21 Aug

Back Pain

I think I made the Chiropractor Gods angry with my last post. Two days after sharing the story (of the bizarre chiropractor ad) I woke up from a normal night’s sleep and discovered that I could not move. Technically I could move if I chose to, but since doing so caused me incredible back pain I tried not to. When I did eventually attempt to stand (very slowly) I discovered that I could not stand up straight. I was permanently bent slightly forward, as if my back had decided that that was far enough and walking up right was over rated.

By day two I was using a walking stick to get around and by day three I was taking so many painkillers that there was a danger of my family-in-law holding a sudden intervention. During dinner that evening I was slurring my words and even drooling ever so slightly.

“Maybe you should just call the chiropractor,” my wife suggested as I limped around the house on day four. It was the closest thing I was going to get to an actual intervention. “Just use my phone. I have the number in there.”

I retrieved her phone as she drove and scrolled through the contact list until I saw the name Chiropractor. After a short conversation with the receptionist I had an appointment set for 8am two days later. I didn’t really think about how early in the morning the appointment was until I put the phone down. I’d only been thinking about getting my back sorted out as soon as possible. Unfortunately for my wife she was also going to have to get up early in the morning to drive me there since I was in no condition to drive myself.

When the morning of the appointment arrived we woke up at 6:30am, got ready and jumped in the car (metaphorically speaking, for me it was more of a slow easing in to the car with lots of old man sounds). Rather than waiting with me in the waiting room my wife was planning to drop me off at the chiropractor then drive to the train station to get a cup of tea and return a short while later to pick me up again. It seemed like a good idea. We arrived, I got out the car (slowly) and waved good bye to her as she drove off. I turned around and slowly limped into the building and towards the reception desk…

… and then I limped back to the car and my waiting wife half an hour later without having actually seen the chiropractor.

“What do you mean you didn’t see the chiropractor?” my wife asked, looking puzzled after I informed her of this.

“They had no record of my appointment,” I replied while slowly lowering myself into the passenger seat, “Owww… Whoever I spoke to yesterday forgot to write it down. The chiropractor wasn’t even in yet because he didn’t think he had any early appointments. They phoned him at home to try and sort out the mix up.”

“So do you have to come back another day instead now?” She asked.

“No. We have to come back later today. I got an appointment for this afternoon.” I replied.

“But what have you been doing for the last half hour?” It was a valid question, especially since she’d been watching the front of the building, expecting me to come out of it but I had not. I’d just approached the car from behind, walking up the street.

“Wellllllll…..” I started, realizing there was no good way of explaining where I’d been.

Once I’d learned that my appointment was not going to happen it felt silly to simply stand outside the building, waiting for her to return from her tea break. I didn’t have my phone with me so I couldn’t simply call her. So instead of simply feeling like an idiot I’d decided to be an actual idiot and started walking.

“… I walked to the train station. I thought I might still catch you there,” I finished and quickly put on my seatbelt, hoping that this would somehow distract her from what I had just said. It didn’t.

“You walked to the train station?!” She exclaimed after pausing briefly to laugh. I guess it seemed like a reasonable reaction considering the train station was over a fifteen minutes walk away and I had a bad back. “What made you think I would still be there?”

“I thought you’d still be drinking your tea,” I said with the conviction of someone who didn’t know they had already lost the conversation.

“But I drove straight back here after I got it. You weren’t going to be getting off a train were you! Why would I wait outside the train station?”

“To drink your tea. It’s not unreasonable to think that you might.”

“Yes it is,” she laughed, “Of course I was going to drive straight back here. This is where I was going to meet you… I don’t get it. Where you hoping to out run the car?”

“Of course not. I was keeping an eye out for the car on my way there in case you already drove back.” There had been a flaw in that plan anyway that I’d only realized after leaving the train station again. I’d been looking for our car which is silver but we’d borrowed her Dad’s car which is dark grey. I’d been looking for the wrong car. It didn’t matter anyway. It turned out she had driven back using a different route than my wild guess. “Anyway, I thought you might still be there.”

She simply stared at me with a puzzled look on her face before bursting out laughing and starting the car. During the drive back she could not help glancing at me every now and then, laughing. The word ‘men’ was muttered a few times.

When we got home again (and my wife had recounted the whole story to her mother and father) I discovered that I had a voice mail on my phone from the Chiropractor. When I listened to it the mystery deepened.

Hello. This is the chiropractor,” a polite female voice informed me in Dutch, “You had an appointment at eight o’clock this morning that you missed. Could you please phone me back on this number when possible?

“What the hell!” I thought, “I was there.”

How could they be so un-organised that they forget to note down my appointment and then call me back an hour later, accusing me of missing it? Our old chiropractor would never have made such a mistake. I’d woken up early in the morning for nothing. All of this could have been avoided if…

“Oh no!” A horrible thought had suddenly occurred to me. I quickly checked my wife’s contact list and redialled the number.

Hello,” replied the polite female voice from the message.

Hello. My name is Stuart. I think I might have had an appointment with you this morning which I missed,” I replied in my best Dutch (which is not ‘best’ by most other people’s standards).

That is correct. It was at 8:00 this morning,” she replied.

This is going to sound like a strange question,” I began, “but is this the chiropractor in Rotterdam?

It is,” said the voice on the other end of the line, slightly puzzled by this line of questioning.

It’s important to remember at this point in the story that we had recently moved.

Then I know what has happened. I’m really sorry. It’s my fault,” by which I meant it was my wife’s fault, “We’ve moved and I thought I was calling our new chiropractor here in Friesland when I made the appointment. That explains why they had no record of my appointment when I went there this morning.

The voice on the other end of the phone simply giggled, “That’s ok. These things happen.”

