Land of Milk and Coffee

Last Thursday night I flew out to the Netherlands, for a day of meetings on Friday. Quite a painless trip, though there was an interesting innovation at Heathrow Airport. There was a strange cubicle next to the security scanners with a sign next to it proclaiming: “You may be randomly selected to help test our new full body scanner. If you refuse you will be subjected to a full body search by hand.” Sounds pretty ominous. I don’t know what technology the scanner was based around, but it does remind me of the body scanners used in Total Recall.

On the topic of security, while the machine-readable numbers were scanned from my passport by customs, I wondered what the passport number is checked against. A list of people forbidden to travel? A list of known criminals? And what happens to the information that I passed through Heathrow customs on that particular date? Do they retain that information? And to what end?

Eindhoven reminded me of Rotterdam in miniature. A small-ish, modern industrial town with the odd old building thrown in randomly here and there, but nothing cohesive. Nice enough though, and well kept. The hotel was very nice indeed and I wish I’d known earlier so I could have brought swimming trunks. Not to swim, of course, but merely to lounge around in the jacuzzi!

The meetings the next day went pretty much as expected, though the afternoon was an eye-opener. I wasn’t really that familiar with the operations of the nuclear pharmaceutical industry, but I certainly am now. I got to see a particle accelerator, I wore the white coat, over-shoes and hair net so I could enter a semi-clean area, and I had my radioactive dosage tested after walking around the manufacturing areas. It was all fairly awe-inspiring.

As was the coffee machine in the office. Instead of your more typical coffee machine which churned out weak instant coffee, this one had a big batch of coffee beans. When you made your choice of coffee, it grounds the beans and prepared wonderful coffee of the utmost freshness. Bliss! At lunchtime though, everyone scorned the coffee for the other Dutch national drink. Milk. I’m always amazed how slender the Dutch are, considering all the dairy products they consume every day. Full fat milk with every meal, cheese, yoghurts, yoghurt drinks etc. Every single day! No wonder they’re the tallest nation in the world!

So, at the end of the working day, I was shipped back over to Eindhoven airport. Amusingly, the drop off zone in front of the airport was called the ‘Kiss & Drop’ zone, but I made sure I stayed at least an arms length away from the taxi driver.

Coming next: A general mish-mash of events, occurrences and thoughts.