I can't get home.
A southwester has hit the coastal provinces, and all traffic has ground to a halt. All trains have been stopped, all stations closed by order of the police; and car owners been strongly advised to avoid the motorways for the next few hours.
The storm outside's horrendous. A colleague has just found out that all the windows in his house have caved in. I was offered a lift to The Hague, but now it's been withdrawn, and I don't know how or if I'll get home.
I've made it home safe and sound, in just under 4 hours; but when I look at the news, I don't know how I did it. Thousands of people are stranded, there are no trains, and very few busses. In Amsterdam, they're putting 2500 beds up in the RAI, and they're doing the same for passengers in other cities too. Five people have died, and a great many more have been wounded through flying glass, rooftiles and whatnot. On my way home, I've seen trees uprooted and street furniture wrecked by the storm. It hasn't died down yet and is currently blowing at a 135 km\ph -- it's officially a force 11 gale.
I was extremely lucky; when I made it to Schiphol, I met a colleague there who had left the office a full 3 1\2 hours ahead of me, and who was still there waiting for a train to take her east...I had only been there 10 minutes when I heard they'd try and let a train depart for Leiden. I managed to get on it, and after a 30 minute delay in which the train refused to leave unless a few hundred people got off again, we pulled out of the station and slowly, very slowly made it to Leiden. However, when we got there we were told there would be no more trains anywhere until further notice. Those of us who were hoping to travel on would have to wait out the storm, which we were invited to do in the relative comfort of the train. NS, the Dutch equivalent of BR, would not provide alternative transport in the form of coaches as they said that would be too dangerous.
Thank God I know Leiden well. I decided to go and see if there was still a regular bus service to The Hague, and although I wasn't the only one, I was one of the few who knew where to get on (i.e. not in front of the station where literally hundreds of stranded passengers were milling about. Fights broke out when we got there, everyone trying to get onto the one bus, and only a few of them succeeding. Total mayhem. And then we went on a winding trip through all the little villages in the countryside, buffeted by the wind...it got quite scary a few times, but eventually we arrived at The Hague Central, and from there it's only a 20 minute walk to my flat. Normally I take the bus, but because of the storm, tonight all busses terminated at the station. It was alright: I had the wind in my back all the way home.
I hear they don't expect the trains to be running according to schedule until 'sometime in the morning', so who knows, I may even have to take a day off!
I am glad to be home, though. Given the choice, I'd rather sleep in my own bed than on a stretcher in some leisure centre. It may be a great way to meet new people, but spontaneity loses some of its sparkle when you haven't got a toothbrush.