Holland Story 2015

Some background – I was posted to NATO in Sep 2012 and due to the fact that I’m easily bored I decided to start a blog; this is it.  Treat this page as you would your lover – Start at the bottom and work your way up (it’s in reverse order).

Holland Aug 15 – Final Letter

I am moving back to the UK this week and this both a cause for celebration and sadness. Celebration and joy because according to nine out of ten illegal immigrants residing at Calais, Britain is the best place in the world; sadness because the Netherlands and surrounding countries are beautiful and populated by some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Within the Netherlands it is virtually impossible to meet anybody who does not speak English – usually to a good standard. Although they won’t admit it, the Germans actually have a lot in common with the French in that most of them can speak English, but can be awkward sods and pretend that they cannot. This fact that most people in Europe can speak, at a minimum, two languages probably embarrasses most Brits as a large number of us can barely cope with one, but then again perhaps it’s more of an indictment of the British political and schooling system than of the people who built an empire.

One thing that should be interesting is to see if the section that runs the accommodation for the Brits practises double standards. When I moved in to the Barrack Block, Martyn and I took about an hour to get the room liveable, and when I was ordered to move upstairs to a new room, I moved in to a room that the builders had just finished, and surprise, surprise, it took me nearly an hour to clean up after them, yet when I move out of the room I will have it inspected and critiqued.

The way I feel, if the agency make any negative comments about the state of it, I’ll spend fifteen minutes emptying and scattering around the contents of a vacuum cleaner to get it back to the condition it was originally in.   Let’s see if yet again an agency is held is held to a lower standard than a serviceman?

The cleaner is off on holiday and we have a young man standing in and he’s pretty good and goes the extra mile.  The majority of the people in the block are female so he comes in at 0900 so he doesn’t have to mop or clean around them while they are sitting on the toilet or scrubbing their privates in the shower.  Because one of the girls here hasn’t seen anyone mopping or polishing she mentioned in passing to the agency that runs the Brit accommodation that she has not seen a cleaner for three weeks; however, had she had used her eyes and common sense and not her mouth she would have seen the block is actually cleaner than it’s ever been before.

The agency went straight to the cleaning company and put in a complaint and the guy who had been doing such a good job was given a massive bollocking and banned from the barrack block while an investigation was carried out. Part of his defence was that he had not only been in every day but that he had gone the extra mile and rather than sit around in the cleaners tea bar had cleaned the Brit communal area.

The cleaning company exonerated him of not cleaning the block but are deducting 250 euros from his pay packet because he cleaned an area which is not covered by the cleaning contract. Their argument is that if they had been asked to clean the communal area they would have charged the Brits that amount. I am so in the wrong business, 250 euros to clean a space about the size of my front room – what a rip-off! So remember -Loose lips don’t just sink ships, they fuck over cleaners as well.

This episode again shows the difference between civilian companies and the military. We, as in the military, every single day; every single week and month will go beyond what is expected of us, but the cleaner is being punished for going above and beyond the call of duty – his company management must be a bunch of tossers. Perhaps this is why I fear becoming a civvie again; however, if they do dick him I’ve already put 250 euro to one side to pay him myself.  Still I suppose if you work for a private company and show initiative you get punished.

Anyway, moving on to less of a rant about the inadequacies of cleaning companies and their management practices. You can tell how important an officer is here, or possibly how important they think they are, by the number of their own books lining their office. Someone, possibly a Major who shall not be named, has two or three books and then as you go up the food chain you end up with an office with enough books to make a library proud. The other thing that seems to happen here is the ‘I Love Me’ wall. Somebody will have mementoes from all their Service career pinned to one or more walls in their office.

Another thing is that some desks and offices are liberally sprinkled with family photographs, which can be quite interesting when you see some of the wife’s/partners/spouses/whatever as you would never have matched them up and I can’t help but wonder what hidden qualities these people have which has allowed them to punch well above their weight and allow them to get a wife who is clearly very attractive.

You can tell I’m not too important as I have only ever had one book in my office, and certainly never any family pictures, but that could be because if I take a photograph of my son when he hasn’t shaved for a while I have to spend ages with Photoshop’s new filter entitled ‘Eliminate Ginger Facial Hair from a Loved One’

There’s a song out at the moment called ‘Can’t feel my face’ and the main lyric is something like ‘Can’t feel my face when I’m with you.’  Why?  Has he had a stroke; is he taking drugs because she’s so unattractive; has he recently had Botox and is regretting going on a date before the effects wear off; or did the songwriter decide he hates all of us and decide to come up with a shit song to punish us all, this song is the modern equivalent of the Birdy Song?

Quote:

Elderly cleaner at work: “Is the dark lady in?”

Jim: “No, the black lady is on holiday.”

There will be no more emails/letters, anything I do at my new unit will go on to my blog, once again on a monthly basis, at least until I get in trouble for it.

That’s it.

Jim

 

07 Aug 15

Second from last load of waffle from the Netherlands; although that said, it’s the summer holidays here in NATO and the HQ is like a ghost town, so the way things are going the final missive may simply be ‘Bye’.

Anyway on with life in the Netherlands. One of our American officers is black and is married to a Spanish lady and the other week they drove to France for a visit; he and his brother in the front car with his daughters in the back, and his wife and sister-in-law in the rear car so they could gossip. We then had a frantic telephone call from him asking to speak to one of the French officers; he had been stopped on the border by French customs on suspicion of child abduction.

Once they cleared up that he wasn’t abducting the children they searched the car for weapons and drugs – twice, I think he said! God bless racist police, in a way it must have reassuring for him to know that they exist in Europe as well as the USA. The French officer here in Brunssum helped to clear up the misunderstanding, but I’m willing to bet that this wouldn’t have happened if he’s been white!

I’ve found one area where life is the same in the Netherlands as it is in GB – dealing with mobile phone providers. It turns out that the phrase ‘Vodafone.nl’ when translated to English stands for ‘Shitty, unprofessional, frustrating service’, who knew? I went in to the shop to cancel my contract only to be told that “We don’t deal with that here, you need to call 1201.”

