Ross' matured and characterful black
Porsche was parked outside in the middle of the road, there was
no traffic, not even the market vendors were stupid enough to
be up at that hour. We headed out to White Waltham with the top
down and Hot Chocolate wafting from the speakers.
The sun started to burn the mist
off as we loaded the wee airplane. The original plan had been
to fly out to Le Touquet on the French coast and then route round
east and north up through Belgium to Groningen in Holland. From
there we would go North, way North, but there was a problem. Either
our route would have to be tweaked or the French would have to
be changed. The French air traffic controllers that we needed
had sent out a message to say that they did not feel like working
that day. The original plan was thrown 'dans la poubelle', lines
were rubbed out and new ones drawn. We would by-pass France on
the way out - that would teach them. The mist was replaced by
a hazey soup. As we coasted out over Dover we climbed above it
and we could make out the ships below thredding their way along
the busiest channel in the world.
The rest of the flight was unremarkable;
I would like to shake the hand of anyone who can find Belgium
or Holland remarkable from the air. We were cleared as no.2 into
Groningen and it was a greaser of a landing. We were definitely
on our way now.
The bus paused as we were entering
Groningen town. An elderly man had slipped on the edge of the
pavement, fallen back and banged his head badly. The bus driver
was impressively on the case by the time we realised what had
happened, having blocked the road with the bus and assisted the
man. We waited, willing, but unable to offer assistance until
the ambulance arrived. The bus driver helped the disorientated
and shocked man to find and replace his hearing aid as I noticed
the small pool of blood on the pavement.
Ross booked us into a local hotel
and we arrived to discover a wonderful place, boutique methinks.
We talked excitedly about having made it to the continent and
then the adrenaline wore off and we fell asleep, mid-sentence.
Groningen had a welcoming if studenty
appeal. It was a manageable size and easy to get a feel for, a
square shape boxed in on four sides by canals. There was a lively
atmosphere and the streets were bustling. Suddenly and frighteningly
it became very Dutch as we almost surrendered our lives to a pair
of cyclists. The silent killers. There were thousands of them
and every available space was used to park them. They moved swifly
and lethally up and down the broad and, more worringly, the narrow
streets. They had clearly been given a sort of holy right of way
over cars and pedestrians and we were powerless to resist them.
We ate very well at a good restaurant
where the menus were wonderfully incomprehensible. The waiters
were friendly and efficient; we ordered our food in Dutch, they
smiled and replied in perfect English.