I said goodbye to The Pedaller this afternoon.

It didn’t really hit me until we were on our way to Brussels; I’d put it out of my mind a fair bit so the feeling of significant-sadness-slash-overwhelming-dread wouldn’t quash down my happiness of being with him the last few days. I apologise in advance for any gleam of gushiness in the following, but the last month day in and out with him have truly had me at my most peaceful for a very, very long time.

He is definitely someone extremely special.

Right. Moving on.

So I was to board a bus at 14.55 (it’s all 24 hour over here) to Utrecht, a train from there to Alphen aan den Rijn at 17.54 and be picked up by my Uncle Frans and Aunty Wijna at 18.24 (give or take) (or actually don’t; the Dutch are so on point – if it says arrival at 18.24, you will arrive dead on 18.24).

In actuality, of course we got a bit Belgiumed. The clusterfuck of a bus station meant nothing was signposted to know where to go, my booked bus was 15 minutes late to depart, I missed the specified train from Utrecht and had to catch the 18.24 hurling my whole plans with the family out of kilter, and I caught my laptop bag (a hand crafted one from India, much loved) on the train door and absolutely wrenched the handle off.

But somehow, it all worked out and here I am in Holland.

The goodbye to The Pedaller was not as awful as I had anticipated. Call it the fact the first chunk of time apart went far faster and easier than either of us had thought it would; call it that we both feel concrete strong in us; call it perhaps that a million people were milling about and a public proclamation would’ve been dead un-us. But getting on that bus was a lot less painful than I’d pre-empted.

Plus I made a new pal that I yarned to the entire three hour trip; Tom from Manchester, with whom I discussed travel, relationships and all round life as we shared a pack of vege chips and he pretended the other big bag of my possession was actually his (only allowed one in the luggage bank and one on board meant I was slightly pushing the limits) (even with two pairs of shoes, two massive tapestries, a pair of pants for Mummy Deb to hand wash, 12 key rings and a bag of prezzies for the Neph Hank III for The Pedaller to lug back home for me in his suitcase).

It was a straightforward changeover to the train, an easy disembark in AEDR, and there was Aunty Wijna doing a half-jog down the platform towards me.

So Uncle Frans is my Opa’s youngest brother of the 15 Wort siblings (legend has it – well, Frans actually told me – that by the time Oma Wort pushed out the final of the 15 she had no names left; “What’s your name?” She wearily asked the midman – midhusband? Midmale? – to which he responded, “Frans”. So Frans he was christened). When I was in Holland last year, him, his wife Wijna and I became great friends, even thought they speak about ten words of English and I speak about five of Dutch. It was on my priority list to see the two, so decided the first of my duo of nights would be in their abode (I asked them, let me clarify; I didn’t just tell them it was the case).

It only briefly flickered a stab of extreme desolation when one of the first things Wijna said (well, gestured to) was the fact that I’d put on some weight. She mimed my face and body being a bit fuller with her hands, then excitedly said, “Wat gewicht! Dus zo veel beter, zo veel beter”, translating roughly as, “Some weight! So much better, so so much better”. Rather than absolutely kill me like it most definitely would have a few months ago, I excitedly nodded along and said, “Yes! A bit healthier,” and ran along to see Frans.

Because, really, it is better and healthier and exciting for people who care about me, isn’t it?

It warmed my heart to the extreme; when I was last here, they clicked on that I was a somewhat fussy eater. They especially got me smoked fish for dinner and lunch a couple of days, along with the Dutch beetroot relish thing that I absolutely froth over and some salad. I’d hardly sat down at their house when Wijna asked me if I wanted some food, and took me to the kitchen to show me it laid out ready to heat. Even though they’d already eaten their evening meal at their routine 17.30, they sat at the table and nodded their approval as I mowed my way through three serves of beetroot (seriously, that stuff is the best thing ever).

