Monthly Archives: July 2015

Koffie en appeltart

I think that the appeltart in Dudok is going to he hard to beat.

There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Rotterdam. No doubt I’ll be talking about a few of them over the next few months. There is one place that I’ve been to a few times now that is really worthy of early note.

20150723_152405In 1945, Rotterdam started to think about rebuilding itself after the devastation of the second world war. Influential Dutch architect Willem Marinus Dudok, designed a new insurance building with a grand Hall on the ground floor. I’m not sure what happened to the insurance company but the space is now a grand European cafe and brasserie. Being Dutch is is a lot less formal than its Viennese cousins . The twentieth century classic building is just as grand and the waiting staff just as smart but the atmosphere is bright and welcoming. There is free wifi, (not remarkable for 20150722_155950Rotterdam), tables with laptop sockets, magazines and newspapers. It’s busy but there always seems to be a place to sit, including outside in nice weather.

I’ve not sampled much of the menu yet. I was told that their appletart was to die for. A couple of months ago I needed some wifi in order to take part in a Culturapedia Team Meeting via Google video hangout. (This was before I got connected in the apartment). Go to a cafe and you have to order something so I went for the famous apple tart  – with cream. It was a 20150722_160524major distraction to my colleagues who had to enviously watch me eat it as we talked over our various projects.

Dudok is now a bit of a chain with grand cafes in a number of Dutch cities and a kiosk at the central station. They also have a pizzeria in Krallingen. This building is where it started and I’m glad that in a city or architecture one architect is being remembered in such positive way.

Last week I went into town to buy something prosaic like a small saucepan. As I passed Dudok I couldn’t resist just making sure that the appeltart was as good as I’d remembered it. It was.

Allen keys and rubbish

I spent last week in Rotterdam, mainly working on getting the flat fit to live in. The great news is that there is now a floor fitted throughout the bedrooms and the living room. I have also papered the big wall in the main bedroom and either side of the chimney breast in the living room. The fitted wardrobe and the door in the spare room is painted. Curtain rails have been put up in both bedrooms, new plug sockets fitted in the spare room and….

I was busy. The floor is the biggest thing and it’s great to have that down. I’m glad that I arranged for it to be fitted too. The guys had the right tools and knew what they were doing. It looks great. The wallpapering covers the giant yin yang on the bedroom wall. It is still there above the bed but hidden for someone else to find in years to come. The flat now feels more like a home than an half done project. There is still a lot to do but nothing urgent apart from building the Ikea wardrobes.

Propped up in the bedroom are currently about twenty cardboard boxes full of chipboard, allen keys, those little round twiddly things and a whole lot of screws. I actually really enjoy assembling these things. It’s a bit like building a giant jigsaw puzzle. They’re enormous so it will take two of us to lift and manhandle them. Before I left last week I got some practice in building the spare bed.

Allen keysIt got me thinking about the process of designing how Ikea products a) look and b) can be constructed, at home using a, presumably, fixed number of dry fixings. No glue but a whole lot of allen keys. Their instructions are also really well put together using no language, just illustrations. Making the bed was really straight forward if a bit long winded. If only their website was as easy to navigate.

Half the fun will be getting rid of all the cardboard once we’ve unpacked it all. There are a number of cardboard skips behind the shops at the back but I’m not sure these are free for all.  They’re usually rather full and it could be that the shops are paying to have them there. The last thing they’ll need is a fly-tipping Ikea junkie stealing their space. Perhaps I should adopt the Colditz method. Cut them up and dispose of them a few square centimetres at a time over a course of several months.

I’ve already been doing this with the old laminate floor. The flat doesn’t have its own bins. Around and about there are depositories in the street that accept rubbish, glass, plastic and paper. On Mariniersweg there are some large ones. I’ve had a large pile of old laminate planks on the kitchen balcony. I’ve taken eight at a time and broken them in half before carrying them round to the ‘restafval’ box round the corner. They are like large metal boxes submerged in the ground with upstanding post boxes on the surface. A lorry periodically comes and lifts the whole thing to empty it. I’m slowly getting through the pile of planks – the end is in sight.



