Friday, September 21, 2012

Idle thoughts: Transiting east

Autumn has made a predictably early arrival across Europe.  Even though the autumnal equinox passes this weekend, officially ending summer, if feels like the seasons are jumping ahead without pausing between spring and fall.

In Cambridge, this means that the ivy is turning red along St. John’s college and the blankets are out in the punts along the backs.  Suitcases clatter along the cobblestones as students return to classes; lesson planning is already well underway for the ST4 course that I teach.

“Fencepost scheduling” is back in force: I get a call and enter an appointment in my diary, then schedule travel around the events like a weaver pulling weft over warp.  Thus, Friday’s work ends with me pulling onto the 4 pm Eurostar for the trip back to Maastricht.

 Wking Martian

The short stop in London Kings Cross is punctuated by green and red cranes against blue skies, modern day Martians standing over Wells’ London.  (I found that there’s a Michael Condron sculpture in Woking commemorating the invasion).

I bury myself in De Opmaat, my Dutch workbook beneath the Channel.  My docent at Arcus has been sending increasingly frantic note that she needs my passport and bank details to sign me up for an NT2 exam It’s absolutely the goal, but will need to be on my timetable, not theirs.

Arcus cut me off of  their computers six months ago and ignored notes asking to re-establish access.  So, I’ve been spending time with workbooks, Dutch podcasts, local newspapers and my “Dutch Buddies” daily to continue progress.

And it’s coming along – vocabulary slipping into place the finer points of grammar becoming clear (adjectives with and without –e this week).  I still need more practice, though, more face time.

Changing trains in Brussels Midi at sunset.  I take a business phone call from Seattle, they joke that I’ve got more phones than Jason Bourne.  Little do they realize that I’m standing in a station with an earbud hanging, imitating the Waterloo sequence.  The Zuidtoren catches the colors, a pillar supporting the sky above the train station.

I’m guessing I can be in Maastricht by 8, but the intercity ambles slowly across Belgium to Liege, arriving at 8:30.  The short connection, filled with Friday teens headed north, rattles and laughs raucously across the border.  The conductor doesn’t even try to check for tickets.

My olive tree has put out a few new buds to greet me: it was in sad shape after getting scorched on our one hot August day.  I give it some encouragement and drop next door for a biertje.  The bartender offers the bier van de maand, thick and red. 

I’m reminded again of the ivy at St Johns, and of autumn (herfst).

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