Holland Story 2012

Holland Story
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).
20 Jan 13
Another week at NATO which has flown by; this is mainly because I’m still working four day weeks in order to stave off boredom and to get my Leave down before the new Leave year.  This week has pretty much been the same as the previous week and I suspect it will be much the same as next week.  Really not much to cover this week, but here goes:
At work Billy, I think it was, was talking about chatting up a girl trying to cop off with her, and used the analogy ‘I shall chase her like an Englishman chases the fox’; I had point out that usually ended badly for one of the parties involved.
We were having a discussion about what our countries had contributed to the world, and I was informed by one of the Germans that their country had given the world some of the best beer around and also coffee enemas.  I doubled checked the facts on the Internet and it’s true, about the enemas that is, I didn’t research the beer part, but the disturbing thing is that the website that I read pointed out that it was best to let the coffee cool down first; how did they discover that it was dangerous to stick boiling coffee up someone’s bottom I wonder?
The General’s driver, Billy, who really doesn’t have a great deal to do when he’s not driving the General around has discovered this week that he can go on to YouTube and watch movies in the office, and since he’s a fan of the Second World War I have spent this week working to the background of machine-guns, artillery and men fighting and dying; who knew that there were so many loud clips available?  When he told me he was going to be watching films about Belgium at war, he wasn’t too amused when I mentioned that would only take up about ten minutes of his time.
The Taliban have a weapon in their arsenal of which the acronym is DBIED; this stands for Donkey Borne Improvised Explosive Device, that’s right the Taliban are strapping bombs to donkeys.  Not being the brightest star in the sky I asked how they guided the donkey to its target, and quite rightly got mocked; the DBIED’s are actually tied to a piece of roadside furniture and then detonated as the good guys go by, unless we’re talking about the Afghan Police who are corrupt as f*ck,and possibly deserve it.  It’s bad enough being blown up but imagine being in the hospital and the cause of your injury is listed as Asinus Penis (a donkey’s dick) which was travelling at about a thousand feet per second.  I suspect that the reason they use the donkeys is to destroy the evidence of their sexual conquests.
This led on to a discussion about other animals the Taliban can use, I favour the PBIED (Parrot Borne Improvised Explosive Device), you could add a psychological factor to the whole affair by teaching the Parrot to shout ‘I’m a bomb’ as it approached the good guys.  The flaw there is that the parrot would either have a heavy Afghan or Brummie accent, either way the Yanks wouldn’t understand it.

Minger Time
I went out for a meal with the guys and girls from work on Weds and Minger went thro’ his usual beers and then half a bottle of my Scotch, he also smoked in the flat and rather than use an ashtray he used one of our mugs as an ashtray, opened the balcony door to get rid of the smell of fags and went to bed.  Bearing in mind it’s minus 6 at night, he also left the central heating on; the last time I was that hot in bed was Basra in 2004.
It’s incredible that this man is a Sgt in the RAF; he acts more like a junior Private in the Army.  God help his fiancée when he moves in with her in Apr.  Thing is I now fear going out as I know the weak minded little bastard will stink out the place.  As I came home the next day I worked myself up to have a go at him and as I walked into the front room he was waiting to apologise, bastard, took the anger straight out of me.
Remember the pile of decomposing stew on the balcony?  Well, he listened to me and cleaned it up.  By listen I mean ignore me, and by clean it up I mean he’s moved it five feet to the other end of the balcony; still, we are currently under two or three or inches of snow so I guess the flies are taken care of.
Minger tends to use the sideboard rather than a chopping board and doesn’t clean it properly therefore it’s always dirty and when you run your fingers over it it’s covered in tiny pieces of dried food or whatever, if I could read braille I know it would say something like ‘Minger was here’.  Minger Time Over
I went to my 2nd IT meeting the other day and exactly like the first meeting the IT and PowerPoint refused to work; awesome, a 100% failure rate from my perspective, it really gives me confidence in their abilities.
All of NATO has the 06 May off, it’s Liberation Day; nobody thought I was very funny when I asked if the Germans got it off a well or did we make them come into work on their own and sit around and stare at all of the empty desks.  I got a five minute lecture about how the Germans also suffered badly and they too were under the boot of a dictator, I decided to leave that argument alone and agreed.
That’s it for this week.
13 Jan 13
Greetings from Holland, the country of badly dubbed TV.
Definition of irony, someone (you know who you are) eating as many of my Thorntons as possible whilst watching a Diet programme and offering me advice on dieting and healthy eating.
Tried my hand at Karate the other night, not sure whether it was funny or pathetic, a 50 year old man with arthritis in his knees trying to punch and kick his way around an aerobics studio.  For part of the evening I held the kickpad whilst the other guy practised his front kicks, turns out he’s quite happy for me to hold the pads whilst he practises because as he puts it ‘The larger blokes are harder to knock over’, in other words, we wibbles wobble, but we don’t fall down.  Next day was fun trying to get out of bed in the morning.
I went to a Dalmatian restaurant the other night, that is to say a restaurant that specialises in Croatian food, not spotty dogs.  I had what looked like an enormous turd on my plate, which was actually a large lump of minced spiced lamb, and when I cut into it half a ton of feta cheese fell out, it was fantastic!
It was, as is usual for Holland, served with enough chips to feed a family of four. As seems to be the standard around here as soon as we sat down we were presented with shots of spirits, this restaurant served Grappa and for some reason it came in miniature specimen bottle. this meant that it was impossible to ‘neck’ it straight back, rather the only way to get the Grappa out wrap my lips around it and suck out the booze.  This had the potential to be awkward, but since Billy, the bloke who was sitting opposite, is into Swinging it was all quite comfortable.
Minger Time
Well it’s the New Year and a News update, the flat has become a magical zone, i say this because we have a skidmark fairy, a greasy goblin who smears grease/fat all over the TV remote, kitchen sideboard, taps and god knows what else, also a kitchen imp.  You know the kitchen imp, he’s the little bastard that uses loads of crockery/cutlery/pots and pans and leaves them in the sink for a couple of days in the vain belief that they will magically wash themselves.  What I’m trying to say is that the hygiene *harpy still controls things in this house.
He’s still crapping and not using the toilet brush and other than using it as an aiming mark when I pee I’m not going to clean it up, but what’s happening now is that each day he’s using the toilet and not cleaning and it seems that due to natural erosion (my pee (and possibly his)) the skidmark is growing larger and shrinking as the days go on, it’s almost like a living thing as it seems to move around the toilet bowl leaving a faint trail as it moves.
Despite the weather we are starting to attract flies and I believe this is due to the pile of decomposing stew on the balcony.  I asked him to clean it up and do you know what?  He has.  It turns out that all I needed to do was ask rather than rely on his personal standards and sense of pride, amazing!
Minger made a vegetable stew in the slow-cooker on  Sunday afternoon, got legless and went to bed, it was cooking for approx 14 hours and the next morning it had reduced down to some sort of vegetable slush-puppy.  He then went on to make a chili con carne also the slow cooker, thing is, the meat was still wrapped in clingfilm and frozen solid; but not a problem if you are capable of thinking outside the box, he made the chili con carne and dropped the bag of frozen mince in, put the lid on and left it on overnight and the next morning simply fished out the melted clingfilm and carried on cooking it.  Now I’m not a nutrition scientist or anything, but I’m guessing that slow cooking clingfilm for approx 16 hours is not part of a healthy, balanced diet.  Minger time finished
My job, as mentioned before (I think, i can’t be arsed to check back and read my own self-indulgent rubbish) is mainly preparing the General for his meetings, this usually takes up takes about an hour of my day; except on Wednesdays.  He has no Meeting on Wednesdays, this means that on Wednesdays I really have nothing to do at all, so at the moment as I still have a load of Leave left I’m pretty much taking every Wednesday off to stop myself being a nuisance to the others and to stop myself going mad.  If I bother/hassle/bribe the others to let me do their work it just means that they have less to do and are then equally bored.  So a couple of times a week i walk around the other sections within our division and prostitute myself for work.
The highlight of this week has been looking for a missing guillotine; a paper guillotine that is (approx 30cm x 40 cm), not a people guillotine (approx 4.5m x 1.5m), I make the distinction here because when I went around and asked one of the sections if they had borrowed it, I got a blank look and the following statement ‘Wouldn’t somebody have noticed something that big?’.  This was followed by a tentative ‘Oh, you don’t mean a real one do you?’.  These men and women are the best that their countries produce and train to lead men into battle and he actually made the leap of imagination that I was looking for a Guillotine that is used to chop off heads.
About June the General is going and is going to be replaced by a French General who will bring all his own staff, fantastic, I’m going to be surrounded by French Army.
that’s it for this week.
*Harpy – a foul malign creature in Greek mythology that is part woman and part bird and is reputed to fling its shit at passersby.
Holland Midweek Update 13 Dec 12
I wasn’t go to bother with an update this week because it’s a short week, but I’m stressed over the hygiene of a certain person so i had to put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking). I have posted some photo’s on my blog of the two month old stew on the balcony and of the glass coffee table in the front-room, which despite appearances, is not frosted glass.
On Saturday just gone I gave in and cleaned the bathroom sink, partly because I needed it to cut my hair and partly because Maxine’s coming over in the new year, so I wanted to make it shinier. The clean sink lasted until Wednesday morning when minger both brushed his teeth and shaved; it now looks like a work of art by Tracey Emin.
The good news is that not only is he drinking *power shandies every night, and my Martini, but I’ve also given him a taste for Scotch; he must stink when he goes in to work in the morning. The sad thing is he hides the Scotch in his bedroom so he doesn’t have to share it, and then every fifteen minutes or so he skulks up the stairs for a refill.
With reference to the Martini, it’s great, I have a magic bottle. Once a week I use a glassful when making risotto/bolognaise/soup (you get the picture); however, at least once a week minger will sit up in to the early hours drinking it all with tap water, and the next evening a new bottle appears. Since I have been here I must have gone through a couple of bottles cooking and I have only paid for one; and since he’s not off until Apr I look forward to many more meals with free Martini. MINGER TIME OVER
At work we have the Canadian Armed Forces Radio (CAFR) on; I shall never whinge about the banality and general crappiness of Radio 1 again**. CAFR only seems to have a handful of approved records and half of the bloody things are in French, and trust me on this, no Christmas carol sounds better in French.
Myself and one of the lads from work went to a Greek restaurant on Monday night, as you sit down at your table a waiter arrives with shots of Sambuca, and then when you pay the bill, you get another; and it seems there is a Belgique tradition that when you have too much money for the bill, you break it down in to change by buying even more Sambuca. Between several Sambuca’s and a large carafe of red wine, Tuesday wasn’t brilliant for me.
We had Exchange drinks last night and although the ethos was right, it was a damp affair; we were all crammed into the British Bar, which is a room about the size of the average front-room, and self-served soggy bratwurst and soggy onions. All the furniture had also been left in so when you backed up to allow someone to push past, you were in danger of toppling over a settee or a coffee table; however, the beer was ice-cold which pretty much compensated for all else.
I have discovered the meaning of frustration. The Dutch have a car that is their version of the ***Robin Reliant, in that you only need a provisional license to drive it; it’s limited to 40KPH (25MPH) and they are invariably driven by pensioners who are clearly terrified of the thought of driving at the maximum speed of the car.
The quickest way back to my house when driving is out of the camp gate is to turn left at the roundabout, turn right at the next roundabout and follow the single carriageway straight there. However, when unlucky enough to be stuck behind an old dodder who gets a nose bleed when his car goes above 18KPH (THAT’S 11MPH!!!), and who has to stop on the roundabout even when there is not another car in sight, you start raving like a lunatic and banging the steering wheel, well I do anyway. If you want to waste five minutes, or less, look at one here http://www.parkers.co.uk/cars/reviews/facts-and-figures/ligier/nova/.
Although they are mainly driven by pensioners I did see one driven by a rather large lady who was seemingly jammed in so tight it looked like the car had been assembled around her.
LAST MINUTE UPDATE: Minger is posted on 29 Apr back to the UK – Yippeee!
That’s it until after Xmas – promise!
*Extra strong lager mixed with Vodka Ice.
**probably not true.
***except it’s got four wheels

