Gevoel: ALS IM NOG STEEDS EEN INHAALSLAG
(Translation: Feeling Like I’m Still Catching Up).
And to pick up where we left off.
So Wednesday evening; the aunty/cuzs (termed so as I don’t know what to call them; technically they are my second cousins, but I see them more along the lines of fun aunties – thus aunty/cuzs it is) (actually, solution sussed! In Dutch there are no separate terms for nephew, niece or cousin, with all falling under the idiom of “neef”. So “neef” it now is!) Yvonne and Jacqueline picked me up from Will’s and the three of us went down the way to the wine bar (usually Will is in company too, but it was decided she best stay in to get on top of her being under the weather).
And what a pleasant few hours we had! Downing a few glasses between us as we threaded many a yarn. I was touched – Yvonne said the moment she saw me and the mischievous glint in my eye she thought, “She’s a Wortman that one,” which Will reiterated as soon as she had her on the phone after re-meeting me telling of my cheeky humour and Wortman look. I felt rather chuffed.
When midnight hit Yvonne took me to her abode for a sleepover. And my oh my, I decided then and there that I want to be Yvonne; having taken the single street, she lives in her solely-owned three-storeyed home that had me floored (gettit?). What with the topmost level being a gym-type set up, the second the bedrooms, bathroom and DRESSING ROOM (in capitals for full effect) and the bottom the living, it was what I would describe as abiding bliss. And the best part? Her disco bathroom! With a little remote, the walls are able to be switched between an array of different hues to be a rainbow room as you bathe. (“I just never have it all on red,” she said. “We may not be in Amsterdam, but I don’t want to risk any gentlemen callers getting the wrong end of the stick.”). (For those of you who didn’t pick up on that one – namely you Deb – she was making reference to the Red Light District in Amsterdam and passers by taking the scarlet shadows as meaning she is a hooker).
Thursday dawned with me arising from a seriously good slumber and Yvonne and I taking off for a trot around the nearby lake. Taking a good 50 minutes or so to make the rounds, we had a jolly chuckle about all sorts of hosh tosh and cheered on the teenagers from the local college who were running cross country around us (as well as thumbs-upped the couple sauntering along and hiding behind the trees). And I was mightily impressed with the reserve and lake having assigned areas as “dog beaches”, being sandy coves especially for canines to cavort in.
I really adore Yvonne. She has this larger than life ebullience and jollity about her, and takes such pleasure from the simplest of things. Everything is “soooooooo nice”, from the view to the t-shirt being worn to the woman on the counter. She is just so appreciative of things and the beauty in the seemingly simple and it made me realise – I want to be like that. Rather than being oblivious or fairly flippant of the more mundane, I want to appreciate it all and see the comeliness that might otherwise be missed.
We went round to Jacqueline’s for a bit of breakfast (delightful domicile yet again – what is up with my fam and their remarkable residences?) and then seat belted up for a road off to Hoge Veluwe National Park near Apeldoorn.
And what a fab afternoon we had! Seriously, the Dutch have it so right in their alluring in for activities. Hoge Veluwe, considered the “Green Treasure of the Netherlands”, is a 55km reserve of heathlands, woodlands and shifting sand, complete with a significant sum of wildlife. To get around the expansive space they (whoever this elusive “they” are) (actually, not so elusive – the council, I guess) offer the option of White Bikes, that being 1700 bikes distributed about the park for you to use free of charge as you circumnavigate the 40km of cycle paths. So that is just what we did, getting three bikes at the first park up and making our way around the reserve.
We had so many laughs along the way, insisting we could see safari creatures nestled amongst the terrain (“I swear it’s an elephant,” I averred, pointing at a tree stump in the distance) and the two warning me upon upcoming bicycles to move to the side, “Unless it is a cue boy riding,” they said; “Then stay where you are and let him crash into you”. After a stop for lunch (my attempts to sneak off and pay thwarted with a very stern, “You are our guest”), a stop at the visitor’s centre (where I managed to discreetly purchase two little pressies for my two neefs) and a looksie at a an old school hunting lodge, we loaded back into the car (where Jacqueline presented – literally – me with a cute little wooden heart stating, “Family is where life begins and where love never ends” – the tears certainly turned up trumps there) and headed off for Inneke and Maarten’s. (Yet another two of my “neefs”). (“Neeves”?). (No, “neefs”).
Insertation: on exiting the park I commented on a large pink bike erected on the roadside. Yvonne enlightened me that less than a month ago the 2016 Giro d’Italia, the 99th edition of the infamous cycle race, had started in Apeldoorn itself, thus the effigy and the other mini models adorning all the lampposts along the main street we continued to drive along. They signalled the route of the race, Yvonne said. (The Giro was first organised in 1909 in a bid to increase sales of the La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, and has been held every year since bar those in both world wars. And why pink as the colour of the race? Well, the newspaper printed all its stories on pink hued paper, thus the heralded hue).
