stories about the day they might be even half as manly as this. Throughout the whole of history great men have tried to make their name known through great deeds to reach this level of manly-ness. However, all of their amazing achievements pale in comparison to the epic story I am about to tell you. It is a story that will be told for years to come. It is a story that men will tell other men down pub before they look bitterly into their pint glasses and realize how empty their lives are. It is the kind of story that will make women swoon, men cry and inspire the children of tomorrow for generations to come. There will be statues made, songs sung and films filmed. It is a story that will be remembered forever!
Today I returned a faulty item to the DIY store and put some shelves up for my wife!