Tilburg, The Netherlands

10 - 29 November, 2000

It’s that time again! I find it hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since the last letter. By starting it a bit earlier this year, I’m hoping to get it sent out in time for once. Note we are still at the same address, the reason will become clear further on.

What news do I have to share with you this time? We didn’t do so much travelling this year. No skiing trip for once, because Baldur had a problem with his foot and we didn’t want to risk it. However, we made up for the lack of trips with our summer holiday, because we cycled through a number of countries.

We took an overnight bike bus to Annency in the French Alps arriving at 5:30 in the morning. We didn’t stay longer than it took to find an open cafe for the first of many croissants. At 7:00 we headed for St. Jean de Sixte where the Tour de France was due to pass through in the afternoon. It was a tough route for the first day. We did about 600 metres of climb and I was ready to ditch the clothes, tent, trailer and everything else before we got to the top. However, everything comes to an end and we arrived at 10:00 on a lovely sunny morning. We lazed around enjoying the sunshine until the tour caravan passed through the village. The streets suddenly filled with ravening hordes willing to push anyone under a bus in order to get the freebies being thrown from the caravan. Of course, the cyclists themselves passed through very quickly, but we saw the leaders clearly and recognised a few of the Dutch riders. (A few days later, in Mulhouse, we found a cafe where we could watch the end of the tour).

After that bit of excitement, our holiday really began. We crossed into Switzerland on the CGN paddleboat ferry over Lake Geneva. Then back into France to pass through Alsace and Lorraine. The latter was a desert and some days we thought we would never find a shop or cafe (For the uninitiated, Dawn’s definition of a desert is anywhere where you can’t get a cup of tea at frequent intervals - Baldur). We passed through Luxembourg and very briefly through a corner of the Eifel hills district in Germany and then the east cantons of Belgium, also a German speaking area. In fact, from Switzerland until we crossed into the Netherlands, the local language was largely some form or other of German.

Finally we arrived in Maastricht to get a train home after 14 days of cycling and 1 rest day. The whole route was pretty hilly, and the weather, unusually for us, was not very good, we saw some amazing rainstorms. Technical problems - our cycle computer packed it in completely after a torrential downpour. Our rear wheel rim starting splitting which was the cause of us taking a rest day in Basel while the wheel was rebuilt. By the time we arrived back in Maastricht, our front wheel was splitting also and it was held together by tape and Baldur’s willpower.

Earlier in the year we had a trip into Germany. I bought a second three wheeler recumbent bike, so that I could use one bike for the final stage of my commute to work and still have a bike to use at home. We made a weekend trip of collecting the bike and cycled back to Nijmegen in the Netherlands, where it was easier to get the bike onto a train. We followed a ‘Roman’ cycle route along the Lippe and Rhine rivers and it was a lovely weekend.

I mentioned in last year’s letter that I wanted to get a new job. Well, I didn’t start looking seriously until April, but in August I started with Yamanouchi, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, as a data manager (this is the type of work I was doing with Quintiles in Dublin). The company is good to work for and I got a nice raise, but there is one major drawback, the company is in Leiderdorp and it takes me 2¼ hours travelling each way. As I have a year’s contract, Baldur and I are waiting a while before we decide what to do. Options are for me to continue travelling, to move halfway between our respective jobs, or for Baldur to look for a job nearer to mine so we can move back to the Randstad (the heavily populated area between Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht). Meanwhile, I am working 90% which means 36 hours and by working a 7 - 7.5 hour day and getting up a bit earlier each morning (6:00), I get home at much the same time as I used to. It hasn’t been too difficult so far. Late news - I’ve just been offered a permanent position with Yamanouchi.

Baldur mentioned in last year’s letter that he was going to sit his NT2 state exam in Dutch, he did it in March and passed all 4 sections. I am now preparing to sit it in December and hope to do as well as he did. Baldur is no longer formally learning Dutch and is using the time to go running and swimming. He’s doing the 16 km Zevenheuvelenloop (seven hills run) in Nijmegen end of November. (Baldur here - In fact I’m now having fun confusing my colleagues with my own version of their language. By the way, since Dawn started writing this I’ve run the 7-Heuvelenloop - so either I’m a fast runner or she’s a slow writer J).

This year I have had a series of medical problems, first my allergies flared up but there were various other symptoms that could have been due to stress because of the work overload and negative atmosphere at my old job. Eventually, it was diagnosed that I have an underactive thyroid which means taking tablets for the rest of my life. Then it appeared that I am not absorbing vitamin B12 and so must have monthly injections. With all the blood samples and injections, I was beginning to feel like a hedgehog in reverse. Now that these problems have been diagnosed and are being treated, I am beginning to get back to normal again.

Baldur here again - Dawn asked me to add a bit, but I must say I don’t have much to report. I’m still working at Philips Medical Systems, and as she said I’m doing a bit of running again, and I go swimming two or three times a week. I’m sort of thinking about maybe entering for a triathalon next year - just a short one, mind you. Ah well - they do say that life begins at forty!

Wishing you and yours all the very best for the coming year,