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The Joys Of Mechanically Recovered Food (Or - How I Can Sometimes Be So Easily Amused It Is Unbelievable)
There is something I really miss about Holland.  Oh - I can now get most of my favourite Dutch foods over here if I so choose (either at Continental Markets or over the internet) - but there is one thing which I think the British Government would try to ban on sight if they ever saw one.

A Vending Machine which will sell you hot food cheaply (the maximum cost is approximately 3 Euros per item).  OK - so the size of the portions is maximum of two mouthfuls but at least it is "burn your fingers and your mouth" hot.  Plus the food is either made or heated on site just before they put it in to the back of the machine.

I must admit that finding one of these machines is the only time when I actually let my English side out to play when I am in Holland.  It almost turns into some kind of weird fruit machine which dispenses food if you are willing to play the game.

The best place to find one of these machines is at a large railway station in Holland (Rotterdam Central Station has got one parked between two platforms on the main walkway through the station).  Usually situated in or very close to a "Smullers" concession.

When you first look at it it can be quite confusing for the uninitiated.  All you see is small glass doors with coin slots on every column.  You can either waste money consulting a Dutch phrasebook in an attempt to decipher the names on the labels at the top of each column or - you can pick a column and see if the contents either look appetising or are recognisable as something you have eaten at home.

After making your selection you insert your coins (exact money please) into the nearest column.  When the money has percolated through the system you pull the door in front of your choice and remove it prior to walking away and munching it.  However, I would advise you to invest in something else first - oven gloves so you can retrieve your food without burning your hands.

That has reminded me of something else I half miss.  This object was in my Oma's first flat (as in the first flat she lived in when I knew her) and it used to frighten the living daylights out of me.  I thought of it as the "Water Heater From Hell".

Now, in most houses and flats I have ever been in the boiler is tucked away out of sight - and most certainly away from the hot water tap in the kitchen.  Not only was this boiler on top of the hot water tap in the kitchen it also had an open flame.  I was scared stiff of it.  I suppose there was one good thing about it though.  When you did the washing up the water was almost guaranteed to be scalding hot - this meant that you didn't need to boil a kettle to wash up.  Unless of course someone was in the bath or washing their hair in the bathroom.  The kitchen water would be ice cold then.

However, if you really want to know how to keep me amused for hours on end - find the first TV I remember my Oma ever owning.  I can still remember it now (and I was pretty upset when it had disappeared on one of my trips to see her).  This TV was rather unusual in one very big way.

Most TV's from that time (1970's to 1980's) either had buttons down the front in a line or had a dial to change channels.  Not Oma's.  This one was like a proper puzzle (the jackpot being if you actually pressed the correct combination of buttons for the channel you wanted to watch at that moment.

It had two horizontal rows of buttons to the top right next to the screen.  The top row was "A" to either "D" or "E" and the bottom row was 1 to either 4 or 5.  in order to select a channel you had to pick a letter button followed by an number button.  Put it this way - when you realise that even in those days (with only two State Dutch TV channels) you could get Dutch, German, Belgian, and the BBC all on the same TV - you may realise the confusion it could cause.

Yes - I know - I did say I am very easily amused sometimes. 

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