The Anonymous Widower

The Warning That Was Ignored

On the BBC web site, there is this article about the sinking of the ferry Princess Victoria on the 31st January 1951.

The BBC article gives a full time-line of the sinking of the ferry until she sent her last radio message at 13:58. But it leaves out anything of what happened later.

As a child for a few years I lived in Felixstowe and I can still remember the dark marks on the walls of the houses in Langer Road, showing how high the North Sea Floods of 1953 rose later on that fateful day, killing some 38 people in that end of the town.

Many more died in The Netherlands and Flanders.

Sad that the sinking of the Princess Victoria was, it seems inconceivable today, that the warning wasn’t heeded and so many deaths and damage occurred.

I hope we have learned from what happened that night.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Dutch MPs Show Their Confidence In Fyra

This story about the Dutch Aunt Sally, just adds to the mess the of the high speed train.

But as Fyra doesn’t actually go to The Hague, where the Dutch parliament sits, they would have to change at Rotterdam or drive there anyway.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Fyra Farce Goes Worldwide

I’ve just been notified of two articles about Fyra; the Dutch/Belgium high-speed train from Business Traveller and

I’ve also had a look on the Eurostar web site.  They’re saying this.

To travel to the Netherlands book your Eurostar to Brussels first and then your Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam, Schiphol or Rotterdam.

I suppose they’re only telling you what is possible.

Let’s face it London to Amsterdam is probably only a similar distance, as London to say Perth in Scotland.  I haven’t done that journey  but I know it would be one web purchase not two, as incidentally so would London to Geneva on Eurostar’s web site, changing in Paris.

It’s a complete mess and it seems to be getting worse, with little leadership or common sense being shown.

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fyra Suspended

The launch on the Fyra trains between Brussels and Amsterdam, must rank as one of the worst launches of any train services in the last few years. We’ve had a few bad ones in the UK, where reliability has been questioned and we’ve also had problems with the wrong kind of snow, but nothing, which seems to have been hated by so many as this train has.  The BBC tries to explain the mess here.

If we are going to go back to the future, let’s hope that Eurostar are able to reinstate their beautifully simple ticket to Any Dutch Station.

I will be first in the queue to buy one!

If they don’t I’ll just go by train to that jewel of the Essex coast; Southend, get in an orange aeroplane and hop across to Schipol. The Belgians, Brussels and the planet will all be losers.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | News, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Is The Dutch For In It Up To Your Neck?

We have had problems with trains including the wrong kind of snow, but the Dutch with their new high speed trains called Fyra seem to have got the wr0ng kind of everything, like politicians, strategy and trains. It’s all described here on a Dutch web site. This is the introduction.

The problems with the Fyra high-speed train service from Amsterdam to Brussels are as much to do with politicians as with the train manufacturer and railway operators, according to the main Dutch railway union chief.

Roel Berghuis of union FNV Spoor says the problems with the Fyra service go ‘well beyond the teething problems when a new train is brought in’.

So don’t knock Network Rail and the train operating companies too much, as it might happen here.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment


It was so cold today, that I joked to one of the driver/conductors on the 38 bus, that they were outsourcing them with Eskimos.

But seriously, on The One Show tonight, a doctor said that Eskimos shake their hands to keep them warm. I shall be trying it, if this weather persists.

I have heard from my friend in The Netherlands, that it could be as low as -13°C in Rotterdam with quite a bit of snow on the ground.

Hopefully, it won’t get that cold here tonight.

January 17, 2013 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Marks And Spencer Go Dutch

The instructions on my dinner tonight from Marks and Spencer are in English, French and surprisingly Dutch.

Does that mean their food shops are going to The Netherlands and/or Belgium?

This old news item in the Independent confirms that they are looking in The Hague and Rotterdam.

But then the CEO of Marks and Spencer is Dutch! Is that a form of nepotism to open in your own country?

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Food, World | , | Leave a comment

Eating Gluten-Free In The Hague

In The Hague on Tuesday night, we went out to dinner to a restaurant called Sapori d’Italia in the Javastraat.  It’s the second time, I’ve eaten in that road and although both weren’t cheap they were excellent and knew their gluten-free.

We had a lot of real Italian antipasti of which the most unusual was a very garlicky crostini on gluten-free bread. It was obviously, easy to make and surprisingly gluten-free toast makes a good crostini.

We also went for lunch on Wednesday to an Italian style cafe, where gluten-free was again no problem.

The Netherlands may have very quirky train ticketing, but their cooking for coeliacs is pretty good.



January 11, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Dutch Train Tickets

I think it is true to say, that Dutch train tickets and how you purchase them will be rather strange to many British travellers.

The use of credit cards is actively discouraged and for example, you’ll pay a surcharge if you can find a machine that accepts cash or credit cards.

No machine seems to accept notes.

At least at a few stations, like Den Haag Central and Schipol, there will be a ticket office, but I never found it at Den Haag HS.

I don’t know what you do there, if you haven’t got a debit card!

I did buy a ticket at Den Haag Central ticket office, but I was in a queue for twenty minutes. Just imagine, the flak a UK train company would get if you had to wait that length of time for a ticket.  And we’re supposed to like queues!

I’ve used machines extensively in Italy and the Dutch system is certainly inferior. It’s also very foreigner friendly with several languages being shown.  The Dutch use just two; Dutch and English.

On my way out at Schipol, I met a student from Delft University, who was researching the ticketing on Dutch trains. He was effectively being a ticketing advisor to all of the foreigners coming into the airport and wanting to take a train from the airport. When I last came into Gatwick, there were three Transport for London employees to make sure travellers got the right ticket advice.

