Gevoel: ALSOF IM DRAAIEN VEN DE MOLEN
(Translation: Feeling Like I’m Run of the (Wind)Mill). (Running it, as you shall read to see).
Monday had been locked in as a day to be taken about by Frans, my Opa’s youngest brother (named so after the man who delivered him as poor old Margaretha was running out of names). What with him and his wife Wyna having come to NZ a few times and being shown the scenes by both Opa and other brother Willem, he was keen to return the hospitality by doing so with me.
Ringing Annelies a few days before he had asked what I might possibly want to see. “Anything Dutch!” I said. So Frans got planning and came up with a place to take us.
(Quick insertation: Annelies had told us of the recycle machine at Jumbos (the supermarket they frequented, pronounced “Umboos”) where the family took all their bottles to bust through the machine and receive payment for. I had to see such an apparatus for myself, so PMS and I went early on to have a geez. And my wordo! How fab was this thing! You literally slotted in the bot and it popped through to be counted on a conveyor, and once you had unloaded your lot the amount you were due would come clambering out of the coin slot. The Dutch just keep on doing it!). (And how cool are these boat benches? I wish they were for sail). (That was awfully good, I’m quite chuffed with that).
I fell in love with Frans (in a Great-Uncle way I mean, nothing incestuous). He strode in all beaming and buoyant and wrapped me up in a hug with the classic three kisses on my cheeks. After greeting the others we all sat around for the customary cup of coffee (again, so very Dutch) talking of memories from when a was a little lass and Frans and Wyna came over to NZ.
It was amazing, Frans isn’t able in English, but he knew enough so that we could happily have a convo and get what each other were saying. (It actually reminded me of talking to Alan, Deb and Henio’s friend, who is profoundly deaf; Frans’ way of wording, well, words, was so like conversing with Alan). He said about how we had a big swimming pool at our house in Auckland with our bedrooms all three in a row, how the brother Michael is deaf in one ear, our late Giant Schnauzer Schultz, how he went to the Coromandel and the South Island with Opa (Frans, not Schultz) and how he shot peacocks in Wanganui (he is an avid hunter as I came to know throughout the course of the day. Later on when we went to his domicile, he proudly showed us a head of a deer he shot in Africa and the skull of some animal from in NZ. “How on the globe did you get them through customs?” I asked, whereupon he tapped his nose and chuckled a charismatic, well, chuckle). And Wyna said about how being at our house one Christmas, she always remembers how Deb chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert.
After the drinks were drained (and Frans and I took off for a speedy Skype with Opa) we took to the cars, with the whole van der Post coming to the door to wave us off (“very Dutch”). PMS and I were riding with Wyna and Frans, with Lucienne and Maatje following behind in their car. Where were we off to?
No idea mate.
We drove for an hour or so (Frans and I in the front), me greatly elated when we motored on the motorway by the Schiphol (airport) and planes were crossing a bridge above us to take off on the other side. Frans loved my animation in the aviation area and slowed down and put down the window so I could take pics.
We turned off at a big sign stating, “Zaanstad”. “We are going to see windmills,” Frans gleefully imparted and I was overcome with gaiety. How so oh so “very Dutch”!
And the next few hours were just that. We roamed around the little spot of Zaanse Schans, an historic site that used to be a haven of innumerable windmills but now mainly serves as a tourist to-do. We wandered into the little shops (me purchasing a few pressies along the way), checked out the countless clogs (even a high-heeled pair), went into a few windmills (Frans so excited to take us in) and took photos of us along the way.
I could write oh so much on the goings on of the day, but I shall limit myself to a mere bullet pointed few:
- How fab were the windmills! We went into one that still functions as a pigment making one for paint, the massive machines inside insane as they churned the stones and such into triturate – which actually made the ointments used by Rembrandt himself! (And the free stuff gene runs in the family – Frans charmed the mill-running-man and he took PMS, Frans and I out the back for a special demo and discussion on how it all works). When we went up onto the roof the wind changed and the man of the mill let me be the one to clamber aboard and step the on the spokes to turn the windmill cap. On going back down to see the working weights I had a deep sense of accomplishment and an internal, Fuck yea! I did that.
- Another windmill we went into – one making oil from linseed. Mate, that shit was sensational – we watched a full on exposition of the process from the crushing of the seeds to the heating to the pressing to the oil itself! (And there I no waste, with the clumped-up redundant seeds taken to the field to feed cows).
