(Translation: Feeling At Home).
The day dawned as I arose at 4.30am. What with a 9.20am departing flight necessitating a 7.20am check-in (thus, my preference to be there at at least 7am, a good twenty beforehand to make like a rope and skip the queue), I had booked a 6am bus to the airport (Luton this time, as I made sure to recheck a good 57 times each day leading up to it) from Victoria Coach. What with trains starting to tube at 5am the thought of them not being on route to take me there had me hustling an Uber at 5.07am.
(Being tardy when travelling terrifies the beejaysus out of me, as I’m sure you have comprehended by now).
Arriving at the station at 5.34 had the twenty-to-six bus about to depart; “Is it at all possible I could come on this one instead?” I asked (Bambi eyes out, I’ll admit). Even ahead of my desired ETA!
I was sitting on my (well, I don’t know where else I would be) filling in my p/d scrapbook when a familiar voice said, “Is this seat taken?”. Why, it was PMS! You see, we had organised it all to meet at the airport to fly to Amsterdam but it just so happened – as all things of fate do – that he had been at the stop right when my bus swung by. So my morning started out fabulously and continued to be so throughout the rest of the day.
Having booked seat our flights separately we were not sitting together, so I lobbed down to my row – right at the very very back at the window, one of the first ever times I twas not winging it – and found myself parked beside two lovely gentlemen, one Dutch going home and one English off to Holland for working what nots. We had a few giggles and jibes between us, such as upon losing my pen them helping me look for it; when I said it was an All Blacks one, the Dutchman barbed quick as a bolt, “Oh well it wouldn’t work at all well anyway”. (I gave him a fist pump).
We landed at AA (Amsterdam Airport, though with all the tales of tipples of the last two months you are excused for perhaps thinking otherwise) and I had a quiver of elation upon thinking I was in my Fatherland. I had been in a week-long banter back and forth with my aunty (though she is actually my cousin, but I sort of see her as a tante) that we would be staying with in Holland and I couldn’t wait to meet her and her fam.
So PMS and I would be lodging in with the van der Posts, who were related to me as of the following link: Annelies, the matriarch, is the daughter of Will, my Opa’s older sister. So she is Henio’s cousin, my second, with her kids being my third.
Her immediate family unit is a fiver, with her, her husband Richard and three kids Dennis (20, a logistics studying lad and a soccer star), Sharon (almost 18, at college completing curriculums to be a nurse; an absolutely lovely lass with a beam like sunshine and laughter like its rays) (mate, how lyrical was that?) and Yvette (15, a touch more quiet but absolutely STUNNING and slowly opening up as the days go by – when you run the streets applauding pots and pans together at 4am you can’t not bond (I shall allude at a later date, I promise) ).
As our passports were stamped by the man on immigration (“Godverdomme jonge, what a babe,” I whistled to PMS when the lad lent me some screen time with his exceptionally structured face) I suddenly said to PMS, “I hope I recognise them or they recognise me,” (as in Annelies and the girls – come to pick us up with Yvette having a sicky from school). “Pop, I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” he said. “What with your pink and purple back packs, your stand out persona and the fact that pretty much every one else on our flight is a middle-aged man in a suit, they’ll know who you are.”
And know me they did upon us stepping out from behind the glass partition and them being right there leaning up on the barrier keenly awaiting our arrival. There were three kisses on cheeks all round and hugs plenteous, and I knew instantaneously that this was going to be not just fine, but bloody fantastic.
So the rest of the day we started going Dutch. We went home to Nieuwkoop, the village (of 28,000 people – although it certainly has the quaint feel, it does not have the pint-sized quantity) where the van der Posts live to lay down our loads (such a gorgeous three-storey home with quirky Dutch features – swing saloon doors as bedroom breakers, oval framed photo boards adorning walls, beschuits (sort of bread-y, cruskit-y, toast-y things my Opa always had – and still has – for breakfast), chocoladehagel (chocolate sprinkles – used as a topping on bread for breakfast, lunch and snacks), appelmoes (apple sauce – still me go-to whenever at Opa and Babcia’s house as a supplement to all from broccoli to potatoes to on its own with a spoon) and stroopwaffles (syrup waffles – waffles glued together with caramel syrup, oh so delicious, especially when nuked in the microwave or pressed against a hot cup of tea to heat up) ) and then Yvette took PMS and I on a bike ride.
If you managed to soldier though my long-winded post on The Netherlands a wee while back, you would’ve read about how bikes are big. Like, the main source of transport. With the young, the old, the carting about and the doing-the-grocery-shop (at Jumbos or Albert Heijn in Holland) – they are used by all, for all.
