Gevoel: NOG THUIS STUURMAN
(Translation: Feeling Still At Home Mate).
.To the Netherlandic parables!
As I am sure you have made like the flu and caught on, I am rather partial to getting a tad lengthy on my legends (“What? No! Really? Not you Pop! You’re as brief as Victoria Secrets’ lingerie!” Yes ok, sarcasm aside please). So what with being in Holland for nigh on two weeks (well, dead on actually. I arrived on a Tuesday and shall depart on one also) I will forgo you the meticulously completely comprehensive play-by-play and just do the overview and Pop point outs.
To full Day Two!
On the list of ideas for day trips was Den Haag, the city that serves as home to the government and the Royal Family, although it does not stand as the capital (the ol’ ‘Dam takes the title out on that one). It is also the seat of the UN’s International Court of Justice which has its headquarters in the Peace Palace. And, more importantly, it is a shore thing what with it having the Scheveningen, the most popular seaside resort of the country What with the forecast declaring a last day of sun and heady temps, we decided it twas the go.
Necessitating a ride into Alphen with dentist appointment going Dennis, a train ride to Leiden and a change to get onto the Intercity to The Hague (NOT the “sprinter” train as I asserted – easy mistake to make, what with the name giving the notion of non-stop, no?) we arrived in our destination at about 10am.
We rambled the roads, stumbling across a literal jumble sale marketplace, the centre of shops (popped into the Marks & Spencer (insanity – always thought it was ‘Spencer’s” until I did a quick Google for validfication! Madness!) whereupon PMS went to buy a beer; “Can you drink in the streets here?” I enquired of a lad stocking the fridges. “Yes you can, you can even smoke weed if you want. Welcome to Holland maaaaaaan”) and seeing the sights of the significant structures. And then we reached the beach.
How sensational to be at the sea! We came across an on-the-sand café where we offloaded our backpacks and what not, reclined on the couches and ordered a litre of sangria. And upon sculling the last sip? I promptly fell asleep. It was bliss.
We awoke a good 45 minutes later and packed up to promenade along the waterway. I remarked to PMS how I really felt I was back in the 1970s; the colour of the landscape, the look of the loungers, even me in my new bikini (peachy coral bandeau H&M jobby, 16.99 pounds all up mate) – it was all redolent of the Jaws movie set. (Only the high flying sign on the life guard stand declaring you to, “SHARE! Insta, FB, Twitter” put paid to such vintage charades).
Another thing that struck me: along the beach in a line were high poles with pictures on top, such as apples, beach balls, penguins, whales and what not. Why? Well, so when you settled upon a space you could relay to your friends and fam where to meet you with, “We’re by the flower”, “We are next to the kitten,” or, “I’m sunning my titties by the mountains” (as what one lass was doing). Like, how smart and spot on are the Dutch?
And just this to add in: how much do the bins look like takeaway coffee cups?
We caught a tram back to the train station and headed back to Nieuwkoop for a night of making like bread and loafing about with the family. I have to say, it is so bloody brilliant to be back in a family abode for a bit. While loving staying in Christina & Co’s flat and flitting about hostels and what not, being in the company of clan is so comforting and clean (I actually feel completely sparkling and sanitary for the first time in two months). Come 11pm or so, we all went to bed (and this was an “early” night – the Dutch definitely do late).
The next morning, I awoke early (see? How epigrammatic am I now being!) (don’t despair – the length will be back upon a timely topic) and plodded downstairs to find Annelies cushioned up on the couch. We sat for an hour or so just yarning away and I must say I am very fond of this fine woman; she’s got a good sense of humour on her, she’s a top notch mum without being all over the top and her hospitality to PMS and I had been unbelievable. (And I love love love her habitual use of the word “gorgeous” to describe everything, even stark structures and Nuremberg trial videos. It makes me so happy).
She asked if we had any washing, whereupon I told her to just show me the ways of the machine and I’d do ours as well as the load of the family’s too. So we went up to the top floor of the house where the laundry wear was located and she proceeded to show me the ins and outs.
“So this powder is for whites, that one is for colours, and the liquid is for blacks,” she explained. “Righto,” I responded, and got into the process of categorising the attire into the three, well, categories.
“No no,” Annelies stopped me. “You need a pile for the pinks and purples. A pile for light greys, a pile for dark. A pile for blues, a pile for greens, a pile for the browns, reds and similar colours and then a pile of yellows and such.”
She shrugged her shoulders and smiled apologetically. “The Dutch, we are very particular.”
My wordo, how I laughed. It explains so much on the family front! (Though I must say, Deb must have some Netherlandic ancestry in there somewhere).