- Another thing running in the family? Clumsiness! In his being-lost-in-his-surroundings, Frans sidestepped the curb and fell to the ground, but he obviously was well-versed in the action, immediately turtling and breaking out into a big grin. My rush to his aid was superfluous as he tucked in his knees and jumped back to his feet. And the only other fall-over (aside from my own) was by Lucienne later on.
- We went to a restaurant for lunch midday through making our way around where the other five ordered club sandwiches and I had a salad (Frans so cutely somehow knowing I was “vegetarian” going through the menu to point out what I could have, even though a little symbol said). When the plates arrived I remarked on how their meals were served with potato chips sprinkled on top. “I don’t know why, but club sandwiches always are,” Lucienne said.
- Fuck I love my family. As I walked along I squeezed Wyna’s arm, where she pulled me in for a hug and kiss on the head. Even though these people are for the most part strangers to me, the bond of being related and having the same last name overrides the sense of unfamiliarity because, well, we are family.
- PMS was explaining to Lucienne how he eats anything and is thus a “waste disposal”, whereupon she said, “I’m like a rubbish bin. Stand on my feet and my mouth just opens”. How good is that!
- It cracked me up oh so much; Deb and I always mock Henio for his tendency to walk ahead on his own in a pack, as does Opa – and Frans does the exact same! (Though in this instance he found he had his new little best friend at his side the whole way along – I.e., me).
- After leaving the windmill wonderland we did the drive back to Alphen, where PMS and I went to Frans and Wyna’s house for an hour or so before meeting up with Lucienne, Maartje and the others from the fam – husband Rob, sons Max and Dinand – for dins. Wyna hydrated us with freshly squeezed OJ and we sat in the lounge and had a grand old time discussing family and what not. Wyna also pulled out the photo below of the late Gusbert and Margareth with their 15; having never seen a photo of them altogether before, I was ecstatic.
- At 6pm we went to the Chinese restaurant of Frans’ choice where we did the whole all-you-can-eat. And mate, was it delicious or what! Frans cutely got the chef to sauté me up some mushrooms and garlic and he kept encouraging me to have more red wine (I even introduced him to calimouche!). The best part of all? When Max across the table ordered shark fin soup (he called a “You only live once” whereupon Dinand said, “That’s a bad Yolo”) and it arrived in all its gloppy glory. Frans looked at me and winked and made a masturbating motion under the table and mimed spoofing in Max’s bowl, unverbally saying his entrée looked like a dish of sperm.I actually laughed for five minutes straight. That naughty Wortman humour? Right there.
- You know what? I don’t know where the hell this stingy Dutch stereotype comes from. Bar one long armed Holland hailing harlem, all I’ve witnessed since being in the Fatherland is genuine generosity. From almost aggressive push ins to pay at points of purchase to tussles at tills to sneaky settle ups, the parsimonious pigeon-holing just is not at a thing. Annelies is always up in argue when I whiz my wallet in and Frans wouldn’t hear of my contribution of cash at lunch nor dinner. Open-handedness and bounteousness is all I have seen.
I was so sad to say goodbye to Frans upon him dropping us home – I felt we really forged a friendship throughout our day. He sadly said how he would love to take me along to the flower markets one morning with him where he goes five days a week at 5am but he knew I was totally tied up in plans; I instantly was in, saying I would cancel whatever need be to go along. So we locked in next Monday as our daisy date and I am counting down until we do.
When we got home I was so touched to see Annelies had done a supermarket run and not having known what time we would return, had bought a stash of carrots, eggplant, tomatoes and courgettes for me. I actually cannot even express this growing love for these people – they really do care for me and I’m so moved.
I awoke on Tuesday to jam out a yoga session, then dressed and backpacked up to full on fiets into Alphen. In the need for a day on my own, I had said to PMS I wanted to take the day to cycle on my lone into the city to just walk about the ways and be where my Opa was back in the day.
And I loved it. Truly loved it. The 40-minute ride took me by countless canals, a few windmills and alongside some locals. When I reached the centre of the city I Google mapped (hustling McD’s free wifi) the restaurant called “Eight”, owned by none other than one of my second cousins Rolf.
