Tag Archives: migration

Alex’s First Day at School, Take Three

For the third time in less than three years, Alex spent his first day in a new school yesterday.

Take One

The first time, he was a five year old in a necktie, starting Primary 1 at Gilmerton Primary School in Edinburgh.

He loved his time at Gilmerton, though we didn’t fit into the primarily working-class community. We also had occasional differences with the school administration, but we kept them away from Alex. He learned to read that year, and discovered a real love of maths. But he knew that he wasn’t going to stay; we were up front with him that we were moving to the Netherlands after that first year.

Take Two

The second time was last autumn, when he started school here in Holland*. We weren’t sure how we were going to handle this, since he came here speaking virtually no Dutch at all. After discussions with the schools in our area, we found ourselves with two choices:

  1. Drop Alex back a year to playschool-type schooling in the local village school, so that he could spend the time working on his language skills. All being well, he could then skip a grade and be back with his contemporaries. The American family† in the village did this with their eldest a year before we arrived, and found it a successful strategy. Unfortunately, we knew that Alex would be bored senseless by a return to playschool after a year of sit-down learning.
  2. Put Alex into a school a little further away that specializes in teaching foreign children Dutch in a year, while continuing their ordinary education. (Kind of the reverse of an international school, basically.) Demographically, the school is very different than our village, drawing much of its student body from people who live in the city.

We chose Option 2, and Alex had a fairly intimidating first day at the Kernschool last autumn. He’s a trouper, though, and plunged in wholeheartedly. He worried a lot at first, unsure if he was learning well enough or fast enough, but found his feet academically after the first term. But he never settled socially, making few friends and struggling with the fairly rough and tumble school culture. He has, however, learned a lot of Dutch, and is about half a year ahead of his age group in maths.

Take Three

The Kernschool’s program is designed to slipstream the children into their local schools, once they have the language skills to cope. This meshes well with the local school’s program of settling new children in with their class groups before the summer vacation. So yesterday, Alex went to the village school for the first time, for a half day of sitting with next year’s classmates. (Wednesdays are short days in Dutch schools).

He was nervous before he went in, worrying about his hair and his appearance. I helped him peer into Fiona’s classroom as we went to his (she had no special Dutch training, but started school normally in January; youth is an indisputable advantage to language learning). When he went into the room and his teacher began to speak Dutch to him, I felt a lurch: I didn’t follow everything she said to him. But he did, having already surpassed me in learning the language.

Apparently, he came out triumphant and ecstatic, declaring the new school “super cool”. He liked his classmates, enjoyed the academic work, and had no trouble talking his teacher’s ear off in Dutch. He can’t wait to start.

And then he woke up at 11:30 at night, desperately missing Scotland. I lay in bed with him for half an hour, talking about homesickness‡ and the delights of the Netherlands.

* Pedantic note: Although Holland is not actually a synonym for the Netherlands, we live in the province of Noord-Holland.

† By this classification, we are the English family in the village. It is really not worth trying to correct this.

‡ A matter close to my mind at the moment, since two of my colleagues went to San Francisco last week. One of them even went across the Bay to meet my parents and see my dad’s printing press. My thoughts were often with them, and the world I had left behind to come to Europe.

First Easter in the Netherlands, an act in Three Parts

  1. Alex is fevered for the second day today, and has added barfing to his repertoire. I know he’ll be better soon, but it’s hard watching him suffer.
  2. My first thoughts on waking this morning and looking out at the snow:

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    Staring out at falling snow
    The church bell’s ringing
    Under thick clouds bringing
    More flakes to fall on us below.

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    Where every egg we dyed so bright
    Will not stay hidden
    But will show, unbidden
    We should just have left them white.

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    And feel that something isn’t right
    The leaves that shrivel with blight
    Put all my dreams of sun to flight.

  3. A dialogue between Martin and me:

    A: So what are we going to do with that bacon in the fridge?
    M: Ummmm…eat it?
    A: That sounds like a good idea.
    M: So should go downstairs and put the bacon on?
    A: (looks him up and down) Do you think it’ll cover enough? I don’t want you to be cold.

M’n Fiets (my bike)

Martin has written about the new car, which forms part of our fleet of transport mechanisms. But Turty is mostly intended for the movement of children (plus sundry light haulage). I’d like to spend a little time talking about my commute vehicle.


