Voorschoten, The Netherlands

December 12, 2002

Well, we didn’t tell you last year that our new address was temporary, but it was. See above for our umpteenth new address. We are happy to tell you that we are not planning to move again for a looooong time.

Apart from moving house we have had a busy year, mostly preparing the new apartment for moving in, but more of that later.

In February we had a week in Austria for cross-country skiing. There wasn’t much snow and the first two days we spent walking rather than skiing. A snowfall ensured that we got some skiing in, but our thoughts are turning to snowier parts for our next skiing holiday. At this point we would like to make a heartfelt plea(se): if you haven’t bought energy-saving light bulbs yet, please do so now; if you can possibly travel by train or by bike instead of with the car or plane please do; if you can improve the insulation in your house - please, do it. Why? Well: 1. you save money 2: you help reduce global warming 3: we might get better snow next year 4: if the Netherlands flood you’ll have to handle yet another change of address from us - and you definitely don’t want that hassle again.

In March we were in Scotland to celebrate the Golden Wedding anniversary of Dawn’s parents. 50 years is some achievement, is it not? The family were told in no uncertain terms that presents were not required. Or in the words of Dawn’s mum - who seemed to have a bad cough at the time : “Don’t KHYDRO! buy us any presents KHYDRO! We’re not wanting KHYDRO! anything”. So I am sure the gift from the family, of a long weekend in the Dunblane Hydro came as a pleasant surprise. No, seriously. ”How have you put up with us so long, mum? We never listen to a thing you say!” Mum was suffering from Polymyalgia Rheumatica at the time which put a bit of a damper on things but you’ll be glad to know that she responded really well to treatment and is back to her usual self.

The number of public holidays in the Netherlands is the least in Europe and they are all concentrated in the period between Christmas and May, but at least this year several were are the beginning of a week. We made use of two long weekends to go on cycle camping trips. For the first we went to the eastern part of the country near to the German border. Baldur swore that he had heard on a German TV channel that there were flamingos living wild in a nature reserve there. Yeah, this sounds pretty unlikely and to be frank Dawn was highly sceptical of Baldur’s level of comprehension of spoken German, nonetheless, flamingos there were! An island in the middle of a boggy area called the Zwillbrocker Venn where escaped flamingos have set up a breeding colony. The appropriate word here, Dawn, is Entschuldigung”.

The second weekend we were more central, south east of Utrecht on the edge of the so-called Heuvelrug (loosely translated, the “Hillridge” which is always referred to as the Utrechtse Heuvelrug to distinguish it from... mmm... let me think - there must be another one... mmm... er... ). After a weekend of cycling in great countryside, Baldur decided that it would be a waste of time to go back to Utrecht to catch the train home and that we should just cycle back to Leiderdorp. After all, it was bound to be easy and all downhill anyway! The appropriate word here, Baldur, is “Sorry”.

In the summer, we had a visit from Baldur’s sister Deborah, and almost immediately afterwards Dawn’s parents came for a week. The only other visitors were overnights by friends from the south of the country, Henrieke and Belle. It was just as well, because we didn’t have much room in Leiderdorp, but we always enjoy having visitors.

Summer holiday: the plan was to take the bike-bus to Passau (south-east Germany, on the Austrian border) and cycle back in two weeks to the Netherlands. (Yes the old ‘’downhill all the way’’ theory again - no prizes for guessing whose idea that was.) The route followed the ancient frontier of the Roman Empire.

As some of you may remember, large parts of Germany were washed down river to the sea during the summer, so you’d think it was just a question of going with the flow. And yes, when we reached Passau, much of the old town was on the verge of being washed away - but simply clambering aboard was not an option - because the flow, in this case the Danube, is heading towards the Black Sea.

So began a rather difficult few days of paddling/cycling against the current with frequent “scenic” detours (imagine pushing a tandem with fully laden trailer up a 100m hill through thick forest and you get the idea). The locals were always very helpful when we asked directions we were just somewhat less than adept at following them, (Baldur: “I’m sure he said go left after the flamingo...” Dawn: ”You and your flaming flamingos”). At one lunch stop, just before Regensburg, we watched a squad of soldiers making a hames of laying sandbags along the riverbank. Baldur had to restrain Dawn who, like the Borg Queen in Star Trek, wanted to bring order into chaos.

The first few days we had to stay in hotels, as the campsites were underwater. Eventually - back on dry land in the Altmühltal - everything began to run more smoothly. We visited lots of squidgy Roman ruins and ate lots of crumbly German cakes - or should that be... OK rearrange the adjectives as you see fit. Following the rivers the Altmühl, Tauber, Main and Rhine we managed to fit in some cultural highlights in Rothenburg, Frankfurt, Koblenz and Cologne. The cycling was never particularly strenuous and it has to be said that large stretches of the countryside - especially in the Frankische Alpen - seemed to have been designed for the touring cyclist. Gently undulating, frequent cafés (frequently undulating gentle cafés?) - in a word gemütlich”.

The holiday finished off as it had started, with water. This time, though, it was coming out of the sky like stair rods - or rather, like stair rods, bannister, staircase and all. However we’ve cycled through this sort of thing often enough (Scotland, West of Ireland, the Netherlands) to know that you just have to get on with it and not breathe with your mouth open. Camping in these conditions is less than fun, but as luck would have it the deluge coincided with a visit to a Scottish friend and her new baby, so we spent the night in a real bed under a real roof. Wimps! We must be getting soft!

Once we got home we had to start work on our new apartment. We had had our name down for a flat for about a year when Dawn, after some prompting by Baldur, decided to visit the agents. Dawn, it has to be said, is much more convincing in this sort of situation than she gives herself credit for, even in Dutch. Despite desperate flannelling from the agent in the housing office - “Oh there’s still a waiting list it could take another 6 months” - we were offered an apartment within a week of Dawn’s visit. Dawn has that effect on people, which is what Baldur knew all along. He calls it the Macfarlane Enforced Empathy Effect - or “I’m not happy and you won’t be either unless you do something about it”. J

We spent about 2½ months decorating and so on, and finally moved on 19 November. The removals men were the same as the last time (Tilburg to Leiderdorp). When they left, Dawn said (loosely translated) “Until the next time (Tot ziens)... No. No! Nothing personal, but never again!” Well, they laughed, but I am sure they heard the utter conviction in her voice.

Dawn has had a busy year at work, but managed to do two Art classes during the year and has just finished a course in computer photo editing. One evening in October she met up with an Irish friend, Mary, in Amsterdam, when she was over for a course. And in early December, spent a long weekend in Scotland. She is looking forward to the end of January when her current project finishes, and then she will have the chance to use up her accumulated holidays (3 weeks).

Baldur has now a permanent contract with Medis and has decided to work one day less per week. He has had a fairly stressful year having changed jobs for the umpteenth time and is planning to use the spare time to do something totally unrelated to work. There is nothing definite yet but hopefully this with involve something with the local Fietsersbond group in Leiden (that’s the Dutch cyclists organisation by the way). Meanwhile, the free time is taken up with finishing off all the odd-jobs in the flat, but hopefully in the new year things will begin to shape up.

Sorry that the letter and card is so late, between work and doing up our new home, it has been a busy time. No home-made cards this time, we thought the letter would be more appreciated. Don’t worry if you sent a card to our old address, it will get to us eventually.

We hope 2002 was a good year for you, and wish you all the very best for 2003.

Dawn & Baldur