Schiphol Geese

 

At Schiphol Amsterdam Airport there was a problem with geese.

A decent sized flock of geese in the air can present a real danger to planes landing and taking of, but compounding Schiphol´s problem was this: The Netherlands is a paradise for geese. You’d almost think that centuries ago, when the Dutch began reclaiming their country from the waters, they did so in order to create Goose Paradise: a flat land with a surfeit of water and grass.  

Water where the geese can flock together and keep safe from enemies.

Watery grass they can eat: the richest, the greenest grass in the world which feeds the cows which provide the milk which produces some of the best cheese in the world.

And smack bang in the middle of this flat watery grassy land – Schiphol Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.

The geese weren’t bothered about the constant roar of jets taking off and landing at one of the world’s busiest airports. What they saw was lots of flat grassy land lying vacant, not being farmed or cropped or used – empty.

As their numbers proliferated, they became a part of our modern globalised world in ways which were truly remarkable….

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Devastated City

Until May, 1940, Rotterdam was an elegant city of canals and stately historic houses in the Amsterdam style. It was a fine example of the Dutch genius for constructing beautiful cities where once, there were only water and swamps.

Then the Nazi bombers appeared in the skies, like a plague of buzzing wasps and demolished Rotterdam within a few hours.

Only one building survived: the St Laurens church near the city center. Built in the time of Erasmus, the St. Laurens church is portrayed in many fine old sketches and paintings done in the time of Rembrandt (copies of these can be seen today on a touch screen in the restored church). The St. Laurens church with its single, tall tower was badly damaged but it was still standing after the aerial blitz was over. 

The ruins of that church serve as a powerful symbol of the horror of the new era of aerial bombing which began on that day in 1940; the era of The Devastated City…….

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Casuality Part 2 The Netherlands 2016

 

On a winter’s morning in Rotterdam, in early 2016, I fell off my bike. Easy to do with a strong wing, snow on the bike track and more fatally, a layer of ice underneath.  

I wasn’t wearing a helmet, which wasn’t obligatory in The Netherlands (after this incident, I promptly went out and bought one). 

The fall off my bike was like in a dream.

One minute I was on my bike, the next minute I was sprawled flat on the ground. There was no sense of the bike keeling over and me falling. 

As soon as I got up I knew that there was a problem.

There was blood on my clothes and on the snow. The blood was coming from my forehead.

Two other bicyclists stopped and helped me up and offered to phone an ambulance. One man looked at my forehead and said that it would definitely need stitching. For some reason I didn’t want an ambulance. Instead, I held a handkerchief to my head and rode home with one hand. The sunglasses helped in keeping the blood out of my eyes.

When I got back to my apartment, I put fresh clothes on and got a taxi to the casualty department of the nearest hospital……

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Swansong

 

Anya brought the bible to our apartment one day, shortly before her mother died.

I had seen it countless times over the years on visits to her parents’ place, lying on top of a polished wooden cabinet in the lounge, along with framed family photos.

But never once did I make any attempt to examine it closely.

Then it appeared in our apartment and shortly afterwards, I picked it up for the first time and looked inside……

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Mixed Blessings


 

This blog was written two years ago in the summer of 2018. Reading it today brings home to me just how quickly our world can change. I have to wonder if the international air travel industry will ever return to what it was. The incredible logistical and technological capabilities which I have depicted here have been brought down by invisible microbes. 

Who could have possibly ever imagined this scenario in 2018?

 

‘On a flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Dubai Airport – 8 hours – with a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur, I thought about the logistics of modern air travel.

To get my flight out of Schiphol, I had to sit around for a few hours before my flight departed. It was June, tourist season, and Schiphol, even by its own standards, was busy. It took me quite a long time to check in and get through security. The length of the cues and the number of people crowded into a confined space was daunting. And it was the same on the other side of security. To buy a sandwich and coffee meant standing in another long cue. 

Schiphol was one the busiest airports in the world. On average, 150,000 people a week came and went. There were many busy airports in the world of course. Dubai was another one.

Once in the air and mercifully away from the thronging crowds in Schiphol, I reflected on what I’d experienced.

I was just one person in a vast global operation which involved millions….

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