The Eighty Years War

I check with the man at the information desk in the Metro station at Amsterdam Centraal.

‘Sprek du Engels?’

He looks at me and then in to the distance, as if he is thinking very hard about a different question, as if I had said to him, ‘Did I meet you at the house of Erasmus in Bruxelles in 1521? In the garden. Do you remember?’

He comes back from some far off place and remembers that he does speak English and he suggests that I put the card to the right of the barrier to open the gate. ‘Otherwise’, he says, ‘the gate to the left will open’. I understand what he means. It was getting late. The train journey was an hour longer than expected. Not through any delays, but from reading the timetable incorrectly. Human error is as difficult to eradicate from railway journeys as any other sphere of human activity.

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