We rode along the roads, across canal bridges (because seriously, there are so many waterways) and along to the “beach” (a small stretch of sand alongside a portion of fenced out lake where it goes off in summer), before going back to Jumbo’s to acquire some items for dinner (mate, it was so thrilling schlepping up and down the aisles seeing all the authentic Dutch goods! Totally loved it) (and get this! There are taster plates all over the show, propounding out cheeses, almond cakes, biscuits and arrays of meats for shoppers to try).
When we arrived home Richard had returned from work (an excavator currently working in Amsterdam) and I took a fond liking to him straight away; with his unbelievably brilliant blues eyes, infectious schoolboy cheekiness and tales of him and his lads (group of 12 who have been boys since they were, well, boys) he was like a big gleeful kid offering PMS beers and chattering away in the sunny courtyard.
Soon after Dennis arrived home (on his bike of course) and the meet and greet continued. And my wordo, the likeness to the brother James was on point! While I wouldn’t say doppelganger class, there was definitely an undisputable resemblance between the two. And he was a lovely lad, sitting down to yarn and ask us questions and answer ours, ending with a request to “take to the town” together before we farewell Holland.
We all sat down to dinner (brown beans, sausage, boiled potatoes, bread and the ever-present applemoes, followed by a variety of different custards, yoghurts and some kind of vla flib (a mixture of the above but with a dollop of syrup that come out all separate in a layered type look). There was so much cheer and companionship and I felt oh so comfortable straight away.
And that’s my word for Holland (I’m writing this a few days down the track, so I am fully concluded on this one. Homely. I feel so at home in the van der Post’s home, riding around the fietspads (get me) and capering about the town square.
Henio now and again (usually after a few Jimmy’s) declares, “You’re not much if you’re not Dutch”. I’ve never really taken into account what the phrase actually posits before, but now I am in whole hearted harmony with him (Jimmy’s deep or not).
I love it here.
To end, a few quirks (because there are oh so many) that I have observed since arrival in the Fatherland.
- Many of the roads are insanely narrow, so rather than have one middle strip of line as per roads at home, the skinny streets have two, one on other side for the cars to straddle. This keeps them more on point on their side of the road and the space more evened out. Likewise, in car park buildings and some lots, the spaces are separated with thick lines so as to leave room for car doors to open and passengers to get in and out. Mate, the Dutch are onto it (as they drive around in vehicles with absolutely no scratches on the paintwork).
- Raising bridges; what with all the boats and canals, the bridges – more so in the cities – part and lift upon an approaching boat to pass through. The traffic on either side is stopped with red lights as the river roamer passes, and upon doing so the bridge goes back down to flat and car crossing continues. Uncanny!
- It’s amazing – the radio plays all songs that you would find on ZM or the Edge (actually, it’s more MoreFM 10-point-oh in the mix of music, belting out the latest lyrics of hot pops to more old school with Sixpence None the Richer, the Verve and such lark) in English with the talkback being in Dutch. So their top 20 is pretty much in line with that of NZ, with no Dutch languaged songs! T really struck me as quite curious.
- “Wi-fi” is pronounced “wee-fee”; upon first hearing I thought Annelies was taking the piss, then I realised that no – this is in fact what connecting is called. I love it! (And have appropriated it to bring back to NZ along with love locks, applemoes on everything and a number of other nuances that I am adamant will catch on).
- Upon exiting a little village, I saw that the name of it was slashed across in red. “Why so?” I asked Sharon. Well – so smart, as the Dutch are totally proving they are – when entering a village, the name is displayed on the sign, while when you are leaving the boundaries it is crossed out so you know you are departing it. Like, how simply stupendous is that?
- My oh my, here is the only place that I would not go by Poppy. The one person who I have always saying ‘Anneke” is my beloved Opa, as his Dutch accent pronounces it in such a way as to be absolutely accurate (mate, sometimes when people ask how to articulate “Anneke” even I don’t know). But here, all the van der Posts say it so beautifully that it almost overrides my preference for Poppy.
So yes, homely Holland. The place locality of my kinfolk, the place of – who I am increasingly beginning to see them as – my people. I love it here. I feel at home. I nether(lands) want to leave.
(Sorry, that was awful. But this post did not embed a whole lot of punnage so an overt one was called for). (In my opinion, anyway).
Beware – you’re in for a barrage of blogs. That will seemingly Nether(lands) end.