Thursday, December 10, 2015

It’s a bit wet in the Wyck

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It’s been a wet week in Maastricht, warmer than usual but punctuated by rolling clouds and driving rain.  I have been regularly soaked pedaling around to meetings and appointments.

Still, the reflecting pavements and wet colours make the city look clean and alive, ‘never a bad time to go out and loo for photo opps.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Maastricht Market

DSC07973 (1024x710)It took a couple of days before work let up enough for me to visit the annual Christmas festival at the Vrijthof Square.  ‘Magisch Maastricht, indeed: this is the best Christmas Fair that the city has organized in the past few years.

The layout seems better, the lighting and arrangement sparkling and open, winding through the grounds and colorfully accented.

The food is more varied and fresher.  A Krakauer sausage comes in a lighter, toasted bun.  The Glühwein is more mulled, less fruity-sweet.

The venue for tree decorations and home trimmings has returned, all white beards, red robes, and round polar bears.

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As dusk falls, the Sky Wheel glows and parents gather at the Sinterklaas trein.  The rink fills with skaters while the carousel spins, café’s buzzing with couples and families.  A busker strums out seasonal pop tunes over the passing flow of bicycles, drawing listeners from the oliebollen stand beyond.

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My favorite memory remains the the year that the Market sprawled across a half dozen city venues, the year that an ice rink settled outside my windows.

I’d still want some snow along the eaves and underfoot, but this is a public celebration of Christmas done right.

More pictures, as always at my Flickr site.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Colworth to Maastricht

DSC07565 (1024x679)Seven am.  The rising sun started to colour my right-hand sky red, then yellow, as I twisted  through the countryside.  Traffic was light, I was making good time, but there were two driving hours behind me and likely another ahead.  I pulled in at 7 am to get a coffee and to jot a few notes to myself.

‘twas the first try at my new, once weekly, commute.

One of our company’s goals after closing funding was to establish a home office where people could gather and we could make our products.  We wanted a central location, somewhere that my virtual organization could all get to.  It needed to be close to my chemists.  I wanted to be both classy and cost-effective.
The dart landed near Bedford, northwest of London.
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Colworth Science Park is a Unilever Innovation campus, dedicated to the Dutch conglomerate’s  food and ice cream research.  An incubator space, The Exchange, has been established in a corner of the park, and we are setting up our research lab and manufacturing on the second floor (it might be the first – numbering in European buildings is always uncertain).

I love the space: it’s a new building with a Google-style café, extensive business facilities, a very supportive staff, and quite reasonable rent. ‘ticks the boxes, as the Brits say.

We moved everything down from Sheffield two weeks ago, and our tooling has begun to arrive.  The dip-coater stands alongside our vacuum ovens. pumps, and viscometer.  A space is reserved for the fume hood, another for the clean tent.

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It’s all coming together.  Today’s meeting is to establish the Quality systems and begin to put SOP’s, Report forms, and documentation in place.  In a couple of months, we’ll be ready to apply for approval to market our first product.   It is a huge step forward, almost unthinkable in July.
DSC07577 (1024x755)Ten am.  Everyone gathers in the Autumn conference room, comparing notes on their commute.  3-4 hours all around: fair if not just.  We put a little group pressure on our new Hospitality card to get coffee and tea, then settled in to begin work.
DSC07579 (1024x669)Five pm, I’ve arrived at Luton’s long-term parking, impossibly distant across the airport.  The bus is  nowhere in sight; the flight to Amsterdam departs at six-thirty. 
It’s funny, a 20 hour day in the end, connecting dots from Poole, to Bedford to Amsterdam to Maastricht.  That’s just my unique ‘day at the office, but the routine is familiar.  I know what tasks need doing, what scripts to follow, throughout.
I crack the newspapers, the Economist, a novel, a notepad, and settle into the next-to-last train headed south to Maastricht.  A to-do list grows along the margin, flanking meeting summaries.
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1 am, in the Wyck and trundling home beneath the garland and Christmas balls.  The rest of my peers are asleep or retired.  Sometimes I feel a bit the fool for doing this, but some days are still remarkable fun making this all succeed.

I still believe.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunrise at Sandbanks

DSC07520 (1024x655)Storm Desmond blew itself out overnight, although the North of England and Scotland were hit with terrible rains and flooding.  The wind rattled my windows and whistled in the eaves until early morning, when the sky turned pearly white, then shreds of blue and pink. 

I couldn’t sleep anyway, ‘better to go down to the beaches and along the harbour to see what the world was looking like at sunrise.

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It was at it’s best, actually…

Phyllis might have approved

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