[ 19:10 thursday 3 february – liefhebber restaurant, amsterdam ]
a small table at the back of a small restaurant just off the niuemarkt. candlelight reflects from the wide honeyed floorboards. fava beans and olives are brought to my table, the former firm with a hint of salt, the latter tangy and fresh. for the last couple of hours i’ve been wandering around backstreets in the drizzle. peeking into houses and house-boats. i am struck, as ever, by the residents’ talent for manipulating colour, light and space to harmonious effect; remarkable for a people whose landscape and climate afford so little of these three elements.
chunks of nutty black bread arrive with a pot of tapenade, closely followed by a big lump of tuna, nicely rare, on layers of fennel and pepper. the chilean red wine (“falerina” 2003) is better than i expected, thick and round like a ripe burgandy.
i arrived in amsterdam yesterday afternoon to take part in a change management conference. it’s been completely surreal. there were about twenty people and apart from me everyone was in charge of change management or organisational development for a business of ten thousand to two hundred thousand employees. then there was me running a five-man enterprise. most of the time it felt as if i was on a different planet. the main (only) reason i was invited is because they’re using trampoline to share information and organise these events.
the event was hosted by nuon, one of the netherlands’ main electricity generating companies. yesterday evening we were shunted onto a boat to potter around amsterdam’s canals for four hours, stopping in two restaurants for installments of dinner. today was taken up with seminars and workshops, with a visit to a wind farm at lunchtime. there’s not much to look at in a wind farm. i wanted to go up to the top of one of the enormous towers but the foreman was against it.
over the last twenty-four hours i’ve learned a lot about how the world looks when you’re at the top of a gigantic company. i didn’t enjoy it very much.
a glass of brandy arrives. i shall drink it then scuttle off to the airport and back to london.