We had a lovely evening at Inneke and Maarten’s, where three of their four offspring gathered with five of their own offspring to meet me. I was astounded at how one of my neefs (yes, another one, this time Camille, Inneke and Maarten’s 23-year-old son) looked so like my own cousin Matthew (Henio’s older brother Adrian’s son) (follow that?). And the two are even alike in their love of motorbikes too; Camille was showing me some photos of his two-wheeled love and I was enthusiastically enquiring after it (glass of red wine sloshing about in one hand, it must be said) when he tipped his head and asked the question, “Want to go for a ride?”.
I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted to intensely hold in your sphincter before as a desperate attempt to suction onto a seat when you are careering along at high speed, but it is an odd sensation. You see, the back part of the bike wasn’t overly skewed to aiding the passenger easy hold-on, and I was slipping all about the place as Camille accelerated up the country lanes. I didn’t know where to put my hands as to get a good grip and steady seating, so they were flying all about the place and I’m pretty sure there was a brief – and entirely accidental – moment where they brushed against my neef’s wee (well, I don’t know about “wee” – he is my neef and I did not come into close or overt proximity to know) peeny. I pleaded out to anyone who may be listening that he did not think I was trying to cop a feel (and managed to make it quartz limpid (I.e., “crystal clear”) upon disembarking later on with a, “Mate, I didn’t mean to touch your knob!”.
But I truly loved the ride; I kept signalling Camille to go faster and faster, shrieking like a bloody banshee in elation as he totally upped the rapidity of our ride. I told him after how I was thinking of adding motorbike rider to the list of my skills and he responded with, “Four wheels moves the body, two wheels moves the soul”.
I wonder if a scooter counts?
A hilarious moment to note was when the family were all conversing in Dutch and I heard a word similar sounding to the “C” word. “Pardon?” I spluttered into my wine. “What are you saying?”
“Oh! Kontje,” the older sister said. “It means ‘bum’.”
“Christ almighty,” I laughed. “I thought you were all saying something else.”
“Ohhhhhh,” she responded. “C#@t?”
I actually didn’t stop falling about the floor for a good ten minutes.
And after an Italian feast delivered to the door (Yvonne ever so cutely ordering me a garden salad with champignons) and Inneke and Maarten presenting – literally – me with a book of all aerial views all over Holland, we headed home for some pillow time.
At 8.56am Frans and Wyna pulled up with their daughter Lucienne and her son Din in the back seat (yes, another two neefs ok). The destination? The Alkmaar Kaas Markt (cheese markets), held every Friday in the spring and summer seasons between 10am and 12.30pm in, well, Alkmaar.
After an hour of journeying we parked up (“Remember where we park today, yes?”) and made our way to the markets.
So the background. (Pithy, I promise).
The first kaas markt (cheese market) was held in Aalkmeer back in 1593, continuing through to 1612 with only a single set of scales (when it was upped to two). In 1619 a “kaasdragersgilder”, or cheese carrier’s guild (yes, it really is a thing) was formed, made up of a very strict almost class structure from the “cheese father” in his orange hat and black cane (the head of the lot), to the “vastman” (experienced cheese cutter), to the “ingooier” (the ones tossing the weighed cheeses from the barrows in handcarts and transporting them to the lorries) to the “zetters” (those unloading the wheels from the lorries to set up for the markets). And of course there are the cheese maids, traditionally attired in clogs and what not, to be all cheesy and promote the yellow fodder.
So the current day cheese market opens to the public at 10am, with the “kaaszetters” having put out all the wheels as early as 7am. When mid-morning chimes, the samplers and traders go(uda) to their positions and get (e)dam on point. Because you see, inspecting cheese entails a hell of a lot more than just looking at its exterior; each wheel is knocked upon and a special scoop is used to pull out a piece, which is then crumbled between the fingers of the standard sampler and smelled. Then comes the taste test, with the wheel then cut to scrutinise the holes – or “eyes” – within. (Ever wonder why there are holes and what not in cheese? Well, non-harmful lactic acid bacteria are formed in the maturing stage, which eats in the cavities. A perfect cheese has evenly spread eyes throughout the wheel, while a “blind cheese” – being an eyeless one – is said to be of inferior quality).
Then comes the bargaining. This is still done by the traditional means of clapping hands and shouting out prices, with the last clap clinching the sale of a batch. When a deal is done, cheese carriers use a barrow-type contraption to take the sold cheese to the Waaggebouw, where it is weighed. This is done by the “tasman” (purse man) who weighs the cheese, the “waagmeester” (weighing master) and a public servant who supervises the process and passes on the correct weight to the buyer of the bulks. The motto of the whole market and the guild is, “Een valse Waghe is de Heere een gruwel”, being, “A false balance is an abhorrence in the eyes of the Lord”.
So fair to say, all are pretty on point with the scales.
