NOTES TO A TRIP REPORT
Curious Arrivals & Wolfing Waffles
by Roman Orszanski
(First published in doxa!, 24 August 1990, edited by Roman Orszanski.)
Somehow, arrivals in foreign parts never go quite to plan: this was brought home to me at 10.15pm as I watched a Bulgarian looking for his lost coin at the Den Haag train station at Holland Spoor (HS).
I'd phoned earlier that day, to tell Roelof Goudriaan that I was arriving at ten to nine that night. Although it was seven in the morning in London, it was a reasonable hour later in Rijswijk. I suspect still too early for someone who'd been up late the night before...
"Hello, Roelof? I'm in London, and expect to arrive in Den Haag tonight at 9:49. Any chance of being met at the station? Or instructions how to find you?"
A mumble on the other end of the phone. A pause, hellos exchanged, then "yes, I think we can arrange that" accompanied by that gentle rolling 'f' of the Dutch. "I'm leaving from Victoria Station this afternoon; if there are any delays, I'll phone to let you know."
The trip by Jetlink (hydrofoil) across the channel was quick and pleasant: the White Cliffs really were, and Osstende looked like a pleasant coastal village.
I didn't see much of it, because the train station was adjacent to the port: in short, a transfer station for transport.
I was a little worried, since I had to pass through customs, find the station, validate my Eurail pass, and board the appropriate train all within half-an-hour. As I walked straight through customs into the train station, I found that I had time to wolf down some warm waffles.
I met a couple of american tourists also validating their Eurail passes, and was pleased to point out the correct train to them. Having sauntered about Singapore, and mastering the tube in London as well as enjoying Edinburgh, I was starting to feel quite the seasoned traveller: strange cities no longer seemed to hold terrors for me.
The train was fast and comfortable, with only one change to take me to Den Haag. I arrived a mere three minutes late, and swept into the station, looking around for my greeting party.
No-one to be seen.
This didn't phase me, as I had the same problem in Singapore...
*** *** ***
The flight from Adelaide arrived at Changi only ten minutes after it had reopened. It was closed to clear airspace for the military, who were taking part in a grand parade, along with almost all of the city, as part of the celebrations for their 25th anniversary. It was a big do, with marches, parades, music, fireworks, and an-impressive display by jet fighters as they zoomed above a huge stadium that evening.
Kong, the brother of Mei, a friend studying at the Centre for environmental Studies, was to meet me at the airport, and take me to stay with her family overnight.
Forty minutes after arrival, there was still no sign of Kong. I changed some money, and phoned Kong to find out what had happened. He was most embarassed: somehow, amidst all the celebrations, he'd clean forgot he had to pick me up. He made up for if though, taking me for a guided tour through the city later that night. There were a few anxious moments leaving Singapore, too...
*** *** ***
Arrival in London was curious, too: the flight arrived early at Heathrow, and Judith Hanna and Avedon Carol were running late. A friend from Adelaide, Ewart Shaw, was there to greet me, so we wandered over to the bar to await the fannish contingent. Ewart was cooking for Joseph Nicholas and Judith Hanna the night I phoned to confirm my flight, so he knew I was coming. After greeting Judith & Avedon, and dropping luggage at Joseph & Judith's, we continued to Rob & Avedon's to help with collation of fanzines.
*** *** ***
In Den Haag, after waiting twenty minutes, with no sign of Roelof, I decided I'd better phone. I had this horrible thought: Perhaps they were waiting at Den Haag Centraal, rather than Den Haag HS?
Unfortunately, all the change bureaux were closed, and there weren't many people about to ask for change for the phone.
I did, however, meet a distinguished fellow at a nearby phone booth. He too was a new arrival, with only a single 25c piece, which he had just lost. We tried to find it, and I left him, still looking for it, to catch a train to Centraal.
No-one there either, but I managed to scrouge a guilder for the phone. Lynn Ann answered the phone. "Roelof's gone to Holland Spoor to greet a Bulgarian fan." Bulgarian? I wondered...
Lynn Ann hopped the next tram, and arrived within the quarter hour to guide me to the Morse-Goudriaan residence. There's something very civilised about a city with trams - particularly if there's more than one of them.
On arrival, a three story terrace house in a street where cars were not allowed. Roelof was already there, and wanted to introduce me to Nicolai, the Bulgarian fan. We looked at each other and smiled: we'd met at the phone booth, only an hour ago, without realising we were both headed for Roelof & Lynn Ann's.
Also staying there Tuesday night was Erik, an (East) German fan.
At one stage in the evening's discussion, Nicolai and Erik slipped into Russian to clarify a point. I joined in, much to Roelof's horror! And he thought english was going to be the language of choice. He threatened to call up more local fans to ensure a majority of Dutch speakers! The following day was spent registering and sight-seeing. And, of course, sampled some wonderful chocolates.
I confirmed my initial impressions of Den Haag as a civilised city: clearly marked and extensive bicycle paths tempted me to hire a bicycle for the week. All of the train stations have bicycle shops, where you can hire bikes, leave them in secure storage, get punctures fixed etc. For a mere DFl 28 (Dutch Florins, or Guilders) I hired a bicycle for a week. No speeds (Holland is flat), large, sprung seat, upright handlebars and a small chinesestyle lock on the back wheel. No need for fancy, flash machines that are likely to be stolen. My only complaint was the lack of braking power: I just wasn't used to back-pedalling brakes. I preferred brake levers.
On a glorious afternoon, I cycled from Centraal back to Roelof & Lynn Ann's, in time for a wonderful meal of Spaghetti Bolognaise and fannish smalltalk.
The following morning, I arrived at the con hotel in style: I cycled there with Lynn Ann. The worldcon proper was about to begin....