Mound of stew

Remember, this is not a frosted table – it’s just minging!

Remember, this is not a frosted table – it’s just minging!

09 Dec 12
The British Sgts Mess had their Christmas Ball last night and it was fantastic; we held it at Hoensbroek Castle (check Google Images) and the whole place was incredible and the best Christmas party I’ve ever been to, the food was superb, although the portions were a bit small and there was free beer and wine all night.  All the blokes were in their Mess Dress, except one *tight-arse who had got the hump and has refused to buy one, and as a result, stood out.  The women were all beautifully dressed, and the female SNCO’s pretty much all had the hump because they had to wear Mess Dress when they would have preferred to wear ball gowns.
A couple of squaddies had made a start on drinking well before the party and as a result were staggering around halfway through the night.  Towards the end of the night one of the drunken Squaddies (DS) came up to my group and started on the RAF, taking the piss out of us for being too soft and not seeing any action or going in to danger; whereas he had been defusing bombs in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and none of us knew what he’s been through.
One of the RAF lads in my group had a go back and pointed out that DS had joined up to do all the stuff he’d done, and the RAF lads had joined up to do the stuff they did; he also then went on about the dangerous stuff he’d personally done in Northern Ireland, and to convince the DS named a few pubs in Belfast that he’d operated in.  DS then backed down and apologised and just as he lurched off, mentioned that his daughter was thinking of joining the Army, but that he was trying to talk her into joining the the RAF.  Once DS had lurched off i turned to the guy who had defended the RAF and asked him if any of the stuff he had said was true, he said not a single thing and he’d just been making up names of the Pubs to shut up DS.
A load of us from work went to a restaurant and one of the ladies ordered tomato soup as she’s a veggie, when the soup came it had pork meatballs bobbing in it, it seems that when they serve soup a lot of time it comes with meatballs; queue much unhappiness from a whiny veggie, although i did alright out of it.  I went to a lunchtime birthday party in work the other day, there was a selection of coldmeats, pickles and apple pie; however, this was Polish apple pie, it was a glass of half and half apple juice and vodka.  Brilliant lunch.
I may have given the impression that i hate my flatmate, this is not strictly true, he’s a really nice fellow, decent personalty, clearly a good cook; the only problem i have with him is that we seem to have wildly different ideas about hygiene and flat sharing.
Went for a pee the other day in the downstairs toilet, walked in, unzipped, shuffled forward, and got wet feet.  Minger had gone for a piss and either missed substantially or has a serious leakage problem when peeing.  So finished off my peeing and straight upstairs for a feet wash.  Good news and bad news; first the good news, he’s having regular bowel movements again.  Now the bad news, he’s having regular bowel movements again; ask me how i know – it involves the lack of  toilet brush!
Back in late Oct/early Nov he used a stockpot to make a stew type thing, this week he has given the stockpot a quick clean, this is because he wanted to make a detox soup of which from what i could see the primary ingredient was chillis; i declined to taste it on the grounds of potential food poisoning and also that i want my taste buds to remain intact.  Problem with this is that he dumped the rotted contents from the stockpot in to a shallow cardboard box (the type of box that Strongbow comes in) and has left it on the balcony to rot further and with the recent bad weather the box has started disintegrating already.  What a guy!
I’m currently having every Wednesday off work as i still have somewhere in the region of 33 days to take before the end of March, and this Wednesday I had to buy a white shirt and a bow tie for the Sgts Mess Ball.  I spent the best part of an hour wandering around Herleen (the next big town) before finding one in a very posh gents shop, the guy who served me was so camp I thought I’d gone back in time to the 1970′s and was taking part in the TV series Are You Being Served, still the attention was nice and it’s a nice bow tie.
Every Wednesday evening i spend up to four hours in the Woodcraft Shop, I’m making an Ottoman chest; and this week the instructor decided to review my progress, the upshot is that we have agreed when it’s finished it’ll be better if it’s painted white, rather than stained and polished, because as the instructor said ‘Staining and polishing it will accentuate all the flaws’.
Five burly men dressed up as Sinter Klass and four of his helpers came round at work and forced sweeties on to every one they met, the five of them were so loud and in your face it was impossible to refuse their offerings; well that’s my excuse anyway, but it does emphasize just how seriously they take Christmas here.  The Dutch, not being stupid, pretty much have two Christmas’s, there is one on the 05 Dec where SinterKlaas (St Nicholas) comes around and gives all the children pressies and then there is Christmas Day on the 25 Dec where De Kerstman (Father Christmas) comes around and gives all the kids pressies; these must be the most spoiled kids in Europe.
That’s it for this year.
*Yes, it was me, but i refuse to pay up to four hundred quid when they are now issued.

02 Dec 12
Greetings from Holland, a week closer to Christmas, yippee.  Over here they have a version of Father Christmas, he’s called Sinter Klass (Santa Claus) and he’s a bit lazier than the British version; this guy uses a steamship to travel from Spain before delivering the pressies.  He’s accompanied by a helper called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) who not only helps him dish out pressies, but also punishes children who have been naughty.

When you go into town there are a number of men who are blacked up and carrying canes and who chase children to hit them.  Crazy Dutch, try doing that in the UK.  One of the officers here got home from shopping to find four Moroccans looting his house, somebody in the office said that as he was an adult, Zwarte Piet couldn’t punish him with the cane, so he brought some mates and looted his house in order to redistribute the wealth to other adults who had been good this year.