I called 1201 and they said ”Why don’t you go into the shop?” When I explained that the shop won’t help me I was told to write in and justify why I wanted to cancel my contract. As I am out of the contract and just paying monthly, I refused to justify myself, so the Rep said “Hang on and I’ll transfer to a supervisor.” Then the tosspot either hung up on me or transferred me to a defunct number as I was then cut off.

Over the next couple of days I went on to the internet and used their Customer Service page and used their ‘Cancel your subscription form’ and also a ‘Contact Us’ email page and after a couple more days had still heard nothing back, so I stormed back in to the shop to either cancel my contract or kill all present. The shop assistant I marched up to listened to my story and said “Here, I’ll cancel it for you now.” Took the wind right out of my sails, but beggars the question – why do these companies make it so hard to cancel your subscription? I’ll think twice in the future before going with Vodafone again, mainly so I either don’t kill them all or have a stroke.

My pet hate when in a presentation is for the presenter to put up a slide and then read it verbatim, why? Does he or she think we can’t read? I was acting as clicker-bitch for a briefing the other day and the briefer read out the slides verbatim and then repeated certain aspects of it 3 times; in other words, every other person in the room had read through the slide before he was even halfway through the first iteration and in my case, was busy day dreaming and kept getting caught by surprise when he needed to go to the next slide; the briefing took about 20-30 minutes longer than it needed to.

I have mentioned before that people here are keen on, and the shops have lots of, UHT milk. Why? If this was a hot desert country with little or no refrigeration facilities (i.e. fridges) I would understand. The other day one of the lads in the barrack block picked up some milk for me and got the wrong stuff. I thought nothing of it until I opened it and took a swig. You know that taste when you lick accidently lick somebody’s arse by accident, well it was like that, I damn near put the stuff out of my nose in my haste to get it out of my mouth. I was tempted to go to the gym and lick a sweaty armpit just to get rid of the taste.

Lynx are now selling a deodorant which has as a main selling point that it is good for 48 hours; I would suggest that also sums up perfectly the type of people who use Lynx.  Now I’m willing to admit I’m well out of practise at this type of stuff, but surely a bloke is more attractive if he showers every day?

One of the officers here had a problem with his computer so i went over and knocked on his door and after a few seconds he unlocked it and said “Sgt Drake, my door is closed so i can have some peace and quiet!” He was, luckily, amused with my reply “How’s that working out for you sir?” But I then went on to sort out the problem with his computer, so overall I’m some kind of hero.

A couple of weeks ago the team went out for a farewell meal for our French assistant to the general, and we went to a very nice Dutch restaurant. One of the persons who shall remain anonymous in case he pings me in the testicles again, didn’t know what to order as he was unfamiliar with the local food, so he asked Christie what she recommended and as a result ordered Beef Carpaccio.

For those of you who are not as sophisticated as me, any Carpaccio dish, be it salmon, tuna, veal or in this case, beef, is served finely sliced and raw. The person who ordered this meal didn’t know this and when a magnificent plate of seriously skinny red raw meat and salad was placed in front of him he called the waiter back and complained it was cold –and que much mocking, which continues to this day.

Mistranslations:

Running carpet – running machine

Somebody bullying Jim:

Jim, we skinny dip, you chunky dump!

That’s it this month – disappointing I know, but then if you’ve slept with me, you’ll know that’s my superhero power.

Jim

 

28 Jun 15

The third last load of waffle from the Netherlands as a large man tries to bore his friends and family to death. It was Matthew’s birthday in May, so I wanted to do something special, so he and Craig came over to visit for five days and it was decided to visit Amsterdam and the battlefields around here, this is because I know my way around these areas and can act like a know-it-all.

One of the things the Dutch do very well is support their railways and certain shops at certain times of the year sell discounted tickets, so the first stop with the boys was to pick up some cheapo tickets and show them the difference between British and Dutch supermarkets. Mistake. The boys wanted to try all the Dutch junk, like the fizzy drinks, Bolognaise crisps and chocolate.

The train ride to Amsterdam was as expected – efficient and uneventful and we got in to A’dam with no problems other than me leading the Drake/McCracken team the wrong way out of the train station and then having to turn back several minutes later.

At our first pub while we were deciding which tram to catch to the hotel, I leant my rucksack up against the window and turned away to order a drink, unfortunately there was no glass in the window and the bag toppled over on to a bloke sitting under there; so anyway, first 30 minutes in Amsterdam and I’d managed to piss off somebody.

The Hotel were booked into, The Hotel Nieuw Slotania was, in a word, shit. My toilet was wedged in between the bath and wall so tightly that I could not spread my legs at all, and as such I physically could not wipe my arse and had to lurch forward several feet while remaining in a squat to carry out any kind of cleaning drill; how more people who use this bog don’t have a stroke is a small miracle. For those of you in the military, the NBC arse-wiping drill is far easier.

Again a hotel with no bog brush, is this the industry standard, does the house cleaning staff measure a guest’s worth by the skidmarks they leave behind, do they take photos and compare notes or do they have a board of streaky photos in the staff room; or do they not trust the guests with a brush, in case one of them goes postal down the corridors and smears other guests, staff and walls alike?

The rooms were provided with a small safe for valuables, but it wasn’t attached to anything, in other words it was free standing and would only deter the laziest of thieves. Each room only had one PowerPoint/plug socket so you could only recharge one phone at a time, I’m guessing that in Amsterdam electricity is rationed, and the hotel wants to keep its costs down, but how many travellers were wandering around the next day with uncharged mobiles?

The hose leading in to the shower head was broken just where it made contact with the head and as such sprayed just as much water from the hose as the head, which meant that the shower took twice as long; and there is clearly a problem with guests thieving the fixtures and fittings as there was no plug in the bath, so I couldn’t compensate by having a bath.

