Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Tuesday 28 June

Well, that was quite a day. I owe you the photos, which I shall put up in a separate entry. I went to visit my sister, who lives a few miles from Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam. The forecast had been for a thundery breakdown of the hot weather. As a result, Dutch Railways (NS) announced they would be running according to a reduced timetable after midday, and passengers should expect disruption. We reached our destination amidst some drips of rain, but nothing major. In fact, after lunch, the sun came out. The mercury quickly ratcheted back up to 32C / 90F as we went for a walk in an area of dunes west of Haarlem. These are used to filter water for use in the general drinking water supply. It is also a nature reserve, and we saw deer, foxes and herons. One heron was so taken by the heat that it just stood there on the path, panting and gasping for breath. The deer too were sheltering under trees. Foxes too had a spot of bother with the heat, but one family of adult foxes came within touching distance.

Upon returning to my sister's house, the cloud came across the sky and a thunderstorm came crashing by. It downed the mercury quite efficiently, so that it had become pleasant, about 20C / 68F. As we joined our train east, the thunder was moving slowly east, lighting up the sky in the distance with the lightning. Things started to go wrong as early as Amsterdam Zuid station, only a few miles from the airport. The connecting train to Utrecht was 10-15 minutes late, meaning we'd lose our onward connection to Arnhem. On arrival at Utrecht, at 9.30pm, we found out that major parts of the Dutch rail network had been knocked out by lightning strikes. There was to be no direct train to Arnhem, a distance of 40 miles, and we were advised to divert to Amersfoort and Deventer, then head south towards Arnhem. Well, with a few more delays along the way, we got ourselves to Deventer, 50 miles east of Utrecht, at a quarter past midnight. I walked up to an NS employee and asked if there was going to be a connection calling at Velp station, which is closest to my dad's house. He immediately rang up and arranged for the fast train to Arnhem to stop at Velp, and at another stop as well.

I have to say, it is a national pastime to knock NS at times of adverse weather, and some times they really have gone belly-up in the worst possible fashion. But on this occasion, I cannot fault them one bit. We were advised a day ahead of any potential problems, and of the adjusted timetable and potential for problems. Moreover, staff went out of their way to help, so I'll be writing a letter of compliment to the railways.

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