Minger Time
On our front room table minger has a couple of wire fruit baskets that he fills with fruit for some reason.  Because he never eats the stuff the last lot he put in there has rotted and the ichor* has dripped out on to the table and formed a pool of rottenness, this has now solidified in to a hard gel like substance and he manages to walk past it every day and not notice it.

On a brighter note it has been agreed that the cooker can (probably) be replaced; however, before the HWO will replace it, it needs to be cleaned. This I feel undermines the whole point of replacing the damned thing; still minger has made a start and coated all of the inside with oven cleaner and has given it the once over.  It’s made a massive difference and as he’s put the effort in, I’ll have a go as well this weekend.

The bathroom sink’s still mininging and it’s been three weeks or so since I last used it; but the good news is he’s either not had a crap in a week or he’s learned to use the toilet brush, either way I win.  Minger Time Finished

Dutch women when they reach a certain age or facial cragginess have their hair cut quite short, and as a result when I walk around town or work, I get really confused as they all look like lesbians; this is not a reflection or a criticism, but it makes it really hard for me to know who to fancy or stalk.

Finally went to see Skyfall, thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a good as the Bourne films.  The cinemas here are just as good as UK, but with a couple of advantages, the ticket price and food are a lot cheaper than the England, and there is a ten minute toilet break in the middle of the film, which when you get to my age is much appreciated.

Went to a security meeting in one of the conference rooms and the guy who gave it is Danish, as he finished each part of the brief, he then went back and recapped what he’d said and then to make extra sure he repeated a lot of it a third time. I dozed off and I think that the only reason I woke up was because halfway through the briefing an alarm went off and an electronic voice told us off for bringing a mobile phone in.

I am now officially sad, I am addicted to Masterchef, I can’t get enough of it and I realise that I’m not actually as good as a cook as I thought I was, there is no way I could do half of what they do.  I watched one episode where the contestants had to break open a Sea Urchin, scoop out and serve its flesh raw; sorry, I’d have been crap, I’d have thrown it away and made a bacon butty instead.

Not much else to say.

*A watery, acrid discharge from a wound or ulcer.

25 Nov 12
When having a conversation with the Dutch, the Germans or the French and they want to confirm or deny something they have a habit of repeating it several times.  To confirm it they all say ‘Yah, Yah, Yah’, and to deny it they say ‘Nay, Nay, Nay’; I have no idea why they need to constantly need to repeat things; but I have now started to do it as well, and even worse – I’m starting to use the same accent as them.  When they like something the Belgique and the French women here say ‘Oh La La’ and it always make me think of ‘Allo Allo’; which by the way, was massively popular over here.

The other day I was in my office at the end of a long dark deserted corridor and let off a tremendously long and loud fart, it vibrated down the corridor and it rattled  doors and as I sat there engulfed in a cloud of sulphur, methane and general stinky-ness, in walked a French officer.  He seemingly got about 25 metres in about five seconds with no noise.  He stood there for a couple of minutes and we discussed the issue he wanted addressing before he left and how he didn’t retch, wrinkle his nose or make a comment I don’t know, but perhaps he thinks all British people smell like that (or just me)!

My new job isn’t the most exciting; I either prepare or update spread sheets all day long, and answer the telephone, if in UK I would judge that the job would be suitable for an SAC, but at least I have something to do and I have a decent amount of human-interaction. The Czech Sgt I work with has volunteered to cover my duties over Christmas and New Year, so I’m now going to break up at cease-work on the 13th and then be back at work on the 07 or 08 Jan 13.

When booking a flight the process here is massively long-winded and can take a couple of days to complete:
1. Individual completes Form and passes to boss.
Section Head signs Form and returns to individual.
2. Individual passes Form to Branch Head.
Branch Head signs Form and passes back to individual.
3. Individual passes Form to General.
General signs Form and passes back to individual.
4. Individual passes Form to Budget Manager.
Budget Manager signs Form and passes back to individual.
5. Individual passes Form to Admin Clk.
6. Form entered in to database on system by Admin Clk.
7. System passes electronic Form to Budget Manager (again) to authorise.
8. Budget Manager authorises and passes electronic Form to Fund Manager.
9. Fund Manager authorises and passes electronic Form back to Admin Clk.
10. Admin Clk passes electronic Form to Travel Cell who book flight.

All things in NATO are more long-winded than the UK, for example all leave passes must be submitted in triplicate, there is a good reason for this, but it could be so much simpler and it makes JPA look fantastic.

Minger Time
This week minger sent me on a guilt trip; he got back from the UK late Sunday morning and presented me with a pack of smoked bacon and a Sunday newspaper.  I had the best breakfast of the year; warm part-baked, bacon rolls, fresh coffee, BBC News on the TV and the Sunday Times.  It still didn’t make up for all of his inadequacies, but it did fill my soul with forgiveness and acceptance for an hour or so
I told him on Sunday morning, just after he presented me with the bacon and newspaper, that he had to see the HWO on Tuesday to resolve the issue of the cooker.  He forgot to go on Tuesday, He forgot to go on Wednesday, and so far he’s not gone.  He’s a braver man than I am; the HWO is a WO from the Guards Regiment and not someone I would mess with.  We are now on week three of him not cleaning the bathroom sink, it is now pretty much turning grey, with highlights of pink; in a few more weeks we’ll be able to peel the grime off and use it as a mould to cast a new sink.
I truly don’t know how he does it, but when he washes a pot, pan or plate, he doesn’t actually clean it, he simply smears the grease from the cooking all over the item, maybe it’s some kind of lubricant designed to prevent rusting or something, or an anti-Jim device.  Anyway, the result is that all of the cooking utensils he uses are permanently greasy and those I use I have to wash beforehand.  This man is so stupid he will use a kitchen knife to cut cheese and meat for his packed lunch and will then put the knife back into the cutlery drawer rather than wash it.   Minger Time Finished
I had to be an Honour Guard the other day.  This involves wearing No1 uniform and standing still in front of several flags and saluting a VIP and his/her entourage.  The VIP has to come through a large metal gate that is reserved for VIP’s and in this case nobody could find the key to it, so panic ensued for five minutes while they searched.  Then one of the Sgts mentioned that the Security Guards had the key and they were summoned to open the gate.
A couple of minutes before the VIP turned up a short, fat, messy Security Guard came sauntering down the road and unlocked and opened the gate and then stood there with his hands in his pockets.  As the car came in to sight he looked over to us and I think picked up on the concern of the German Protocol Officer and quickly pulled his hands out of his pockets and straightened up. The VIP’s car pulled up and as the car door was opened we came to attention and then had to hold the position for several minutes as they all walked past us and the went up the stairs.
Before the VIP turned up we had to put out certain flags, as the VIP was a Norwegian senior officer we had to put up the Norwegian flag, the NATO flag and the Brunssum Base flag. Thing is none of us knew which one was the Norwegian flag so we guessed. Turns out that the Danish and the Norwegian flags look a lot alike. Luckily one the Sgt’s had a picture of all the flags of NATO in his pocket and we eventually put out the right flag.
Once Dutch women reach a certain age, or frame of mind, or cragginess of face, they have their hair cut really short, and as a result it feels like I’m permanently surrounded by the butch half of a lesbian couple.
Shopping here is quite an aggressive experience compared to UK; should Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s decide to open up here they’ll clean up. There is nowhere to put your shopping basket when you get unless you put it on the conveyer belt and move down with it unloading it as it moves towards an impatient cashier. Once the cashier has swiped and then launched your shopping to the holding area they then hassle you to pay as quickly as possible. Once you’ve paid, they swing a large wooden arm across and throw the next person’s shopping down to the other side of packing area; there is no offering to help you pack or waiting until you have finished packing.

That’s it for this week, I’m now counting down to Christmas.

