(Translation: Feeling (my) Choice).
Aaaaaaand let’s pick up where we left off.
My email asking Jan – yet another great uncle, there’s a fair few – where to meet was met with a response declaring the station to be so small we would not need a spot of standing to set upon. And on disembarking the train, I could see he was right – in fact, there he was!
Jan first took PMS and I back to the family abode, a great grand affair with a stately section of manicured lawning, tended-to tulips (well, flowers, but alliteration always wins out) and wooden playground for the grand kiddies. We re-met Maria, Jan’s wife, and two of the daughters (one pregnant and about to pop), one daughter-in-law, two two and five year old offspring (the later intent on showing me his catalogue of bazooka water soakers) and the partner of the pregnant one (really struck me; each of the four kids of Jan and Maria – three girls and one male, all christened with an “M” name being Marielle, Michiel, Myrthe and Mignon – all had children before being married, with the youngest – with two kids – and the second youngest – the pregnant one – not having yet knotted the tie. I said my surprise to Annelies the next day, where she said that’s quite normal in Holland. As Myrthe said, “A child is the strongest union you can have together, being wed is not the height of commitment”. How fucking fab are the Dutch?!).
Jan showed us around the home (seriously a beautiful building, with its name – Klockenstein – spelt out on the iron gate at the driveway entrance. It was named as so as upon its construction in 1910 it had a significant tower on top with a clock on it; in WWII when the German army invaded the Netherlands, ransacking Nazis took the clock and buried it in the garden, found out a fair few years later when the previous found a note detailing where it had been laid to rest. “Outside the door and four paces from the biggest tree,” said paper stated. Unfortunately, by this time the flora (not fauna – I always have to stop and second guess that I’m using the correct one and not stating that a whole load of squirrels and what not are swaying in the wind) had garnered great growth and the biggest tree was indeterminable. So Jan said his attempts to find the clock have thus far borne no apples nor watermelon – I.e., been fruitful), and we had a wine before all getting into vehicles and making our way to the restaurant.
You see, the oldest daughter – Marielle – her husband and two girls (nine and 12, the older being the most stunning creature I have ever seen) had just acquired a caravan. Having been in some grounds the previous weekend tenting, they had come across a for sale vacational vehicle and had decided they just had to do it. So the lot of us pulled up to their paddock (well, to the car park 200 metres or so away then walked) and after a meet and greet (BIG warm hug from Marielle, who looks unbelievable like Yvonne and Will, and who Will told me a few days later I look exactly like) we oo-ed and ah-ed (it was seriously really swell) before taking to the table (at the restaurant – there weren’t 11 of us sitting surrounding the would-be cramped caravan) (and I say 11 as daughter-and-law and her two tykes had gone home, and Jan and Maria’s son Michiel – aforementioned’s husband – was doing business in Hong Kong).
(Insertation: at the caravan I saw a Dustbuster on the table and exclaimed out in glee – I hadn’t seen once since my own tyke days! I said so to one of the daughter’s partners and he told me how in Holland it is nicknamed a “kruimel dief” or “crumb burglar”; “Well, it doesn’t actually pick up dust, it takes away crumbs and crumbles.” Oh it made me happy).
What followed was a few hours of absolute ticklement. I was in my element getting to know the group who shared my genes (well, some of them. There may be a bit of mixed marriages but the Whatman lineage has no links here), finding out how they met (Jan and Maria having so at a discotheque – always the discotheque! – when Maria was 15; Jan was so taken, he turned up at her doorstep a fair few times – Will apparently declaring, “That boy from Zwammerdam is back again!” – until she agreed to go out with him. And a similar story for oldest daughter Mariella and her hub Laurent, who first noughted tracks – I.e., “crossed paths” – when she worked as a waitress at a café at 15; he was there for a meal with mates and upon first seeing her told his chums, “I’m going to marry that girl”. He didn’t see her for two years, whereupon they got together and have been a unit ever since. And his proposal was pretty up in the air, what with a plane carrying a banner flying along to pop the Q), where they lived, what they did, and how they coloured in (Juliette – the remarkable beautiful 12-year-old one – and I had a good little felt own in). I was bombarded with offers to stay, to come back next year – and bringing Henio and Deb along – to stay in Jan and Maria’s second and homes in Nice and Den Haag (very sound, very sound indeed – insanely successful investment banker in real estate is Jan) and come camping in the only-just-owned caravan (as well as go pumpkin carving next Halloween). Facebook friend requests were extended, snaps were shot, and after a fine fill of deliciousness (many of the there having eel “sole” – fish still with scale, eaten in a very particular way and being – what else? – “very Dutch”) (and the shrimps, my wordo the shrimps! Marielle proffered me her fork to try one and I have to say it was so fucking flavoursome it was amazing. “Everyone raves about the Norwegian shrimps,” she said. “But the Northern Dutch ones are far better”) we waved goodbye to the other cars heading home and Mignon, Jan and Maria took us home to Nieuwkoop. (With Jan playing a plethora of songs – he is really immensely into his music).
