Sunday, 29 June 2014

A month from now we will be in Holland

I have found us a place to live from the 1st of August if it goes ahead as planned. It's 100m2 and the target price I was looking for instead of right at the top end of our budget, it makes the whole move more likely to be a success.
I'm applying for work and we are slowly but surely sorting out our house before we go. There's loads still to sell but I'm hopeful that there won't be alot left after Tobe's ebayed and Gumtree'd, boot saled and freecycled. I'm doing a yard sale when I stop childminding, I'm hoping that along with what's already been reserved, the majority will see good use with other parents and childminders.
The boys are excited, so am I, as well as slightly overwhelmed and occasionally terrified, although I try to suppress that in favour of 'hey, I've turned my life upside down several times before and eventually it turns out' I hope that this is a positive move for Toby and this is what he needs to start a fresh, so we can start a fresh together as a family and recreate what makes us happy.
The point of keeping a diary or blog is to write about what's happened and what's happening but my thoughts are always into the future at the moment. I can report that yesterday, I found all the kids art work that was spread out on walls, in old carrier bags, in drawers and on book cases is now all together in a moving box labelled 'boys memories 2006-2014 along with their first shoes, baby grows, hats and a couple of favourite t-shirts they wore as toddlers. Also a few photos, birthday cards etc. I nice little time capsule that when they get married and have kids we can open up and enjoy.
So much stuff we don't need and I want to feel lighter and less weighed down by a house full of stuff I can never seem to get on top of.
Time to get some sleep, another day with toddlers, lovely though they are, I am looking forward to going back to work that doesn't involve rainbow rice and nappies.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A month to go

Back in Ely a week now, the reception back at Stanstead was amazing, the boys made Welcome Home cards, it was tears of joy, the best welcome home I think I've ever had.
I'd come home with two strong possibilities for accommodation
, I ended up turning them both down, partly down to cost but also size. We still have time to find something better and once I allowed the fact that Mum said we could stay at her's when we first arrive to sink in and run it by Toby, that sounds like a better start. We can get registered (I found my BSN nummer on Tuesday!) and I can find a job and start looking for places to live.
Yesterday I was back into the horrible reality that is living in a place that believes the only way to get from A to B is in a Car. I reported a couple of cars that had been parked right on the junction where the kids all cross on the way to school. The policeman said that even though it says in the highway code, you shouldn't park there, it's not a ticket-able offence and when I asked him why he couldn't just ask them to move them, he couldn't really see the other cars! He wasn't interested in all the school kids who couldn't see round the bend. It's so frustrating to even have another month in a place where the car is more important than the people who live here.
I got my CV translated and bigged up by a friend who I've most sensibily paid for her services. She's found some jobs for me to apply for, which I've done, I think they are a little out of my league, but pays to aim high, there's plenty of time to do the temp agencies in August.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sunshine and showers

According to both my phone weather aps all the rain we've had over the past couple of days never happened. At Erik's on the bank holiday monday, we went to Bussloo Strand, a lake with a beach for a bit of a swim and after a lovely swim on a hot and sunny day, followed by a nice cup of coffee, the black clouds descended and everyone, us included calmly walked back to the cars and sat in a traffic jam to leave the park while the wind and rain lashed the cars, the lightening flashed and the rumbles took a reassuring few seconds before we heard them.
The calm before the storm.
The evening before, I caught the train up to Erik's, it went like clockwork in a crystal maze kind of fashion, I eventually found somewhere at the station to lock up my bike that didn't have a sign on it saying "don't lock your bike to this fence or it will be removed" then found a tunnel entrance under the old bus and train station that now resembles a ruin about to be building site strewn with broken concrete and plant machinery. Through the tunnel to the machines that don't let you pay with a foreign card, I found I had pretty much exactly enough change to load up the card to travel to Apeldoorn, and found an earlier train than I'd planned and got straight on a direct train to Apeldoorn. Toby texted me to see if I could skype to say night to the kids and I thought hmmm, some trains have I opened up my laptop, found a wifi called unsurprisingly "wifi op de trien" and we skyped!

Once I got to Erik's we sat out on their balcony until it had been dark for quite a while and then drunk even more rose and chatted on the sofa until the small hours. 
It was a lovely couple of days at Erik's. While I was there, I got a message from the Cambridge Raincoat company saying they are sending my raincoat to Mark's place, it's more than likely that a drout and heatwave will coincide with the arrival of said raincoat. Today both the aps on my phone that are supposed to predict the weather, didn't predict an our or so of persistent rain that fell while Jose, Martine and I shared a couple of cups of tea and coffee under a parasol outside the ledig erf. I've not seen either of them for a very long time as Jose's husband is Scotish so usually when I'm in Holland they are in Scotland. As is always the case with old friends, we chatted away as if it hadn't been 14 years since I left the whole flat Martine and I shared to her, more like a few months. We filled each other in on our lives today, and our new loves and new challenges. Again, how things change and still stay the same.
I visited two apartments today, neither really have potential, certainly not in the same way as the first one has had - one was very central but on the expensive side and only until the beginning of October. I suggested that it may be a way to dip our toes and move with no notice period to return if it didn't work. Toby didn't like the idea of having to move twice so soon, which was fair enough. The other flat was a good size, more central but the place was more expensive and nowhere near as nice as the Lamerislaan. It was really good to have had the opportunity for two more viewings, so not a waste time by any means.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Pinkster Weekend