Soon after their daughter Lucienne arrived, followed shortly on by her elder son Max on his motorbike and second-in-line of the siblings, Didian on his fiets (bike mate; it’s all coming back). It zapped my aorta a bit; I mean, what 21 and 17 year old boy go out of their way to willingly come and see a cousin for a few hours, when one has a party to get to and the other has work extremely early in the a.m? I’d forgotten how much they had sort of taken to me last time, inviting me to a party and being really sad when I left the continent.

Excuse the following if I sound a tad full of myself, but it made me realise just how much I sort of touched their lives last time I was here. And not just them, but all the Worts I came across. I have cousins and aunties and uncles messaging, emailing and What’s Apping me, trying to figure out when we can catch up and rearranging travel plans (even putting a trip to the South of France back a day) just to come and see me for an hour. I thought when I left last time and many of them sent me messages saying things about how special I was to them was just a courtesy act, but being back made me realise it might quite actually be true.

Last year I gave Frans and Wijna a block of chocolate iced with the words, “I Love You”, which has sat on their mantel piece ever since. It was actually the first thing Frans pointed out when we got home from the train station. When Lucienne and three boys arrived he declared it was time to finally eat the thing, and proffered a few squares to all in the room.

We had a wine and yarns for a few hours, then when the second-third-gen trio took off, Frans Wijna and I Skyped my Opa for a quick catch up.

I love my Opa. I find him so endearingly cute and when I hear his husky Dutch voice my love for him just overflows like a stampede of rage-running wildebeests. To view him so visibly delighted to be seeing me with his youngest brother made me just so happy. (And it was so cool; as the time struck the hour in both home on polar sides of the world, both brothers’ wall clocks sung out and chimed).

Opa said about the Barcelona terrorism this afternoon (so heartbreaking) and told me to come home (he does this whenever I am away, especially when I’m missing our b’day) and then him and Frans had a jovial little argument in Dutch about who I would go and live with and near (they both said with them, I will clarify; they weren’t fostering me off on the other) (at least, I don’t think they were; my translating to myself could have been way off). Then we said goodbye, Frans Wijna and I finished off our little-bit-left wines then I hustled upstairs to bed (incredible featherdown blanket; I’m so excited for slumber).

It’s made me realise that’s the Poppy I want to be. The Poppy that is all about her family, the one who touches people’s lives and makes time for them, the one who is genuine and interested and interesting. I have a post brewing which elaborates on such a bit, but this evening really hammered it home.

Tomorrow another of Opa’s brothers is coming for a coffee in the a.m, my cousin Simone is coming at lunch, I’m heading to Niewkoop and another arm of Wort relations in the afternoon and then a group of them are coming over for wines and bitterballen at night.

Holland really does feel so like home to me.

Just to end on: my first hour back here hammered in what I already firmly held true – the Dutch really are the smartest people in the world. Why?

1. Headphones for one partner of a pair to wear when the other doesn’t want the TV on. Say when in bed and one wants to go to sleep, or when in the living area and said one wants to do work while the other wants to watch the game. Chuck the headphones on (wirelessly linked to the TV) and all can live in harmony.

2. Family chip packets – rip the top off, and the lower three-quarters serves as a sharing bowl to pass about. No dishes, yet no mess.

3. I haven’t actually seen this in the go, but Mummy Deb sent me a vid a wee while ago about the “Dutch Reach”; when exiting a vehicle, it is the go for Dutch persons to open the door with their further-away hand. This way, they automatically turn to check for any coming cyclists, and avoid opening said door onto them and causing a collision. (Could’ve used something of the sort today when I got off the bus and turned, only to absolutely impale a passing by rider with my backpack).

4. And not necessarily a smarts example but just something that had slipped my mind: when it comes to tea and stroopwaffles (the Dutch version of the NZ toffeepop), they place the bikkie atop their cup to warm and soften it for a few minutes before eating. Like, they all do it. I don’t know why I like this so much, but I really really do.

So I’ve switched my happy place with The Pedaller with my happy place of Holland, which will be switched with my happy yogi life come Sunday. All of which I truly regard as homes.

It’s going insanely fast – but I feel I’m really starting to make some massive inroads in myself and my mentality.

Het leven is gelukkig.

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