Of cycles and gambles

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March 2nd 2011
Published: March 2nd 2011
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Friday (25/02/2011)

An uneventful day as I was told that the party that evening for which I was supposed to work was cancelled by the Municipality. Opa says it happens often (and more so now in the ‘recession’) as they re-evaluate the costs of a party and then at the last minute make it B.Y.O.B rather than hiring a service.

So I took the morning to cycle into Valkenswaard to check for another pair of smart pants and a shirt, but everything was too expensive. I decided to trek that afternoon into Eindhoven to ask if what I had was good enough. I pedaled into Eindhoven to ask what was happening with the rest of the weekend’s work and to check if my attire was better than my general primary appearance. It turned out that the preparation on Saturday for the Sunday match between Ajax and PSV wasn’t needed and Saturday’s work was also cancelled. However, I was assured work on Sunday as it was such a busy day. Plus my fancy clothes were fancy enough, they didn’t even need a trim or any gel on them.

To be honest, I have no idea what I did with the rest of my Friday, no doubt a very leisurely cycle back home. I do know the evening is beer and movie night, which even when done on your own, can be a good laugh.

Saturday (26/02/2011)

With no work to be done, I was able to join O&O for a coffee at my aunt’s and uncle’s house (A&A). A&A are going on a few trips in the coming weeks; one to Anita’s hometown and one for Ariejan’s birthday. Me and Ariejan have promised to cook for Anita one night… well, I promised and Ariejan just laughed and gave in. I’ll have to come with a very nice bottle of wine to help Ariejan get the dishes done, as I think I’ll be doing the majority of the cooking.

I took the afternoon to go explore Aalst’s surrounds further and found myself within the indoor sports arena. I watched a bit of hockey and after a while got tired of the beady eyes resting on me every now and again. I think I was noticed as an outsider and perhaps the other moms and dads thought I was eyeing out the little girls who were playing next to the men.

On the way home it began to pour and thank goodness I had my rain-pants and cap tucked into the backpack. I’ve noticed that hardly anybody cycles with rain-protective gear on. This really confuses me as all these people must arrive drenched at their destination (whether it be work or home). You’d think that in such a cold and wet country, especially at this time of year, that people would equip themselves with the necessary attire to prevent getting sopping wet? I don’t know if it’s not cool, or just hard-core, but I don’t feel the need to be either. I’d far rather arrive without sounding like what-a-mess when I enter the door. I also don’t understand the gelled-hair and no-beard fashion statements. Beards are far warmer and part of an evolutionary advantage adapted by those living in colder climates. I think as I type this I can slowly start to feel my chin again, but only since I’m next to the heater. As far as I’m concerned; if humans were linked closer to practicality than fashion all the men in the north would be bearded, have long nose-hairs, have hairy arms, legs and Unshaven chests. The women, well they’d be just as hairy… and still god-dam sexy at the same time. The gelled hair is also no help with regards to the cold, and all that happens when you put a beanie over it, is balls of fluff sticking to your head just as well as the hair sticks to your scalp.

Sunday (27/02/2011)

Working day! I prepared myself early in the morning with a good breakfast and making sure that I had everything I needed for the long day ahead. Lunch packed, hair gelled and my face as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I set off in the rain and the headwind nice and early for the Philip’s stadium. I waited around for a while, and finally found another colleague who knew where to go. The irony of it all is that they had over-catered for the amount of people they needed to work. Therefore, as I was the one with the least experience, I got to sit around and see if I was needed anywhere extra. Turned out all positions were filled and I got sent home with a 3-hour pay. No work, but still paid; sweet.

Monday (28/02/2011)

I decided to put the weekend’s disappointments behind me and go exploring once more. I set off for Belgium, Lommel, to be exact. I chose a great day to go for a cycle; 2oC and not getting any warmer with the wind. This did not deter the intrepid South African! I set off with my flask of coffee and lunch packed. I made sure I had extra socks, rain-pants, my Leatherman and camera. I stopped just before the border and tried to resuscitate my toes over a cup of coffee and sandwich. The tourist in me was being shown full-blown as everybody else sat in their shorts and t-shirts giggling. Ok, they weren’t in short and T’s, but I was still getting those funny looks. Maybe it was because of me with my feet on the table trying to blow on my toes. I exited the 24hr pit stop without my beanie or gloves on; I was going to show them how hardcore this South African was.

I finally managed to get my shaking hands to put the key in the bike-lock and I rode away triumphantly. 10m down the road I re-attached my fingers and ears and sensibly put my full-cover protective methods on. Absolutely nothing was open in Belgium; except for the Eurospar from where I bought my Trappist beer (under direct instruction from my father). I then decided to cycle along the canal for a while to a yacht club, eventually working my way back to the main road. I then cut off the main road to the town of Borkel and Schaft. From Borkel I took the forest cycle path back to Valkenswaard, which was an amazingly beautiful cycle.