Something I didn't plan for is that their bank holiday not the same as the UK and they have more bank holidays. I remember Pinkster weekend of course, I went to many a Pink Pop back in the 90's. I've only missed one day to the bank holiday, which is good as this is also my holiday but next week being a four day week does make trying to get anything out of the estate agents that bit harder.
I've not seen any other places that fit the price range - as in just under the thousand euros, I hear rents are going up so that's no surprise. The one place I have looked at being practically perfect is nice of course, but it's always reassuring to look at more places to compare. I don't know at this stage if we'll be given the one in July when it becomes available, that's the other consideration.
I've been going about my holiday with my ears and eyes as open as possible, there's so many differences and similarities between home and the new home, memories, associations and how much things can change but also stay the same.
As I've cycled around the city, the sights, sounds and smells are all coming back to me. What I've always loved about cycling and especially cycling around Utrecht is how you feel so connected to the world. I feel unencumbered but privileged, life is simple but still full of excitement and wonder. The pace is relaxed but never stays still.
I have to hold my focus and keep at least some faith in the idea that this plan could come together, that in de constructing our normal life in one country and creating something the same but better in a new place is somehow possible and that it will be the 'right' thing to do - as much for me as for the boys. One minute my ego is telling me I'm crazy, the next it's an adventure, one worth at least giving it a shot. It may take another decade to settle into any actual pattern where we are able to sustain ourselves and hopefully thrive. It could be quicker, it may not happen at all. We are at the mercy of the economic gods but we also make a lot of our own luck by doing what we can to be in the right place at the right time.
I noticed when I arrived the first time I was back at the junction at the top of the Amstedamsestraatweg - this strange, unfriendly, traffic filled spot that somehow my mind's eye has made the focal point for my moving, I was moved. Why would my mind picture that spot? - each time I imagine Utrecht, it used the image of that awful intersection full of cars and traffic lights, why there? but it doesn't deter my affection for Utrecht or lessen my determination to live there, as if I've picked the worst spot I can imagine, but still I love the place.
I almost cried as I let myself get present to the fact that after nearly a year of visiting that junction in my head each day, I was actually there, waiting for the lights to change, to get across that busy junction before the lights changed again and another procession of cars goes by.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Life in the sky?

I was relieved on Friday to have booked my first viewing.  The first appointment was for a place that was right at the top of our budget, my gut feeling was not to go in at that level, there were plenty of places at that price, also this one stated it was only suitable for a couple and not for kids so I cancelled the viewing. Another agent emailed me and I rang her back, the place we were interested in had gone but another one I had looked at was available for a viewing. While I was looking a few weeks back I noticed that flats in towerblocks were offering more space for less money and although the obvious thing to do is look for a little house, Leon loves tall buildings, so why not for a period between when we move over to when we may or may not decide to buy something, try living in the sky?
I didn't know the area, and it was as far as I knew miles away from the centre and not really what would suit us. Really just out of curiosity, based on the price and size alone, I thought I'd check it out. I'm very glad I did!
I gave myself an hour or so to ride there, and even with stopping several times to get my bearings, I was just over an hour early, it took me about 20mins to get right across the city and rather than being way way out, it was an easy ride. Tuindorp (garden village) is on the outskirts of town, with lots of flats as well as houses, but it's incredibly green - you can guess that when it was built, I'm guessing the 70's and 80's it was designed in the car era, but there was an emphasis on making an urban environment as green as possible. I arrived there to see the three tower blocks, 10 stories each in a row of three, they looked bright and clean. Good start.

I spotted in the distance what might be a play park so with an hour in hand I decided to check out the area. Down past another towerblock, I was suddenly in countryside, with horses and goats, bird song, flowers and endless green. A city farm, with allotments, the like I've never seen before, more like little gardens with edibles, flowers and little sheds - places to go to contemplate and unwind as much as grow some spuds. A surprise doesn't quite cut it!

I took pictures to show the boys how just round the corner from the flats, there's horses and goats...maybe even sheep!

Then I cycled back towards where I had started and then started to look for some shops. 
I looked around and there in front of the flats, just across a road, the familiar Fish Van, you see them at every shopping centre in the country! and as I walked there, past a cafe, I saw not just a supermarket but a shopping centre with chemist, florist, hairdressers, newsagents etc

I walked right though the bright little shopping centre, maybe 50m long or so, out the other side and felt compelled to ring Toby, to share with him how lovely the area was, we chatted about all things moving.
Then I started to worry about the numbering - all the flats are even numbers and I'd written down 65 luckily I suspected correctly that indeed it was number 56 vijf en zestig or zes en vijftig? The entrance was clean and bright, straight to a lift that went up to the 8th floor and three front doors.
The flat I was looking at was already taken, and being gutted and refurbed but the one next door was also coming up next month so this was going to be the same, if not similar, depending on if they decide the place needs to be renovated too.

