‘Angels of Amsterdam – part 1’

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My lovely Hub was presented with some vouchers to be used towards travel from his airport – a nice tribute for having been there for more than twenty years. We ummed and erred and decided on a short break in Amsterdam because Hub had visited Schipol Airport for work purposes and wanted to see more, and because it was somewhere I’d always wanted to go.

He bought the flights and I booked the hotel – we got good deals because we booked so far in advance.

This had its disadvantages too.

Ever since the attack of the kidney stones, my back has been causing me grief.  Lack of exercise has also made the arthritis in my knee swell up and become very tender.

I am hopping and limping with my stick in addition to seeing my wonderful osteopath, but the pain stops me from getting more than two hours sleep at a time, I should take out shares in Ibuprofen and my motivation is sadly sapped by the sleep deprivation.

Our romantic break in Whitby was severely hampered by the pore ole leg (POL), and as the trip to Amsterdam came closer, I wondered if I would be able to manage.

Hub booked seats on the plane with extra leg room for me – we were side by side on the way out and he sat behind me and held my hand over the top of the seat on the way back.  He also requested special assistance as the POL makes me go very slowly and it gets tired if I make it walk too far.

At my last physio treatment before Amsterdam, my osteopath expressed concerns about the lack of progress in freeing up my back and easing the pain in my POL.  He suggested going to see a doctor – they don’t normally do that .

I called the surgery on the way home and was amazed to find that there was a cancellation at twenty to eight that night – with the GP that I have been boycotting for the past eighteen and a half years because he was mean to me once.

Pain and panic forced my hand.  Hub came with me and promised to referee or hand me tissues depending on the GP’s attitude.

Perhaps both of us have mellowed over the years.  He was actually very kind.  Impressed by the fact that I can touch my toes (I shouldn’t be able to), stick my POL up in the air whilst lying on my back (I shouldn’t be able to) and do Tai Chi every morning (I shouldn’t be able to do that either).

He told me not to worry too much about my raised blood pressure – that could be due to the Ibuprofen,  to get as much exercise as possible, to go to Amsterdam and have a lovely time, and to come back afterwards and have a cortisone injection in my knee. Hmmmmm.

He also prescribed some amitryptiline  and explained that although it was an anti-depressant, it was used in small doses to overcome nerve pain.

I used to work for a neurologist before Uni Boy was born and I can vaguely remember this being one of his treatments too.  So Hub and I took my prescription off to the very nice pharmacist in Tesco – who was sympathetic about the POL because he had one too, and advised that one tablet would be enough and to make sure that I took it around seven pm or I’d turn into a zombie – better than a gremlin anyway.

The standard dose for adults is 75mg per day and I was on 10mg per day so I didn’t think the side effects would be too bad. Hmmmmmm. I took two tablets the first night and the second. Not a good idea.

Sleep deprivation has enhanced my dormouse-like abilities to nod off whenever the action stops – if only for a few moments. The addition of the amitriptyline turned me into the walking dead – no more playing ‘Bejewelled Blitz’ on my laptop in the early hours – my eyes wouldn’t stay open. I also got impressive dizzy spells – which go under the heading of ‘acceptable side effects’. (Acceptable to who?)

Bezzie Mate came to stay for the weekend before we went away.  I managed to limp around Tesco with him without falling over, and once Hub had woken from his post night shift slumbers, we went off to what was left of an air day at a local airfield.

How can people leave when the planes are still in the air and performing so courageously?

Love the sound of them, love the sight of them wheeling and crossing trails in the sky, even love the smell – from a distance though because close to makes me wheezy. Hub and BM had a wonderful time taking pictures and talking about planes.  I sat in my director’s chair and lapped up the sights, sounds and the evident enjoyment of my two favourite plane spotters.

BM went back Home that night and the next day was spent packing and getting ready for our seven pm flight.

We just had cabin luggage; I had been awfully efficient and researched what we were allowed to take with us.  Finding the right size resealable plastic bags was a trial – being summertime the shops were sold out and the OCD in me did not want to wait till we got to the airport to get them.  I had to leave my face cream at home because the economy size pot was too big.

My Kindles, the electric toothbrush and our cameras were put at the top of the cases but in fact Security were only interested in the Kindles.  The guard wanted to know where I got the case for my Paperwhite from.

To backtrack slightly; we called at the special assistance desk when we arrived at the airport, and I very foolishly turned down the offer of a helper and a wheelchair. We were told to go through the wheelchair section of security anyway.  It was much quicker but very painful when the guard patted down my POL and I nearly shot through the roof.

We sat at the gate and waited for assistance to arrive as promised.  Our seats were in the front row of the plane and we thought that meant we would be boarded first and exit last – so as not to hold anyone else up.

