Monday, 1 April 2013

Being Dutch


Struggling with a bike, two shopping bags filled to the brim with food, a blizzard and multiple frozen limps, I suddenly feel what it is to be Dutch again. In a former life, I cycled every day, more often than not packing two children on my bike as well. I must have been made of sterner stuff once.

I am not a graceful sight, zigzagging the cycle path, kicking the dangling shopping bags, all the while  swearing under my breath. After some hefty detours, I manage to find the cottage we rented for a week. The children, much better at deciphering road signs, have allready made themselves comfortable in front of the telly.
To enable W., the kids and myself, to spend some - hopefully quality - time together, we have decided to rent a cottage at Centre Parcs De Eemhof, in a windswept part of Holland. Here we are surrounded by our countrymen.
So that for the first time in years, we have to be careful when we talk to each other, because everyone can understand what we are saying. The children struggle the most with this concept and have to be reminded time and again not to say things out loud like: ,,Look mum, that guy is really fat" and ,,Did you see those tattoos?".
But at the same time it is wonderful to be able to make sense of the conversations of the people around us. The things they say to each other, however unremarkable, make me smile. And the fact that we meet children with the same names as our own is a real novelty.
One morning I decide to go for a run. Totally in love with the Alpine scenery I get to look at while running in Switzerland, I find it difficult to be motivated by the rows and rows of holiday bungalows. And allthough I don't mind the cold so much in Switzerland, I really don't like it in Holland. It doesn't help either that I haven't prepared for it and left my hideous running hat at home.
Consequently I feel absolutely miserable until I leave the holiday park behind me, turn a corner or two and let a row of symmetrical windmills, set in the flattest land I have seen in a long time, take my breath away.
How absolutely glorious I find this row of stark metal structures on a stretch of reclaimed land. The fields surrounding me are as flat as a pancake, which give the vast blue sky and fluffy white clouds all the space they will ever need. The vast lake in the distance is greyish blue and the horizon made up of tiny greyish church spires and even tinier brownish trees.
Suddenly it smells like it smelled when my twelve year old self learned how to sail. It smells like long forgotten spring holidays and the endless walks I took with my first born child in his pram. And with some luck, in a year or two, it might smell like home again.