I’ve always had blue bikes, for some reason, since the first banana-seat cycle with the coaster brakes. Since the age of 10, I’ve always had multi-speed bikes with rams-horn handlebars; this is my third and best of the line: a Dawes Horizon bottom of the line touring bike (heavier and stronger than a road bike or racing bike). It’s a nervy, responsive thing, though maybe just a little short in the frame for me.

I bought it in Edinburgh, about a year ago, in the hopes that I would be able to ride it during the brief Caledonian summer. I used it about five times before fear of the homicidal Scottish drivers caused me to stop.

It was quirky and bizzare in Scotland, where pseudo moutain bikes are all the rage. It’s even more outré here, where the classic Dutch granny bike rules the roads, with its upright riding position and its near-immortal construction.

Unfortunately, it’s also a target for theft, since it’s what the bike shops here call a “sport bike”. And bike theft is a national phenomenon – all my colleagues have stolen bike stories. I’ve guarded against thieves with a few strategies. First off, those large and ugly silver panniers really do ruin its sleek lines, so it doesn’t look so appealing.


(They also hold a rain jacket, trouser clips and a few other useful items.)

Also, I’ve added a Dutch wheel lock. These things are practically indestructible, and it’s positioned so even cutting the cable ties won’t allow you to get the back wheel off while it’s present.


But most importantly, though I always double lock it (with a cable through the front wheel and frame and through something fixed; the Dutch have bike racks everywhere) or treble-lock it (another wheel lock, loose, through the back spokes and the frame), my main defense is geography. It does not go into high-theft areas such as central Amsterdam. And where possible, I park it among many bikes, because the best place to hide a leaf is in a forest.

Because I ride it in street clothes, I had to change the pedals on the bike. It comes with toe clips, and usually I love toe clips. But I can’t use them with all my shoes, so I went for some non-slip pedals instead. I considered a chain guard as well, but the sprocket is too large for most of the aftermarket guards I have seen. So I still use a trouser clip when I wear trousers. (I also cycle in skirts. There is nothing so pleasant as riding in a long, flowing skirt.)

Naturally, I also have reflectors, lights and a bell. I keep a spare inner tube and a set of tyre tools in the bags, and have already done one roadside swap. This weekend, I’m going to buy tyres with reflective stripes around them – both because they are required by Dutch law, and because they really are safer.

I’ve really enjoyed my commutes by cycle, even in the rain. The endorphins mean that I arrive at my destination glowing a little, no matter how challenging the day. And if I have a little extra time (25 minutes instead of 15), I take the route that runs through the Twiske, the local recreation area.


(It even has its own windmill!)

In short, I love my bike. I love working on it, commuting with it, shopping on it (the panniers can hold a lot of groceries). I might start calling it Vera.


(at home, in Dutch)

It’s taken us so many months to get to this point that sometimes I don’t believe we’re here. But we’re in our rented house in Oostzaan, with our possessions around us (many of them not even in boxes; some of them even in plausible locations).

One thing we still don’t have is internet connectivity. I’m typing this on my laptop to save on a data key and post from work. If you’re trying to email us, be mindful of this. I can read emails during the day, but my replies will be either short or composed offline. Martin has no net access at all, poor thing.

The move was an enormous effort, but what has really been hard is how much of it we have had to do separately. It started when I went off to work in Amsterdam for the month of July. Though that was pleasant in many ways, it was also profoundy disorienting for both Martin and me. We’re used to having one another as backstop in so many ways. When things went wrong last month, each of us felt so deeply isolated.

The week of the actual removal was more of the same. The schedule was as complex as a ballet:

  • I returned home on Thursday 26 July, and was (as usual for the commuter lifestyle) fried on Friday the 27th. Nonetheless, we packed our possessions into boxes all weekend.
  • Monday 30 July the kids went to their childcare places. I packed, and ran errands in town.
  • Tuesday 31 July started with Martin going to the van hire place to get a van for the move. Although he had arranged it well in advance, it took him longer than we had hoped to get it home, because the paperwork was not in order. Then he helped me with two items I couldn’t manage on my own and went to work, taking the kids for their last days at their childcare places. And I started packing boxes into the van. I had it most of the way packed when it was time to take the kids for a final farewell to Mother Goose, the nursery they’ve been at since Alex was 9 months old.
  • The morning of Wednesday 1 August, we put the last items into the van. Then Martin’s family came over and we had a last lunch together. And in the early afternoon, Martin drove the van away with all of our things in it. That night, he took the ferry across from Newcastle to Ijmuiden. In the meantime, I cleaned the house, packed our suitcases, and played that we were camping out with the kids.
  • It was very early on Thursday 2 August when I got the kids up and into a taxi to the airport. We flew to Schiphol, touching down just about when Martin arrived at the new house from his ferry. So by the time the jet set had had lunch, taken the train to Zaandam, and taken a taxi from there to Oostzaan, he’d done the checkout with house owners. The kids explored their new home, and we started unloading boxes from the van. It was a quick turnaround – three hours later, he was gone, and I was alone with the kids in a strange house, in a strange country. Not that they were discontent – I put the pedals back on Fiona’s bike, and she and Alex spent the entire afternoon playing with bike and scooter in the garden.
  • Friday 3 August was setlling in time. I unpacked many, many boxes, put lots of things away. The kids and I went out to the grocery store (on foot), then they persuaded me to go for a bike ride. We rode for about an hour all told (well, Fiona and I rode. Alex rode his scooter). In the meantime, Martin arrived in Newcastle on the ferry, drove north to Edinburgh, met up with his parents, tidied a few more things in the Scotland house, and flew across to Schiphol.
  • Saturday 4 August was much more relaxing, apart from the two hour bike and scooter ride in search of a bike shop (we were going in the wrong direction entirely!

And what details should I tell you about?

About the house, which is beautiful, but huge? The space is good, but I worry that we will become too accustomed to it; barring a lottery win we can’t afford to buy something this size next year.

I could talk about Fiona, who thinks she’s died and gone to heaven. Instead of only riding her beloved bike when (a) the weather is good, and (b) there’s a parent to keep an eye out for her so she can travel the 30 meters to the letterbox and back, she can step out into the sunshine and ride it all the time, back and forth from the front garden to the back. Alex comes out too, and the two of them play long elaborate secret agent games on their vehicles.

Alex is mostly absorbed in Pokemon Diamond version (at which he is very good, though too hard on himself), but he’s been taking time out to ride his scooter, eat Dutch cheese, and watch Sonic the Hedgehog DVDs (it’s comforting when he’s tired).

I could mention the kindness I encountered from Dutch people throughout the difficult day’s travel to Oostzaan, from the friendly immigration officer to the forgiving train conductor (turns out you need a discount card to get a reduced fare for a child…I didn’t know) and the charming and funny taxi driver. The lady at the Albert Heijn meat counter who started giving the kids lunchmeat (which they loved), and the fellow customer who chuckled at Fiona’s earnest explanation of how “lekker” is “yummy” and “heerlijk” is “scrumptious”, and the meat was “lekker heerlijk” – yummy scrumptious.

I could talk about riding on the road with Fiona, who is remarkably brave for someone whose previous riding experience was all helmets and sidewalks. I keep myself between her and the traffic, of course, and Dutch drivers are very careful of cyclists (I also only allow her to ride on very quiet roads). But she is in transports about cycling next to me on the road, which is a layer of maturity and togetherness she can’t get over.

I could describe my trial of my commute on Saturday evening, when I discovered it takes about twenty minutes to bike to the office and about an hour to walk back with a bike with a flat tyre.

I could talk about our attempt at a Sunday drive, which ended at the side of a road with two children throwing up (carsickness and dehydration, in ascending order of age). We abandoned the trip, but went cycling and scootering instead in the afternoon, and found a little beach on the local lake. It was about 20 minutes’ ride from the house, and the kids gleefully threw off clothes and went in (Alex in his shorts, Fiona in her underwear – there were plenty of little girls there in just bikini bottoms). Then we rode home to where Martin was setting up the office space, all but glowing from the fun of it all.

Or I could describe what life is like in a country where I don’t speak the language – how much it is like being deaf, in that I am excluded from verbal communication. Indeed, I don’t always even hear when people speak to me, since I won’t be able to understand it even if I do hear it. Not everything is easy.

For good or ill, we’re in the house, and this is the new home.

Wednesday Nights Are Update Nights

Probably because I keep them free due to the need to pack for the weekend at home, I seem to be falling into a pattern that includes blogging on a Wednesday. So how has it been, this last week?

Things really divide into separate timeframes, based on the two cities I’m living in at the moment.


Returning home on Thursday was exhausting. It was the end of a draining week, and I had been with my colleagues at the drinks before a company dinner (I had to leave afterward to get my flight). It meant I got to meet company founder Thijs Chanowski, known to most of my Dutch contemporaries as the producer of the children’s show De Fabeltjeskrant (British readers: it would be like meeting Oliver Postgate. American readers: think of one of the early founders of The Children’s Television Workshop). He’s a perfectly delightful gentleman, with a gift for telling stories, and I was sorry not to be able to stay for the meal (though I wouldn’t have understood the speeches anyway).