I saw him straight away as I disembarked my bike (well, Sharon’s one) (and I just realised I haven’t said about the marvellous locking system on all the fiets! Rather than bike lock as you may think, each automaton has a bolt in its being with a set of keys to get it going or have it halt. When parking up, you turn the key and take it away with you, the bike locked in at its left loco. Fab!). His Wortman blue eyes and familiar family face (as well as the chef’s jacket and identicalness to the photo of him out the front) had me extending a hand. “You’ve got to be Rolf,” I said by way of greeting. “I’m Poppy.”
After him showing me about his brasserie for a bit, we bode farewell and I got back on my bike. I went to the apartment block in the centre square, ringing on 113 – the residence of one Willomena Wortman-Geitenbeek.
I was so lucky that one of the daughters was there with her, that being Jacqueline who I hadn’t yet met. (Thus Will and I being able to converse). And Will was overjoyed to see me having dropped in with no foretelling, giving me a considerable cuddle and holding my hand. After half an hour or so I left her to rest and went back to head home.
I had a quick stop off at McD’s to buy some chicken nuggets to hustle home to Yvette and PMS (the lovely lass wrapping them in three bags to keep the heat in) where I commented on the option to be able to buy a stroopwaffle McFlurry. “Mate, that’s so cool!” I said to the manager who came out at the sound of the enlivened Kiwi at the counter. “Come in and make one,” he said, opening the “Crew Only door”.
Which is how I found myself ten minutes later riding away with a “Ijshoorn Tapdiploma” (I.e., soft serve diploma) in one hand, a stroopwaffle McFlurry in the other (which was deposited in the bin a few moments later – as touched as I was by the treat, I just couldn’t take it in) (and how good has my co-ordination gotten?).
I returned to Nieuwkoop at 3pm to meet up with Yvette to go get some ingredients. Why so? Well, we were getting all appled-up and having a baking afternoon, making an apple cake, an apple tart and – the aspect I was most excited by – homemade applemoes. So aside from the necessary apples, we had to get some mix for each make as well as sultanas and what not.
I have to say, over the last few days I feel Yvette and I have really become friends. Quite quiet at first, she has incrementally opened up and started engaging me in convos and giggles (I guess banging about at 4am establishes a compelling connexion). And on Sunday I was a touch overjoyed when she said, “You can come back here anytime”.
So we got baking. We peeled, we diced, we beat and we mixed. I told Yvette how my fav part of baking is stirring flour into the butter and egg batter whereupon she offered me the bowl; “Do you want to use the beater or your hands?” she asked. ‘Oh my hands!” I enthused, grabbing a wooden spoon.
No no, your actual hands,” she said. “Like use your fingers to mix it in.”
I was instantly transported back to the days back in the Ruardy kitchen (close family friends, pretty much family) where mother Maryke and daughters Saskia and Bell and I would always make apple cake. Whenever the call came for the baking-powder-flour mix in, off came the rings and in went the palms to pummel. It made me laugh that such was the way being in there and now with Yvette – “very Dutch”.
After a dinner of sausages and potatoes and such for the rest, applemoes and spinach for myself, the doorbell rung and youngest sister of the eight – Yvonne – arrived in fanfare. Bottle of wine in one hand, arm around me in embrace with the other, I instantly loved her (what else is new?).
We all stood about having a yarn, them all ripping into the apple offering with gusto. Yvonne told me about when she came to NZ back in 1998 or so and how I had been a little lass with my plaits on point, her reminding me of lots of little things that had left my recollection. We sat on the couch and filled in the last details we could of the family tree (bro, this thing is getting gargantuan) and watched a reality TV show called “Undress” (hilarious – about two strangers who are set up and upon exchanging first names, have to undress each other to the bare briefs. From there a screen instructs them to do a number of things, from cuddling for two minutes to massaging one another, and after 20 minutes or so they must vote “ja” or “nein” whether or not to see each other again. Mightily mirthful, it must be said).
At about 11pm Yvonne left to go home and I went upstairs to pack the pink backpack for the next few days in Amsterdam. I was a tad sad; I feel so at home (as I have continuously aforesaid) at the van der Posts, going away for a bit instils a sense of homesickness in me.
I am so so so fortunate with my family. Because that’s what they are – family. They care about me, are concerned about me, look after me and bequeath me so much comfort. I am so so so happy here. At home. Cheesy as it sounds (well, we are in Holland where cheese is big business, so I’m just doing as the Dutch do), I’m just so proud to be “very Dutch” and a Wortman.