Well, Richard did not turn up but I did manage to give Fiona a big surprise by turning up on the doorstep just as she was bringing Mum and Thomas and Oona, the dog back from the shop! She really wasn’t expecting it and Mum had not let on. So, I have made a clean sweep of 40th birthdays in the family and Mum reminded me that we had both surprised Diana by turning up on her 40th birthday. So now all the children are in their forties… hmmm…
Diana, James and Harry turned up with the dogs not long after and Harry immediately asked where Freddie was, while James stayed a while guarding the car from traffic wardens whilst reading the new Harry Potter book. He and his friend have a competition to see who will finish it the first.
As usual things were all quite disorganized in Fiona’s basement flat while we waited for the women to beautify themselves, so we boys sat around scoffing crisps and helping ourselves to the prosecco which I had managed to ‘score’ at the local offie, at least I did. I was lucky with the weather as it did not rain the time I was there, but it felt very wet outside and was quite cool so a good thing we did nit have the party in the garden.
Instead we had it at a Thai restaurant somewhere far beyond Fiona’s shop, not exactly sure which district it was in… and there were already a number of Fiona’s friends sitting there (we were late, of course!). There was a table laid for twenty which we soon filled and had to extend as various other friends turned up in the course of the evening. A bit annoying for all the other people in the restaurant who may have wanted a quiet evening out, although if they had, they would probably have gone to a different place, this restaurant being cheap and cheerful and run by a Thai family, no attempt made to make it look Thai by having gilt work or carved wooden elephants or Thai silk furnishings.
So it was all quite noisy, with champagne corks popping (we were allowed to bring our own alcohol with no corkage charge) and poppers being let off every now and then. Thomas brought in a massive cake with 21 candles on it at the end of the meal as we all sang Happy Birthday (to you) to Fiona. Altogether a nice fun evening and good to see some of Fiona’s old friends as well as some new ones… only Harry was not so happy as he does not like spicey food, proclaiming this to be the worst meal he has ever tasted. Oh well, it had been a long day for him and he was tired.
I was asked to drive Fiona’s car home, as she said she was too drunk to do it and I felt surprisingly fit and managed the drive back without too many problems before flopping onto one of the settees in the living room to grab some sleep before an early start today. The batteries of the BlackBerry are flat and although I have managed to connect to numerous unsecured broadband networks, I have not managed to connect to the internet today, which is a bit of a pity as I was hoping to keep up with work e-mails during this trip, in a moving virtual office.
To travel now, I have to think about having charged up batteries and/or cables for my laptop, my (private) mobile phone, my BlackBerry and my camera. Last night the batteries of the BlackBerry and camera both failed me and all I had was the cable to this laptop, which are soon to run out as well, with no opportunity in this train, at least, to recharge. Oh well.
By the time I get to the office it will have taken three hours from when I arrived in Brussels, which is a long time compared to the two hours twenty minutes it took to get from London to Brussels, a journey which will be reduced to two hours from 14th November when the rains start arriving at St Pancras instead of Waterloo. The bigger problem is the impossibly slow trains from Brussels to Amsterdam, as we stop at three Brussels stations and three Antwerp stations, amongst others. The Hooge Snelheids Trein, for which we have been waiting twenty years should finally start service at the end of the year and should reduce the traveling time from Amsterdam to London to four hours.
By traveling by train instead of flying, from our office near Rotterdam, I am taking about one hour extra, although incurring about the same cost. The convenience of traveling by train has been a little bit damaged by all the passport and security checks which one has going in and out of the UK (there is a half hour from, before check-in requirement for example as well as queues, admittedly shorter and quicker queues than one is used to at airports. Still, rail travel from Amsterdam to London is definitely the way forward as long as they do not price train travel out of normal people’s reach.
Very nice though to have gone over to England to see Fiona and leave the minimal amount of carbon footprint possible in the time available. Lovely to see Fiona and the rest of the family too.