Friday was a very pleasant day with the kids. Both had the charm going full blast, and we did a lot of playing while the washing machine repairman came and replaced a couple of parts. Then we went to the Gilmerton crossroads to pick up Alex’s friend Murray, and I had a funny moment. We were going into the small supermarket on the corner, and I caught myself mustering my Dutch to deal with the transaction before I remembered that here, I speak the language! It was almost a disappointment, like a challenge balked at.

Martin and I did a lot of packing and arranging on the weekend, and even managed a bit of garden work. I’d like to get the back garden weeded and mulched before we go, because otherwise the dock and the dandelions will eat the place alive.

I got the chance to admire the gap in Alex’s teeth, and to have a number of very pleasant conversations with both kids. There was some cuddling, too. And a bit of grunching, toward the end of the weekend, because they are human, and they miss me.


Coming into Schiphol, taking the train to Amsterdam Centraal, and taking the tram to the flat in the Oud West was almost routine. It was certainly easy – Dutch public transport is well thought out and pleasant to use. And the flat I’m borrowing, which seemed strange and foreign when I first moved in, seemed much more homelike.

Monday morning, I started a different commute. I work north of the river Ij, which used to be the northern border of the city, but has now been surrounded on both banks. There are two ferries that go to the appropriate section of the city, one from Centraal station, one from a less well-known area. And the knowledgeable at the office had pointed out that if I could bike, I could take the lesser known ferry, which would be faster and more fun than the tram.

My landlord was willing to lend me his bike (on the condition that I lock it well – Amsterdam is bike theft central!). It’s a classic “omafiets” – a black banger of a bike, with no gears and coaster brakes. These bikes are ubiquitous in the Netherlands, primarily because they are virtually indestructible. They also weigh a ton and are not very fast unless you pedal like a maniac (like the colleague I commute with on occasion.)

So I’ve been commuting by bike. And it’s been wonderful, even on rainy mornings. How can you beat riding along a canal on an omafiets?

The only thing that takes some getting used to about this method of commuting is the other cyclists. They scare me. In the Netherlands, if a car hits a cyclist, no matter what, it’s the driver’s fault. And in Amsterdam, the cyclists know this, and ride accordingly. Red lights are really for other people. It’s unsporting to indicate where you’re going next – just veer over and let the other traffic figure it out after the fact. The only thing a cyclist will get out of the way for is a tram.

But it’s kind of fun, once you accept that the fiets conveys immortality. It also seems to grant exceptions to any consideration of practicality – I have seen a woman cycling in three inch spike heels and a tight miniskirt*. I have seen children in wee baskets on the fronts of their parents’ cycles. I have seen kids with bikes and training wheels being pushed along by an accompanying parent’s hand on their backs. I have seen a window cleaner who used a bike to transport the tools of his trade, including the ladder (carried in one hand, parallel to but longer than the bike). I have seen a man riding slowly while his dog trotted along beside him on a leash. And that was just this morning.

And work has improved as well. I got further into the system this week, and got the chance to do some testing (you know, what they hired me for). I’ve even found an interesting bug or two, though I’m not sure the guys looking at them are as pleased as all that. And I feel more at home around the office, less concerned that I’m going to violate some invisible norm or offend people unwittingly (now I violate visible norms and offend people on purpose. But I am a tester.)

One high point this week was dinner with Dave and Liz, the couple who let me use their flat the first weekend in Amsterdam, and hooked me up with the place I’m in now. Every conversation with them these days is really a set of markers for much longer conversations we want to have over time. It’s really something to look forward to.

And the other high point was that Martin flew over today and we signed the lease for the house. Both of us had been worried that something would fall through…the product of the previous experience is a slight nervous twitch. But the paper is signed and things are committed. With luck, we can move on to the other challenges: getting school and childcare places for the kids, getting the move done, changing a lot of addresses and defaults.

All in all, though, we have been lucky. Nice house, nice jobs, and enough resources to see us through the unexpected. I feel much more optimistic than I did this time last week.

(So you can all stop worrying now.)

* I’ve cycled in a skirt one day this week, but it was long and loose. Dutch bikes tend to enclose the whole chain, so things don’t catch in the gears.

3 Days of New Job

I’m afraid I’ve been busy with social things these past few days, which is why I haven’t blogged about starting my job. Well, it’s one reason, anyway.