Enrolled and official

I’m going to Rotterdam to study and to learn.  Yesterday, my status at the University changed from ‘accepted to ‘enrolled’ . I am officially a student again. As the start time gets closer I get more and more nervous. Erasmus University in Rotterdam is a proper university. According to the Times World University Rankings it comes in at 72. It is only beaten by about half a dozen UK universities that I would never dream of applying to. I’m just a boy with a mediocre vocational design BA from a former Polytechnic. I can’t even find my alma mater in the rankings. The course that I am going to do is ranked second in the world for  “Arts and Cultural Management” according to  This is serious stuff.20150717_121557_001

I’ve got a lot of experience in cultural management. I’ve been doing it for years but the academic rigour is going to be a challenge. It’s no good just knowing something. You need to know why and how. You also need to back it up with research and evidence. I will also need to get into the habit of academic writing. The thing I’m least looking forward to is all the reading. I want to learn, I want to gain the knowledge but I also know that some of the texts I need to absorb will be rather dry and not well written from a readers point of view.

Erasmus University, (EUR), is not ivy covered. It’s not actually very old. In University terms it’s just a baby having been formed a mere 102 year ago in 1913 as the Netherlands School of Commerce. It’s occupied its present site since 1973. As with the rest of Rotterdam there is a lot of concrete. There is also a major building programme going on with twenty first century architecture springing up along the new University Plaza. There is a separate Medical Centre and Erasmus University College, (across the road from my flat on Pannekoekstraat), in the city centre but the main Woudenstein campus on the edge of Kralingen is where I’ll be based. It’s about a fifteen minute cycle or short tram ride away.  EUR has about 21,000 students of which about a quarter are international. Its alumni include nobel prize winners and Dutch Prime Ministers.

I’m still waiting for my timetable. It would be handy to have it soon so that I can book flights back to the UK when they are cheapest. It looks like things are well organised and that all lectures are condensed into half a week. There are four terms and the timetable changes for each one. For the past two years Term One contact time, (lectures, seminars and work groups), has started as midday on a Tuesday and finished at midday on a Thursday.  British universities seem to start in October and finish at the end of November for Christmas.  EUR lectures start on August 31 and don’t finish ’till December 18.  My first exams will be at the end of Term One in November.

If you’re interested this is what I’ll be studying in my first year:

Study schedule per term

Term Courses
Term 1 Introduction to Economic Theory
Creative Economy and Creative Organizations
Introduction to Social Science Research
Term 2 Economic Geography of Creativity and Urban Development
Values of Culture
Introduction to Statistical Analysis
Term 3 International Art Markets
Academic writing 
Bachelor’s Thesis Class (gr. 4-E or 5-E) (4 weeks)
Term 4
Advanced Economic Aspects of Cultural Industries
Bachelor’s Thesis Class (continuing from term 3)
Bachelor’s Thesis

Come fly with me

This is where my green credentials fly out of the window. I never throw a piece of paper away without writing on both sides, I compost all my food waste and teabags, I hate excess packaging. This adventure, though blows it all as it involves rather a lot of flying. I put my hands up and say sorry. As I mentioned in my previous post ” Warning this route crosses Belgium”, the ferry from Hull is eye wateringly expensive and takes an age. Driving down to Dover then up to Rotterdam is also not very sustainable.

GIven that I’ve made the dark decision to fly I seem to have three choices if I want to fly from Manchester to Schiphol. They are KLM, Easyjet and FlyBe and so far I’ve tried all three. I thought I’d try and work out which I prefer.20150628_132550

In fairness all three are OK. Our first investigative trip at Easter was with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. By far the poshest of the three. It’s going home when it goes to Schiphol and gets the best gates. This is the Dutch flag carrier. It has the most flights per day and you get a free drink and snack on the short flight. There is a bit more leg room and if you feel so inclined you can go 20150703_154528first class. I think I’d feel a bit hard done by if I’d paid all the extra gilders only to find that they just put you in front of a curtain and leave every other seat unattended. I can’t imagine that the tea and coffee is of higher quality. The Heineken still comes out of a can. I didn’t like the way that they “Especially want to thank” their Flying Blue customers. It makes everyone else seem a bit inferior.

I’ve used Easyjet before and have always been a bit of a reluctant fan. It is put in the same category with Ryanair which I hate. Have you ever managed to get a Ryanair member of staff to smile with their eyes as well as widening their mouth. (It’s a good game if you’re ever forced to fly with them but it’s hard work). Easyjet by contrast are always smiling and being friendly. They seem to enjoy their work. It’s a bit cramped on an Easyjet flight but the hop over to Schiphol is short enough.