The wall which separated the bathroom must have had a heating unit storage unit in it as it was quite warm to touch and in winter would be a nice way to keep the room warm, but since the air con was either broken; on a timer; or self-fucking-aware and wanted to terminate me through the medium of dehydration, it would turn off after an hour which meant that in the early hours of the night I woke up still drunk and had a flashback to ‘Nam as I was sweating so much, but it did explain why the room was permanently stuffy and smelly.

The hotel walls were not only paper-thin but connected in some clever way so that as the people down the corridor slammed their doors my room shook, which meant that from about 0730 onwards I got to experience the effects of simulated earthquake; as an aside, Craig’s alarm didn’t go off, but luckily due to the thinness of the walls, the alarm clock in the next room woke him up, so it seems that there was actually a good reason for the shit walls – teamwork!

I had ordered a twin room for the boys and from what they were saying it was every bit as shit as mine, but at least I had towels, they only had one between the pair of them, but it never occurred to them to call down to Reception; but then on reflection, it probably wouldn’t have achieved anything.

After dumping our gear in the hotel we took a tram to the city centre and wandered around and discovered we could eat our way cross Amsterdam by visiting the cheese shops and trying out their samples, I think we managed to try eight shops. The Dutch only seem to have one type of cheese but I was amazed at all the different things they managed to mix in; chili, thyme, pesto, paprika, sage, ham, that is to say they were all in different cheeses not that they had packed all of that in to one cheese – that would be gross!

Staying with the theme of the hotel, the weather was crap and kept raining, so we stopped off at a cheapo souvenir shop and despite the boy’s protestations that it wasn’t cool, bought a telescoping umbrella each, which did us for the rest of the evening, except for Craig, who discovered that he looked like a ninja if he flicked his wrist hard because it would cause the umbrella to telescope out with a really cool sound.

This he did at every opportunity including when we were in MacDonalds which is when he flicked it out again and the umbrella telescoped out, detached from the handle and slammed in to a large black man standing about six feet away. Matt and I fell over laughing and Craig made sure he apologised; luckily because Craig’s ginger the man knew there were no racist overtones.

We stopped off at one pub, Café Zwart, which was a lovely café with good service, but three beers cost 25.50 euros, I was staggered at the price, if I want to be ripped off to that degree I’ll go to London. All the other bars/cafes/pubs/whatever, including in the middle of the red light district were between 14 and 18 euros for three beers; each beer was half a litre – about a pint.

One of the Dutch national dishes is called Bitterballen, which I think translates to ‘deep fried disappointing slice of life’. Whilst in Café Zwart I ordered a bowl of them so the boys could see just how good the food in a Wetherspoon’s is in comparison. We had a small bowl with six bitterballen and the price was 8.50 euros; in other words I paid six quid for the equivalent of six small IKEA sized meatballs. I would say yet another rip-off, but perhaps it’s because I live in King’s Lynn.

The red light district was pretty packed, but the surprising thing was the number of groups of women who were window shopping (so to speak), and the noisiest people we saw were of course the Brits doing their usual Stag-Do thing of shouting and generally showing Europe how sophisticated we are. We did see one Stag-group of Germans, but they were all dressed in Tuxedos and were very organised and discrete, a bit different from 1940 I think!

All the prostitutes were behind glass doors which were double glazed and the question is – was that to keep the noise in or out. Above every door was a horizontal red neon light which signified a woman, I think there were other colours which indicated gay men or transvestites, or something, but I lacked the courage to explore. Most, if not all, the booths were lit internally by UV light and since the Pro’s wore white bras and knickers and such like, and their teeth and cigarettes were also white they glowed under the UV, and as such they all looked like really cheap slutty vampires.

A friend, Mac, marked out on a printed out Google map for me the whole of the red-light district, and unfortunately I showed it to the boys who then insisted on exploring every bloody alley there was, in some cases, twice! By the time we had finished walking around and staring it was about two in the morning and the trams had finished, so we caught the night bus to the hotel, or at least that’s what we thought we were doing.

The driver had clearly taken lessons from Mad Max and drove like a man (or a dick) possessed and nearly made Matt throw up on the bus; personally I thought he should have as it would have explained to the driver, in a non-verbal way, what we thought of his driving. Keeping with the theme of being a dick, instead of following the route laid out for him, he dropped us off about a kilometre away from the hotel and indicated the general direction we should walk; luckily after about 10 minutes of lurching we chanced across the hotel.

The return train ride back to Brunssum had three changes due to works on the railway, and we got back at 2150 and went straight to Dominos, but I had forgotten this is the Netherlands and they close at 2200, so it was kebabs instead. The kebabs come in a large round flat bread and are wrapped up, a bit like a tortilla wrap, which makes it easier and neater to eat than the British versions wrapped in their pita breads which spew their guts out of the side and over your chin as you bite in to them.

On Sunday we visited Eben-Emael for a re-enactment of the attack by the German Glider Troops, but due to the high winds, the glider was cancelled and instead the German Para’s just ran around the corner of one of the bunkers and got stuck in. As part of the attack they simulated the explosive charges that destroyed the guns, and they seemed to be quite liberal with the amount of gunpowder they used. When the first charge went off, I swear that all 1200 spectators levitated a couple of inches off the ground.

We visited the Hurtgen Forest and looked at the scene from the German POV and were very glad that we were not American Infantry having to fight our way up the steep hillsides. As we had left the base early in the morning we stopped off and had a breakfast picnic in Aldi car park in one of the small German villages, and got lots of strange looks from the locals as we stood there stuffing ourselves from the boot* of my car. We also visited Monschau which is a preserved medieval village, but the boys were a bit underwhelmed, so we had cake and coffee and decided to call it quits.

On Tuesday we went to Bastogne and the surrounding area and walked around a couple of museums staring at tanks and stuff. On Wednesday we went to Overloon, we were going to go to Waterloo but decided if we wanted to see boring wide open fields sweeping up to the horizon, we’d just drive to the ferry as the motorways were lined with them, and to be honest, one field is much the same as the other. Unless it’s got cows in it, then it gets interesting. Why are cows black and white? It’s got to be the shittest camouflage in existence, it’s probably why they were domesticated in the long run; they were so easy to see.