And in this instance I truly do mean home. While away in Amsterdam I found myself hankering a bit of homesickness, and not for Cambridge but for the van der Posts. On getting dropped off I gave Annelies a big embrace and whispered, “I missed you”. She was so cute and cuddled me back, saying, “Me too lease kid. I always wanted four and now I have it.”
I know I’ve said it before, but my family is brilliant.
The next morning Annelies, Sharon and I headed to the markets to pick up the weekly wedge of cheese. We side stepped into a clothes shop (SUCH a sensational store, so may tees I want to take on!) where Annelies insisted on buying me a piece of attire – Sharon and I ended up getting matching, hers in grey and mine in navy (reminding me of Dutch delftware).
PMS and I had made plans to take off on Tuesday, booking a bus to Cologne in Germany to stay for two nights, where we were to rent a car and travel down through the Rhineland and the Black Forest to Munich. But for a few days preceding, I had started to reconsider our arrangements. What with having met some family and seen special places the thought of leaving Holland had me hurting.
We had a discussion where we decided he would head off to the next sight stop on his own, with me lodging on at “home” another week. I just knew if I didn’t I would look back and highly scruple not staying. (And now, two days on, I am 700 per cent I made the paramount picking.
So we bade farewells and bye byes, with Richard, Annelies and I dropping him off at his point of departure. Us three then went to have a bevvy at the beach before heading HOME for priming for Saturday night shenanigans.
To end – as often is the case – a few nuances and notings.
- On going into town, Annelies, Sharon and I visited a store with lots of baby attire. At the back was a stand of streamers for when an infant is born that are strung around the home in celebration. It totally took me back to birthdays back in the day; what with brother James being August 31, cousin Matthew September 1st, Deb 2nd, Opa and I the 6th as well as Father’s Day falling somewhere within the week, we had streamers strung about our lounge for the seven days or so. (Totally going to bring this tradition back).
- Whenever buying something in cash here in Holland, be it the supermarket, a clothes store or a bar, the counter, well, counter, gives you your change and – again, well – counts it back as they place it in your hand so you can see it is correct.
- What I love here that also takes me back is the use of Teletext; I remember Henio flicking onto the black backgrounded over screen with the news printed upon it on bright greens, reds and blues (we would always despair out at the taking-over of the TV, whereupon he would always respond, “You can still hear your programme”). I don’t even know if NZ still has it, but here I have seen a number of different people clicking on it to catch up on current occurrences.
- The Dutch are totally not a complimentary culture. Deb has often commented to me how many of our family don’t do the whole “you look nice” thing, and being here has had me see that it is not a result of them not thinking you don’t look good. Apart from Will clutching my hand and gabbering so in Dutch at the family meet and greet (to come), it is not quite so common. When I told Annelies she looked really lovely she was quite surprised at my encomium. Quite quirky!
- Asking Yvonne how her day at work had been she said, “I spent the day picking up my nose”. Upon further investigation I found out she hadn’t actually been harpooning for boogies, but it is an allegory phrase meaning along the same lines as having nothing to do.
- In line with the sisters still: something I find really remarkable is that Annelies doesn’t drink. Not at all, not a drop! Why? She genuinely doesn’t like the taste nor effect. I find this so respectable – she is not swayed to swindle nor pressured to pick up plonk in the slightest. And she still parties and socialises like a champ in a sober state! I find people who are confident and comfortable and companionable like this to be awe-full (meaning being full of awe. “Awful” should totally be a positive word, much more so than “awe-some”). (Also, as I said to Annelies, I feel Yvonne downs enough for the two f them – that lass loves her wines!).
- Henio doesn’t drink very much H20, which often strikes me as quite odd. But being ere as made me see that no one really does! At cafes and going out for dinner water is never really offered as an option, and I don’t think I have once seen a family member here grab a glass of the stuff. When I choose it as my choice in quencher it is often met with surprise and such.
- Makes me laugh – and a tad defensive – what with how many Dutchies seem to think NZ is like a people-less place. One asked me if it is true that you can drive along a main road for 12km and not see another car, with another laughing at how when they were in the country – 20 years ago, I shall say – they were travelling by road and they drove for five hours without coming across a single café or restaurant to stop at (I must say, I was probably a tad too jumping-in in my rejoinder that is was now not at all the case).
So yes, I am feeling top-notch in my surety to stay settled in the Fatherland for another week. This has warmed my Wortman heart up more than I could have ever conceived, and my choice is, well, choice.