20150628_143434_001The third option is FlyBe which claims to be the worlds largest regional airline, (not really sure what that means). It used to belong to Jack Walker who was a Blackburn metal magnate so there’s a connection to home.  The planes are smaller than KLM and Easyjet which seems to offer the passenger a bit more room. You are sitting two abreast rather than three. I’ve also noticed that the cabin staff seem to be a bit older – this may just be the flights I’ve done. They definitely smile and are really pleasant and smiley. If you can’t do the whole hour without a drink of something then you have to pay like Easyjet but you go get a free branded sweet as you disembark. Flybe definitely has the best in-flight magazine – I really enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. It has a whole business section which indicates that they fly a lot of business customers.

KLM has a loyalty scheme where you collect air miles but it would take a whole lot of short hops over the North Sea to collect enough to do anything serious.  With FlyBe you get Avois – there are lots of other ways to collect these so it might be worth looking at.

It all boils down to timetables really. All three can be booked easily online but FlyBe’s website is a bit clunky. Their smart phone app is awful. KLM and Easyjet do digital boarding passes. FlyBe seem to be working on this.

A big difference is where they operate at the airports. At Manchester Easyjet operates out of Terminal 1. This is the main one, Its enormous and there are often queues for security. FlyBe and KLM operate out of Terminal 3 which is nearer to the railway station, considerably smaller and considerably faster. There are less shopping opportunities but who buys all that stuff when they’re about to get on a plane. T3s got a Boots and a Smiths. You can squirt yourself with the latest smellies and get a Costa Coffee. What else would you want to do at an airport?

At Schiphol it was a very long walk to get to my FlyBe and Easyjet gates. We only taken hold luggage on KLM so far but loved the automatic luggage drop off machines at Schiphol.

It’s an hours flight. It’s comes down not long after it’s gone up. I suspect I will be an airline tart and fly with the one offering the best price at the best time.


Turning trials into triumphs

I got back to Blighty on Friday having managed to sort out some of the trials so I thought I’d better report on progress.

The flooring is on its way to being sorted. Hans from Joop came round to measure up and we’ve managed to  recycle some of the previous underlay which I’m told is top quality. I will need to go back in a couple of weeks but I’m confident that It will be fine. It seems that there is little point in trying to get my deposit back from the first place but  one has to be philosophical about these things.

20150703_140653On Wednesday the Indesit engineer came round to look at the fridge.  As I suspected he said that it was Kaput and that I needed to go back to the shop and demand a new one. He gave me a report and I duly cycled over in the mid day sun. I wanted to go as at this point I wanted to choose a different model. I no longer trust this batch of Indesit models. A new Whirlpool model came on Thursday morning. It’s a very clever model that actually makes things cold when you want it to.

Originally I had it all planned that the flooring would be fitted last Wednesday with Ikea delivering a load of heavy boxes on the Thursday. As I said before Ikea had cancelled. I had already rearranged for the Ikea delivery to be put off ’till August. This gave me chance to carry on painting. Thursday came, I was filling holes, sanding skirting boards, rubbing down door frames and splashing around the emulsion. The bell rang – Ikea delivery – two men with a truck, a washing machine and a load of heavy boxes. 20150701_103413What to do – accept it or send them away.  My reasoning was that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  “i need to take payment”, the man said.. “But I’ve already paid”. He went to call the office while I found the payment on line. It took a bit of working out but it appears that the order had been duplicated in the Ikea system. The one I’d paid for was the one that had been delayed. The one they’d brought was the duplicate with no payment. After much confusion I agreed to pay on my card and then arrange to cancel the first order and claim a refund. A classic case of a computer system that said no.

Heavy Ikea boxes

Heavy Ikea boxes

One problem is that there are now a load of boxes that will need to be moved around once the new flooring arrives. I still think that the bird is better in the hand. We’ll cope.

The walls are all painted in the spaces that are having a new floor. Skirting boards and most of the door frames are also done. Friday morning I finished a second coat on the living room ceiling and went round to pay a deposit on the floor. I also asked Hans to get me through the Dutch Ikea phone system “Voor keukens op 1. Voor waxinelichtjes druk op 2…”

Another hot day and I rewarded myself with a latte and a piece of cake before heading off to the airport. 20150703_123630_001