Posts Tagged ‘stories


House MD

Since I’ve been watching House MD recently like it’s going out of fashion, I think my brain may have gone into analytical overdrive. Today whilst cycling home in the rain (go Netherlands!) I realised that I caused quite an interesting traffic situation – I hindered the progress of a car that was travelling in front of me. ‘What?’ I hear you ask, ‘How can that be? You were behind the car, and you were hindering its progress?’ Sounding like a House episode yet?

It immediately also occurred to me that I should blog about this, ergo this post. That realisation was accompanied by the fact that I would probably need a diagram to explain exactly what happened (they do that on House too). However, since I’ve determined that I’m significantly underperforming in my professional life, I thought my brain could use the challenge of trying to explain it without the use of a diagram (ergo the lack of diagram). But if you all agree to concentrate and do your best, then I’m sure this post will be a challenge, and hence beneficial, to all of us. Ready? Here we go…

Cycling as happily as I could in the rain behind car A (on the right side of the road – this is Europe), we approached a 4-way intersection. Then car A stopped, half of it having crossed the intersection, and the back half still sticking back into the intersection, half-blocking the road. I had stopped behind it, and was therefore standing in the middle of the intersection, blocking the transverse street. So far so good.

But why had car A stopped? Well, there were parked cars on the other side of the intersection, which car A needed to move to the left to avoid. Unfortunately, oncoming car B was on the left-hand side of the road and not moving, so car A could not advance.

Which brings us to why oncoming car B had stopped. Well, it was stuck behind oncoming car C, which had waited for car A to pass before it could make a left-hand turn into the transverse street. But of course it could not do the turn that it had planned to make, because, yes siree, I was now blocking the intersection! And since car A in front of me couldn’t advance because of car B, and car B was stuck because of car C, and car C was stuck because of me, we had a very nice little paradox on our hands for a moment there.

So what happened? Well, I enjoyed the paradox for a while, and then did what all cyclists in the Netherlands do in a tricky situation – I dematerialised in a puff of smoke. Oh no wait, cyclists aren’t actually that expendable, everyone just thinks they are. No, I just moved over a bit and let car C pass, then everything was hunky-dory.

For a moment though, the complaining, I-know-my-rights Dutch part of me did consider getting out my mobile and calling the Queen, to tell her that the government needed to completely rewrite the urban planning regulations because they shouldn’t allow paradoxes. But the really pragmatic Dutch part of me said that that would be such a laborious process and I’d be standing in the rain too long, and I would get home faster if I just moved over.


Brent swallows his pride

Today I caved in, and bought an umbrella while it was raining.

However: it did cost 21 euros, is olive-green, has a curved handle, and makes a sublime swoosh! sound when you open it. I feel quite the man-about-town.


Good fortune

Here’s kind of a funny story. One Sunday after church, one of my fellow tenors asked me if I would mind taking a few pictures of him and his wife in front of the church, because they were putting together some kind of family album and everybody needed to make a contribution. I said sure, no problem.

So we went out to the front of the church and I took a couple of pictures. At this point I did an incredibly Brent-like thing and dropped the camera about a metre and a half onto the hard cobblestones on the church square, after which the camera stopped working. Well, you could tell it really wanted to work, it kept trying to extend the lens and such, but we humans could see that something on the inside had been completely dislodged, and that lens was staying put. Of course I apologized profusely, said I would pay for the repairs/new camera, whichever they wanted to do, and left their presence feeling very stupid but determined not to cry over any spilt milk (easier said than done, but whatever).

So R. sent off the camera to be repaired. This took some time (of course, this is the Netherlands). A few Sundays later, R. came to me and said. “Oh Brent, by the way. The Media Markt called us and said we could come pick up the camera, so we went down there to see them. Happily they presented us with a package and said ‘Here’s your camera!’, but we just looked at each other, turned back to them and said ‘Uh, no, actually this isn’t our camera’. So now we have to wait even longer to see how much the repairs are.” That was fine with me.

On a more recent Sunday, I was again accosted by R., who this time had some good news. Basically it boiled down to the fact that the Media Markt had lost their camera, and had therefore been obliged to refund the purchase price to R. and his wife, who had then simply bought themselves the same camera that I had broken. What’s more, the price of that camera had dropped 10 euros since they bought it. So now they have a new camera, and are 10 euros ahead. Thanks Brent!

Stuff like this never happens to me. And it just proves my theory that insurance is for chumps.

Quote of the day:
Good fortune, like bad, can befall when least expected.”
– From ‘Into the Woods’, by Stephen Sondheim



This story happened a while ago, but I thought I would tell it now anyway, as I’m blogging and all. As you may or may not be aware, the Netherlands is a country of bicycles. Because the landscape is so flat (and perhaps because the Dutch are oh-so-economical), over the last 150 years or so the bicycle has proven to be a very popular form of transportation in this country. There are almost as many bicycles here as people, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the huge family rolls-royce model with two child seats and saddlebags for the shopping, to the tiny fold-away ones you can take on the train without even having to buy a ticket for them (again, very economical). They even have a mobile street bar propelled by the patrons.

One particularly useul species of bicycle is the bakfiets, or ‘container bike’. It’s a bike with an enormous receptacle on the front that you can use to transport things like, oh I don’t know, home-grown vegetables to market, street organs, Ikea purchases, that type of thing. So when one of Michiel’s neighbours dumped an irresistible 2-seater couch in front of their house, we both agreed that the only thing to do was to get a bakfiets and get it over to my place toot-sweet. So I rented one for the afternoon for 3 euros from the biological vegetable farm down the road, went down to Michiel’s and chucked the couch into it.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

So, with one hand on the handlebars, and the other holding the couch in place, I cycled along the busy road at a glacial pace for 20 minutes, and miraculously made it back to my place with both me and the couch in one piece. Then, happy with my accomplishments, we unloaded the couch and proceeded to carry it up the stairs.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

So I removed one of the handrails and managed to get it up the first flight, around the corner and into the doorway of the second flight of stairs.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

This time there wasn’t even a handrail to unscrew, so I had to concede defeat and take the couch back down the stairs and onto the street. And when I returned to it around half an hour later, it was gone! The economy of the Dutch proves to be advantageous yet again!

Just before I go, here’s another fine example of Dutch bicycle technology:

Random quote of the day:

Counting is for people who can’t dance.”