So peppered throughout the rest of my day’s activities included eight loads of washing (sounds a lot more burdensome than it actually was – I must admit, I find great satisfaction in the whole process of cleaning clothes. And the light Dutch day meant everything dried in an insanely short stint of time!). (Plus my partial OCD took great pleasure in colour coding not only pegs but clothes in shading range also).
PMS and I did like the Dutch and fired up our fitzes (I.e., took the bikes out of the shed and unlocked, unbikestanded and mounted them) and took off on a trail on the way to my much loved Zwammderdam. How nice was it not to have to worry about a strategically placed bun in the face of having to don a helmet! What with Holland – as with the majority of Europe – not having the hard hat as required to ride, I could have my blonde bulge right on tip top of my head (well, slightly to the side as per my preference) (OK, fine, how it always happens to make like DJ Snake and lean on).
We passed by Piet Potlood)” Pete Pencil”, an iconic phallus like water tower on the outskirts of Nieuwkoop), a driveway with two ornamental soccer balls at each side of the entrance (mate, I knew the Dutch were dead serious about their soccer but the almost religion-like following is on another playing field), countless canals and little lean lanes. It was so cute, quirky and pleasantly picturesque, every few metres and moments I would exclaim out in exaltation at another delightful discovery (“Look PMS, it’s like a three little pig house! Stick fence, straw roof, brick build!”). (I must say, I most definitely am Dutch. All the weird, wacky and wonderful knick knacks and fabulous foibles – it all makes sense as to my quirks and peculiarities. I know I said in my last post that the Dutch are meant to be quite sheep-like and orthodox, but I just don’t see it).
We wheeled our way back home and took off to Jumbos to gather some afternoon tea edibles. You see, Annelies had gone off to Alphen a/d Rijn to collect her mother Will who had just returned from a week in- get this – Zeeland at the beach. Will is my Opa’s older sister – the third in the line of 15 – and therefore my “tante”, whom I had met a long time ago when I was about three or so. So obviously an abundance of stroopwaffles, almond fingers and cake were called for (my Babcia and mother Deb have trained me well) to present on a platter as we chinwagged (with Sharon enabling conversation through translating – Will never learnt English “I was too lazy,” she told me) (and although I have been busting out my Netherlandic phrases the last few days, my deep throat (brain out of the curb side you sicko) “huh-ck” capabilities in the face of “G”‘s and my less than required rapid page flicking abilities of my new Dutch-English book meant we needed a translator to talk).
And oh, how beautiful was Will. As soon as I saw her I was instilled with a great sense of ardour. There was such a likeness of Opa in her, from the brilliant blue eyes to the face shape and facials, it was like looking at him (in a more female, blondish-dyed bob kind of light).
We sat and chatted for a good while as she (through Sharon) told me of her trips to NZ (three in total, the last being when her husband passing upon which she used the funds to go and see her brother; one of which (trip, not brother- though with the number of them you are excused with thinking the former) involved an overnight stay at the Wellington airport when all flights were cancelled, a tour with insight to the indigenous people (“They danced in skirts and sticks and were actually quite scary”) and playing dolls with toddler-aged me at our abode in old Garden Road).
My, she was a quick witted wee lady. When Richard returned home from work in his high viz attire she straight away said, “It’s not King’s Day” (reference to the National Day whereupon the people all dress up in orange, the Dutch country colour). And when I told her of our old dog Schultz chomping up our sets of clogs, she laughed out, “What a little bitch!”. She was just so joyful and joyous and such a joy to be around, making me feel all warm and fuzzy (emotion wise, the mo got waxed away remember?) when she said a good number of times, “So, so happy you are here.” (Well, that’s what Sharon told me. Truth so be it, Will could’ve well been saying anything).
I showed her some photos of the family, the dogs and of Opa’s garden upon where she exclaimed out in delight and started gibbering rapidly in Dutch. “When your Opa moved to New Zealand she told him to get a patch of land and grow and garden with colourful flowers and lots of vegetables,” Sharon said. “She’s pleased he took his big sister’s advice and is still doing as she said.” That made me so teary thinking of Opa pottering about amongst his plants – I felt a big bout of homesickness and longing to be in his Pyes Pa lounge with him.
“She misses Hank,” Sharon translated. “She’d love to go to New Zealand and see him again but age and health make it too much of a risk. But she misses him a lot.”
