Earned myself a 24 hour pass away from house-moving, DIY and various other aspects of domestic bliss by being the one who had to undergo the ritual humiliation heaped upon outgoing tenants in Belgian rented accommodation, the dreaded état des lieux (never again, I hope). What better escape than jumping on a northbound train in search of windmills, clogs and some bunch of complete strangers. The SNCB tried to wreck my plans by adding an interesting detour to the already somewhat circuitous route into Brussels, but just made the connection, smooth through to Rotterdam Centraal and then off to Utrecht, following in the footsteps of Paul Heaton's songwriting jaunts.

Sloebertje actually arrived on the same train, I think, so I did a lap or two of the station concourse before resorting to the phone, which promptly rang about 2 metres away from where I was standing, so I told her not to answer it, that roaming stuff costs. Made mumbled introductions and polite smalltalk. Apparently there was some fantasy convention or other on, so we weren't the only people there trying to make contact with complete strangers; the meeting point got a bit crowded and it was a while before Soberty and Sir PK rolled up. Stood around some more, aging knees on the point of giving way, before finally giving up and setting off in a foursome for the first official icebreaking activity, the scaling of the 102 metre Domtoren. Well, 112 metres or something, but 102 m is as far as you can get. This had the effect of reducing two of the party to quivering wrecks: yours truly a victim of acrophobia, bottled out at carillon level (75 m) when first called upon to walk along a 1 metre stretch of openwork alongside the void, while Soberty started complaining about the number of steps about a third of the way up and continued to do so until she had a beer in her hand back at ground level.

Rumour had it that the view was good; less so with your eyes screwed shut. We repaired to the Café België where I tried in vain to offer educational guidance on the reasonably extensive beer list; Soberty tried ordering Heineken and, when that failed, trying to wash her outer garments in sloebertje's port . Having completely failed to resolve the nick/real name etiquette issue, I studiously avoided calling anybody anything, but that's fairly normal anyway. We were then mostly obliged to attempt to weird each other out in order to make sure that nobody got the idea that we might be the perfectly normal quiet one who would turn out to be an axe-wielding maniac. I was, of course, oldest, but I can hack that. They laughed at my bad Dutch and Anglo-Flemish accent, but I can hack that too. Plotted systematic downvoting of the no-shows. The nachtrestaurant is called that because you eat in near total darkness, but mostly veggie tapas mostly came as ordered and were consumed. Fought with cutlery; watch out for Soberty if she has a table knife in her hand, that's all I can say. Were largely unable to figure out what was going on, but comforted by the evident equal inability of anybody else to do so either. Things started getting a bit blurry around that point. Used up most of the "There's a node about that" and "And all was silence" lines. Moved on for coffee, considered possibility of further activities and failed to reach a decision (the usual result of asking me). Started to run out of steam a bit, decided to call it a day, I headed back to sleep on sloebertje's boyfriend's couch in deepest Delft (for which hospitality many thanks), no idea where the other two vanished off to, but maybe they'll tell us.

/me needed that. See you at the next one.