17 Nov 12
Hey all, Holland’s still not as flat as they make out, Dutch women are still not throwing themselves at me and NATO is still a super-efficient war machine (one of those three statements is false).  I Had a massive argument with my flatmate last weekend; I asked him to stop smoking in the flat and his reply was ‘It’s my flat, I’ll do as I want’.  This caused me to lose my temper and let loose at him, I called him a minging stinking, selfish b*stard and told him that he may be happy living in something that smells like a brothel but I’m not.  After two or three minutes or me lashing in to him he backed down and agreed no more smoking; let’s see how long it lasts.  He then had to get the last word in; ‘A brothel’s a bit strong don’t you think?’  So I compromised and said the flat smelt like a 1970’s pub.
Now all I’ve got to do is stop him taking my alcohol, to clean up the bathroom after himself, use the toilet brush when he’s had a dump, clean up the kitchen properly when he’s finished cooking, and when he goes to bed turn the heating down from 24 degrees and switch off the lights, nearly there!
I am now working in the outer office of a General, there are five of us; a Colonel, a Warrant Officer, a Corporal driver, another Sergeant and me.  The breakdown is three Belgiques (is that even a real word), one Czech and me.  I now have to be on best behaviour as it seems from some of the blank looks I get that some of my puns and jokes don’t translate across particularly well.  I am starting at 0715 in the morning and pushing through until 1700; but I’d rather be busy than sit around all day and do nothing.  I’m meant to be in there for a year, but I’ve also been told that there is another Belgique Warrant Officer coming in Jan or Feb, so not too sure where that’s going to leave me.
Every morning all the officers, ranging from Generals down to Captains come in to the office, say good morning, inquire after our health and shake hands; it’s actually nice to be noticed by our masters and when i mentioned it to the others in the office they all scoffed.  It seems they only do it because we are in a NATO environment and it’s a method of building and maintaining bridges/bonds; as one of the put it ‘Back home they wouldn’t give you the time of day’. Having worked in a PSF where one of our Sqn Ldr’s sat in an adjoining office for nearly two years and on his leaving speech said ‘I don’t actually know who most of you are’, I can quite believe it. I still appreciate it tho’.
The Czech Sergeant I work with is really nice, but he’s got some funny national habits; he has honey in his tea which he then leaves and then drinks warm, and he has condensed milk (or at least that what I think it is) as well as sugar in his coffee.  Within my proper job I was the Colonels PA and covering three other small sections and still only doing about an hour’s work a day, now I have found out that they are going to be posting in another two Sergeants to two of the sections I was also covering, god help them!
Apparently, one of the previous RAF Sergeants posted here had a breakdown caused by the sheer lack of work and was shipped home to a real job; yet another RAF Sergeant who will remain nameless was pretty much shipped home because he/she was permanently pulling sickies and couldn’t cope with the workload and the multinational environment, you can’t please everybody.  The multinational element is, for me, the best part; arguing religion, politics or World/European domination with the Germans, the yanks, the Dutch or the Belgiques is quite interesting, particularly when we’ve all had a drink.
The Dutch, the Poles and Belgiques are not great fans of the Germans, the Germans aren’t great fans of the yanks, the yanks are on the whole, pretty good, but think that the Europeans (excluding the Germans) could be a bit more dynamic, and the Brits hover on the periphery and take the piss out of all of them, but on the surface all are nice to each other.
MINGER TIME (Like Miller Time, and to be honest, probably as tasteful)
This week the minger has pulled his usual trick of not comprehending what a toilet brush is for.  He’s also been drinking his power shandies in the bath, and due to the fact that he’s not too bright he’s spilled it on the bathroom floor; therefore the tiles are sticky, which I suppose, being positive, is a good thing as there’s no chance of me slipping in the damp.  Also when I walk to my bedroom my feet are all tacky which means I pick up and dust or debris on the carpet, which means I don’t have to vacuum as much.
The sink is also slowly turning an attractive shade of pink from where he brushes his teeth and spits it out without bothering to clean up afterwards; therefore, in the interests of hygiene I now clean my teeth and shave in the shower, it’s the only way I can be sure of not contracting his mingingness, I’m just glad I’m not paying the water bill.  Last week he used the large stock pot for something, soup maybe, and it’s still sitting where he left it on the balcony, so I’ve been to IKEA  and bought my own which he will be banned from using.
I went to see the Housing Warrant Officer (from this point forward referred to as HWO) to ask either for the cooker to be replaced or for the for the oven to be professionally cleaned, as i am both not using it (due to disgust) and I’m damned sure I’m not cleaning it when minger goes.  I have asked minger to clean it, but his argument was based on the fact that it was like that when he moved in a year and a half ago and it’s not his problem.  At least that’s what he meant to say; what i heard was “I’m a dirty little minger with no personal pride or standards.”  Anyway, the HWO went ballistic and although minger doesn’t know it yet, he’s having a one-way conversation on Wednesday with the HWO.
On Monday evening Minger announced to me that this week he going to give it a rest and not drink at all.  So Tuesday evening i brought out a bottle of Jack Daniels and sat there in front of him drinking it; every time I poured myself a shot I offered him one as well.  He was really good, he lasted four offers before breaking and having one; that caused him to fall of his self-imposed drinking ban and he carried on as normal for the rest of the week as testified by the number of cider cans scattered across the house each morning (well Wednesday and Thursday anyway).
He got up at 0400 on Fri morning to go into work early as he was leaving early that afternoon to go back to Scotland for the weekend, this wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that I was up drinking until gone midnight and the retard went in to the shower and left his alarm on snooze; Friday wasn’t brilliant for me.  MINGER TIME FINISHED.
This week I’ve had team pizza on Wednesday, Beaujolais Nouveau tasting and nibbles on Thursday evening and a beer call on Friday afternoon as a reward for doing so well on the Exercise in Poland, I’m knackered!
Once every couple of weeks I go to MacDonalds and have noticed some crucial differences between English and Dutch MacDonalds; Holland serves better coffee but half the size of the UK, they also seem to cook all the food fresh so no more disappointing fries for the next three years.  Also there seems to be an absence of fat spotty kids working in the Dutch MacDonalds, just very good looking blonde Dutch teenagers (Jimmy Saville mode switched off, carry on as normal).  However, the problem with MacDonalds in Holland is there is none of that opening 24hrs bollocks, it’s from 0900 to 2200, so no breakfasts for me for the foreseeable future.
That’s it for this week.
09 Nov 12
Back in Brunssum and just had a week off to get over the stress of fighting bad guys in Poland, because I’m skint I couldn’t afford to go home so I spent the entire time lazing around, reading, cooking, eating, drinking and catching up on my TV.
Although the food provided by the training centre was nice it was also a bit bland, every lunch it was a choice of pork or chicken and for dinner it was a choice of chicken or pork, to be honest vegetarians were buggered unless they liked pork or chicken.  One day we had pork knuckle, it looked disgusting; a large pig’s knee wrapped in some flesh, but apparently it tasted fantastic.
One day there we had a treat, it was a thick hunk of roast beef wrapped around a matchbox sized piece of pork fat; I ate the beef but cut around the hunk of fat.  This is what the continentals do to keep the beef moist when they roast it, but the British seem to manage to roast beef on a weekly basis without stuffing it full of glistening white pieces of pig blubber.  Every meal was also accompanied by grated cabbage, at least that what I think it was.
Because it has turned very cold here all the houses have their heating on and most of them seem to use coal; the smell reminds me of Derry in the 70’s.  When walking back to the hotel on the last day I saw a Polish Hari-Krishna, poor man was freezing cold, wearing an thin orange dress but with a massive fur lined parka on top.
A combination of the cold (I think), a too-soft bed has  brought on my arthritis on quite badly, it was so painful that I could neither sleep or walk up stairs and for two days in particular felt although somebody had used a baseball bat (or something) to shatter my kneecap.  Because I spent so much time sitting around when I stood up the blood would rush down my leg from the way it felt all the blood cells were carrying flick-knives or broken bottles or something like that.  If this is what I’ve got to look forward to as I get older it explains why so many old age pensioners are such miserable bastards.
One of the good things about going on Exercise is that dumped in that environment, I got to know a lot of people quickly and have carried some of the friendships back with me to Brunssum, which means I now have more coffee buddies to skulk away with during the day.  Watching how the different countries got on and interacted during the course of the Exercise was bit of an eye-opener, I must be a bigot because I have never really thought of the Norwegians, Albanians, Turkish or Greeks as being particularly impressive militarily, but they all came across as incredibly professional, especially the Turks, more than likely all those years spent killing Kurds.
During the course of the Exercise I visited one of the sections and discovered that they had spent a great deal of time making a large variety of paper aeroplanes; it seems that I wasn’t the only one with loads of spare time on his hands.  At the end of the Exercise the General in charge gave a wash-up speech where he quickly put his views across and then wound up his speech by saying ‘Right unless anybody wishes to blather on or pursue a personal vendetta, then this Exercise is closed and the bar is open’, that pretty much put the kybosh on anybody else who was planning to grandstand and meant we could quickly clean up and get over to the leaving party.
The leaving party was to say well done for a good Exercise(?) and also to say thanks to the staff of the training centre.  We each had two beer tokens and after all the speeches there was a buffet which seemed to consist of meat, mainly pig based, loads of cold meat, as in pretty much only meat based products.  Instead of butter there were large pots of lard to spread on the meat or bread; one of the pots of lard seemed to have bacon or meat bits in it and the other had what seemed to have stuffing blended in.  I had a tiny bit on the tip of a knife to taste it and have now worked out why Britain used to invade hot far-away places; it was avoid eating that crap!
Standing around in the leaving party drinking I realised that there were at least twelve different types of camouflage, ranging from very dark European styles to very light desert styles, with some in between that hadn’t quite made their mind.  The British were wearing either CS95 or the new MTP camouflage and it suddenly occurred to me that with all these styles of camouflage which is designed to hide us at least one of us has to be wrong.
We got home after a fun ride in a German Air Force C-160, think of a Hercules but way, way, smaller.  There seems to be a theme with the European Air Forces, they have the same types of aircraft as the RAF but they’re all smaller, this is possibly because they don’t need bigger aeroplanes as they invade fewer countries than us and therefore don’t need as big a capacity for carrying things that kill people.
When I got back it turns out that my flatmate had a shit and although he flushed he didn’t use the bogbrush.  I have come to the conclusion that he regards the toilet bowl in the same way that a clairvoyant regards a teacup and tealeaves and he tries to divine the future in what’s left in the bowl when he’s finished.  And of course, it’s got to be dried and hard to get a proper reading, none of this fresh rubbish like the clairvoyants; either that or he likes porcelain with loads of brown smears.
The other night he was drinking 11% lager mixed with vodka Ice, he says it’s just another way of making shandy, personally, I think he’s trying too hard to be a stereotypical Scotsman.  Let’s go through what seems to be a typical day for the household of 106 Grachtstraat (highly compressed in the name of taste):
I get back from work, wait for minger to finish cooking, cook my food, clean up, shower, TV and Laptop, Skype, bed and kindle.  Next day, get up at 0600, bathroom, prepare packed lunch, repeat above.