The kids then took off to other engagements (work, work and a party weekend away with the boys for old D-Dog Dennis), PMS went with recently returned home from work Annelies to get dinner and Richard went upstairs to shower and such, so Will and I sat in the sun and continued to converse though we had not an inkling of what we each were uttering. We soon moved inside as the sun started to sink and as we sunk ourselves (into the couch) I kissed Will on the forehead; she instantly turned back and planted a big one on mine, then sat holding my hand and stroking my fingers as tears filled up in her eyes. It was just one of those beautiful, remember-forever moments that I will, well, remember forever.
Annelies, Richards, Will, PMS and I sat and had dinner (Italian takeaways for them, the ever-present applemoes with wortel (carrots) for me) and chatted lots about family in the war and what not. It was so interesting to hear tales told by Richard, of his late ancestors having stowed away Jewish Dutch in their attics and such. It really brought ideas displayed in films such as Schindler’s List and the like alive, making the somewhat abstract realities real.
Richard then told us about the Julianbrug ingestort bridge balls up back in 2015. One of the Alphen overpasses was undergoing reconstruction via two cranes on a barge and one afternoon one of the machines destabilised, toppling over and demolishing a building on the side bank. An absolute fuck up of an accident, the bridge is actually finally getting finished this coming Wednesday would you believe! (I bet all those in the surrounds shall be out those few days). Here is the link to the incident below – although it may appear to have frozen upon first play, do not continue to click and make noise of nuisance like I did; it is actually going, it’s just showing that status quo before the shambles).
The three then left (Annelies and Richard off to a hotel in Den Haag for the night, an anniversary present from the offspring, dropping Will off on the way), with PMS and I taking to Netflix for the rest of the evening.
As I settled down to slumber I set and alarm for 2.50am. Why you may ask? Well.
Yet another Dutch eccentricity that I am totally smitten with: Luilak. You see the weekend ahead was that of Pinksteren, or Pentecost, the commemorating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Saturday before (I.e., that very day) is “Luilak”, or “Lazybones Day”. In the early hours of the morn, youngsters take to the town with din-making devices to awaken the latent and just generally be obnoxious. (Google tells to disconnect your doorbell). When Richard told us of the tradition? Well, I was in like an olden day hotel – and I appropriated Yvette to accommodate with me.
At 2.36am I bolted awake. The thrill of sprinting along the streets stampeding with my tin tools had the adrenaline coursing and me unable to sink back into slumber, so I tiptoed (well, more bounded at the complete disregard of PMS and Sharon sleeping, it must be said) downstairs to find Yvette on the couch having returned from her tent party.
“Are we still on to rouse the neighbours with a ruckus?” I asked gleefully. (After I re-termed in much more understandable English) she enthusiastically agreed and we sat in anticipation of 3am.
At 2.50 Yvette voiced her concerns that perhaps it wasn’t 3am we were meant to cause chaos. Could it be 5, even 6am when we were meant to make like Anna Kornikova and strike with a racket? A frenzied Google on my behalf found four websites declaring it to in fact be 4am that we were meant to hit with the hullabaloo. So Yvette settled down for a kip and I got back going on the family tree front (mate, what started out as a sort of “little” project has branched out into a degree of a task – see below screenshot of a mere tenth of what is to be done) for the next hour, the wooden spoons and pots and pans at the ready.
At 3.55am I stirred a sleeping Yvette (I’d like to say gently but the truth tells more of a, “Yvette! Let’s go go go!” army-like summons) and we donned our warm wear and what not (paired with jandals and socks) (insertation quickly: you know how the jandal is called a jandal in NZ yet the hilarious “thong” in Aus and “flip flop” in the UK? Well, PMS enlightened me to the fact – well, possibly fantastical fable – that back in the day (unsure which one) a Kiwi lad travelled to Japan and was most impressed with the between toe design of the Japanese sandal. He found it a lot more free than the standard Roman worn at home, so he appropriated the idea added on (well, subtracted) the back heel strap and the jandal – Japanese sandal – was born) and headed out.
My wordo, how fun was it to race around the block banging a wooden spoon on an upturned saucepan at 4am on a Saturday? (Even if we were the only ones of the region doing so?). Us two girls were giggling like gurties (what even is that?), shouting out in summons of the sleepers before we dashed back to hide behind the gate. We laughed and we laughed and we laughed as we put our appropriated alarms away and headed up to sleep ourselves. (Awoken at 6am by a bunch of boisterous boys blasting around with horns – I gave me a good grin).
So the feeling heralded at the title of this tit bit is one used before, but one that holds true. Holland is homely. I feel at home. I love the humour, the hilarity and the whole lot of it all.
I’m Dutch, through and through. Nether(land) forget it.