Cock-up of the month:

Jim: ‘These chicken crisp are nice and buttery!’
Craig: ‘Jim, they’re cheese and onion.’

Quote of the month from one who will remain anonymous:

‘Do you know what would be really cool, to be a cow!’ Que much mocking, where we then chose other animals, I went with badger, but Matt beat me by going with honeybadger which is a lot cooler than a cow.

I have discovered a new pet hate – Links in Facebook! When you click on a link to see, for example, funny text messages sent by parents, you have to navigate through 17 fuckin pages to see them all and each page is chock-a-bloc with adverts for shit I’ll never buy or use, and the third or fourth link always opens a pop-up window for gambling or a survey or some such pointless crap.

I now do the first, and maybe the second page, but due to Flashplayer crippling my computer and my frustration at the other pointless links on the pages, I then bin out of them and think that if they were really that funny, and they (the originator) were that intelligent, they would put them all on one page. But then again, they are probably paid advertising fee for each page that suckers, sorry, I meant browsers, navigate to.

I accept that Pop-ups are part and parcel of browsing internet porn, but annoying when viewing funnies; still, like most other modern blokes out there I’m now bit of a ninja at detecting them and closing them before they get a chance to fully open and spray out music or something else incriminating from the speakers.

The Bull Nights have gone to fortnightly and we’re not allowed to call them Bull Nights as that is politically incorrect in some way and implies a degree of coercion or duty. We now call them Domestic Nights which is nicer (apparently) and implies a degree of teamwork. Bollocks! You just try missing one and see what happens!

As an aside to the Bull Nights, in order that we don’t get bored the Boogie Monster is back and smearing the contents of his nostrils on the walls. There are only nine seniors in the barrack block; therefore, it has to be one of us, and it’s not me. The question is – does this disgusting pus filled individual do this at home? Did his wife accept this as part of his wedding vows – love, honour, obey, and scrape off boogies because your man has no self-pride?

Since the swimming pool is now closed for a couple of months due to an abundance of asbestos I have started going to the gym in the mornings where I use the weights and bike. A new thing I have never seen before is that the Yanks wear mouthguards when using the weights. These are not the normal mouthguards that the Brits use when playing rugby or boxing; these are massive things that seem to protrude beyond the lips, and they come in a variety of bright colours.

The first time I saw them in use, I didn’t realise what they were and thought the two guys were sucking on lemons for a really long time.   Apparently when they lift large weights they grind their teeth; now I know that when I was younger we wore weight training belts to stop our stomach’s popping out and giving us hernias, do they use these mouthguards to stop their brains popping out?

 

Cheers

 

Jim

 

*For the Americans, that’s the Trunk

 

 

23 May 15

More self-indulgent waffle from an alcoholic gainfully employed within the powerhouse that is NATO.

This past couple of weeks Ferdi and I have been waging an elastic band war across the office; every couple of hours or so one of us will ping the other, usually over the head of Christie. The other day I pinged him and then carried on with work, and when the telephone rang I answered it and while having a conversation with Annie on the other end of the phone failed to notice that Ferdi had vanished from his desk, and that he was on his hands and knees under my desk, but it wasn’t all sexual/good news as he twanged my balls with an elastic band. It didn’t hurt, much, but I think I surprised Annie with my girlish scream.

So anyway, the other Friday we had an 80’s night, I couldn’t be arsed to go as it was fancy dress and I was holding the duty mobile for the weekend which meant I couldn’t drink. I did pop down for less than ten minutes and had a single beer and a helping of curry, but being the only sober one is a drag; however, judging from the photos and the amount of vomit, a good time was had by all.

Someone(s) puked outside the bar, and upstairs in two separate sinks and a shower cubicle; now that’s either a very enthusiastic rider of the vomit comet, or several of them decided to create a new Olympic sport – synchronised vomiting. I gather that one of the puker’s had a go at cleaning one of the sinks, although not too successfully, and the other was left for the Barrack Block cleaner to do.

As for the shower, one of the lads who didn’t go to the party went for a shower the next morning and spent the first couple of minutes toeing lumps of sausage roll and curried chicken down the drain in the cubicle. Ahh, the life of a single Serviceman/woman in the 21st century.

All the seniors who are staying at Brunssum have to be out of the barrack block by the end of June and back to the flats; those of us who are moving out to married quarters or posted in the next few months can stay until we trickle out naturally.  God bless military politics!

Kev and I went to Brussels the other Saturday and had a walk around a military museum followed by several hours walking around Brussels centre doing the tourist thing. As we walked around the museum alarms kept going off, they seemed to follow us, and it was so annoying I commented upon it.

About five minutes later we came to a display with a Bren Carrier and I leaned over the red rope barrier to have a closer look and yet again in the background an alarm was going off. Cue a pissed off museum employee who had a go at me. Turns out it had me all along setting them off, and I think he been tracking the source of the disturbance and caught me in the act. In my defence all the signs saying ‘Fat man do not lean over the bright red rope and touch things‘ were in Dutch.

On the way from the museum to the metro we walked by a small grassed area which was given over to a pond complete with ducks and a number of tents and booths set up for kids, one of the booths was like a giant cage with a large amount of what looked like disco equipment and a big sign saying ‘Silent Disco’. Kev, who’s a techie and very knowledgeable gave me a brief on how with modern technology and directed acoustics, or some such bollocks, they can keep the sound inside the cage and the kids can have a disco without the noise annoying anybody else. Well cool!

While wandering around the city centre we walked past a booth selling water, ice cream, chocolate, other things and porn magazines. I didn’t know they still printed porn mags, they must do it for people with a poor internet connection. I suppose technology is one of the things to be grateful for – it’s easier to wipe off a keyboard than a printed page, although sometimes an ear-bud is required for a deep clean.

One the way back we passed the silent disco in full swing, all the kids were dancing around and having a great time, and exactly as Kev had said the noise wasn’t getting past the bars; however, this was primarily due to the fact that all the kids had headphones on and were receiving the music via WiFi or Bluetooth – directed sound, my arse!