Mate, it was the foreigner’s idea of Holland through and through. Wheels and wheels of cheese being transported by suspender-wearing men on sled-like apparatuses to and from the weighing station, with stands selling all types of cheeses enveloping the square. We all burrowed up to the barrier and watched the going-ons for a fair while before heading to a café for a pit stop (Din diving into his cheesecake and declaring it to be the only type of cheese he liked; I proved him wrong however, on finding a tester of “spotty cheese” and him grudgingly admitting it was rather tasty).
We stopped in at the souvenir shop, roamed the surrounding streets (Wyna so cutely going into the Hema store solely to buy me a plastic bag to carry about my just-bought wooden tulips and massive litre-point-five drink bottle) and then got back in the car (knowing exactly where we’d left it) to stop off for lunch on the way to Hoofdoorp. (Lucienne suddenly presenting – again, literally – me with a little present; a “very Dutch” earring trio, being a clomp (clog), fiets (bike) and molen (windmill) set that I popped in my ear straight away).
You see, on hearing of my absolute ardour with Primark, Annelies, the girls and I had planned a shopping date for that evening to go all cashews on the discount store. Frans and Wyna had insisted they take me to meet them there, so the gang of us gathered outside the wonder world of a store at 4pm.
Have you ever been pierced in the heart? I doubt you have as you would most likely not be reading this, nor would I. But I can imagine the heartache felt in being slashed in the core of compassion would be similar to that that I felt when saying goodbye to Frans and Wyna. It was awful, absolutely awful, and as I watched them go off to their car I was so totally touched that their teary eyes mirrored mine. (I just reread that last sentence and cannot believe how naff I sound. “Teary eyes mirrored mine”? What am I, some sort of gushy romance novelist? I swear, all this family stuff has upsurged all the long-buried emotion in me and has turned me into a total tosser).
Annelies took off early to go to a concert with her sisters, so Sharon, Yvette and I stayed on and sauntered about the shops (buying a fair bit between us, it must be said). (Is 17 pairs of socks a bit excessive to have purchased? I mean, I did need a new few sets, but the girls said 17 was a tad above the acme (I.e., “over the top”). Well, I’d like to see anyone else with a major pull to sparkly things not rush to the counter with these packs of glittery bad boys).
And it was so fun. Being the only girl in the fam I’ve never had a sister to do such with, so it was so enjoyable to have two ready-mades to cavort about changing rooms deciding on dresses with. (I’ll admit; I did sort of pretend they were actually my siblings). When we had visited the deemed must-do stores, we made our way to the bus stop for the haul home. (Me sparking off a fair flurry of laughter when in my haste to capture the back seat, I caught the side of my brown paper Primark bag on an armrest and it ripped it open, spreading socks and what not all over the show).
Our loud return to our Nieuwkoop home found Richard relaxing in front of the TV. The girls told me that following a shopping trip they always did a little fashion show for him so he could see their new acquisitions, so I jumped aboard as well.
And the lounge became a makeshift catwalk as we woe around our wares (and yes, he did have to sit through a showing of each of the 17 pairs of socks). I went to bed with a feeling of pure peace settling around myself (and a little pining for Frans and Wyna, I must admit).
So we shall leave the Sat and Sun for another post (fuck me, I blabber on a fair bit don’t I?). But as always, a few Pop points to end on – this time all being of the more talk-type.
- I thought it was beautiful; on describing it becoming night time, Yvonne said, “When evening falls in”. And another explanation I loved; Sharon was telling me of one of her primary school teachers having insanely bad breath, sketching it out for me with, “He smelt horribly out of his mouth”. It made me laugh, because that’s exactly what it is, isn’t it?
- Two other lines I just fizz over: 1. When going to take a photo the majorit of the Dutch I have encountered tell of “making a picture”. 2. When searching for a word they cannot place, it is widespread for a failing of the hands and a faraway look in the eye to accompany a frustrated, “Oh, how do you say….?”. I love it.
- Two little “Kiwi” lines I have passed on: 1. The “SNE”, or “serious nipple rejection”. This caused jolly guffaws upon me explaining what it meant, with Annelies especially taking it on board to tell her friends. 2. We were talking of how Annelies doesn’t drink and is thus the “Bob”, being the sober D. “Oh, you’re the Designated Dave,” I said, going on to explain that this is what we called the sober D in NZ. It was only later when in bed I realised it is not at all a Kiwi thing, but a term I appropriated from the extremely culturally deep movie, You Drive Me Crazy (such a crush on Adam Grenier back in his hey day. You go MJH). Whoops. (If anyone from Holland comes over to the end of the earth and says it to be so, go with it).
- And to end on, something that has nothing to do with anything: you know how motors are measured in “horse power”? It’s actually referring to actual horse power. So a boat with a 240 horsepower motor actually means the boat has the strength of 240 horses. Brain totally blustered.
On Friday there is that (awfully banal) “TGIF” saying but I am wholeheartedly pulling the whole, PGLISF (Please God Let It Stay Friday). Because I leave on Monday and I’m oh so sad – keep it as far away as it can please. (Though I am totally pumped for Munich too. Oh the tug and war of the want).