Britsoc: The British Society of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Serving the British Expat community since 1920.

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An Interview with Mike Waters

Categories: Business, CADS, Expat interview, Interview
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I would like to thank Mike Waters for his fabulous interview this month, Mike has been the Chairman of the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society (CADS) since June 2011. CADS is a professional Amsterdam business and networking club whose main purpose is to promote Anglo-Dutch relationships through a series of cultural, business and social events.

CADS-Logo-GOLD2“The CADS monthly lunch provides a cultivated digression from the politics of the office; a sunny terrace in the crude storm of the everyday.” John Richardson

CADS are a community of individuals united together by a common bond of nearness between our two nations; those who recognise each other as associates, friends, and acquaintances. CADS lunches are on the 3rd Friday of each month and on Friday 21st October the British Ambassador addressed CADS at the Apollo Hotel in Amsterdam, on the continued discussion over Brexit and the process by which the UK will leave the European Union after 45 years of membership.

Questions to Mike ….

Where did you grow up and what is your most vivid childhood memory?

I grew up in Cheshire, in the village of Gawsworth. Not sure which memory is most vivid – singing in the choir at St. Michael’s; learning how to type at my father’s office in Stanley Chambers mike-1968with ballet dancers practicing in the hall next door; exciting trips to the seaside to visit grandparents in Deganwy, and playing on the beach. The sight and sound of the huge express steam trains at Macclesfield station, and the little ones that plied the line to Holyhead. Being responsible for keeping the big coke range alight at home – riddling out the ash and filling the coke hod and the stove before and after school. Visiting grandparents in Oldham, and being up at the crack of dawn to run out and meet the milkman with his horse and cart, so that I could ride down Clarksfield Road with him.

 

How did you land in the Netherlands?

As a young science graduate I worked in Durham and then London for a company called Mullard Ltd, which made electronic components. We were taken over by Philips, and after a couple of years, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a major investment plan in Taiwan as the commercial manager of a fast-9408-gs-taipeigrowing business in computer components.

So we moved from Weston Favell in Northampton to a village called Tamsui, just north of Taipei, and my young daughters went to the British School in Peitou and later the American school in Tien Mu, whilst Carol my wife became the head of the reception unit at the British School. After a number of years in Taiwan, I was asked by Cor Boonstra to come to Amsterdam to help set up the new Philips HQ here.

MY view was that it was crazy to run the business from Amsterdam, since most of the factories and customers were in Asia. Cor told me that it was because the distance from Taipei to Amsterdam was shorter than the distance from Eindhoven to Amsterdam. In cultural terms he was correct, so we came. When he retired in 2001, I decided to leave Philips and set up my own shop. Since the girls were at school here, and Carol had a job teaching at the British school, I set up in business here, and somehow we have just stayed!

Full steam ahead or all change? What do you want to see happen over this next year ?

We are starting to think about retirement at some point in the future, and where to go. But that is some time away. Carol is still teaching, and I’m running a small UK start-up at the moment, so much too busy to do anything about it. In the short term I want to make a success of this fledgling company, get some clarity on where we go next, fill the CADS membership list with a few more younger business women and men, and continue to explore the delights of South Holland whilst we are here.

What is your idea of perfect happiness ?

Lots of ideas for things in the future. Exploring new places with Carol, revisiting old friends in Asia, Africa and the USA, being together with my family, and scoring a hole in one on the golf course, to name just a few!

For the past, I guess most of them involve Carol, like when she said yes to my proposal of marriage, and being together on holidays.

dapre-1329

If you could choose anywhere to live in the world, where would it be ?

Ah, there’s the rub. We have recently thought about North Cyprus, Lisbon, Dorset, London, and Manchester; but there is no pressure to go anywhere.

Perhaps the correct answer is The Netherlands, since we seem unable to leave!

Do you have any heroes in real life?

All my real life heroes have had feet of clay.

In politics, I think Tony Blair was an exceptional politician, and really pioneered the deployment of measured targets from government to the civil service, so when the government said we need more houses, there came a plan of how many, where, and by when, and that was executed and measured, with rewards for success and sanctions for failure. With Cameron, all that disappeared overnight, so when Cameron said he would build 200,000 more houses during his term as PM, or protect the NHS, or make a success of Europe, no one believed him. But Blair’s reputation was destroyed by his decision to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and the mess that resulted from it, compounded by his inability to accept he had failed.

In business, my hero is John Harvey Jones, who led and exploded ICI from a moribund and dying company into a series of high performing drug and chemical businesses that are still growing and being successful now, almost 25 years after he set the direction. However, when he retired and became a small business guru, his analysis of Morgan Cars was completely incorrect, and rightly rejected by the owners.