Within the camp we have contract cleaners who are a team of (on the whole) elderly women and today I want to talk about them. In each toilet cubicle is a vertical stack toilet roll holder which holds two large rolls and when the bottom one finishes, the top one, via the medium of gravity, drops down to replace it.

To dry our hands we use a large continual-loop hand towel, by that I mean as you pull a fresh/clean bit down to dry your hands, the slack at the bottom is automatically pulled back up in to the bottom of the dispenser

Every day either in the BB or in the building I work, one of the two above fails. In the case of the toilet roll dispenser, by the top roll not dropping down in to place, which means some serious jamming your hand up the slot and wriggling fingers around in desperation to try to extract one or two sheets to wipe your arse, or it drops down and jams in to place, which means no toilet roll for you during that session; the more knowledgeable of us always check the state of the dispenser before committing.

In the case of the hand towel dispenser it can be one of two things; the towel jams as you pull it down and locks in to place and nothing you do can make it move, which as more and more people wash their hands and give it a yank, leads to the towel ripping and tearing.

Leading on from that, if the unit has been insecurely locked by the cleaner after replenishment, and because you are pissed off that it has happened again, you give it an exasperated extra hard pull which causes the cover to swing up and hit you in the face if you are standing too close. As you walk down the corridor and approach the toilet you can tell that that the dispenser is broken because the guys are wiping their hands on their shirts or trousers as they exit.

Sometimes with the hand towel the cleaners have not fed it properly in to the bottom slot (we all have that problem) and as you pull a fresh/clean bit down the bloody things spools on to the floor like a pile of soggy white intestines.

I sometimes wonder if this is all as a result of:

  • Untrained cleaners – because these items require some serious expertise. Not!
  • Shoddy or inappropriate equipment – it’s not soldier proof.
  • The cleaners are pissed off with their lot in life and do it on purpose to have a laugh at us.

There’s a quote about getting drunk/alcohol which goes something like this:

Beer then wine – next morning you’ll be fine; but wine then beer – next morning you’ll be queer. This quote, in simple terms means that if you mix alcohol, be careful; I have a new one:

Beer then wine and then pernod – next morning you’ll be seriously fucked over and stay in bed until midday wondering why you were such a tw*t.

Sometimes when supporting VTC’s, meetings or conferences if we can stay awake and focused we make a note of the words that are used. I sat in a conference the other day and the following words were used: Granular, Granularity, Leverage and Workstrand. What do these words mean?

  • Granular – To get overly detailed when describing something or talking about a subject. Breaking things down to the fine grain.
  • Granularity – Breaking down a process or system into smaller modules to make it more accessible/easier to comprehend. On the other hand, it also mean over-complicating a simple process to the extent of being anal in the extreme.
  • Leverage – It used to mean ‘use efficiently’ or ‘share’, but today it is inserted into every other sentence in the business world to make typical ideas and sentences sound grander.
  • Workstrand – A group of sequentially related elements of a project.

And I’m still none the wiser.

 

Quotes:

Royal Navy girl in the laundry room “You can tell which are my clothes by the anchors on them!”

Jim – “Really, I’d have gone with the width!”

At the end of this week Matthew and Craig are coming over for a week, we’ve booked in to a hotel in Amsterdam and I’m going to take them around the Red Light District and let them see the ladies in the windows, let’s see how we all get on! We’re also visiting Eben-Emael, Bastogne, Arnhem, Overloon, Waterloo and Ypres, which for the historically challenged amongst you are all famous battlefields, not the locations of popular brothels.

Next week I’m back for a fortnight and already have my first dinner party planned for Saturday, it’s going to be Mexican. The starter will be Chilli Chocolate Spare Ribs and Red Pepper Salad; the main course will be Chilli Roja, Chilli Verde and Spicy Rice and Beans; desert will be Baked Fruit Empanadas and Ice Cream. Considering I haven’t cooked for a couple of months (microwaving Tescos finest doesn’t count) I’m probably being a bit adventurous, but the quantity of red wine we’ll drink will compensate for any cock-ups.

That’s it for now.

Jim

 

28 Apr 15

Well another month gone, more conferences and VTC’s and boredom sitting in a darkened booth people watching. One of the differences that becomes apparent in a meeting, conference or VTC is that Brits say ‘Full Stop’ at the end of a sentence to show we have finished speaking and it’s now your turn.  The Americans say ‘Full Stop’ at the end of the sentence to indicate that is the end of the matter and not open to any further discussion.  This can cause some consternation in the Americans when they are in the middle of a meeting and haven’t agreed a way forward and the Brit says it.

Myself and one of the American officers’ are having a poster war, he puts up a poster mocking me, I retaliate by putting up a poster about him; however, my boss has now banned me from retaliating as he thinks it’s detracting from real work. So when the yank puts up a poster about me, I sneak into his office when he’s out and hide a poster somewhere in there; there are some examples on my photo page.

I got back to my desk the other day and found a post-it with a message about a broken computer and it was signed PWHY; so I asked Ferdi who had left the message, and he told me he had written it.  When I asked what PWHY means he explained it stands for ‘Person Who Hates You’.  Ah, crazy Turks.

The barrack block NCO has decreed that we are to stop taking other people’s washing out of the washing machine and putting it in the tumble dryer, this is because the dryers are pretty awesome and can get  mega hot and certain types of clothing are being damaged and shrunk.

No problem, there’s no need for me to rush down to the laundry room as soon my wash cycle finishes, I can leave it for another twenty minutes or so and saunter down; or fucking not!  I went down the other day and my laundry had been removed from the washing machine and placed in to the tumble dryer at its highest heat.

As I exited the room in a hump the barrack block NCO walked past and said “Jim I put your washing in the tumble dryer, I hope that was okay.”  Through gritted teeth I assured him it was; however, now I have to either lose weight or buy new undies – guess which?

News Update on the barrack block – Let’s play a game called ‘On the bus, off the bus’. All the seniors (Sergeants and WO’s) are getting kicked out of the BB and sent back to the flats where we originally started, in other words, they want me to go back to the place that started me drinking like a Scotsman; but hopefully I won’t have to move as I’m posted out of here on 04 Sep, and to be honest it’s time to go.

