Thursday, 30 April 2009


Just watching the Queensday celebrations on national television. Queen Beatrix was taken through the city of Apeldoorn, watching a historical parade passing by her in a major thoroughfare. About 200,000 people were present, and as per usual in the last 28 years, it was a family occasion. For the royal family, for every family in the land. Some had emptied their attics and garages to sell any bricabrac on the roadside. Others were taking part in street fairs and games.

The white open-topped bus turned right from the Loolaan into the access road towards Palace 't Loo. A crash was heard and the TV camera veered left to focus on a small black car that careered across the intersection at speeds of 45 to 60 mph. It crashed into the Needle, a monument to Queen Wilhelmina and came to a shuddering halt. A police cyclist narrowly avoided being swept off, but dozens of others were not so lucky. Some were lying motionless, strewn across the junction, bleeding profusely. The driver was stabilised in his car by police. The coach with the royal party sped off, speeding up from the previous 2 mph to reach the safety of Palace 't Loo.

Queensday is a festive occasion, in which all Dutch people unite to have fun and celebrate. It carries happy childhood memories. It has been a long time since I took part in the celebrations; I think about 33 years ago. It is 12 years ago since I last was in Holland to witness the events on TV. In this village, celebrations were due to start at 1pm.

Instead, flags were lowered to halfmast. Celebrations were called off, scaled down, shortened or phased out. Reactions vary from upset to angry. An ashen-faced Queen appearing on television, showing her 71 years of age.

Why? A man loses his job, and his ability to pay his rent. Due to be evicted tomorrow. He takes his car the 30 km north to Apeldoorn, determined to crash into the Royal bus. He is injured in hospital, facing charges of murder, manslaughter and attempting to assassinate the royal family. Four people are dead, 13 are injured, of whom 8 seriously.

A dreadful closure to a dreadful year, starting on 1 May 2008 with the death of my mother.
11.49 on 30 April 2009. The time nobody in this country is likely to forget in a hurry.

Queen's Day - update

After the dramatic and upsetting scenes in Apeldoorn, 16 miles north of here, information has been released about the sequence of events. The driver, a 38 year old man from Huissen near Arnhem, had crashed through a barrier, then picked up more speed to go through a second barrier. He veered through a junction and smashed into a memorial. It is thought that the two first collisions disabled the car's steering. An open-topped coach, carrying the Royal Family, was driving past the scene as it happened, and Queen Beatrix, speaking on national television, was visibly upset.

The man is to be charged with an attempt on the Royal Family, murder and manslaughter.
Four people are dead, 13 injured of whom 8 seriously. Victim support is offered to all who were present, including the Royal Family.

I have been twittering about events until 5pm local time, but am currently blocked for exceeding my hourly quota. Thanks Twitter.

Queen's Day

Today, Holland celebrates the birthday of its Queen. Beatrix was 71 in January. As has become customary since 1981, Beatrix and her family went walkabout through a city, Apeldoorn (15 miles north of here) to meet the public. Celebrations and events were taking place in a park. Afterwards, the royal party were transferring by bus to the palace 't Loo and viewing a historical parade. Their open-topped coach was turning into the Palace grounds when a car sped through the barriers and the viewing public. As it crashed into a memorial, its windscreen was already smashed. Fourteen people were injured, three of whom apparently seriously.

As I am watching the events unfold on Dutch TV, I am told that all further events have been cancelled for the day. There was to have been a file-past - which will not now take place. There is speculation (not more) about the cause and reasons of the crash. Will post on Facebook, Twitter and here as I get more information.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Wednesday 29 April

Back in Holland after almost 3 months, and spring is in full swing. Whereas it is tip-toeing its way into the Hebrides, flowers are out in full glory down here. The dawn chorus woke me at 5 this morning, something that doesn't happen in Stornoway. Not many songbirds there, unfortunately.

Yesterday's trip, as I indicated on Facebook, was hellish. Due to an error at the Stornoway check-in desk, my luggage went astray at London Heathrow. I knew I had to manually cart my bag from Heathrow to Gatwick, a 50 mile road journey. I waited and waited at Heathrow, and when I made enquiries, the mistake came to light. It took an hour and a half in all for them to reunite me with my case, by which time it was too late to get to Gatwick for my connecting flight. I was rebooked on a later flight out of Heathrow, at 6pm. Four hours later, and yet another more hour due to a delay, I took off for Amsterdam. Nice flight over southeastern England, and we crossed the coast at Harwich, where the ferry from Hook of Holland was just coming in to dock. A spot of turbulence nearly made us all spill our tea. Arrived into Schiphol at 9.15pm, four hours late. One hour later, my train departed for Arnhem, where I got at 11.30pm. It was midnight by the time I finally got to greet my dad. Hope the return journey is not as fraught as this episode was.