Britain is, and always will be a very odd place to live for anyone who is used to the way Europeans live. Storms in the English channel that stop the ferries running between Dover and Calais are always headlined as “Continent Cut Off”. The British point of view is nothing if not eccentric. Britain, that small island just off the northern coast of Europe, is something of an afterthought in the mind of the average European.
Now I have lived in Europe for the better part of my life, and if there is one thing that has been consistent to any of the countries I lived in – Denmark, Germany and latterly, the Netherlands – it is the lack of understanding about Britain’s place in Europe. Here in Europe, it is necessary to register one’s place of abode, and on no few occasions, that is to say, in each case of registering, I had been asked to show that I, as a Briton, had the correct papers to allow me to live and work in their country.
I pleaded that Britain was a member of the European Union.
What was it someone said to Dorothy Parker? “Oh, darling, I’m writing a book.” To which Dot responded, “I’m not writing one either.” It’s great to speak of writing a book, to actually write one implies a rather different situation altogether. Dorothy Parker was an experienced storyteller and journalist, and knew the pitfalls. Just wanting to write is not enough. But then, it never was.
Germany is well known for its ability to organize; its bureaucracy is legendary. There are downsides to this, though, and it is the German mind applied to colour that I wish to examine in this post. Standardization in German industry led it to be more effective at producing things, and one of the things needed to produce something is the need to paint it. It is the “Imperial [read centralized] Commission for Consistency and Quality Assurance”; the Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung.
We live in a world that is knee deep in information. Just walking to the supermarket in our village would add a few details to the log of my mobile phone’s activity.
Well, it would if I carried it about. Information of this kind can never be perfect, and that is on account of the nature of the computer itself. A computer can’t do anything without being told to do it – this can come from another machine, but that machine will have had to be programmed. There’s a problem with programming that I’ll address at another date; suffice it to say that the programmers act out of their comfort zones. What they see is all they can see. This post will take a look at a different angle of what people want that satisfies their comfort zone. That is to say, what people want to see, where the reality is a whole lot simpler.
It was a good few years ago now that the council dug a tunnel under the motorway and railway to allow cyclists a quicker route from the north of our village to the south. This reduced my journey from over a kilometre to one that is a lot less. My allotment is within 300m of my home, it’s just that there’s a double track railway and a six lane highway in that space along with a minor road. Not the kind of thing one wants to cross on a dark night, even if it were possible what with all the barriers they’ve put up. Thus a tunnel was a welcome addition to our village.
In the Museum Quarter of Amsterdam there is the unimaginatively named ‘Museum Plein’ – the Museum Place. No surprises that you’ll find museums here. Well, that’s what it’s all about: the Dutch are straightforward people. Well, that is when they’re aware that is; when they are, things are made very easy. Unfortunately, the kind of architects this breeds are unimaginative – something that is the direct result of a lack of awareness. They’re not alone in this, most of the worlds architects are the kind of people the world would be happier without.
So here is my folding bicycle, on the local train that will take me home. Bicycles that fold up travel free on the Dutch railways, if you have an ordinary bicycle, you have to buy a day ticket that costs €7. Now, according to the rule book, a bicycle has to be folded before you enter the train. As you can see, my bike is still unfolded – and will only be ‘broken’ in the middle for the swift journey home.