At the moment I get approx. a thousand pounds a month extra for being here, but they have just cut the LOA for the singlies to zero and now they want us back in the flats which means we will have to pay grade one accommodation charges, although that said, we will get an allowance to go and buy fresh ingredients to cook, in other words we will just about break even each month.

Quality decision!  On one hand we lose loads of money, then we have to pay triple what we are paying now for the privilege of living somewhere we don’t want to be, but, yippee, we get a few pennies scattered in our general direction to go shopping.

The roads here that run through forests are kept debris free because the Dutch line the entire length of the road with a 1 foot high plastic sheet barrier, this is to keep a division between small animals and big cars, it also means that unlike the United Kingdom the roads are not lined with small dead and crushed animals.

I always think that most British children’s first experience of woodland creatures are those they see squashed on the road with their entrails spread out. For most British children seeing live small woodland creatures in a zoo or petting farm must be bit of a shock, because unlike the ones on the roads, the live ones are three-dimensional that is to say they are not pancake flat.

The other weekend we spent nearly five hours on parade (inc traveling time and a thank you coffee and cake), I had to stand next to a WW2 grave for an hour and for a part of that people walked by paying their respects; do you know how hard it is to be a perv when standing at attention and not moving any part of your body except your eyes?

A couple of years ago I bought myself a PS3 in order that I could compete with my son, but fell at the first hurdle as he promptly nicked it.  For this Christmas he was bought an X-Box One and has now lost all interest in the PS3 as its old hat, so I thought I would take the PS3 back to Holland and learn how to use it.

So at Christmas I asked Matt to drop it off around the house so I could start practising.  The last couple of times I have been back I have asked him for it and he kept telling me it was in the house, I searched high and low and couldn’t find it anywhere, so this time back I asked him to explain in detail exactly where it was, turns out that my retard son had put the PS3 away safely in an X-Box One box.

Translations:

Said: Boot Sauce.

Meant to say: Boot Polish.

Mistranslations:

I have fruit juice with vessels – I have fruit juice with fiber (Dutch for fiber is Vezels).

That’s all the fun and games for this month, possibly more waffle next month.

Jim

 

 

 

26 Mar 15

More from the Netherlands, thinking about it if I move back to the UK for the 01 Sep, then there will only be another five blogs, not too sure if that’s a bad thing. Anyway on with the ramblings.

There is an Italian who goes spinning with me and when we get back to the changing room afterwards when we both strip off for the shower he puts on a bathrobe and walks through to the shower, takes off the robe, showers, and puts the robe back on to dry himself off. To me this is minging, the bathrobe has for a minute or so been absorbing his sweat and bacteria and then he puts it back on his nice clean body. When I say nice clean body I mean it’s nice that his body is clean, not that he has a nice body. Just wanted to get that out of the way!

At least I do it properly, I strip naked, panic because I’ve worn my willy away spinning, stop panicking when I find it hidden under my belly, saunter to the shower past the guys sitting on the bench letting them see me in all my swinging glory (penis, not belly) and then use a towel to dry off. Another thing I have noticed, or studied, if you want to be pedantic, about the gents’ showers is the unwillingness of other men to wash their bums properly.

The other guys sort of lube up their fingers with the shower gel and then self-consciously slide it up and down the crack with their legs held together, and then half-heartedly re-slide their hand up to de-soap, no way does that de-sud the crevice. Not me, I gel up and get my hand up there and put a bit of effort in to it, and then face away from the shower, spread legs and grab my ankles to de-soap, it’s amazing how few men will make eye contact when you look up from that position.

Block life has been soured slightly, and it’s by the Army SNCO’s, once they start drinking, they just can’t stop. They are now looking to open up one of the rooms in our corridor and making it an SNCO’s Snug; as they put it they have earned the right to have a separation between themselves and the juniors. But they’re Army, so as far as I’m concerned all they’ve done is turn up for work and keep their nose clean, so in reality, they’ve earned f-all.

Also down our corridor is a number of females, all but one are Cpls/LH/SAC’s, but you just know that once the Army SNCO’s/WO’s have all had a drink those particular juniors will be allowed in the Snug. Also, any noise that would have been in the bar until the early hours will now be down my corridor keeping not just one side of the block awake, but spreading the love down both sides – deep joy.

I have had enquiries from two people who are interested in my job in September, so I have written back to them and my opening line on the email is ‘This is not the most challenging job in the RAF’. The hardest part here is not drinking too much alcohol. I remember my dad used have a tray that he was presented with when he was in the Army, and it was engraved with the words ‘Whisky Max’, by accident or genes I have sort of acquired the name Whisky Jim; which is a really cool name for a cowboy or a pimp, but bit of a reflection on your personality if you’re a clerk.

On the subject of my impending end of tour I am starting to think of what I’m looking forward to when I return permanently:

  • Fish and chips – this is because the Dutch only really seem to do McDonald’s style fries and in all my time here I haven’t seen any decent battered fish.
  • Not smelling somebody else’s shit every time I go to the toilet or listening to someone with constipation in the next trap.
  • Wearing a proper blue uniform and not these MTP pyjamas.
  • No Army.

Quote of the month:

Jim: “Are you coming to the 1920’s America Night Party Christie?”

Christie: “No, of course not, my people were still slaves then!”

 

That’s it for now as I’m back in the UK this weekend for a week’s Leave

 

Jim

 

16 Mar 15

Greetings from a large man in the Netherlands, standby for more narcissism. A couple of weeks ago myself and a work colleague hosted a whisky tasting evening; we laid on eight superb single malt whiskies and a load of food. The evening was a great success and started at 1945 and finished at about midnight. We had 20 people attend and the whiskies were evenly divided so that each person had five centilitres.

For each whisky we talked about the area it came from, the distillery and then the nose (what it smells like) and finally the tasting notes, both neat and with water to show everyone how the whiskies changed as you diluted them.