Tuesday (01/03/2011)

For some reason I thought I’d cycle another 35+ km’s to the Belgian town of Achel. I took a different route this time, using a forest path the whole way. The scenery was so captivating. I love the look of the dark trees with the light moss underneath accompanied by the old brown pine needles; keeping my eyes on the cycle path was quite hard! I found a bridge along the way which looks to be the steepest hill within cycling distance. It’s far removed from any main roads and I think might actually be some fun. No just to buy a cutting board.

I couldn’t believe the amount of serious cyclists on the way. Was it spandex-tight Tuesdays or something? As they whizzed past I calmly rode on, stopping at just about every scenic bench for another slurp of coffee. Just as I arrived in Achel Kluis I realized my tripod was missing. My heart dropped and I cycled the last 4k’s back again to where I had last used it; to no avail. Someone is now one tripod more, and I am without. This is very sad as we had formed a close working relationship and a deep understanding of what it takes to balance the camera on various objects, from bins to branches.

When eventually I reached Achel (going through Achel Kluis) it was absolutely dead. O&O had already warned me of everything being closed on a Monday (perplexing enough), but these bloody Belgians decided Tuesday was also a day-off. I swear European countries are just trying to find more and more ways to screw with tourists. I did manage to find a faithful Spar (Euro-Spar, to be exact) that was open. It reminded me of Stellenbosch; Spar’s Tops always being the last bottle store open you could rely on, sigh. Anyways, I bought myself a pack of ‘krenten-broodjes’ (rolls with raisins and sugar) for some energy on the way home.

I then headed through some back-roads just for fun to look at the houses. Belgium is a lot more spacious and the properties have far larger gardens. However, there were so many for-sale signs up everywhere that the monetary struggles can clearly still be felt.

The whole way back I had the wind against me. It was agonizing with a one-gear bike. Along with the burning legs, my behind also started to burn from the luxurious 40-year-old bike seat. This prompted a detour across Belgium back to Borkel where I might be able to escape the wind through the forest route in Valkenswaard. It was far more sheltered than the one I had used on the way to Achel. I’d also left a battery of mine on one bench and I was interested to see if it would still be there.

My gamble paid off and I sipped my last ‘cuppa’ in the quiet forest between Borkel and Valkenswaard. I also found the battery, which cheered me up after the loss of the tripod. However, balancing the camera on the battery was far too difficult to count as a replacement.

I finally made it back home, avoiding the wind by drafting a wheezing granny on the last few open stretches. I think she thought I was stalking her, but I just pretended to ignore her wide-eyed fearful expression and kept pedaling and muttering to myself, as I do when cycling.

Wednesday (02/03/2011)

This was to be my rest-day of blog-writing, series (Band of Brothers) and a trip into Eindhoven. I went into Eindhoven on a bit of a ballsy mission; to visit the café/ restaurant that had promised me work. I asked for the manager on duty and it happened to be the harder-ass from the interview. I knew I had to put up a confident front. I explained that, along with the catering, I did not want to commit to any work or give false information to either businesses as to when I was available. So I asked when he expected me to work. He said it all seemed fine, but the only thing he pointed out was the hair and 2-day beard growth (I obviously still do not understand the Dutch’s concept of neat if with this schoolboy haircut I still manage to look untidy!). I agreed with him, but also assured him that I’d bought liters of gel and that if the catering company found me suitable on Sunday to work VIP PSV that I could also look presentable for him. My efforts paid off and he gave me the nod, he’d talk to the other manager (which was the nicer one in the interview) and so far I start on the 14th. Let’s hope my initiative to show eagerness get’s me in.

I then also went to the catering company and, fired-up after my last achievement, asked when I was working next. I told them I felt the need to get some experience before the summer season and if any jobs were available. I was immediately set on the lists for two upcoming matches, and not on the side of the reserves. I’m a start on the 10th and 20th!

As is with the exploring, all I can do is live by my motto for the time being: “you can always try”. It’s paid off this week and we’ll see what happens in the weeks to come. For now, I’ll rest my hidden-valley until the burning subsides. I think my first salary goes to a new bicycle seat, or a cushion-contraption that fits this one.



7th March 2011

you will be able to ride the argus on a kiddies bike or something by the time you get back: so much training of "vrot" material! Good on you for going back to the restaurant! You can show them how nice South Africans are and how hard they work with a smile! on their face. Not like their regular morose-waiters-i-get-minimum-wage-anyway attitude

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