Deaglán de Bréadún
Bless me Blogosphere, for I have sinned. It is far too long since my last post here. I beg your indulgence on the grounds of having moved house in recent weeks, as well as carrying out assignments in China, covering the Taoiseach’s trip there, and in one or two other places.
Politics is important but sometimes things happen that put it all in perspective and underline the fragility of life.
For example: my trip to China involved a fairly lengthy stopover while waiting to change planes in Amsterdam. I had been in Schiphol Airport many times before, but never took the opportunity to take a side-trip to the city of the canals.
This would be my first time actually to see the place and the train-journey turned out to be only 20 minutes.
Amsterdam is a lovely city but the train-station is not too user-friendly or at least tourist-friendly. On arrival, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I discovered that the house of Anne Frank was only ten minutes away by tram.
The home of that wonderful, tragic young scribe is beautifully located by a canal – of course! – and, with the sun shining, one reflected that she must have had some good days amid all those sad ones.
The building is covered with protective glass – presumably because of visitors chipping bits off it as a souvenir. There was a long queue to get in and unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait: hopefully next time.
A beautiful statue in her honour is located nearby. A quick calculation showed she would be 83 if she had lived. But her memory will never die.
Back again to the station where I found it very difficult to ascertain when the next train to the airport would be leaving. There was a timetable displayed but when I went to take one of the trains, I wasn’t allowed to board because I hadn’t got the right ticket – or something.
My basic point is that, even for a seasoned traveller such as yours truly, it was a fairly challenging experience just to find a train to the airport and it involved having to queue up for information, which shouldn’t be the case with something so basic. Call me stupid if you like, but I don’t think my modest IQ was the entire cause of my problems that day.
Given the general sense of comparative disorganisation, I was not entirely surprised, although very much saddened, to hear of the recent train-crash which left 13 persons in a critical condition.
It shook me, though, to think that I could have been in one of the carriages and maybe ended up with serious injuries as my manly (!) frame was thrown around in mid-air. I don’t recall any safety-belts on the trains to and from the airport.
One always thinks of the Dutch as being impeccably-organised - something like the Germans – and of course the Government here is intent on bringing-in a Dutch-style health system to replace the much-criticised HSE. But the confusion experienced during my admittedly-brief visit suggests that the Dutch reputation for efficiency may be exaggerated.