Norwich airport is lovely. And I don’t set off the alarms when I go through the scanner, and the security people are really nice anyway. It’s a short hop, less than an hour, over the North Sea, I can’t think why I’ve left it so many years since my last visit to the Netherlands and I’m not leaving it so long again. Actually, if I did, I’d never come again because the human lifespan isn’t long enough.
I was waiting to go to the loo at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam yesterday and it felt like watching a Jacques Tati film. There were roller towels, and when someone went to use one, it was so tightly wound that she tugged and couldn’t free it. So she went to the next one, pulled and the end came out – that is, it had reached the end of the roll and it came free. Startled, she looked around guiltily in case she had broken it, hastily dried her hands and scuttled out. A minute later, the machine whirred and sucked the end of the towel back in. The woman next to me was watching too and we exchanged joyfully amused glances. Someone else went to dry their hands, attempted two machines, used the final couple of inches of a towel, was shocked when it sucked that towel back and hurried out, hands still damp. The next woman couldn’t puzzle it out at all and gave up, shaking her wet hands as she left. I was shaking with silent hilarity by this time and an attendant was opening the machines to change the towels. When it came to my turn, I knew the way to deal with the towel was by being assertive and dried my hands successfully. At least it wasn’t a hot air machine but a real towel.
I am on an organised trip, but we don’t go around in a group and I had spent a good hour at the museum before going in search of lunch. The odd thing was that I hadn’t seen any of the other members of our party at all, though we had come in together. Nor did I at lunchtime. I would have liked to, I haven’t the best bump of direction and hoped I’d be able to find my way back to where the coach was picking us up to drive us to our hotel in Delft. But it wasn’t a problem, I spent a few minutes checking I knew where it was, then pottered round for an hour. I took the opportunity to dive into a supermarket to buy some salty liquorice, one of my favourite treats, buying four large packs for all the family. I enjoyed speaking my very few words of Dutch again – Charlotte, who grew up in Amsterdam, had been reminding me of some phrases on the way to the airport. Actually, all I really remember with confidence from childhood visits is how to count. But every little helps. English really is the second language here anyway and, at the airport, most of the signs were in English first, then Dutch – except those giving the direction to the trains, funnily enough. Many people fly from Norwich to Schipol airport and then on to worldwide destinations, it’s simpler than getting to Heathrow. It is the lowest airport in the world, being some 17 feet below sea level.