Get back from work, go shopping for cheap wine or beer, cook, clean up(?), Skype his loved one whilst drinking a litre and a half of wine or several cans of extra-strong lager (practically every night), wait until flatmate goes to bed, smoke in front-room.  Next morning, wait until flatmate (that’s me) goes into bathroom, creep downstairs and clean away ashtrays, cigarettes, lighter and open windows, creep back to bed until 0700, get up, bathroom, avoid flatmate as much as possible, go to work.  Repeat above.
He’s so dumb he hasn’t got the intelligence to wait until I’m in the shower and can’t hear him creep downstairs, he does it when I’m standing next to the bathroom door brushing my teeth.
My highlights for this coming weekend are Skyfall, followed by walking around a shopping centre trying not to get caught being a perv and on Sunday, a Remembrance Parade.  I am still only working about an hour a day at the most, but have been asked to go and work in an adjoining office for a year, I have said yes and once they iron out the details I shall hopefully start Tuesday coming.  The office I’m hopefully going to have a pretty full schedule so at least I’m going to be kept busy.  I’ll be working in the outer office for a general and will be working alongside Belgiques and a Czech.
25 Oct 12
Greetings from a lovely town called Bydgoszcz (pronounced bit gosh), we have been put up in a couple of hotels for the period and I have rediscovered the joys of hand washing undies and socks.  Both the hotel (the City Hotel) and the staff are very nice and extremely professional and the best thing is that when the bus drops us back off every evening we all (well, a number of us) make a bee-line for the bar in the lobby.
The first night in the hotel was spent laying awake and listening to the Friday night disco rock the hotel, the second night I was awaked at 0300 by hordes of drunken teenagers arguing in the corridor and then trying drunkenly to get in to each other’s rooms.
We flew to Poland on an aeroplane called an Embraer, it’s just like a real aeroplane but tiny and cute; it was designed with either transporting midgets in a surrounding that made them feel at home, or it’s an aircraft designed for children (but in such a way that Jimmy Saville would have been uncomfortable with the headroom) or then again it could just be that I’m big.  On the subject of children, I work with three soldiers from Belgium (seemingly home of pedophilia) and between April Jones going missing and Jimmy Saville I have somewhat lost the moral high ground.
When the Brits deploy anywhere and there is a delay there is always urns with cheap tea, crappy instant coffee and screech*, and also loads of biscuits and choccie; when NATO deploys and there is a delay there is fresh coffee and fruit, how the hell can you win wars on fruit?
In Bydgoszcz there are a couple of very modern shopping centres and I have found Tesco’s and C&A, I didn’t even know that C&A was still going; I thought it closed down in the eighties.  In the hotel I had my first bath in nearly a year, it was very nice but slightly spoilt by the underwear and socks floating around, they kept clinging to me possibly due to a gravity well caused by my size.
A fact not appreciated by many is that the British Military and its financial minions care about my moral welfare; after all, why else would they book me a hotel room with two extra narrow single beds.  If I get lucky in the aforementioned disco and bring a woman back to my hotel room I have a choice.  Have sex carefully in my bed, tuck her up in the spare bed or get frisky on the floor.
Let’s look at those options.  Me having sex on a narrow single bed doesn’t bear thinking about; if she needs to change position in order to regain her breath after having a 19 stone man trying to pound her through the mattress she’s going to fall out of the bed, decide that enough’s enough and make a tasteful bid for freedom and somebody else who has a double bed.
I can of course simply plead a headache/drunkenness and tuck her up in the spare single bed, but then she would have to listen to me snoring all night or of course make a break for it with a pounding headache caused by the vibrations from my snoring; and let’s be honest here if a bloke invites you back to his room for a good time it usually doesn’t involve watching him snore and dribble.
The third choice of ignoring the beds and having sex on the floor is out; with my back and knees, once I go down on that carpet  I’m not getting back up again in a hurry, which means of course she can make a bid for freedom. Hopefully, if she does she’ll be compassionate enough to stop off at reception and let them know so they can send a couple of porters up to pick me up.
Anyway, whichever way you look at it the military doesn’t want me to aid moral decline in the Armed Forces.
You may have picked up on the small narrow bed theme above; if I rolled over in the night my body’s in danger of paying a visit to Mr. Carpet whilst my head pays a visit to Mr. Sideboard on its way down.   In addition to its size (or lack of) the mattress is also incredibly soft that I pretty much sink into it, this actually had its plus side; it meant that when I have to change position in the night I have to use my stomach muscles.  I wake up in the morning having had a good abdominal workout.
On the Exercise itself there are some strange dress categories.  All the Brits are either in Combat 95 or the new MTP and all look pretty much the same.  There is one Danish officer who turned up in Danish combats and a lovely long-sleeved white shirt and a French Naval officer who turns up in his French combats and a large white hat (the kind he would have worn every day or on a parade back home).
Then is an American Naval officer who has the United States Navy (USN) version of combats, think camouflage, but in various zigzag shades of blue.  Why blue?  USN ships are grey, so he’s not camouflaged there, their offices tend to be painted white (mine is) so he’s not camouflaged there, the countryside in USA tends towards green so he’s not camouflaged there.  He would only be camouflaged if he fell off the ship in to the sea (or a blue themed dry dock); but surely if he falls off a ship into the ocean that’s the one time he really doesn’t want to be camouflaged, quite the opposite.
Although the Exercise days are twelve hours long I am still only doing about two hours work a day, which means I’m having some seriously long and boring days.  Every day we all get together for a briefing which lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, and I spend that time, zoned out doodling in a notepad; I have been drawing aeroplanes, spaceships, ships, tanks, house plans (for when I win the lottery) and flowers, all badly.  One of the officers commented on how conscientious I was as I was always taking notes.
Well, it’s halfway through the Exercise and the rest of the detachment turned up last night so this morning I thought it would be wise to go to brekkie early to miss the rush. Big mistake, everyone else thought the same thing; at 0645 this morning the restaurant was heaving and also stinking of alcohol as a few of them had enjoyed a few welcome drinks.
The other night I went for a walk, or rather a hobble to get some cash and visit the exotic delight that is Polish Tesco, and on the way there I go accosted by the one of the town drunks. He pretty much looked like Rab C. Nesbitt; he lurched up to me and shouted ‘Polack’ and then some kind of blah-blah with lots of anger. I picked up on the fact that he was unhappy with the Polish Army. After a few seconds of shouting at me he picked up my blank expression and then, I think, saw the Union Jack and started to rant about the ‘Who K’, I picked up that he was also unhappy about the UK. Despite his rant at me in Polish it seems that he did understand Engish, after all he left me alone and wandered off after I suggested to him that he fuck offski.
That’s it for this week from Poland.
*Cheap and nasty military issue squash of an indeterminate flavour that causes your mouth an anus to pucker up the first time you ever try it and make a sceeching sound of disgust – hence the name ‘Screech’.
17 Oct 12
Another week, another pissed-up flatmate; the other night he drank 4 or 5 bottles of cider, 1 can of lager and ¾ of a bottle of my Vermouth.  When I got back to the flat from work he had already started drinking, he then fell asleep on the sofa, woke up and carried on drinking until the small hours of the morning.  After I went to bed he smoked in the front room, I know this this because there’s fag ash all around his chair in the front room and on the floor in the kitchen.
The whole house bar my bedroom, stinks of cigarette smoke; It smells a bit like a pub from the 1970’s or 1980’s.  Also, judging from the smell coming from the sink he was sick in it, so I cleaned it with Toilet Duck (it’s all we have that’s got a bleachy theme).  He also left the TV on, but at least this time he turned the front room lights off. When I tackled him about it he said he would stop smoking in the house, I’ll give him on more chance and then either beat him to a pulp or report him to the housing manager.
I have bought a memory foam pillow, which absolutely stinks of rubber; when I woke up the first morning the smell made me panic for a brief moment as I thought that I’d fallen asleep wearing a latex gimp mask again.
I have discovered the camp library, it’s possibly even bigger than King’s Lynn library, it has a superb selection of fiction, reference and fact, of which most seem to be associated with killing people, I suppose war is the technical term; it also has several different foreign language sections to cater for the variety of nations within NATO.  There are also about six internet enabled PC’s, several dozen different magazines ranging from health to diet, ladies fashion to cooking, housekeeping to pornography; this is the only library I have been to that has Playboy on a top shelf in a discrete cover.
Attended my first Wood Craft Workshop; Wood Craft is bit of a misnomer as it implies craftsmanship, patience and skill.  Bollocks to that, we got started right away with industrial band saws, drill presses and massive cutting machines with very large, terrifying, circular saws in the middle of them.  The best part of it is that at about an hour into the lesson, the instructor, a French Canadian (who’s not the greatest fan of the British, but very nice nonetheless) opens a bottle of red wine cracks on; there is no way that I’m going to complete this Wood-craft lark without losing, at the very least, a finger!  I’m making an Ottoman chest and I think that perhaps I’ve been a bit ambitious, but at least the thing’s going to be sturdy.
Our General has an entertainment budget and this month decided to use it on his staff and so threw a house party for us. It was without a doubt one of the poshest affairs I have ever been to; five Sergeants and Warrant Officers, one House Corporal and approx ninety officers. All the ladies were beautifully dressed and all the men had their best casual clothes, except one, he turned up in jeans – guess who? All the guests when they arrived were greeted by the General and his drop-dead gorgeous wife and all handed over a present, be it really good wine, chocolates or flowers, except one – guess who?
There were no chairs anywhere and all the small round tables came up to past my waist and there were about four or five people around each table. The food was fantastic and when the General made his opening speech he said that he expected everyone to make at least ten trips to the tuck tables, I thought that might be a challenge for most of those present; however I soon found out why he said it. Our plates were the size of posh tea-cup saucers and all the food was miniaturised and pretty much the largest piece of food was lasagne and each piece was about the size of a match box.
There was miniature Lasagne, cannelloni, calamari, miniaturised chicken satay (I think), a Belgium stew of some kind, chips (as usual) and some salad stuff. The deserts were the same, miniaturised that is. There were a couple of waitresses doing the rounds and constantly replacing glasses that were empty or in danger of being empty. At the end of the night when all the officers left, everything had to be tidied away, guess by who?
There is no Sergeants’ Mess here but we all pay 20 Euros each month and we go out every couple of months to a local venue and it’s either free or subsidised to buggery. Last week we went to a medieval themed restaurant where you have to cook all your own food and pour your own beer/wine/soft drinks. This isn’t as good as it sounds; try competing for a space at the grills with very large Dutch women who are determined to get the maximum value for the money they have paid. During the course of the night a photographer walks/skulks around and photographs you at the most inopportune moment and then shows them on a projector and screen – cue six foot tall faces stuffing themselves stupid, and yes, mine was there as well. This whole evening cost us each 20 Euros.
I’ve just had two days off with man-flu and I still feel crap. I’m off to Poland Friday for a fortnight where I’ll be working twelve/thirteen hour days and surprise, surprise, they are still trying to find something meaningful for me to do.
I am looking to come home on leave for the period 14 – 27 Dec, I am working on the 28 Dec and the 02 January; when I say working I mean I’m going in at 0800 and sitting with a book until 1800 and then going home to get trashed due to the futility of it!
That’s it for now.