Having lived here for more than 15 years, I now regard people like Sir Chris Greenwood, our judge at the ICJ, and his colleagues at other international institutions, as the nearest thing I have to heroes, as it is the peacemakers who I respect the most of all.

What has been your greatest extravagance to date ?

We live in a house that is much too big for us – especially now the children have left home. But we enjoy it very much even though it is hard work at times. We also both drive nice cars, and go out for expensive meals.

Those are my personal extravagances, and consume funds that could perhaps be better employed elsewhere. That guilt is compensated by paying the associated large amounts of tax, and I feel that the Dutch government uses those funds fairly and efficiently.

Apart from that, I suppose our children have been our greatest extravagance; but I am very proud of them and don’t begrudge a penny of the money we spent raising and educating them.

What is your most treasured possession ?

What are the things you carry from your house when it’s burning? Carol, if you can call your partner a possession! After that, probably old photographs, and the hard drives with all our pictures on them. The rest of our possessions are just stuff, and replaceable. We have much too much of it, and I dread the prospect of downsizing because it will mean spending weeks jettisoning it.

What quality do you most like in a woman?

Hahaha, that’s a sexist question! Probably her love for me… I would really dislike being in love with someone who can’t or won’t love me back. Then all the other things; empathy, courage, strength, intellectual and emotional intelligence, fortitude, faith, and of course the looks and figure that turn me on as well.

What quality do you most like in a man ?

All the above, with the possible exception of the looks and figure!

Although I’ve never felt the need for a physical relationship with a man, I find our modern English language restrictive. The Greeks had 4 different words for love, only one of which was used for physical love.

What do you most value in your friends?

All the above! But mostly friendship is the feeling of warm familial love that we have the power to give to people we choose, as well as those we are related to by blood. A friend is someone who can tell you that you have been stupid as well as clever, or hurt them, or not been in touch for ages, but they still love you just the same. And you feel the same way about them.

Which living person do you most admire?

Carol of course, and both my daughters! Followed by a bevy of people who struggle to effect positive change, or bring peace to conflict zones, food to the hungry and comfort to the sick and dying.

What if anything would you like to be remembered for ?

Being a good husband and father, and a friend to those I have met along the way. I suppose we all want to have made a positive impact in our lives, so playing a part in the elimination of poverty, war, illness and hunger would be good as well! I can hardly claim to have done much in that direction so far, so perhaps that defines where I should be going next!

Is there anything that we should have asked you ?

Perhaps you could have asked about some of the spiritual questions that I struggle with. I have always been curious about why I exist, and what happens when I die? Who is this guy Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago, and how and why did he die for me? Over 300 people testified and wrote that he went on to rise again and continue his teaching after his crucifixion. What was the physical nature of this risen being – was he a zombie or ghost of some kind, buried alive and recovered, albeit with a few holes in him, or still able to be both perfectly human and perfectly divine? What is my part in that story, if any, and how can I prove to myself and others that God exists, and why..? Why do bad things happen to good people? How will I explain myself if called to account for my life?

I’ve spent time exploring these personal questions, and my favourite writer on the subject is C. S. Lewis, a prolific writer and teacher who is precise and logical in his thinking. No woolly-minded liberal approach there!

We hope you enjoy our Britsoc events so do you have a favourite one and why ?

Absolutely. My favourite is the BritSoc Christmas Ball. This is the glittering premier event of the Amsterdam social calendar, and I would hate to miss it. It sets the scene for the Christmas season, raises money for charity, and gives us all an excuse to dress up and have a great time. I love it!

Thank you Mike!

Interview of the Month | Vicky Hampton

Categories: Food and drink, Interview, Journalism
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Vicky Hampton is a writer and runs food blog www.amsterdamfoodie.nl

amsterdamfoodie

Age: 36

 

Where do you live?

Westerpark, Amsterdam

 

What made you come to Amsterdam?

Originally I studied here.  I was at Edinburgh University studying English literature and I had the opportunity to spend my third year aboard under the Erasmus exchange programme.  It was a bit of a lucky dip as there were seven cities to choose from and I had not been to any of them before.  Helsinki sounded a bit cold; Zurich sounded a bit boring, and so on. It was a very unscientific process of elimination that I ended up in Amsterdam. I know it does not make a lot of sense to study English literature in the Netherlands, but the experience was fantastic and I fell in love with Amsterdam as soon as I got here.

 

How long have you been here?

I arrived in 2001 for my exchange year and then briefly moved back to the UK, returning permanently in 2006.

 

Can you speak Dutch?

