Saturday, July 19, 2014

GuilFest 2014

DSC07549 (940x1300)The Met Office predicted biblical rain for the Festival, drenched listening in a sea of mud.  I brought along my sailing ‘foulies, just in case, but the storms never materialized and the food and bands could not have been better for GuilFest: the Guilford Music Festival 2014.

I’d never actually attended a UK out-in-the-fields art and music festival, and this DSC07615 (923x1300)was a good place to start: 9 stages, lots of musical styles (but less stylistic flair among the attendees), and a wide age group mingling in a comfortable retro atmosphere.  The w.wezen planned everything, looking forward to seeing the Irish group the Fureys, while I wanted time with Roni Size (electronic and jazz).   Kool and the Gang were scheduled headliners, and it was fun seeing the Buzzcocks (if only because I loved the eponymous BBC2 quiz show).

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GeldorfOne patron mis-identified me as ex-Boomtown Rat, Sir Bob Geldof – I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or appalled (I also was hoping not to have to sign anything, as I couldn’t spell ‘Geldof’ without the wezen’s help).

Jedward, twins John and Edward Grimes discovered on X Factor in 2009, sang (energetically, off key) an hour’s set, including their Eurovision 2011 and 2012 hits.  Their 12-year old followers sat on their fathers shoulders, waving and singing along.

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The sound systems were excellent considering the outdoor setting (although the lighting was completely random and unrelated to anything happening on stage).  The burgers and sliced smoked beef sandwiches were very good and the Pimms flowed freely:  my only suggestions are that a little trash collection would improve the seating, and the student security need a bit more HR training along with their shirts and walkie-talkies.

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And the people-watching was marvelous…the whole event was a lot of fun. (early) start to (late) finish.

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In the end, I forsook the traditional GuilFest shirt for something a bit more of a fit with the Lilac Room.  ‘And hoped that the house has a sense of humor (they all did).

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer along the Maas

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Neighbors and friends say that the storms have been relentless across Limburg the past weeks, lightning and thunder with the occasional Code Oranje for high wind and risk of local flooding.  But it’s been hot and humid this week, barely a cross-wind stirring between the open windows, front and back.

I’ve been laying into the yearly financial reporting, 2012 Annuals, 2012 Corporate tax, 2012 Income tax, Q2 VAT.  I keep everything, but matching up invoices, payments, bank transfers and receipts takes hours, days.  Neat piles of paper multiply across the floor, first the living room, then out into the hallway.

When I take a break, I’ve cleaned the refrigerator, defrosted the freezer, and rescued a houseplant.  Balance  shall return to the mansion (Evenwichtstoestand zal terug naar mijn herenhuis komen?).

DSC07467 (1300x948)‘No Dutch lessons scheduled on this visit, it’s been too long and I’ll be here too briefly.  William Alexander wrote in The Times yesterday about the benefits of failing to learn a language: improvements in working memory, inductive reasoning, sound discrimination and task switching. 

I know that I need to do it (along with the “Life in the UK” test).  My reading ability actually hasn’t declined much, I still understand most of the Spits and Metro throw-away’s on the train to Amsterdam (and even occasional overheard conversations). 

I will return to it, likely in the Autumn.

The Rantree restaurant downstairs is doing brisk business: it’s a squeeze to get past the tables outside the doorway.  The reviews have been good, and the rumor is that they have gained their first Michelin star.  Spillover business benefits the entire street and keeps my end of the ‘skade bustling past sundown.

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It’s a nice vibe, the owners are relaxed and we’ve had some good conversations about their menu, the economics of the business, and expansion plans.  Late at night, the cooks sit at a table on the rear terrace outside my bedroom, smoke, and laugh over stories.

Early evenings, I take a break to visit with friends, catching up with a beer, a snack, a few stories along the river.   Everyone seems to be doing well, families happy, careers moving ahead, summer plans laid. 

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For me, the focus is still contracts, fundraising, clinical trials and partnerships.  Vacation will come with some small-boat sailing in August and some foreign travel at half-term.

‘Nothing on a European 3-week scale, but still, something to work towards.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back across the Channel

DSC07433 (1300x974)The British Heart Foundation sponsored this year’s Pier to Pier Swim in Bournemouth, 1900 swimmers braving the chilly water for 1.4 miles between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers.  The fastest swimmers progressed at a walking  pace, the slowest bobbed along with the tides and winds, but it was an impressive splash for a Sunday morning.

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It was time for me to do the once-across as well: too many weeks since last visiting the Netherlands and a lot of work to catch up on.  Lawyers and accountants in Amsterdam to close out 2012 reports and modify agreements for 2013, engineers and technicians completing design work across town, my landlord waiting to discuss water damage and insurance.

The Eurotunnel crossing was quiet, uneventful, and I reached the apartment just after twilight.  The water damage was heartbreaking but little seemed structurally amiss apart from the superficial walls, paint, and plaster.   I caught up with Bert and Benthe at Le Cle next door over a biertje: gutters inside the roof had blocked, water flowed down the inside front walls, unnoticed, down to the cellar  of the restaurant.  The damage had been surveyed, contractor bids were being solicited, the drapes were being cleaned. 

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At least there was no rain in the forecast for the next week.

Otherwise, walking the city core at dawn, the pennants were still up from the World Cup (the Dutch finally lost to Argentina in a listless game decided on a shoot-out), Andre Rieu was in town for three weekends of concerts in the Vrijthof (a Venice-themed year), and summer was in full flower along the Maas.

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‘nice to be back, all things considered.