The Dutch Wedding as a day guest

It was a lovely summer morning and we needed to drive to Enschede to be there for 9:30am. If you're a day guest the Dutch wedding starts very early.

We started with tea, coffee and cake at the bride and groom's apartment with the rest of the day guests everyone dressed up for the big day. Hubert (the groom) was safely staying at his family's place but soon arrived to pickup Corine and together welcomed the day guests. It was then a short walk from their apartment across the centre to the city council building whilst Hubert drove Corine in the wedding car.

Corine & HubertThe city council is the official marriage in the eyes of the government. Photos were taken in the large halls before moving upstairs into the small chapel like room where the ceremony took place and the marriage certificate was signed.

Afterwards we headed outside and around the corner to a lovely old Catholic church where we were treated to a traditional Catholic wedding with the lighting of the candles and communion. No so traditional was Hubert's sister Lynette's rendition of James Taylor's "You've got a friend".

From the church Corine and Hubert went for these photos whilst the rest of us headed to Bloemenbeek in De Lutte (the reception venue) for a spot of lunch and waited for them to return giving us time to decorate their room as they were staying the night. A little while later the skies opened with a massive downpour but they arrived shortly after missing the rain. We greeted them with a song followed by a slide show of their lives, the cutting of the cake and opening of gifts.

Next on the agenda was dinner so we found our way around the corner to another room where we were seated at a few large round tables for the evening meal. It was a large piece of eye fillet cooked in hay and was heerlijk (yummy). Dinner was followed by dessert and speeches of which Renate shared her experiences with Corine whilst they lived in Guyana working at the local hospital (I modelled the photos).

It was now time for the party which was located in yet another room. There evening guests were already there and the band was playing a great mix of popular tracks. I knew most of them and everyone under the age of 65 was up and dancing. Most were short versions so you didn't get bored with the songs that dragged on.

There was also other entertainment during the evening. Hubert's work colleagues dragged him up along with some of his other friends for a blindfolded air guitar session. The only thing was that as soon as the song started his friends were taken off the stage leaving only Hubert do the song by himself of which he would make any rocker proud. Lynette also did a fantastic job of singing another song "You just call out my name".

The night ended quite late with a complaint about the noise finishing with ham and mustard rolls and satay. We stuck around afterwards and had a quiet drink as we were also staying at the hotel. Instead of going to bed through we had a swim at 2am in the deserted pool room.

Antony & Renate in Enschede

In the morning we sat down with the married couple and their family for breakfast before enjoying some of the surrounding countryside.

I felt privileged to be part of such as special occasion. Congratulations!

Corine & Hubert

Update: Actually Hubert's parents up up and dancing as well and they are 75.


Mmmmm, bier

I've always been a fan of Grolsch bier although back in my student days it was a bit expensive for a student budget. Unlike Heineken, Grolsch remains brewed and bottled in The Netherlands and shipped out the New Zealand in its natural form even though the bottles have lost their ceramic cap.

Now that I'm here it's the perfect opportunity to try all the delights on offer including the huge variety of European beers. Unlike the supermarkets in New Zealand you can buy single bottles (or mini-kegs) rather than by the six pack or dozen. This makes sampling the large selection even easier.

Last October I discovered a little known (even amongst the Dutch) named Grolsch Weizen (Wheat even though I thought it meant White). I declare it my current favourite beer.

From the first moment the wire rips the neck seal and the ceramic top pops with a little cloud of gas escaping you know something special has begun. As you pour its amber contents into a glass the fine froth reaches back up the glass. It's cloudy appearance says its not your usual chemically enhanced purified beer but a more earthy organic beverage.

Suitable for a hot summer day or a cold winters evening this beer is not only tasty but versatile. It's large bottle size means you always need to refill your glass so you're never left hanging wanting more.

There is a Dutch saying (that a not so old Dutchman recently taught me) that sums up Grolsche Weizen:

Alsof er een engeltje op je tong piest

(It feels like an angel is pissing on your tongue) - Sorry Mum


Microsoft Surface

Despite the name, Microsoft Surface is extremely cool and will revolutionise where and how we interact with computers. This is a real product that you can buy today for lots of money.