It was completely bare, not even a boiler or any kitchen, the rooms looked massive of course, but without any scale derived from furniture, the pictures don't tell very much. The view from the living room is spectacular, the kitchen is big enough for a table and chairs and there isn't a bath - probably the main negative point. 

So all in all a pleasant surprise, getting to the park is not just opening the back door, it does mean using the lift but any self respecting young boy isn't going to object to using a lift several times a day!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Hup Holland

After an invigorating and enjoyable aqua aerobics lesson with Mum, we did the weekly shopping, I snapped a picture in the Albert Hein of a football stadium fashioned from football crates, possibly the next wonder of the world. I don't mind the Dutch obsession with football, or with the colour orange, it's one of my favourite colours in any case, it's a lovely colour, bright, honest and warm. When the boys come over, I know of plenty of friends who can nurture any interest in football they might have that might otherwise get buried by Toby and I.
I managed to get Chantal on the phone Wednesday late, I'm really glad I kept trying as it was indeed the tiredness that was preventing her from ringing me back, not something I'd said or done to upset her. I packed my stuff up and put it in Mum's car, had lunch and walked round to her place - with the arrangement with my mum that she would pick me up a couple of hours later and take me to Mark's place. Just the idea that in the past, I'd turn up at Chantal's place and loose a day there just hanging out, but for now, a couple of hours might be the most she'd have the energy for. I hope this is a phase and it improves again, but who knows? We chatted and she spent time helping me find sites on the web where we would see houses for rent. She has always enjoyed that sort of task and will always do her best to help out. We got through a pot of tea and I tried to distract her from internet searches so we could really just hang out. I think I succeeded pretty much. Just as I thought my mum was about to ring the door, Chantal's Mum and her two girls came through the front door, Gerda and I go back as far as I do with Chantal, we were 15 and 17 when we met nearly 30 years ago. Then my mum appears, so after probably a few decades there we are, both with our mums, kisses and chatter all round. Chantal's daughters are 11 and 15 or 16 now, it seems crazy that Kristie is the same age I was when I met Chantal.
Then as Mum and I left, we bumped into Rob, Chantal's Dad too, how things have changed and stayed the same.
As we drove to Marks I remembered to text him, he'd said 'text me as I might pop out' I thought to myself, so you can put some clothes on more like - one of the perks of living alone and being able to work from home! He texted me back with "shit! I better get dressed!" I know him well :)
I came with a bag of groceries, which wasn't as needed as I thought it might have been but I still managed to cook a nice chorizo pasta and communicate that my stay wouldn't be too much of a burden to him. I am lucky to have a friend in Utrecht where I can stay and complete my recon mission from.
I downloaded Much Ado About Nothing in my bid to introduce him step by step to the Whedonverse (more on that later).

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Mission: find a house

We arrived back at Mum's yesterday, Mum and I drove back on the boat having left at horrible oclock in the morning. The boys waved us off. It was funny being on the outside, I'm usually there watching them waving everybody off. I want to get this to work for them, there's alot of pressure on me, mostly from me alone, to get this bit right.
The game is to find somewhere to live so we can start our lives - them at school, me at work. The school holidays is a long time on the one hand, if we get in quick, we will have to find all manor of ways to entertain them until school starts, if it takes longer, we have at least until the 1st of September to start school.
I've made contact with a few agents, but so far, only one I've managed to actually speak to. The question of being able to qualify based on an income of 52.000 euros is one that, in theory we just about make, but we don't have the peice of paper in Dutch from Dutch employers so I'm working on the basis that expecting to pay twice as much up front should be a reasonable alternative. I don't have reassurance as such, but my gut feeling is it will be down to the landlord.
Its raining in N'gein pretty steadily, I wanted to be at Chantal's today catching up. I've tried various ways to contact her but got no response since speaking to her Mum last week. I didn't quiz her at the time as it all sounded a bit bad and thought that we all were expecting Chantal to contact me and tell me herself what was going on. When that didn't happen, I wasn't sure what to think. I've just rang her parent's house and spoke to her Dad, it seems that as the brain damage grows and changes it is zonking her out and making her sleep all the time. Sounds terrifying, I can't imagine how they cope but I know they do. Rob's going to let Chantal know I'm waiting to hear from her, I guess it's a question of if she's going to be awake for long enough to see me today. At least if I'm back in Holland I can see her more often, maybe even help her in some way with her recovery.
Mum and I are going to Aqua aerobics tomorrow morning, I managed to forget my swimming costume..again.. so, yes bought a tankini - I had one that's fallen apart so I thought at least I'm replacing that with something I do need. I am not intending to buy much else if I can avoid it, this isn't a shopping trip.
I don't have any viewings booked yet but I really hope this guy I spoke to will have something for us for tomorrow afternoon, Mum's going to bring me into Utrecht tomorrow afternoon, so we can, in theory go and look at something together, so far the Chantal plan hasn't panned out but I hope I can begin to reverse the trend.