I’m in the Netherlands, in the Amsterdam area.
Yes, I miss various English conveniences. The Dutch are very much “no fuss” and “no fluff” which can translate into a service level that does not come near what mainstream British people get to experience.
However, it is also so wonderful, marvellous, absolutely fantastic and great when strangers let each other be and leave each other in peace instead of yelling all kinds of often nasty remarks at each other. I had gotten so used to the latter in Portsmouth.
I still often find myself bracing here, am still very guarded, but unlike in Portsmouth, nobody is gunning for me here. People hardly pay any attention to me, a bit like in London or Bristol.
It is slowly starting to sink in.
Yes, some staff in shops is rather rude (gruff) but this is balanced out by employees who offer me tips for where I can go for a coffee, nearby, and who tell me about what is called a sports school here. Exercise facilities. Fitness clubs.
(My experiences here also show me unserved or underserved market niches that I may actually end up filling one day. Who knows. Here, I’d be allowed to do that. Making it work would be fully up to me and to any team that I might assemble and it wouldn’t upset anyone’s apple carts.)
I have brief conversations in elevators and shops but nobody even glances at me when when I cough a lot while waiting at a tram stop – or anywhere else. People here are far too busy having fulfilled lives of their own. Once, I caught a young man in his early twenties in public transport studying me when I looked up but there was kindness and perhaps even something like admiration in his eyes.
I am getting no hatred. None. No contempt.
Yet I’m told and have read that the Netherlands has become highly polarized since I left.
The situation in Portsmouth is completely out of control, by contrast.
I cringe when I think about what this must mean for people in Portsmouth who are for example highly educated yet autistic, such as my lawyer friend in Amsterdam (she visited me in Southsea in 2009), or who are learning-disabled or have very little education and little awareness of their own legal rights.
Portsmouth’s establishment – politicians and all – applies a divide-and-conquer strategy that continues to pitch just about everyone in Portsmouth against just about everyone else, not for the sake of acquiring the ability to accomplish any good but for the sake of sheer power and control.
It’s akin to a scorched earth approach, with the difference that this one takes place under the surface, almost like a smoldering tundra fire. There are few burned houses in Portsmouth, but many of its homes are “scorched” on the inside. Far too much powerless suffering goes on in Portsmouth. Far too much.
I will post my Tesco clubcard details later, yes. See below. For far too many in Portsmouth, every penny counts, and I do not want those accumulated Tesco clubcard pounds – at least 6, last time I checked – to go to waste. Can I safely assume that someone has already put my recently purchased phone top up voucher to use?
May take me a while to notice incoming e-mails, though!