REFLECTIONS FROM MERSEYSIDE
I doubt I've ever praised an airport before but I was in a good mood, after an easy, quick and cheap bus ride from the centre of Haarlem to Schipol, and it occurred to me this airport must be a model for the rest of the world. Everything that can be automated – e. g. the passport check – is automated and even the balls-aching security check was quick, efficient and almost friendly. The icing on the top . . . When I went back to the bar to get the scarf I'd left there, they gave it me with a friendly comment. As I've said, I like the Dutch.
Of course, flying to Liverpool on EasyJet, I had to walk about 2 miles to the gate. But even this seemed pleasant, given that – unlike, say, Madrid - you don't have to go up and down and round and round. And everything is clearly signed, in English. But, as I say, the walk was so long that, when I passed the pilot, I asked him if we were there yet.
Dutch pronunciation 1: Quite a few languages have the kh ('kaytch') sound – Persian, Arabic, Spanish and Scottish (loch) being the ones that spring to my mind. But I wonder how many have the Dutch combination of S and Kh that makes them sound as if they're frequently hawking. It's a common feature of Dutch conversation. In fact, the sign for the airport suggested the bus was only going to places beginning with Sch, with Schipol being the last, of course. Needless to say, Dutch - as well as the Sch sound - does also have the Kh/Ch sound, sometimes in the form of G. So, I asked, are there words which combine both sounds? And you already know the answer. Try Schavenhagen, for example. Doubtless my old and new Dutch friends can some up with several more.
Dutch pronunciation 2: I understand there've been several attempts to reform spelling over the centuries. One suggestion I have – from an English perspective, of course – is that AA should be the long A sound and not the short A sound. And that A should be short, not long. Similarly with the double O. But I leave it to the excellent folk of the Netherlands (not just Holland!) to take this further.
If there's anyone in the Netherlands who doesn't speak excellent – even idiomatic – English, I didn't bump into them. And the younger ones seem to be able to avoid the famous Dutch accent. English, in fact, appears to be an unofficial co-official language and people even move backwards and forwards between the two, as some folk in Galicia do with Spanish and Galego. All very impressive. It must be the easiest country in the world for English speakers to visit. As well as one of the most pleasant and well-organised.
Amsterdam is so culturally diverse, it's like a smaller, cleaner, more efficient London. Where the residents speak better English. One day was far from enough to see all it offers and I will go back for at least a week.
Dutch weather: Worse, I suspect, than the dreadful British winter weather. Despite this, most people insist on travelling around on bikes, some without gloves or any head protection whatsoever. This does wonders for their complexion, of course. So, a great country to live in if you can't stand heat and the sun. Especially if you own a boat and a bike.
Finally . . . I can't find it but I hear, there's an ad for an app which helps you learn Latin. It says this app will be useful to you if you're learning the language at school. Or should you want to take a trip to Latin. Perhaps reader Perry could chase it down and share it with us.