Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Cyclists of Amsterdam

After a month of living in the Netherlands, with a Sunday off stretched in front of me, I sat down to a bagel based brunch, Earl Grey in hand, to ponder the topic of my first blog post as an Amsterdammer. I thought about the things that have stuck out about my time here thus far, the things that amazed me when I first arrived. While I thought about a great many things, there was only one group deemed worthy of first post fame, and that group, my dear friends, is the cyclists of Amsterdam.

While bikes remain a great symbol of the Netherlands, I never truly appreciated what a lifeline they are to residents of the city, young and old. Yes, they are an impressive sight en masse, standing row upon row outside Centraal Station or chained decoratively to the bridges which span the canal, but, more than that, they are what connects the lives of every Amsterdammer. Home with work, work to play, person to person. 

Its not only a mode of transport but a way of life.

The first time I experience 'rush hour' in the bike lanes, I was amused, terrified and in awe in equal measure. I was walking home from work, past the famous Vondelpark, when I was confronted with the Spaghetti Junction of bike lanes

Four lanes converge here and the result to the untrained pedestrian eye seems sure to result in confusion, terror and, ultimately, carnage. While there are, admittedly, a few 'bike rage' altercations and the odd near miss, the whole operation runs fairly smoothly thanks to the cyclist's unwritten code, unknown to us mere two legged mortals.

NOTE: If a cyclist yells HALLO at you, do not wave in greeting. They are not trying to get acquainted, nor do they wish to be your friend. The unwritten code rates HALLO high on the list of profanities (comparable to F*** OFF or GET OUT OF MY F****ING WAY)

If you are ignorant enough to be HALLO-ed, don't be disheartened. Once you become more aware of the cyclist/pedestrian heirarchy, your observations of cyclists will become a source of great amusement and, often, amazement.

A comprehensive list of my favourite cyclists of all time:

  • The It Girl about town who rode past me in 6 inch heels with a Starbucks in one hand, her phone in the other, steering with her knees.
  • The woman who continued to cycle valiantly on despite the raging temper tantrum her two year old was having in the child seat on the back of her bike. Steering straight when a child is kicking you repeatedly in the back is no mean feat.
  • Every suit and tie wearing business man I have seen cycle past me in a mad rush, briefcase in basket.
  • The man who installed a full on trailer on the back to his bike to transport his beloved pooch.
  • The drunken revellers wobbling home singing loudly with passengers on the back screeching.

Cycling is in the blood here in the Netherlands and the joy it brings people is infectious.I love nothing more than seeing the crowds cycle past the hotel where I work. Even sitting here in the care, the crisp autumn sun glinting on newly brown leaves, the day wouldn't seem half as magical without the couple cycling hand in hand past the window.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Brunch Talk |1: Transition...on being in limbo

These days I'm rarely up early enough to call my first meal of the day 'breakfast' so brunch is usually the order of the day. While some consider brunch to be for lazy people who have nothing better to do than meander through the morning, it is better regarded (by those in the know) as the epitome of efficiency. Who needs two meals when you can conveniently merge them in to one, if slightly lengthier, affair? 

While I'm pretty sure my love affair with brunch will continue, being able to indulge in it as a daily ritual is time limited. I thought I'd set a little time aside now and again to have a chat over brunch in this, my little corner of the internet. I see Brunch Talk as becoming a life musings sort of series or simply a space for the things that don't fit anywhere else. 

Today I want to talk about the weirdness that is limbo. My particular limbo is this endless summer I've found myself in - the one after graduation before work starts and let me tell you its a STRANGE place.

But first things first...

Step one: Brunch.
In our household, we've recently had more than a slight flirtation with French Toast. Topped with bacon, with cinnamon and brown sugar or just plain and simple, but always served with steaming hot tea (in my case, the Lady Grey variety).

Step two: Talk.

Limbo is an altogether confusing yet wonderful place. Some days seem to crawl, often tediously so, but others fly by unchecked and undervalued.

These are hazy days - unformed, to be bumbled through with no particular aim or direction, to be appreciated for, sure as hell, their presence will be fleeting.

While so many people are telling me to enjoy this golden time of few responsibilities and even fewer constraints (on my time, on my energy), the suspense of limbo is sometimes excruciating.

You know that feeling you get when you're approaching the big drop on a roller-coaster, the feeling just before your stomach turns over - a kind of butterfly anticipation. That's the limbo feeling - that being on the edge of something bigger, something new, something exciting. That's all well and good, new adventures are on the horizon after all, but that's exactly the point - they're on the horizon rather than round the next bend. Since when did the body find it apt to prepare for the plunge this far ahead?

Add to this the endless possibilities. In my experience, it's dangerous when your time is suddenly your own - there are all those projects you've stored for all this time, things you've actually wanted to do with your time, things that you silently tucked away in the corner of your busy little mind. Now that you've got the breathing space to complete them, they are all jostling for room, all shouting pick me. Indecisive me has been overwhelmed by the freedom of choosing how to spend my day. Structured me is crying out for something to do, but indecisive me can't choose. This battle of wills usually results in not doing very much at all.

Two months of this and you can see how, at times, limbo can be testing, sometimes akin to madness!

Keeping the hazy days of limbo punctuated with the events of a summer to remember is the new challenge.

Have you ever felt the limbo feeling? What did you do to shake it off?


Saturday, 30 May 2015

What's in a name?

I'm always intrigued as to how bloggers name their little corners of the internet. Such a creative group of people are represented by such an amazing array of names and the stories behind them are always my favourite thing to read on About Me pages.

But before I explain how 'Between My Passport Pages' came to be, there is something you should know about me: quotes are things I hoard ceaselessly. An endless source of inspiration, I'm pretty sure I have one a selection for every occasion - scribbled in notebooks, pinned to Pinterest boards, underlined in books, taped to the walls. There is something about the magic of words; the way they reflect a time, a place, a person, a feeling. But even avid collectors of quotes are surprised sometimes. Once in a while a quote sneaks up on me, like it was laid there in wait, hidden on the curve of a page until its time came. 

At the end of my university career, I found myself at a loose end. Having put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard very little in the last year (other than for lengthy essays or for rapid scribbling in the exam room), the concept of going back to writing for pleasure seemed a little alien. Having left the blogging world by the wayside a year ago, I was hesitant of the prospect of getting back on the horse. My old blog name seemed redundant - how could I start to write again if I couldn't even decide on a name for the space that was supposedly mine and mine alone?

Then, from the depths of Pinterest, came this:

I am a frequent traveller and have been ever since I left school at the age of 18. I've made homes in Chile, Spain, Russia and Portugal and will soon be moving to the Netherlands for a nine month stint. Some of my fondest memories come from between the pages of my passport and people I've not seen for a while always ask 'So where in the world are you this time?'.

I am often living out of a suitcase and that's what people have come to expect of me. This expectation helped me to understand the quote from two different angles: of course, from travel comes memories but also that there is more to a frequent traveller than their travels. 

While I don't deny this blog will often document trips and travels, it want it to be a little more than that; otherwise what will happen to this space when the passport is tucked away and the luggage stowed? As well as travel tips and expat stories, I wanted this space to reflect the other side of me too, the girl behind the heavily stamped passport pages - the one who likes to sew, to cook, to drink wine and to have afternoon tea.

From this, a blog was born.

'Between my passport pages'  will be a space for travels but also for the girl behind the passport. I hope you stick around!

Does your blog name have any special significance? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

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