We said our goodbyes and I hung up. Afterwards I informed my wife that she had forgotten to update her contact list and had given me the wrong number, to which she still continues to reply with, “You should have checked the number before calling. Didn’t you notice the area code?”

To which I have continued to reply, “I didn’t look at it. I trusted you! You said you had the number.”

I have yet to win the argument.

Since then the chiropractor (the one in Friesland) has sorted out my back and I am now pain free. He even apologised for the mix up to which I had to explain it was actually my fault and tell him the whole story.

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 a bit problematic 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 difficult. 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 sentence.

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 neighbours 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 mickey 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.

5 Jun

Language Mistakes

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.”

15 Apr

Lost Keys

Five months ago I lost my car keys. In my attempts to find them I searched every corner of our apartment. I looked through every draw, checked every coat pocket, emptied every bag but found nothing.

Luckily my wife still had her car keys so started ‘borrowing’ them whenever I needed to go somewhere. She would use these opportunities to impress upon me the importance of finding my own car keys… So I would start my search again.

I interrogated our two year old daughter for information. When that failed I resorted to giving her another set of keys in the hopes that she would lead me to her secret hiding place and my missing car keys. Alas, she was innocent.

Then I became convinced that my car keys were in England. It wasn’t a complete stretch of the imagination. They had gone missing around the time we had visited my parents in London. In fact, my wife had driven us back to the boat with her own car keys. I’d not seen mine since the trip.

I asked my parents to search their home on four separate occasions over the months that followed. I asked them to check under the furniture. I asked them to search the street where we’d parked our car. I asked them to search their entire house from to bottom. Each time they found nothing and asked me to stop harassing them.

But I was convinced that my car keys had to be at my parents’ house or (at the very least) somewhere in England. Maybe I would just have to have a look for myself during our next visit.

More time passed. Life suddenly became very busy so we did not get a chance to return to England and start my search operation. I slowly started to realize that my car keys were probably lost forever and that I might have to get some new ones at some point. However, since I was not quite ready to admit that yet I continued using my wife’s car keys instead.

Five months had passed since my search began.

Then one day I was on my way out somewhere as my wife came in from cleaning the car. I asked to borrow her car keys again as I had done many times before and she responded by dangling a set of keys in front of my face. But when I tried to take them she refused to hand them over. I was puzzled. Was she trying to make a point about finding my own car keys? Did she want a kiss first (which I tried to do but was met with a head shake)? Why did she keep waving the keys and giving me that funny look?

It took me almost a minute to realize what was going on. The car keys she was holding were not hers… They were mine.

She had just found my missing car keys… in the car… under the driver’s seat. I quickly phoned my parents and apologized.

26 Feb

Fake Sun Tan

As a man with ginger hair I have had to accept that I will never be capable of having a proper sun tan. It is scientifically impossible. My light hair and pale sensitive skin means that I get third degree burns even when just thinking about spending five minutes exposed to sun light. Most vampires are capable of achieving a healthier sun tan than I ever will be.

Maybe that is why, during my mid 20s, I decided to do something about it. Something that quickly became an addition to the list of stupid things I did in my mid 20s. I decided to get a fake sun tan.

First I had to figure out how someone went about getting a fake sun tan so, one Saturday afternoon, I walked into the local Body Shop in Haarlem and started asking questions. This resulted in a few strange looks from the people who ran the shop, mostly because I don’t look like the kind of person who would normally walk into a Body Shop and start asking questions about fake sun tan products.

It didn’t help that I had to ask them to explain everything in tiny, step by step detail because I could not read the Dutch instructions of the products they recommended.

I then confused them even farther with my reaction after they informed me that I would need two different kinds of fake sun tan dye; one for my body and one for my face.

“But I can just use one for both right? It’s all just skin.” I asked.

“I would not recommend it.” Replied the shop attendant, looking worried in a way that suggested she ‘really’ would not recommended it.

“It’s ok. I’ll just take the body dye, thanks.” I replied, not picking up on the rather obvious hint at the time.

I returned home, happy that I would soon have a sexy tan. I entered the bathroom, stripped naked and started applying my fake sun tan body dye… everywhere. Soon I would have an amazing tan… or so I thought.

When I looked in the mirror a short while later I discovered that things had gone horribly wrong. I’d left the dye on for too long, far too long. It had had almost half an hour to soak into my skin. I had turned completely brown. Not a healthy sun tan brown but a ‘I just had an accident with a tin of brown paint’ kind of brown. I looked like an out of season Zwarte Piet.

To make matters even worse it seemed that I had not distributed the dye evenly. My new sun tan was rather more ‘patchy’ than you would expect from the real thing. Between my fingers, for example, the dye had been able to accumulate and had turned the sides of each digit extremely dark in comparison to the rest of my hand. I won’t mention the other bodily crevices where this had happened but there were a few, some easily visible, some more private.

There is a serious problem when it comes to using fake sun tan dye. If you mess it up (as I had done quite spectacularly) you can’t simply remove it. You have to wait it out until it fades away a few weeks later. This meant that I had to return to work on the Monday looking like I had fallen into an entire vat of industrial strength sun tan dye when I had left on the Friday as the palest and whitest guy in the office. Obviously, no one was fooled by my fake sun tan. In hindsight, it probably didn’t help that it was already October.

For the next few weeks everyone was asking if what I had done had been by choice or if I had somehow been forced into it. I had to reply, “neither.”

By the end of November my skin had finally returned to a more normal colour for someone of my complexion (just in time for the real Zwarte Pieten to show up).

I told myself that I would never do anything as stupid ever again as long as I lived… That was until a few months later when someone convinced me that I would look good with blond hair with brown patches. Hair dye also takes a few weeks to wash out.