Our special assistance helper turned out to be a very small girl in an over large high vis jacket. I was glad that I hadn’t said yes to the wheelchair – so embarrassing if it had been too heavy to push.

She was very sweet and led us down to the apron via the lift.

The other passengers were already boarding and I had visions of having to wait for them all before I could make my slow and stately progress up the stairs.

Not so; this tiny girl marched forward and stopped the passengers with great authority.  She followed us up the stairs and waited until the hosties took over.  I was impressed.

I love flying.  I love the moment when the plane leaves the ground and never fail to marvel at the fact that this great lump of steel is flying gracefully through the air. With Hub beside me and room to stretch out the POL, my stress levels subsided.

Only an hour in the air and we arrived at the same time we left – technically.

If I felt well looked after at Liverpool, then Schipol assistance staff made me feel like royalty.  Declining the wheelchair again (oh foolish pride!) we were escorted to a minibus and driven (for miles it seemed) into the airport.  They handed us over to the most charming of young men who, though slightly disappointed in my wheelchair refusal, lashed said chair to a buggy and whizzed us through to passport control.

On finding that we were getting the train into Amsterdam, he then escorted us to the ticket office, told us what tickets to get and then took us down to the correct platform.  His English was impeccable and his courteous manner even better. We were sad to see him go. We had no idea however that he was only the first of our Amsterdam Angels. Curious coincidence 1 – his sister lives in London and works for King – the company responsible for Bejewelled Blitz.

The train was a revelation – it was a double-decker! We sat on the emergency seats on the mezzanine so that I didn’t have to do stairs.  It was still light and Hub, a lover of trains as well as planes, was happy as a pig in muck as he gazed out of the windows.

We knew that our hotel was near to the station so we decided to walk.  Hub had the two cases on wheels; I had me, the POL and a stick.  We stopped on a bridge over the canal and took the picture at the top of this blog. I felt relieved that we were nearly there.

I am not good at crossing big roads.

When I was ten years old I was knocked over by a green station wagon whilst crossing the road in the middle of town.  I came off quite well – a cut to my ankle and a grazed knee. Unfortunately they banged my head on the roof of the ambulance when putting me in and I had to stay in hospital overnight because of the concussion.

It left me with a fear of big roads though.

I managed to control the fear over the years until the day when, after dropping the boys off at school I tripped over crossing the big road that stood between me and the bus stop for work. Falling into the path of the fast lane, I managed to throw myself forward and land closer to the kerb.

I got up.

I didn’t cry.

I caught the bus to work although my knees ached, my hands were grazed and I wanted someone to pick me up and take me somewhere safe (preferably not bumping my head on the roof at the same time).

At my last but one workplace, there was a big road to cross in order to get to the bus stop.  I got palpitations every time I crossed it. A friend in the next office found out about my fear and made a point of calling in as he was leaving to see if I wanted to cross the road with him.

Of course I did.

Hub is aware of my fear – as is BM – and they are both very solicitous about getting me across the big roads. They both have very reassuring arms.

We had been warned about the bicycles  and scooters in Amsterdam.  I knew there were trams – and cars – and even at ten thirty at night – lots of people and noise.

The green man crossings were a welcome and familiar sight but the combination of POL, big road panic, lack of Hub’s ever protective arm, a dizzy spell, tiredness and a protruding tram line and I was down.

Like a sack of spuds.

Hub left the cases and was by my side – I was still on the tram line with a big white and blue monster bearing down on me.

From nowhere it seemed, an angel in long dark pigtails who spoke beautiful English was there at my other side.

“We must get your wife off the tram line.  It is very dangerous here. I will help you.”

And she did.  The kind words, her firm but safe hands, Hub’s arm and the good old stick got me up off the floor and to the safety of the island.

The temptation to blub and shake was very strong but it vanished as the angel admired my newly polished purple glittering nails (thank you Sarah) and then imparted the following information:

  • Think bicycle/scooter first – then tram – and always use the crossings with the green man because the trams won’t move until you are clear and the red man lights up
  • Be careful in the very touristy areas because pickpockets are rife
  • Don’t buy a one hour tram ticket – you can’t get anywhere in that time and a twenty-four hour ticket is much better value
  • Visit Smits Koffiehuis by the station. the food is good, they speak English and it is next door to the Tourist Information Bureau – the VVV.

She showed us the way to our hotel. shook hands, wished us luck and was gone – back into the night.

Our hotel was just around the corner. The receptionist was very sympathetic about my fall, also spoke excellent English, and within a few moments we were in the lift and in our peaceful air con room courtesy of another angel.

POL was sore.  Other leg took the brunt of the fall and has some very impressive bruises.

But we had arrived.  We were safe.

And Amsterdam was proving to be a place of kind angels.

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