Open Thinkering


Weeknote 12/2022

I’ve spent most of this week in the Netherlands which, I have to say, seems like the grown-up and sophisticated cousin to the awkward teenager that is the (dis-)United Kingdom. Every country has its issues, but I’m always impressed when I come over here at how things are set up to empower citizens.

To labour the point just a little, here’s a graphic shared by Andrew Curry in his excellent daily newsletter on Tuesday. A picture, as they say, paints a thousand words. And you don’t get into this situation without a decade’s absolute failure of governmental policy.

Map showing the 10 poorest areas in northern Europe. Nine of them are in the UK. 'Inner London' is the richest.

I often say that “London is a different country”. This map helps illustrate my point, as it’s the wealthiest place in northern Europe while other parts of the UK suffer. One of the reasons we have such a broken society is precisely because of the glaring wealth inequality between regions.

I shall gently dismount my hobby horse now…

After a wonderful weekend with my wife, Hannah, and dinner with Laura and her husband, I headed to Assen in the north of the Netherlands on Monday. There, on Tuesday, I was part of the first day of the Dutch National Libraries conference. The session went OK, but I wasn’t happy with the structure of it (I talk then they do a task) nor with the type of examples I was giving (too general).

The Dutch Libraries Conference in Amersfoort.

As a result, I completely overhauled my slide deck and the structure of the session for Wednesday in Eindhoven and Thursday in Amersfoort. You can see my slide deck here and the recordings should soon be available, which I shall add to my speaking page.

Amersfoort, in particular, is an absolutely lovely place. I was a walking 🤩 emoji as I wandered around, checking out the medieval town centre, including the Koppelpoort. At 150,000 people, it seems like a perfect size. I could imagine moving here if my fellow countrymen and women hadn’t voted for Brexit. (There is no emoji to express my sadness over this.)

Koppelpoort (combined land and water gate), Amersfoort

An added bonus was having dinner on Thursday night with Ton Zijlstra, his wife and daughter, as well as Jeroen de Boer (who was the one who invited me to the Netherlands. I then got a guided tour of Amersfoort from Ton on Friday, including a visit to the Mondriaanhuus.

Overall, it’s been a successful week and although I’m tired, I’m nowhere near as tired as I thought I would be. I managed to sneak in a couple of runs, as well as going to the gym at our hotel in Amsterdam. I’ve also started taking Feverfew tablets and, while I can’t absolutely prove a causal effect, I’ve had zero migraines in a week when I’d expect to have at least one.

I’ve published the following on Thought Shrapnel:

Today I’m assembling our second-ever bed in almost 19 years of marriage. It looks like it’s going to be a sunny weekend, so I may spend some of it gardening!

Next week I’m working on client projects as usual, before taking three weeks off. The week after next (which is the first week of April) I’m walking Hadrian’s Wall with Aaron. Then I’ve got a week to recover, tinker, sell things on eBay, and do a bit of DIY. The week after that, Team Belshaw is heading to Croatia on our first foreign holiday since Iceland in December 2019. I’m very much looking forward to those three weeks!

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