Friday 19th June. Amsterdam.
Staying at M&R’s in the Oude West after a 70 km ride from Den Haag.
The bike in pride of place next to the table where everything happens in their apartment is of course The Bike. We endure the twat at Fietsvakantiewinkel for one last time. Horrid man. We indulge in our pet addictions and obsessions.
We visit the Stump at Wilnis. M&R are very interested to buy The Stump.
The Stump is all that remains of a traditional Dutch windmill. The sails and top long lost. It’s next to water. It has plenty of space for chickens, to make a fire, for veggy and herb patches. It has enough land for a small B&B and campsite business. It is in deplorable condition. The Little Old Lady who lived there died 89 and left behind technology literally based on the steam-age: she heated her house using coal and the coal bunkers remain in the small shed almost lost in the rapidly overgrown garden. Nothing’s been done to the place for at least 30 years and it shows.
It is a beautiful place. And one in which they can realise their lifestyle dreams. It’ll cost them pretty much all the money they have AND all the money they shall have for a good number of years. Once up and running it will enable them to have the lifestyle they richly deserve and aspire to.
Sunday 21st June sees me in The Man With The Plan’s attic doing final packing.
All the panniers, what few remaining clothes I wish to take, and the spare parts for the bike are in the Ziflex’s large black bag. At least 20 kgs.
Monday 22nd June sees me wandering around wondering what to do. For the last 8 weeks I’ve either been driving down from the North, driving up and down to and from the North, finding and buying all the crap I need for the trip, dealing with banks and real estate agencies and other bureaucratic institutions, catching up with friends as best I could given my obsession with the bike and stuff.
And now, one day to go, it seems that’s it! Am not sure what to do with myself.
I mope around, finally try to write some of this blog, and otherwise occupy myself.
Lunch at the Casa di Bell off Fahrenheitstraat. My last lunch. I’ve had more lunches here than anywhere else.
I am FULLY loaded. And most of my stuff has already been sent to Austrailia!
Dutch summer weather in all its glory today … sun and warm, windy, steady light rain, heavy rain, hail … all within half an hour! Not hard to conclude that summer has been cancelled this year.
All soon to be replaced by Australia, where everything I’ve been used to for 20-odd years gets turned upside down. Literally. It’s not called the Antipodes for nothing.
The tattoo did not go ahead. As Tony of Blue Hawaii said somewhat philosophically: “It’s not time for you to get a tattoo yet”. Guess he’s right. My Earth Mother Queen gently engineering circumstances for it not to happen. At least not yet. Perhaps I find someone in Oz. Perhaps I return to the Blue Hawaii and the Queen of Rings. Tony and Sann were funny engaging artists who both wanted to turn my somewhat unorthodox concept – they called it “the weird one” – into a respectable tattoo and I truly believe they would have done so. Only Tony’s agenda told him the appointment was today, whereas it was meant to be yesterday.
Am I nervous? Yes I am nervous.
Tomorrow E V E R Y T I N G changes. And for a long time.
Not sure what makes me most nervous: the trip, re-entering the world of my parents and family in Australia, or leaving my well established comfort zone.
Personally I think the latter: it’s a comfort zone thing. I have become totally accustomed to the overcrowded history and nation-state obsessed intensity of the European cultural landscape. I am a foreigner yet integrated into this landscape. I speak various languages but am not fluent enough in any to be mistaken for a First Born. Yet when I travel to the UK my accent, manners and being highlight that I am still a foreigner although in truth I am a First Born.
I like this position. It enables me to enjoy the best parts of each of the multitude of cultures and sub-cultures I experience without having to own those parts I question or don’t like.
I am a contemporary here. I understand if not condone the political, economic and social aspects of Europe from a Federal through State to Local level. More or less.
In Australia all of this changes.
I remain identifiable as a foreigner when in Australia, particularly since my accent clearly defines me as coming from somewhere else, I know little about its cultural context. I am not a contemporary. I am a stranger in the land where I grew up.