It’s very funny how I can move into a city where I know so few people (Dave and Liz, and people I met interviewing at MediaLab, and absolutely no one else), and still find myself dining socially two nights in a row. Monday evening was with Dave and Liz, and was a very pleasant chance to get re-acquainted after years of intermittent contact. It was less of a conversation we had than a series of pointers to future conversations – I don’t think we actually finished discussing any topics at all.

Last night was much, much stranger. You see, when Dave and Liz came home, I moved out of their flat (the cat prefers them and she owns the place, really). I’m now staying at the flat of one of Dave’s friends, Patrice, whom I have yet to meet. And Patrice has friends who needed a place to sleep last night, en route to Schiphol. He’d offered them the flat, and there are beds enough for all, so I threw together something easy for dinner*, and had dinner guests from two degrees of separation. We had a delightful time.

But now that’s all done with, and I get an evening alone. There’s some sorting through things to do, since I fly home tomorrow evening. (Which is a good thing. I miss my bunnies.) But really, I haven’t any excuse to avoid blogging about starting work and how it’s going.

Well apart from one. I don’t know how I’m doing. I can’t tell. The learning curve is very steep – it’s a lot of information to take in at once. But more than that, I’m not a standard new joiner. They can’t just sit me down in front of an IDE† and tell me to go code. I’m the first tester, and the first QA person, and it’s a little unclear what they expect of me. I know what I want to do – some of it – but I don’t know how to do a fair bit of that (in terms of what to type into the keyboard to get things to happen, not what I want to have happen), and whether what I want to do will make the company happy.

I just don’t know. And not knowing, I’m prone to thinking the worst.

On the other hand, I had been sure I’d failed my driving test.


* Chicken breasts wrapped in Serrano ham, in a passatta and basil sauce, served with pasta and salad. Which sounds like an awful lot more work than it was, particularly when the guests then cleaned up the kitchen!

† Interactive Development Environment, the place where coders write their stuff

In Amsterdam

I’m in Amsterdam.

Specifically, I’m sitting in the flat I’m borrowing (and cat-feeding) from a couple of friends for the weekend. (They’re off in Brussels so Dave can turn 40.) It’s a nice place, right in the centre of the city. I’ve made the acquaintance of their very pleasant neighbour, and their cat Magic (black, naturally). Though Magic is shy, I think we’re coming to an understanding. Feeding her helped.

I’ve also made the acquaintance of their wireless LAN, remarkably easily. Whatever one can say about modern technology, I love the ability to take my computer with me and connect to my virtual world in minutes. I spend so much of my mental time in cyberspace, and that is going to make this move dramatically easier, because wherever I go, there it is. It’ll still be there Monday, when I move into the flat I have for the bulk of the month.

I’m going to go out and explore the area this afternoon. I want to get some food for the flat (though all the necessities are here), and generally settle into Amsterdam life. It’s going to be an interesting month, living alone here (weekends aside). I suspect, though that it will be largely a wasted opportunity, from the point of view of cultural exploration…I simply do not feel like walking all over the city and having adventures every evening, particularly when I’m doing something challenging during the days (travel and starting a new job both count in this context).

One thing I do find: coming to Amsterdam one day a week, as I did for about three weeks running, has given me a lot of comfort in making this move. The entire transaction up to this point has felt like business as usual. And I’ve done enough aimless wandering around the centre of Amsterdam itself to feel OK about the next few hours. I suspect that the discomforts will come in the form of little surprises, unexpected moments. But that’s better than being overwhelmed by all the changes at once.

Standing poised…

…at the edge of the high diving board, toes curled just over the edge, arms extended to their fullest length. I can feel the thrum of the board as I flex my calves a little, just scraping the soles of my feet on the rough surface. This is the moment before the moment, before I bounce down, then up, before I soar and slowly draw my hands together above my head, before the long inevitable plunge to the water.

Tomorrow morning I fly out to Amsterdam. Monday I start my new job. Although I will be back in Edinburgh every weekend in July, tomorrow’s trip marks the first stage of moving out of Scotland.

I take a deep breath…

What’s that piece of spaghetti doing on the wall?

Many people who know me know that I don’t drive in the UK, though I have been a US driver for many years. (American licenses can’t transfer to Europe, though European licenses are inter-transferrable as a rule. UK and Dutch ones certainly are.)

A smaller and less fortunate group of people have been around me at the time of one or both of my British driving tests (both, coincidentally, in October, which is too close to winter for sanity), and have seen how badly I react to failing them. If this isn’t you, dear reader, count your blessings. Seriously.

