At last! A winter that has the guts to eat away my skin, give me my first cold sore in years and push tears into my eyes as I move through the air. December, you were comfortable and tepid, but truly disappointing. I visited the Christmas Markets in a blazer jacket and scarf. There was neither ice nor snow, nor hail nor sleet. Not a shade of white in sight. The streets settled in bog-standard grey.
And look at Apeldoorn this morning…
I am in a country where all is flat and all is bright. Everyone rides on two wheels, whether she is 8 or 89. E-bikes are popular among the oldies, despite being a significant cause of bike accidents. Technology makes you go faster, but if you can’t react fast enough to a dog running across your path then you’re in trouble.
The moment we arrived at the Nationaal Jeugd Orkest course, we were handed a rain poncho, a pack of lights and a key to our personal bike for the week. Several times each day, the sleepy inhabitants of Apeldoorn would see a symphony orchestra cycle in and out of town, come slow rain or fast rain, with various sized cases on backs. Youth Orchestra has never been such a healthy, sporty and thigh-burning experience.
This is what it looks to ride a bike and look down from where you are sitting.
I was told that the Dutch on the frame of the bike says ‘Safe Riding’ but also ‘Safe Sex’? What a feeling to be promoting these two causes as well as the NJO.
Breakfast is like a game on a table covered in glass jars and plastic tubs, each containing a special honey, chocolate, cheese or fruit. What topping shall I create today? is the question on our curious flavour-buds. The cardinal game-piece is the box of Hagelslag – chocolate sprinkles. This is a quintessential Dutch treat and comes in many flavours, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and coffee to name a few. It can be sprinkled on bread, toast or crackers, usually on a coat of butter, but margarine or peanut butter would do fine. Usually Hagelslag is eaten at breakfast but we have unashamedly been pouring some out at the end of every meal. It goes so damn well with a milky English tea.
Rehearsals in the Orpheus Theatre, Apeldoorn.
I am constantly reminded that the Netherlands are a small but innovative and mighty country. One example is on the trains. They have young, strong men carrying what looks like a jet-pack that makes them look like they have several limbs. Move over trolleys. This is the contraption of the year for serving onboard refreshments. Hot water is dispensed from a tentacle. A TENTACLE, I repeat, which is attached to a vessel on his back.
Now in the middle of the Winter Concert tour, rehearsals are seldom but free mornings are frequent. Tonight we perform in Amsterdam at the Muziegebouw! See you there…