Our Cutlery Draw

Our Spare Room

This is my balcony, fantastic!

04 Oct 12
Greetings from Holland.  I finally am starting to do some work and we are getting ready for the exercise in Poland
My flatmate got drunk again the other night.  He had four cans of lager and then polished off my cooking Vermouth, he then went to bed leaving the balcony door wide open, all the lights on downstairs and his fags and a full ashtray in the front-room; and he spent practically all day Saturday and Sunday drinking.  What is it about me and flatmates?  My last one drank a great deal, but at least he respected me enough not to let it impinge on our relationship within the flat.  I mean it can’t be me, can it?  My Ruth didn’t drink, Matt doesn’t drink to excess and when his mates come around they don’t get drunk (all the time) just to deal with being near me; although that said, maybe I’ve just worked out why uncle Pat keeps falling asleep in my front-room.
He drank a bottle of Vermouth, neat!  Not even James Bond does that shit; at least he mixes his with vodka, olives and ice.  I tackled him the next morning on all of the above points and his reply was that the balcony door was left open because he was smoking in the front room, Vermouth is nice, and was I sure about the lights?  He also criticised me for wearing combats instead of blues – nit-picking little bastard!
I cycled to a lovely place called Valkenburg, it’s about 16 km away and it turns out that contrary to popular opinion, Holland is not bloody flat, in fact down the south of Holland there are quite a few hills, very steep bloody hills; although that said, the cloggies didn’t seem to have any problems with them as they all sailed past me going uphill on their 1950’s inspired, 3-geared bicycles.
Spent nearly 800 Euros this weekend on a freezer, a TV, a Blu-Ray player, headphones (so I don’t have to listen to the shit he has on TV) and a pair of scales.  The scales are because I have a one hundred pound bet with Matt that I’ll be down to 18 stone for Christmas.  There was a sale on which discounted everything by 19 percent; I also have a form that gives me the 19 percent Dutch tax back, so all-in-all I got a 38 percent discount.
I still enjoy wandering around the supermarkets here and trying to work out what everything is, or what the British equivalents are.  Milk – the supermarkets have a tiny, and I mean tiny, selection of fresh milk but an enormous selection of long-life milk; it’s the same with butter, a small selection of butter, but a large amount of margarine or other pretend butter things.
When I asked one of the young ladies who worked there for some help in sorting out which was salted butter, she wanted to know what it was for and when I explained sandwiches and toast she tried to pressure me in to margarine by telling me that butter would kill me.  I tried to explain about hydrogenated vegetable oil in the margarine causing cancer, but I think she thought I was mad as my explanation and demonstration weren’t very good.
We had a team meal out the other night, we went to a Chinese restaurant that has both a help-yourself buffet and a section where you chose what you want and they will cook it for you while you wait.  If you are there between 1630-1930 it’s all the food and beer you can drink for 23.50 Euros (about 19.00 pounds); I went to bed feeling sick.
My poor boss has a video conference at 0430 on Mondays and he’s pretty much buggered by 0900.  Down our corridor at work, which is also pretty much all of my section, we have Polish, Norwegian, Brits, Turkish, French, Italian and a Spanish officer, all of them speak English with no problems and some of them speak three or four languages.
Fantastic, another night, another drunken smoking flatmate, I am starting to hate him.  He went through three quarters of a bottle of gin last night.  When my alarm went off this morning and I was getting up and getting my toiletries together I heard him get out of bed, run downstairs, fuss around, quietly close the balcony door and then as I went in to the bathroom I heard him come back upstairs and go back to bed – guess what he was doing?
No, don’t guess, I’ll tell you; the little w*nker was smoking in the flat again and had left the balcony door open again and all of the lights on.  Either that or he ran downstairs for some general titivating and then went back to bed leaving all of the lights on so I wouldn’t stumble in to anything.  So although he dumped his ashtray that has a mound coming over the top by at least an inch on the balcony, he was too stupid to remove all of the cigarette wrappings and ash from around his chair.  Once more and I’ll complain to the Defence team that run the flats, he’s going home this Thursday for a long weekend, I can’t wait.
It looks as if I’m on duty the week after Christmas day, possibly the 28th; I am going to have to be in work 0800-1700 and will have to sit in front of a telephone just in case of emergencies and will have nothing else to do. I may just sleep and drool all day unless the telephone gives me a heart attack.
It only gets better, my wonderful flatmate has gone home on leave until Monday evening and last night he got drunk and made toast, guess what he hasn’t cleaned up; additionally, the f*ckwit doesn’t seem to know that you use plates for things like this, he uses the sideboard.  When he came downstairs I pointed out that he had left toast in the toaster, I’m guessing he got so drunk he forgot it was in there, the f*cktard had to have leaned over the dirty, margarine encrusted knife and the mound of toast crumbs all over the side to remove the toast from the toaster; also, on Tuesday night he opened a packet of cigarettes and discarded the wrappings on the front room floor, now that he’s gone home for a long weekend, guess what I’m tidying up tonight?
Having read back this letter, I note that it’s mostly about my flatmate, a clue as to why is below, see if you can decipher it?