A good time was had by all and I collapsed at about 0030 and woke up the next day feeling like I had died, gone to heaven, been rejected and dumped back in the hung-over body of a fat man. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later I worked out what had happened – I had drank eight five-centilitre measures, plus a couple of spares as we cleaned up.

In other words, I had drank between 16 to 20 single measures of scotch, so my leaving for the UK was delayed slightly because I was probably still too drunk to drive and I would have been sick anyway.

The main reason I returned to the UK was to attend a medical appointment with a neurologist at Birmingham hospital to check up on my mini-stroke and make sure I was okay for work again. After an emotional time driving through Birmingham I arrived some forty minutes early and after checking in, got seen early.

After a number of questions and simple tests like ‘Raise your right arm, good, good, now raise your left arm’ he declared that I had not had a mini-stroke, but had simply had a migraine and the cloggies had overreacted. In other words, I have had eight months of being downgraded and worrying because I had a headache. I would make a shit woman, you have these things all the time – What a warrior I am!

As an aside, the British military has closed down all of its hospitals and gone in to business with the NHS in Birmingham, in other words the main British military hospital is in what seems to be a predominately Muslim area.

One of the things I have noticed whilst driving back and forth is that a lot of the cars in Belgium are not powered by petrol or controlled by the drivers, they run on mobile phones. Seemingly every second bloody driver had a mobile phone wedged between their shoulder and head.

When somebody, I’ll be honest, it’s mainly men, buy an Audi or BMW they must sit down and read the instruction manual, and there must be sections/paragraphs within it that say shit like ‘When changing lanes on a motorway, do not indicate as this causes other drivers to become complacent’, or ‘When there is a traffic jam, it is your duty to allow all other non-Audi/BMW drivers to admire the rear of your car while you lane dodge to get a couple of car lengths ahead’, or ‘Remember – when driving an Audi/BMW, posted speed limits are more of a guidance, rather than an absolute.’

Mobile phone controlled cars and Audi/BMW drivers have the ability to turn a long and tedious drive home in to something a lot more dangerous, and allows me to feel like I’m an extra in a really crap health and safety film.

I am giving Matthew the C3 and bought myself a C4 Grand Picasso, so I now have to re-import the C3 back in to the UK, or rather try to re-import the Citroen C3 back in to UK, but everywhere I go I come across people or organisations who seem to take pride in titles such as ‘Obstacle’ or ‘Rip-off merchant’.

HMRC won’t allow me to bring the car in the country unless I have a Certificate of Conformity, which costs 80 pounds, and despite explaining to Citroen it’s to import a vehicle in to England they sent me the certificate in French, so absolutely no good then!

DVLA will not allow me to re-import the car back without insurance and when you call them they put you through to a broker who gleefully tells you it’s 350 pounds for one month’s insurance because you don’t have a number plate, but you can’t get a number plate because you don’t have insurance; a greedy little circle that the likes of KBR would be proud of.

When the paperwork came through it was 3rd party only and it is actually for a year and only for one named driver – me. But I still feel violated as I only actually need it for one month while I get the car re-registered.

Some of the people in the block have started relationships with other people in the block and their faces have come up in the most enormous cold sores, these things are massive and I swear, face-distorting, and yet another reason for me not to go into a relationship as I just don’t fancy spending the first month or so the relationship with half my face being taken over by a flesh eating virus given to me in someone else’s spit.

Due to the state of the barrack block we have started to have regular bull nights. We pay the cleaning company to send in a cleaner daily, yet myself with 24 years and a WO with over 30 years and all the others ended up spending over two hours on the first bull-night cleaning everything; toilets, showers, laundry room etc..

It did actually bring home to me that there was too much work for one rather large geriatric cleaner working one and a half hours a weekday; so for the foreseeable future we are going to have an abbreviated bull-night every Tues.

The British Bar is downstairs in my barrack block and due to a number of issues it is now only opened at 1600hrs on Fri and it has to be closed at midnight, unless permission has been sought from the British SNR.  Now all of us know this rule and it’s partly in force because the BB is quite full and we have more people in the rooms on that side of the building, and it’s an easily understood rule, a bit like Cinderella – clock strikes midnight, everyone buggers off to bed or to their prince, or whatever.

Unless of course you are in the British Army, and then you interpret the rule as open at 1600 on Friday and carry on drinking until 0700 Saturday, and then look astonished on Monday when you get dragged in front of an officer and bollocked.  So for the next month the bar is closed as a punishment, yet again the minority spoil it for the majority.

Almost above the bar is one of our senior Warrant Officers who was kept awake all night as a result of the festivities, and that in itself shows how little thought people put in to life when they start drinking. This rule is even simpler to understand than the first mentioned above – don’t keep a WO awake all night as it’s only going to end badly when all sober up.

As a result of the bar being closed the past couple of weekends have been hard for all of us, we have this wraith who wanders up and down the corridor moaning opinions such as “This is dogshit!” “The bar’s closed, this is pants!” and that old favourite “I’m bored!”, but as he’s one of the prime instigators it’s hard to feel sorry!

The other day the Turks had their Annual Fitness Test.  They were quickly examined by a doctor to make sure they were medically fit enough and they were all bussed down to the sports field where they had a 3 kilometre run, followed by sit-ups and push-ups and then a big barbeque.  How good is that!

A couple of weeks ago Christie came in to work with a packet of blue pills, or Viagra as it’s more commonly known, and offered me one and said “Here, take this I want to see what happens.” “Let’s not” was my reply and I’m still walking around with a blue pill in my glasses case offering it to all and sundry, but nobody will take me up on it.

I found out this week that I have not got the job in Belgium, so unless anything else comes up, I’m back to UK in September.

Spelling of the week:
Weekley – Weekly (this from an British Army WO)

06 Feb 15

Apologies I haven’t written for a while, but I do have a reason – I had manflu and it’s taken me the best part of a month to shake it off; so yet another thing to add to the list of why the past twelve months have been the shittiest of my life for the past ten years or so.

