Mikhael Bulgakov on starting a new job (Moving to Holland 6)

Last summer, when we met up as I passed through Belarus on the way to England’s world cup game in Kaliningrad, my friend A.K. recommended Michael Bulgakov’s Country Doctor’s Notebook.

Bulgakov has a nice description of the doctor starting his new job:

I had been introduced to everyone in turn… I had been shown round the hospital and was left in no doubt whatever that it was generously equipped. With equal certainty I was forced to admit (inwardly, of course) that I had no idea what very many of these shiny, unsullied instruments were for. Not only had I never held them in my hands, but to tell the truth I had never even seen them. 

‘Hm.,’, I mumbled significantly, ‘must say you have an excellent set of instruments. Hm…’ 

‘Oh sir,’ Demyan Lukich remarked sweetly, ‘this is all thanks to your predecessor Leopold Leopoldovich. You see, he used to operate from dawn till dusk.’ 

I was instantly covered with cold sweat and stared glumly at the gleaming cupboards.


house trees rushes canal bus Petten-Alkmaar 319.JPG

Emigrating Companion, Emigrating Dog and I have moved to Alkmaar, a small old city in North Holland. My new job is in Petten, twenty kilometres away, at a research site on the North Sea. We are in the dunes. There are sixties buildings, rabbits and gulls. This is the view from my office.

view from office window Petten 419.JPG

The way to work passes three types of windmills: traditional ones, early wind turbines  and more modern ones like these.

wind turbines Tesla Schiphol-Petten 319.JPG

We go along canals, passing fields and interesting buildings.

house Alkmaar 319 2.JPG

When we get near to the sea and the research site, we pass campsites.

On most days, I cycle to this bike park at the back of the railway station in Alkmaar and take the work bus from there.

the bike park I use station Alkmaar 419.JPG

Sometimes I cycle all the way. The wind’s been strong and it’s a bit further than you’d want to cycle, but I suppose that makes it that much better for me.

At lunchtime you can take a work bicycle down to a café at the beach. It seems to be open all year.

wicker chairs beach cafe beer Petten 319.JPG

I work for the European Commission as I did in Brussels, but things are different here. There are no AZERTY keyboards. People hardly swear.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "Energy Storage" at European Commission, Joint Research Centre

2 thoughts on “Mikhael Bulgakov on starting a new job (Moving to Holland 6)”

  1. Reminds me of a story I heard first hand. British Naval Officer was in USA to take possession of new merchant navy ship being supplied by USA. This was during WWII.
    The British Naval officer came across a piece of equipment in the galley that he had never seen before. Not wanting to appear ill-informed he made some small comment about this piece of equipment being one of the finest examples of this type of equipment (he had no idea what it was for) he had ever seen. The proud response from the builders of the ship, or perhaps the US Navy officer in charge of the handover, “Yes sir, this is the very latest model of ice cream maker that we now install on all ships.” The British Naval officer, being well trained as they are, did not even blink, and just complemented them on the fine machine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.