And for a year I shall be as deeply immersed in Australia’s character as I have been for more than two and a half decades.
Jaap, The Man With The Plan and I enjoy one final dinner at the Old Jazz, their local watering hole.
I go to bed early.
23rd June, Den Haag.
I get up early. Hours early. It gives me time to have a relaxing shower, a good number of coffees and make my way to the house of The Man With The Plan where he and I disassemble the Ziflex (bike trailer), haul the massive Ziflex bag down from the attic and load it, the Ziflex and the bike in the back of his Prius and make our way to Schiphol.
A quick review of the current state of traffic jams suggest we’ll avoid nasty long traffic jams and we head off.
23rd June, Schiphol.
Terminal 2’s information booth sends me to the odd sized baggage counter who sends me to the cashier to pay for a box for the bike.
“They are sold out” said the cashier when I asked about a bike box.
Fuck! thinks I. In all my risk-based planning I had not entertained the idea that Schiphol airport would sell out of bike boxes! Now what?
“Don’t worry” says the cashier as she bemusedly follows the panic rapidly racing across my face “go downstairs to Dienstverlening and you can get a box there”
Mike joins The Man With The Plan and I as we attempt to master putting the box together and getting the bike in the box. No problem, only the axle of the front wheel protrudes a centimetre or so through the box’s wall.
Back in Departures we make our way to the Malaysia Airlines’ check-in counter.
Shortly after buying my ticket months ago Malaysia Airlines suggested I bid for an upgrade to Business Class. So I put in an offer. Double my economy class ticket, half the cost of a full Business Class. Three days ago I was informed my bid was successful.
Economy class are allowed 30kgs of baggage. Business 40.
I turn up with 54 kg, and expect a decent excess baggage charge.
The pleasant Check-in steward doesn’t blink an eye and 10 minutes later we deposit the bike at the Odd Sized Baggage counter and head out for a last smoke.
Hugs and fond farewells later, The Man With The Plan heads off to his Prius and Mike chugs out on his Triumph. I head back into departures and to the Business lounge for something to eat, having skipped breakfast.
I love my parents: my Dad Baz and his charming if slightly kooky wife Roz. I know them well. I know I have to call to make sure they know a) I’m coming, b) I’m arriving tomorrow, c) what time I’m arriving, and, finally, d) to pick me up in the Big Car.
They did know I am coming. They know I am arriving tomorrow. They got completely the wrong time mixing up my departure time from Kuala Lumpur for my arrival time in Perth. They will pick me up in the Big Car.
That sorted I reclined in my seat and took a good swig of the Bloody Mary and try to relax for a moment.
Ten minutes later I leave the Lounge and head for the gate, get on the B777 and take my seat.
It’s been an intense stressy time. The bike, find the right equipment and stuff in shops who bitch against the assault of online shoppers yet who have a fraction of the goods available online in their shops. Kinda forces people to look for what they want in the only place they are sure to find it: online. I went to dozens of bike shops. They all sold exactly the same stuff. Yet online there are vast amounts more options.
Then there was the story of The Man With The Plan and his wife. Uber-couple universally recognized as successful. Yet somehow somewhat highly strung, their lives vulnerable to even small changes and shocks to the system. Clear was it that I came at the wrong time with the wrong purpose in mind hoping to stay for a duration too long.
Then there was the Road Trip back North, which erased two weeks of my planning and preparation time.
Back in the Netherlands I had a week to pick the bike, name It/He/She, test ride with the Ziflex not helped to find it deformed, pick-up/find what else remained, then transport it all to the airport, get it suitably packed, check-in.
And then … depart.
23rd June, rapidly approaching Germany 8360m above the ground and still climbing
All is over now. Until the next challenges.
Once in Oz I have the thrill and pleasure of final preparation and all the thrills and spill of the Smith Family Saga.
Max, heading east.