Anyway, on with the fat man’s story spanning December and January. On the run up to Christmas I volunteered to take part in a memorial near Venlo for two bombers we lost in the war, and it was decided that we would wear white gloves and belts, but this being the RAF the gloves only came in one size; why we have gloves for 10 year old girls I have no idea.

The advice I was given was that in order to stretch them out I needed to soak them while wearing them. Being a bright spark I decided to wear them in the shower; so for a solid week I soaked and stretched the gloves while I was showering and used them to lather myself up. By the Saturday of the parade the gloves, although a bit snug, fitted, so I was able to wear them on parade; however, top tip – don’t wear white cotton gloves whilst deep cleaning the crack of your arse.

We had a leaving party for four RAF’ies moving on, there was a nice spread of sandwiches, good music, a good selection of people from across NATO, and oh yes, a bar fight which I missed, which is a good thing, for some reason whenever there’s a fight, somebody wants me to stop it, and I have discovered that down that path lies pain. The fight sorted itself out without anybody needing hospital treatment, and the next day all concerned got to visit the British Senior Officer and Senior WO to explain themselves.

I went back home for Christmas and I got back to King’s Lynn on Saturday 13th December and because I struggle with life, I left the car doors unlocked. A pair of teenage toe rags went through my car and stole my passport, driving license, and British and Dutch driver’s license and ID cards. The Police were brilliant; any contempt they felt for a fat plonker who was too stupid to check he’d locked his car doors was well masked.

The first copper turned up in about an hour and the SOCCO in about four. Considering it was nothing too important she was very thorough and dusted the inside and outside of the car for prints using a fine black powder; but because it was so wet that day the outside of the car looked like it was smeared with mascara. Unfortunately, it was too cold and damp for prints.

The whole theft event was captured on my neighbour’s CCTV, but because it was nighttime his camera had switched over to thermal imaging. So working on the lines of ‘Look at what you could have won!’ we were able to see the theft, but were unable to get a decent picture to enable the coppers to identify the scumbags. The only way we will catch the little jizzmonkeys is if I spend the next couple of years of my life walking around during the day (and night) with a thermal camera fixed to my face.

The police did recover everything except the passport and British driving license, they asked permission to carry out further tests on the recovered items, but the testing renders them carcinogenic; therefore, once they had finished testing everything had to be incinerated. So I had the pleasure of going in to Security at Brunssum and telling them I’d lost everything, but I knew exactly where everything was – up in smoke.

I went around Pat and Julie’s on Christmas Eve to help prepare Christmas dinner and ended up cooking goulash for dinner that evening. When I cook goulash I always put in a shot of brandy and play the role of arsonist, but after a quick check it was discovered that there was none in the house, but it was suggested by someone who shall both remain *nameless and should know better, that I use Baileys.

Have you ever tried to flambé Bailey’s? Stop reading this now, go away and find a bottle of Baileys and try and set light to it, news flash, you can’t! Even if you stick a match physically into it, it won’t light, all that happens is the carbon and sulphur from the match improves the god-awful sicky-sweety taste.

I went out for a meal the other evening with one of my colleagues, Christie, and part of the journey was down several unlit roads. Christie, instead of saying “Turn left here” or “Turn right here”, you know, what sensible people do, insisted on silently giving me directions with her hands.

Have you ever had to concentrate on the road because you’re a bad driver and receive directions via the medium of hand gestures from a black woman in a nighttime environment? Well, you tend to miss one or two turn-offs.

First a statement – Dutch supermarkets are aggressive places.

I’m not sure if I have ever referred to the Dutch Supermarket experience before, but here in Holland shopping in a supermarket is a totally different experience to shopping at say, Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s. The supermarkets here do not have a coffee shop attached, here you wander down the aisle shopping; beans – check; soups – check; gravy – check; coffee machine dispensing free coffee – check; pasta – check.

There will be a coffee machine slotted in to the middle of the shelves down the middle of the aisle, and opposite it, if there’s enough room, a single table and about six chairs which are invariably occupied by a group of pensioners who seem to be sitting there free-loading, and apparently judging all who walk by.

When it comes to checking out your shopping through the cashier that’s when the differences between the UK and Holland really come in to focus. Here there is none of the bollocks of the cashier asking “Do you need a hand packing?”

In Holland, there’s no mucking about, you are expected to get through the checkout so fast you don’t have time to actually pack your shopping. You have to grab it as the cashier (usually aged about 16 and either unhappy with her lot in life or believes she’s too good to be working there) swipes the bar code and then tries to get the item to bounce off the end of the conveyer belt.

Your sole job at that point is to simply intercept the item before it impacts, transfer it haphazardly to your trolley/basket, pay, and then get the fuck out of Dodge. If you take the time to pack your shopping properly as in Britain you are considered to be dawdling, and the cashier will join in with the customers who are waiting, in glaring at you.

You then have to take your basket/trolley to either a set of shelves/tables placed on the other side of the walkway and unpack everything in to boxes or bags. You can, if it’s a trolley, take it out in to the car park to do it; it’s not unusual to see a whole family with soft drinks/coffee packing their shopping in to shopping bags in the boot.

The whole process seems designed to waste time, perhaps it is considered a day out for the Dutch, you know, instead of going to the zoo or the seaside, or the cinema, the family goes and experiments with bag packing and then discusses the results; perhaps a written paper a la Leonard Hofstadter**.

48 hour deodorant – why? Is it a sign that the depression isn’t quite over and that poor people only shower/bathe every couple of days; if so the company, Rightguard, are about five years behind the times, and as an aside, if they do a 24-hour version will be half as cheap because technically, it’s only half as good?

Translations:

  • Tourist – Terrorist.
  • When we joined up we had our oats. – When we joined up we took our oaths.

Rather than come back to the RAF I’ve applied for another NATO job, this time in Belgium, I’ll find out in Mar/Apr if I’ve been successful. I’m back home Fri 13 to Sat 21 Feb for a medical at Birmingham, they want to have a look in head and see if I’m okay, let’s see what happens!

Jim

*Julie, it was Julie!

**Big Bang Theory (you either get it or you don’t)

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