My bathroom floor in front of the sink

This the cooker that my flatmate clearly hasn’t cleaned in over a year.

23 Sep 12
In to my 3rd week now and still no work, they’ve got me going around and checking safes and users of said safes, but we all know that it’s something to give me something to do. They’ve also made me printer cartridge monitor for my corridor, a position of some responsibility. I was chatting to a RAF Warrant Officer the other day and he said he probably did about a half hour’s productive work each day.
All the others I work with are in combats, so I’ve abandoned my blues and I’m now in greens. I got a telephone call the other day from Clothing stores asking me what I was going to be wearing when I went on Exercise to Poland, and when I told them it would be my uniform from Afghan, they stated that my uniform was the wrong type, it was Operational PCS and I wasn’t allowed to wear it and they would order me some new stuff.
When I asked them what they were ordering me they said they would order me some Temperate PCS. I asked them what the difference between Operational and Temperate was and what did it matter anyway, they didn’t know. After they had a five minute chat with each other while I held on, they came back and said that Temperate PCS was thicker, and that was the only stuff I was allowed to wear in Europe. I’ve decided to do what I normally do, I’ll ignore them and continue as I am.
I have discovered a new form of entertainment; the Gents toilet in my corridor has energy saving lights that come on automatically when you open the door and walk in. They also switch off 5 minutes later if they have not detected any movement, and there are no repeat sensors in each of the toilet cubicles. This means that when taking a poo you have one of 3 choices:
  1. Take less than 5 minutes for a poo.
  2. Finish off your poo in absolute darkness and hope for the best.
  3. Open cubicle door, lurch out in a hunched crouched position, wave at sensor and hope that nobody comes in whilst you are carrying out said procedure, retreat back to cubicle.
The 1st option just isn’t me.
The 2nd option may lead to unpleasantness.
The 3rd option is the way forward; now all I have to do is hope not to get caught looking like I’ve got the wrong end of cottaging.
My flatmate has shown me new levels of mingingness, he hasn’t cleaned the oven since he’s been here; it has a year and a half’s worth of crap burnt in to it, I actually felt a bit queasy as I put my food in there for the first time. Also, he smokes on the balcony, and once again, I don’t think he’s cleaned it in all that time.  Also, he is incapable of brushing his teeth and retaining the results in his mouth, for the past week i have pretty much avoided the bathroom sink or used it from a safe distance and leaned over
When I was marching in to the flat my flatmate mentioned that the light-bulbs keep blowing, I have discovered why; he gets drunk virtually every evening and goes to bed leaving all the lights on and invariably the balcony door open. I’m guessing some of the lights have been on for days or weeks before I got here. I seem to be lucky when it comes to flatmates!
I have frittered away this weekend, but one the plus side I have been to my first MacDonalds in Holland and I’ve been around Ikea again. I have also cleaned and mopped the bathroom and kitchen, turns out that it’s white lino in the kitchen, not grey!

14 Sep 12
I have spent the past week in lectures and briefings in a massive the lecture hall which doubles as a cinema at the weekends and it is beautifully made with a quality stage, it must have cost a fortune. All of the presentations i have attended have been given by officers of the various NATO countries and all of them speak superb English, although there is still some quality value from the range of accents; although that said, it’s quite impressive so many countries either have English as their second language or teach it to the level that all persons in NATO can use it as the common language. The briefings although necessary are boring as hell and the lecture hall is too warm and has ridiculously low levels of lighting and as is usual with Jim’s world, I dozed off several times each day.
The briefings themselves are packed with lots of important people therefore i have been sitting in the rear upper gallery and have discovered that due to the lighting levels and height nobody knows i am actually there; or conversly, i have discovered that nobody knows i’m not there. So i have taken to arriving fashionably late or slipping away to the coffee bar before anybody else from the main hall.
During one of the afternoon lectures the gym next door hosted a zumba class with lots of energetic shouting and very loud music all of which we heard very, very well; the poor bloke giving the lecture had to compete with a very exuberant dance instructor who had a better sound system with lots of base.
NATO is just starting to embrace the deployed concept and that is the focus of all that we are planning and training for; and if it’s going to be anything like it was for the RAF when we embraced the same concept, i’m looking forward to a lot of cock-ups and frustration. We are preparing for a big exercise in Poland and when i asked what my role would be i was told “Daytime, not too sure yet, Evening, get drunk”, this works for me!
Every country within NATO or Partnership for Peace (PfP) has a two or three letter abbreviation that they are known by; Germany is Deu, USA is USA, France is Fra and up until recently Britain was known as UK. Now that Ukraine is a member of the PfP programe and to avoid any possible confusion we, the British, are now known as GBR (Great Britain).
11 Sep 12
I have discovered one of the most frustrating experiences in the world, trying to change your car insurance with a British company whilst on a British mobile phone in Holland.  The people at the end of the phone are incapable of any sense of urgency and are quite happy for you to listen Fergal *ucking Sharkey (or whatever his bloody name is) whilst you go through five pounds worth of credit in less than five minutes.
Everybody here is massively over-ranked, the briefing i had the other morning could (and should) have been delivered by a Cpl, it was delivered by a Lt Col (Wg Cdr equivalent, think 50.000 pounds) and as usual halfway through i drifted off in my mind, it came as bit of a shock when everybody else started asking questions and prepared to leave.
Most of us wear our security passes around our necks and when we come to the security gates a number of us too lazy to take them off so we stoop over and offer them to the scanner, in other words it looks like we are worshipping the security gate as we bow to the scanner.
Met a really nice Belgique soldier during lunch, he’s got a small strip of hair about 10mm wide in the middle of his chin going from his bottom lip to just under his chin and while we were chatting i just sat there thinking í’m having a conversation with a billygoat’ (he looks like the character out of the film Stardust).
Update on the opening paragraph, it’s even more frustrating when the person you get through to on Skype promises to call you back and then 45 minutes later you realise that you’re going to be staring at the phone for the rest of your life waiting for the numpty to call back.  Top tip for all, do not use Forces Direct unless you want to see how high your blood pressure can go without having a stroke.
Brunssum has, i think, a nunnery; i base this on the fact there are packs of nuns roaming the streets, and because they’re European, they’re quite attractive.  It’s a bit weird seeing a nun walking down the street chattering away on her iphone.  In a local Cafe I ordered a ham omelette, which was lovely (massive as well), but it came with peaches, pineapple, watermelon, lettuce, grapes, cucumber, toms & pasta in mayo.; in fact I got an omelette and some kind of weird fruit cocktail.
This place, Holland, is like Britain in the 70’s or 80’s, there is virtually no Sunday shopping, the only shop that opens on a Sunday in the town centre is a supermarket that opens in the afternoon only; and to date i’ve seen one young man wearing socks and sandles.
My flatmate was up to stupid-o’clock this morning watching tennis and the git is still smoking indoors; the whole flat, except my room, smells stale.  i suspect it’s going to come to a head in the next couple of weeks, unless i can hold off until November/December when hopefully he’s getting married and will move out.
It doesn’t help that the sink in the downstairs toilet has direct access to the sewage below and if you do not use the sink daily, the water in the u-bend (i’m guessing) evaporates and the stench of raw sewage comes up and floods the flat.  The solution is simple, run the tap in the sink for a minute every day and it stops the water level from dropping.  Thing is, my flatmate has told me that the toilet always stinks, and when i asked him if he uses the bog he said he did.  This means that he uses the toilet but not the sink!  I have been around with kitchen spray and cleaned the door handles in order to prevent me going down with D&V.

