I’m living on a boat in Amsterdam harbour for the next two days. I intend to chair the Eurovents Pension Summit at the Radisson Hotel when I’m on dry land.
I did this last year and I swore then I’d come back and give me a couple of days out of blighty without getting out of the business rhythm.
I doubt I’ll be swanking it about like I did last year, this year’s agenda is very focussed on how we can all make money from going digital.
When the Dutch say “all”, they don’t generally mean “all my mates”, they mean everyone. This came as a salutary lesson to me last year when I found myself being told to keep my nasty British cynicism to myself.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Dutch pension people (none of whom would call themselves experts). They are genuinely interested in making money, but through the creation of efficiencies, rather than at the expense of the best exploited.
So I’m looking forward to spending time with the Dutch, and not spliffing up or shouting across the Bulldog. Amsterdam is a fine place and its red-light district is now no more than the Disneyfication of smut. The Dutch are splendidly humorous about the sleaze, well aware that for most people Amsterdam is sex and drugs and happy to sit outside the smutgarden with a cup of coffee or a glass of beer.
Last night I spent some time in a pub near my barge, drinking strong Bok beer – and hearing how Amsterdam was empty of proper jobs. Even the prostitutes can’t get work because of the gawpers standing in the way of their shop-windows.
“Real proper jobs” – defined by my barman as jobs that involve social purpose have been replaced by what he saw as “ephemeral” – appealing to the whims of tourists.
I was the only tourist in the pub and there was much commiseration for me from people who considered our impending departure from the European Union very much our problem
I will be reporting back – via twitter and the blogs – on events in Holland and I hope that I will learn a little not just from the Dutch but from the array of nationalities that I’ll be with. We are in danger of losing our links to the Continent and that’s crazy. It took the plane 45 minutes from runway to runway. That’s shorter than the train from Waterloo to Windsor.