Enough talking, go to the Microsoft Surface site, look and the videos then watch the one below for a actual non-marketing real-world demo.


Farewell Nan, we will miss you

Just before heading to Slovenia for a weeks holiday I rang my grandfather in New Zealand to wish him a happy birthday. It was anything but, Nan wasn't doing well and he didn't expect her to last much longer. A day later and after 86 wonderful years she left us.

For as long as I can remember, she has always been a part of my life spending large amounts of time together when I was younger, for this I consider myself very lucky. I was her first grandson and first generation New Zealander in the family.

I am grateful for the family bond and values passed down the generations and will continue this myself with my children and grandchildren. Without her I would not be the person I am today.

We found it difficult being on holiday at such a time and wished we could be there with everyone. Back in New Zealand there is great family support and the mountain walking in Slovenia gave me ample time to reflect on her life and what she meant to us.

It was a beautiful funeral with many people coming to pay their respects. My brother played Across the Universe by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, many lovely words were said and she was honored by the Last Post from her days in the Royal Air Force.

Thank you to all those who helped out the past couple of weeks arranging everything and keeping me informed and to Nick for representing both Renate and myself.

Always looking back with that smile on her face. I will always will remember her this way.


Interesting facts about Holland

  • The drinking age is only 16 so I haven't been asked for ID.
  • Soft drugs and only soft drugs like Marijuana and Magic Mushrooms are legal in Holland and can only be sold at licensed coffee shops. You can however grow your own. What's going to happen next year when the smoking ban is introduced?
  • Prostitution is legal but you must be at least 18 years old and you must be at least 16 to participate.
  • Why do Dutchies like orange so much? It's the name of the royal family "House of Orange".
  • Tulips don't actually come from Holland. They come from Turkey just like the Kiwifruit is actually from China (the Chinese Gooseberry). They do however grow and sell the most.
  • Some people still wear clogs and dress in the old "Milk maid" outfits. Of course this isn't everyday people walking down the street on the way to work but older more traditional communities (not just the tourist towns).
  • Holland has the highest population density in Europe with over 493 people per square kilometer.
  • Netherlands literally means low country. Only half of the country is over higher than one meter whilst 27% is actually below sea level. It's highest point is only 321 meters. When sitting on an airplane at Amsterdam the elevation shows as 15m below sea level.
  • A large part of Holland has been reclaimed including the worlds largest man-made island Flevoland. This led to the Dutch saying "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands".
  • As well as reclaiming huge amounts of land the Dutch also blocked off part of the sea and turned in into a giant lake, the IJsselmeer.
  • New York used to be named New Amsterdam as it was a Dutch colony. Australia was named New Holland and New Zealand was named after the Dutch province Zeeland by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Escher are a just but a few of the famous Dutch artists.

  • The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. Men average 1.84m and women 1.7m. None of Renate's side of the family are exceptionally tall :-)
  • Dutch inventions include the cassettes and video tapes, CDs, microscope and telescope.
  • Some of the world biggest companies are Dutch including Philips Electronics, Royal Dutch Shell, IKEA (was Swedish), ING and ABN-AMRO (maybe be British very soon).
  • At its widest point Holland is 260kms wide and 295kms high and it less than one sixth the size of New Zealand.
  • If you were to put Holland in the same place in the Southern hemisphere Amsterdam will be south of Invergarvill just south of Auckland Island. Being on the mainland the temperatures are more extreme than in New Zealand.
  • The Dutch are the third largest exporter of agricultural products which is way more than New Zealand for a lot smaller country.
  • When you buy a car in Holland you get 3 number plates. One for the front, one for the back and a spare for your bike rack.

Got your own interesting fact about Holland? Add it to the comments.

Update You may also want to have a look at Interesting facts about New Zealand


The mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee

When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes".

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now", said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else, the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled.

I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.


Goodnight Kiwi

Probably more appropriate for my last days here but here it is both the original and directors cut.

For those who have never seen, this clip was played at the end of the TV coverage for the evening in New Zealand before 24hour TV coverage was the norm.