04 Sep 12
Found Ikea no problem and promptly spent 97Euros on a saucepan, a frying pan and a host of other stuff.   Had my Dutch bank account set up today by a lovely lady who is typically Dutch, that is to say she was rather large and believe it or not she cycles seven and a half miles a day in to work.
I cycled to base to the British Delegation Office at about 11 am to see if my clearances had came in, they had, they’d been faxed across, so I got my copy. I then cycled home again, got changed and then by the time I got back to base the security office had closed for an hour and a half lunch, so I cycled back to the flat again. At two o’clock I cycled back to the base and went to the security office who started all the procedures, but then stopped because there was no Certified True Copy stamp on the paperwork, so I had to cycle back to the British Delegation office and get a stamp.
This stamp was begrudgingly supplied by a large Wren (LW); it was then pointed out by her Sgt that the stamp had to be in red. LW started whinging that she didn’t have one so I asked her to check the other desks, ‘Nobody in this office uses red stamps’ she stated. Her Sgt then called over and offered LW the opportunity to walk all of 12 feet to use her red stamp, so she lumbered over to the Sgt’s desk and made a show of checking the date and details on the stamp before using it with probably less energy that she uses to open Mars bars.
I then cycled back to the security office with the now correct forms – or so I thought! Turns out that the form should have been stamped and signed off by the Sgt who had the red stamp. The security staff took pity on me and processed my application. I asked the security guard who sounded just like a piss take of a Dutch man (think Gold Member from Austin Powers) whether or not this had happened before, and he said yes it happened pretty much on a weekly basis. It’s because of these attitudes and lack of professionalism that I have to go out of trade for a couple of years or so.
You would all feel comfortable in the flat; it used to be the welfare flat and as such is filled with military issue furniture. The beds are the same as you would get in singlies, the furniture and tables are the same as you would get in the Common Rooms or Messes. I seem to remember the armchairs are the same ones that we had in the married quarter in Germany in the 1970′s. All the pots and pans are also from the 60′s or 70′s and have on the whole seen better days.  If you have ever seen a disaster movie and the survivors are all huddled around a makeshift fire cooking the cat, theses are the pots and pans they would be using.
The TV is one of the old CRT’s (not a flat screen) with a 24 inch screen and as the front room is massive, it looks tiny.
Toilet Tales
Take note of the inspection shelf.
The toilet is very different from a British one; when you poo it doesn’t curl down to the bottom of the toilet, it sits on a shelf, the good thing is that this allows a close inspection of whatever you have done. The downside is that when reaching down to wipe your bottom now requires thought. In the UK I usually go with a wide sweeping move, here I have to reach down/around and hug the contours of my bottom to avoid contact with the enemy.
The toilet doesn’t flush the poo down, it catapults it across the inspection shelf/pan to smash into the front wall where the mangled remains are sucked down the very small hole with a slurping sucking sound, leaving behind a massive skid mark where the poo was propelled across the porcelain; when pooing the trick is to lay down a bed of toilet paper, this prevents the pan of your toilet looking like somebody had a Bourneville chocolate fight. The other bad thing about it is that you can’t stand up and pee as splash-back will soak you and decorate the surrounding bathroom; as urine is sterile, perhaps this isn’t as big a problem as I first thought it was.
03 Sep 12
First day today, turned up at UKJSU at 0745, completed my arrival within 10 minutes, and then called a mate and walked around to his office and spent nearly an hour catching up. My mentor then turned up and we spent all morning walking around arriving in various sections, My security clearance hasn’t turned up yet so I can’t do any work. I went to my new office and introduced myself, it came as bit of a shock to my bosses, they didn’t even know I was coming in. They went away and checked the details on my Assignment Order against the empty slots that they have and concluded that I am actually working there and then welcomed me.
There seems to be five of us in total, me and four officers; one RAF Wg Cdr, one Army Lt Colonel, one USAF Major, plus my overall boss, a Polish Colonel – awesome I’m at the bottom of the food chain!  Because i can’t do any work at the moment, i finished today at 1330 and have come home to read my job specs and an some propaganda on what my new department does.
I am also going into town to buy a frying pan and a saucepan, my flat mate got up at the last possible minute this morning, cooked a bacon butty and left *ucking mess everywhere, including the only decent (as in non-stick) sauce pan on the hob filled with greasy cold water to allow it to soak.  I have a choice, i don’t cook or i can clean his dirty frying pan – bollocks, I’ll buy my own and if he touches them I’ll cut his hands off!
Tomorrow morning I have to open a Dutch Bank Account.

that’s Drake’s rant over for the day.
01 Sep 12
Greetings from Holland and my new flat, it’s got 3 floors and a basement that my predecessor has lost the key to.  The flat is mingingly dirty, i am actually having to wash any crockery and cutlery and pots and pans before i use them; also in order to cook my first meal (an omelette) i had to wash down the work-surfaces in order not to catch food poisoning.
The Accommodation manager turned up yesterday and marched me in, he’s a Dutch guy in his 60′s (or so it seems) and when he turned up and introduced himself to me he didn’t listen to a word i said and just bulldozed his way through the hand over and then got the hump when i refused to sign as accepting the flat, he wanted me to simply sign for everything without checking anything; however, i  am not taking over the flat i am sharing it.  James, the other occupant has been here for over a year and will continue to be responsible for the flat and all i would sign for was my bedroom, which incidentally, was a bit of a shit-tip!
There’s loads missing from the flat and   things wrong, which is also why i’m not accepting responsibility for the whole place.  The light bulbs constantly blow, there is an awful stench of sewage coming up fro the downstairs toilet and there is no key to the basement.
When James took over this place he signed as having 7 keys for the main door; there are 3 for the main door and four other unknown keys, but the Accommodation Manager is now insisting that James either produces all 7 main door keys or he will replace the locks and keys in total and bill James for it.  I asked him if he replaces the locks will he also supply a total of 7 keys?  He said no, that would be stupid, why would you need 7 keys?  Is this attitude going to be the future of my tour in this place?
The lad i’m sharing with, James, seems very nice but he definitely has a lower standard of hygiene to me (which is really saying something), he has also been smoking in the flat, so every thing stinks of stale fag smoke.  He’s now started to smoke on the balcony, but does so with the door wide open, so in respect of the front room and kitchen it’s not much better than it was before.  I’ll work on him over the upcoming weeks.  He’s trying to get married to a lady in Scotland, but her Ex is fighting against her taking their daughter out of the country, so everything’s been delayed until the court case in mid September.
The pillows i have inherited are disgusting, all stained yellow and gray with the discharges from several hundred open dribbling sleeping mouths, so i had a walk into the town centre about 5 minutes away in order to buy some new ones (& some cleaning products).  Turns out that Dutch pillows are really strange, they are not like British pillows, they are more like the cushions that you get on garden chairs, that is to say very large, flat and square; when i next drive over i’ll be buying some British pillows and cases (or Amazon).
My bed is currently two single beds pushed together with two single mattresses over which i have stretched a fitted double sheet to hold them together, i can’t sleep in the middle of the bed as there is a massive ridge from where the two mattresses are pushed together, think of the Himalayas straddling India and the rest of the continent, that kind of size.
In Holland they do not use draining boards as we do in the UK, they have a sink inset in to a smooth side/work-surface, the kind that we would work on in the UK, where you prepare your veg etc.. On the work-surface they place a plastic tray into which they insert a giant maxi-pad type thing and then place a drainer on top and every couple of days or so the tampon like pad goes into the washing machine.
The electric cooker in the flat is a military issue and is the same as they put in the married quarters, that is to say it was the height of fashion in the 1970′s, but it works and i’m not paying for the electricity.  I went shopping and bought some fresh food, but before i could put it in the fridge i had to strip out the part  i’m using and wash the shelves, there is at least two years worth of accumulated grime and dead food in there.
I went to the duty-free  shop yesterday (Fri) and had a walk around, the booze is less than half the price in the UK, a bottle of gin is between 3.00 & 10.00 pounds, whisky is between 5.00 & 40.00 pounds (Glenmorangie is about 12.00 pounds & Capt Morgan Spiced Rum is about 7.00 pounds).  I have to write the word ‘pounds’ as the symbol for it on my netbook gives me ‘#’.
I  went to my first beer-call last night but i was so knackered that i quit after 4 beers (or so) and went back to the flat where i had a couple more drinks before turning in.  All those i spoke to last night are very disillusioned with working here and if it wasn’t for the money would have quit and gone back to the UK long ago.
30 Aug 12
The most annoying sound in the world, ever, when you are trying to read is Hollywood’s interpretation of a chipmunk.  On the ferry, sitting in the restaurant trying to read my kindle, a bunch of bored children were watching Alvin the chipmunk film, the voice of a chipmunk is designed to drill in to your brain and prevent you from concentrating on anything else; no wonder the little fuckers are struggling in the wild – it’s because they are winding up all the other animals!
The staff were ferry nice but the boat has clearly seen better days, and because it’s a ship people can smoke indoors, which was crap as it was blowing straight down to me as i was trying to get my head down.
Not even first day and I’ve learnt some Dutch(?) words already:
English – Dutch
Diesel – Diesel
Petrol – Petrol
The hotel, Schinvelder Hoeve, is simply fantastic. It’s a castle that was built in the 13 century and since then had a farm bolted, and is now a 4-bed hotel.  the owner was lovely when I turned up at 2220(local), it took 30 seconds to sign in and he showed me to my room, which is awesome, all old exposed beams and brickwork; the bathroom is like something from a fashion magazine.  I asked if the restaurant was still open but alas it wasn’t, 5 minutes later there was a knock on the door, it was the owner with a cold beer and a bowl of cashews, 5 minutes later there was another knock, he was back again with a slab of home made apple pie. Fantastic!

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