Is it rather arrogant to expect visitors to your country to immediately know how buy tickets in a language they’ve never seen before, from a strange machine, which won’t accept cash or credit cards? A New Yorker wouldn’t be able to pop back to get his debit card!

This afternoon I was in Walthamstow Central station and gave the ticket machine a good once-over. The first thing you notice is that the UK machine, as are the Italian ones I remember, is very much bigger than the equivalent Dutch machine. but then it accepts coins and notes, as well as most credit and debit cards. It also deals with a lot more operations, like collecting tickets bought on-line.

The Dutch machine is a lot simpler and has much less glitz, so I suspect it was designed down to a price and as it looks cheap and nasty on the outside, I suspect the inside isn’t very bright.

After all it does the same thing as the British machine does and just issues you with a small piece of card.

The on-line tickets are all print yourself jobs on a sheet of A4 paper. In theory print at home tickets are one of those ideas that looks good on paper, but in practice could be a serious nuisance and especially at times, when it matters. Printers do run out of paper and ink and just suppose you book a ticket in a hotel room on your laptop.

When I bought the ticket for Brussels to Den Haag, I got one ticket for each leg of the journey.  I didn’t have a problem, but the layout of the information like carriage and seat number is not good and I had to get someone to tell me the latter, as I got it wrong and was going to the wrong seat.

On the high speed train, you need a reservation and walk-up tickets seem very discouraged.  Not having tried it, I wouldn’t know and if anybody has, I’d like to know.

But Dutch train ticketing seems to be a system designed to be cheap to run and easier for the company, than the customers. The very fact that two months ago, one ticket got me from London to The Hague and this week it was three tickets is surely a retrograde step.

They may be very last century, but I’m beginning to like the simple card tickets designed by British Rail more and more.

January 10, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | 4 Comments

To The Hague And Back

On Tuesday, I took the Eurostar to see a friend in The Hague. This is a picture of me, eating a gluten-free breakfast in Premium Economy on Eurostar.

Eating A Gluten-Free Breakfast On Eurostar

Eating A Gluten-Free Breakfast On Eurostar

I know it is only a snack, but it is nice to get something if you’re a coeliac and need gluten-free food.

I had orange juice, yoghurt, as much tea as I wanted, some Dove Farms biscuits, gluten-free bread, butter and a small pot of Tiptree jam.

This leg of the journey cost me £107. That may seem a lot, especially as I could have flown to Brussels on BA for £59, if I’d have booked earlier.  But I would doubt, I’d have got such a nice breakfast and I would then have to get to and from the two airports at Heathrow and Brussels.

I actually booked a few days ago, but Standard Premier, always seems to be the same price of £107.  I could have travelled in Standard for less at less than forty pounds or to any Belgian station for just £44. Standard Premier to any Belgian station is £116. For many travelling to the southern parts of the Netherlands, that will be a good option, as you can go to Antwerp and travel on from there. You’ll also get to see the triple decker station.

If you’re on an evening train, I’ve usually found the dinner and free wine to be excellent.

I had booked a connection in Brussels, that gave me over three hours in the Belgian capital, so I had time to do two things.  One was to take an excursion to get some lunch and the other was to see if I could get a ticket on the InterCity train to The Hague.

I tried the Information, and the guy there said that the train had been discontinued. He did offer me a local train, that went via changes at Antwerp and Rosendaal, but I didn’t want to go on a mystery tour of the Low Countries. There were no machines to try out, so I decided to stop being a nuisance and use my ticket on the Fyra high-speed train to Rotterdam. Incidentally, there does seem to be a few teething problems with the organisation at Brussels, with Eurostar and Thalys up one end of the station and the Fyra at the other. They also changed the platform about fifteen or so minutes before the train departed. The carriage numbers are a bit confusing too, if you’ve been used to the old British Rail system of A-K and First generally towards London. Sometimes, I think the EU should lay down a few standards that would help us all.

Fyra Arrives At Rotterdam

Fyra Arrives At Rotterdam

The picture  shows the train after arrival at Rotterdam.

The train is a typical boring train, where in Standard Class, you get comfortable seats with only minimal leg-room. It was no more comfortable than the Mk 3 coach, I ride in to Ipswich. But one thing that was disconcerting was that there were quite a few thumps coming from the suspension.  My neighbour on the train; a Greek physicist, said that that was common. Incidentally, she’d paid the same €22, that I had for my ticket. It was just a sheet of A4 paper. More on this later.

I then took the local train to Den Haag HS station. I stood all the way, as I was talking to a Swiss lady with a Canadian accent, who worked for Rotterdam police.

I actually arrived earlier than I’d expected, as the Den Haag train I got was an earlier connection, so I had a look round the station, as the next day, I would be getting a ticket from there to Schipol for my flight home. I did find an automatic ticket machine, but it only took debit cards and not even cash. I couldn’t find the ticket office either.

Going home, I was dropped at Den Haag Centraal station and the machines were the same; debit card only.  After a twenty minute queue at the ticket office, I eventually used cash to buy a ticket to Schipol to take my flight to the jewel of the Essex coast; Southend. If the Dutch are serious about attracting visitors, they need to look at their ticket machines.

The take-off time was 18:00, but we left early and at 18:05 or sixty-five minutes later because of the time difference, I was on the train towards Liverpool Street.  I was sitting watching the television with a cup of tea soon soon after seven.

That six o’clock easyJet flight is certainly the fastest way to get back from Schipol to East and Central London, if you have no baggage, as they always seem to be early at Southend. It also cost me less than forty pounds for the ticket and I had a nourishing gluten-free tomato soup on the journey.  Not to Eurostar’s standard but who could serve a meal properly in less than forty minutes. I even got an apology from the stewardess about the soup, as she couldn’t give it enough of a stir. But there were other passengers to serve!

January 10, 2013 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments


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