I do speak Dutch. I can say everything I need to say from a functional perspective.  But as a British person, I think that sense of humour is so much a part of your personality, and it frustrates me that I can’t quite express that humour in Dutch.

 

Where are you from in the UK?

Pangbourne – it’s a little village between Reading and Oxford.

 

What do you do now?

I’m a writer, but my activities are much broader than that. I do freelance translation, social media and content marketing as well.

 

I think that most people know you from your Amsterdam Foodie Blog; how did that come about?

I have always been into food; my dad was an hotelier and restaurateur. I spent quite a bit of time in and out of his restaurants while I was growing up, and we also did “market research”, which was a euphemism for going out and having nice dinners. I’ve always loved cooking; I cooked at home in my parents’ house from a very young age.  I then cooked a bit professionally as a student, having catering jobs on the side of my studies. So I was always into food, but loved writing as well. It was a bit of toss up whether I would be a chef or a writer.  In the end, writing about food seemed to be the logical conclusion.

 

bVicky Hampton books croppedSo you have also written a cookbook; would you like to tell us about that?

The book was inspired by my experiences of working in an office.  I used to work just off Leidseplein – you’d think there would be dozens of lunch options around there, but in reality there were mostly only sit-down cafes. As you know with Dutch customer service being what it is, you wouldn’t get out of there within an hour – lunch becomes a whole event rather than just a 20-minute break from your desk. There were not the same range of sandwich shops, salad bars and jacket potato stalls that you would find in London.

 

We had a small kitchen at work, which was relatively well kitted-out for an office. I was taking ingredients into work and just making lunch there.  My colleagues were very curious and I started making lunches for them, including monthly team lunches.

 

On the suggestion of one my colleagues I decided to write all these things down – to encourage people to eat something different and healthy at lunchtime. Healthiness was not the primary objective, but in general I think cooking from scratch is healthier than buying processed food. But my primary goal was to get people out of the rut of Ham-Kaas Broodjes for lunch.  There is nothing wrong with them, but it’s worth mixing things up a bit now and again.

 

Vicky Hampton’s Working Lunch is available at bol.com

 

So the logical question after that is what is your opinion of the EU referendum result?

To be perfectly honest, I am quite gutted about it.  From a purely personal point of view, I identify myself as European.  I used to live in France and Italy for brief periods before I moved to the Netherlands.  My brother lives in Belgium with his wife and three kids.  My whole family has always had a very international outlook.

 

From a broader perspective, the huge impact that it will have on people’s jobs is quite heart-breaking. Hopefully, it will get better with time.  The media at the moment is very doom and gloom. There is nothing else to talk about – I think I’m addicted to reading news about it.  I’m so angry about the whole thing.

 

Are there any particular favourite restaurants at the moment?

On my website I have a revolving restaurant of the month: each month I choose a place I liked that I have been to quite recently.

 

Surely that can only be Moon?

Ha, ha.  I have recently reviewed Moon on my website.  It’s not cheap, but the view is amazing.

 

Pendergast is one restaurant I am excited about at the moment – it’s just south of Westerpark.  It is a Kansas City-style BBQ restaurant that has some of the best BBQ-ed meat I have tasted outside the US. It is an independent restaurant set up by a guy from that neck of the woods in the US.  They are smoking brisket, ribs, pork cheeks and all that good stuff. I’m quite into BBQ at the moment – I’d also give a mention to the guys at Bulelani pop-up who are currently in search of a permanent location. They do amazing ribs.

 

Are there any food trends which are appearing?

So you have on the one hand the meat eaters (as evidenced by the BBQ scene) but you also see a resurgence in vegetables taking centre stage.  In that vein, I like Choux  a lot.  They are cooking up some excellent modern Dutch cuisine using local vegetables.

 

Dutch food has not enjoyed a great reputation in the past.  However, there are some really creative chefs doing some great things with what is available locally at the moment.

 

Do you have any tips for people to find a good restaurant in Amsterdam?

Yes, of course! Simply go to my website and use the restaurant finder. You can search for restaurant recommendations by price, location and type of cuisine. You can also book a lot of restaurants directly from my site (look for the “book now” buttons!).

 

What do you most miss from the UK?

Not a lot, and even the less since the Brexit result. After 10 years, I am totally past the point of missing food items;  I never think about Marmite or marmalade or Yorkshire tea. I’m not very English in that respect.  I guess that one thing I sort of miss is the humorous banter.  You know if you pop into a pub or bar or café in London, you can often strike up that instant rapport with the person behind the bar.  I’m not sure if it’s my Dutch skills or just cultural differences, but I find it hard to have that same banter over here. But honestly, I miss very little. The Netherlands is my home now, and I may soon be trading in my British nationality for a Dutch passport!