While we were in California at Easter this year, I did all the driving and really enjoyed it. So when we got back M and I agreed that I should do one more test before we left the UK. It would be like throwing spaghetti at the wall – if it sticks, great. If not, the Dutch test is reputed to be easier, even if all the road signs are in Dutch.

Accordingly, I’ve been taking lessons from the very patient Gareth of Euan’s School of Motoring. My competence as a driver has never been in question, but my nerves were pretty iffy after two failures. Along the way, Gareth and I have discussed the move to the Netherlands, various gems of classical scholarship, the comparative values of swear words between Battlestar Galactica and real life, and of course the odd bit of driving lore. (I talk when I’m nervous.)

I didn’t tell anyone about this, apart from two conversations where it was, for specific reasons, relevant. I simply didn’t want any expectations, didn’t want to tell anyone I’d failed again. It would just sink without a ripple, unnoticed.

And I did everything differently that I could – different test centre (Currie instead of Joppa), had the instructor in the car for the test, every change I could manage. Not to break any “jinx”, but to persuade myself to relax.

And still I was still sure I had failed. I was promising myself that entire bag of Hershey’s Kisses that’s stashed under my bed, with an afternoon of junk TV after the inevitable bad news. I saw the examiner marking minor points against me over and over again (you fail if you get 15 or more, even if all of your major behaviours are acceptable). By the time we pulled into the parking bay at the test centre, I was feeling deeply gloomy.

Well, the fact that you’re reading this means that I was wrong to feel glum. I got 11 minor marks (all due to nerves…you try to do 40 minutes’ drive perfectly error free while shaking like a leaf!) and no majors. I passed. I am now a licensed British driver.

I can use my UK license to drive in the Netherlands (or exchange it for a Dutch one, or use it to get a Dutch one – not sure). This will make logistics a lot easier, particularly if we don’t have childcare in Oostzaan. And I don’t have to sit any more tests, or do any driving lessons!


Schrödinger’s House

After the bad luck of losing the place we’d rented for the next year, we had to go back onto the house hunt. Looking for rental properties from abroad is, at best, difficult, and at worst, soul-destroying. We were not looking forward to it at all.

The estate agent who found us the first place, though, was keen not to lose his commission. So he scrambled around and identified another place that might suit. Maybe. It was more expensive, though he managed to get us a break on the price. But it looked suitable, so we went out to see it (we’d been planning to visit schools on Monday, so we were going to be in the Netherlands anyway.)

The one thing that the estate agent hadn’t explicitly confirmed to us was the rental time. I had asked him to look for a house that was available for a year. He thought (or says he thought) that I meant a maximum of one year. We spoke to him about 15 minutes before the viewing, and he said that the place was only available for eight months.

Our hearts sank.

We went to the viewing anyway. It’s a very pleasant, large place, owned by a nice couple, with four kids (one, a 7 month old baby girl, was there the whole time and flirted outrageously with us). They’re going to the Netherlands Antilles for a while. We talked it over, and they said they would consider whether they could extend their trip from eight months to a year. If they could, we said, we’d take the house.

They said they had to think it over.

We left, feeling deflated. We reckoned we had, at best, a 50% chance to get the place.

So we went to open a bank account for me, which was a whole ‘nother round of trouble. (If ABN Amro treats all its potential customers like they treated me, I can see why they’re a takeover target. ING, though not able to actually give me an appointment, had a motivated and intelligent man who helped me get the paperwork I needed to physically sign. All praise (and all my business) to them.)

And I got a Dutch mobile phone. It’s a prepay phone, bottom of the line, but it’s a phone I can use to make & receive calls without paying a fortune to my British provider. I’ll dual-run the phones for a while, because I’m going to need phone capability in both cultures.

We returned home, trying to turn the few success in the day into cause for some cheer. Not easy

But this morning, I got a phone call from our estate agent. The owners of the house are willing to rent it out for 12 months, less 1 week. 51 weeks is good enough.

So, once again, we have a house. It’s in Oostzaan, close enough to my job that I may cycle on good days; the bus will take me close enough to walk the rest of the time. The school is about 4 minutes’ slow walk away, and the local nursery is another two or three minutes beyond that (though getting places may be a problem).

Oostzaan, as any of my Dutch readers may already know, is notable for voting overwhelmingly either socialist or communist in national elections, and for being the founding place of Albert Heijn, the Dutch grocery chain. Having worked on the legal affairs of a supermarket, and dealt with the economics around staff pay, I find these two facts plausible.