…or just the other stories.
So, here we are on the second last leg of the journey home. Boredom has eventually reminded me of my “Diary Duties”, hopefully passing the hours rather quicker than otherwise.
Monday we arrived in The Netherlands. A rather tiring day as could be expected.
In spite of having almost all our cases packed on Saturday night, there was still the mad last-minute panic of the vanishing of the skirt I’d planned to wear.
We made it into Aunty Mary’s new car at the planned time, take 10 min… all in all pretty good going for our crowd! Lovely roomy car they have – seated all six of us plus a multitude of luggage extremely comfortably.
At the train station we met Opa and Aunty Hannie. AH would be ‘babysitting’ my Mum’s latest acquisition: a cute little venus fly trap. Opa was on good form, looking forward to – if a bit apprehensive of – the trip.
The train to Aberdeen was rather uneventful, other than to note it is the first time in years – maybe even in a decade – since our crowd had all sat together on a train.
The taxis ordered at Dyce did not turn up, so we ended phoning for some, as those standing when we arrived had already been commandeered. We were in plenty of time though, so there was no worries.
As the station is located immediately next to the airport, we asked the driver if many people walked the route. The awkwardly roundabout road access explained the response: “People only ever walk once.”
I was flying separately from everyone else, as my flight had been booked at a different time. However, both outgoing and return flights were barely half an hour apart. My dear parents waved me through my barriers before heading straight to their own. (Somehow it is so much more stressful them being there to check up on me every 10 minutes, than when I went through exactly the same processes – incidentally for the first time – by myself the last time I flew.)
In duty-free there was an Archos Camacorder that I played with most of the time we were waiting. I was deeply regretful it wasn’t a pma430, or I’d have bought it on the spot. I even asked if they had any that weren’t out on display. Oh well.
Flying was worse than I remembered. I guess last time I had so many other worries and excitement, that the wee hop across to Amsterdam hadn’t been much of an issue. The ‘wee hop’ now being the most significant part of the journey somehow changed the perspective. I enjoyed the spectacular clear view from my window seat, yet didn’t quite have the same appreciation for the strange dizzieness-feeling of flying, most acute at take-off and landing (and also on those occasions where I have retreated into a world of my own for a spell).
At Schipol I hadn’t the foggiest where I was meant to go for my luggage. I thought each flight would have baggage collection next to it to avoid stuff from different flights being mixed up. After a couple of enquiries I was introduced to the concept of the baggage hall, having a kind attendant point out my flight number. (I hadn’t made the slightest attempt to remember it, as I didn’t realise I’d need it for anything.)
Everything went smooth as clockwork. My bag was the third round the belt. As I went over to grab it, I heard knocking on the glass at the far end of the hall. There stood Uncle Cor, with two unusually-sized cousins. UC thankfully pointed out to me which was Robert and which was Frank, as they bore very little resemblance to the toddlers I had last seen 3-4 years ago. I got a good wee chat with UC as we waited for the rest to appear.
We then split up again, as UC took Opa and James back to his house. (They would be with him for the duration, us three girls being with Hanneke, and the ‘medics’ with Aafke, who is due in August. She fancied the idea of some experts on hand, just in case!)
Mum and Dad then collected the hired car: paperwork, checked prescence of air conditioning (it was frightfully warm though already evening) money, keys, baggage trolleys, locating it, giving it our professional approval (bigger boot, less leg-room, compared with last time). We had a pretty much spanking-new car: 300km-odd on the clock. Cheap thing though – you had to adjust the side-mirrors by a manual lever. We were sure glad of the air-co though… hot weather was predicted, and so it proved.
We’d planned on stopping for tea immediately in Schipol, but Dad had an unorganised agenda of his own, and we were 40min on the road before he compromised and stopped for us at a Macdonalds. I haven’t been there in years, and so wasn’t as savvy as Christine. She had a rather tasty fish fillet, while the rest of us had usual standard fare.
At least Esther let me have the toy out her Happy Meal©(TM) 😛 It was Edmund from Narnia, so I got to offer everyone Turkish Delight for the rest of the journey 😉 Christine played along, lamenting the fact that she’d managed to miss seeing Narnia recently with the rest of us. Poor Estie was too tired by that stage to quite appreciate my childish streak.
We went first to Zetten, a small village – mostly RC – where Hanneke and Gerrit-Jan have a pretty little spot. Introductions, a very cute baby, and a massive slice of cheesecake (or some Dutch variety) awaited us.
‘Twas good to see Hanneke again, and lovely to meet both senior and junior Gerrit-Jan for the first time. Neither have much English, and one doesn’t have any Dutch yet either. (I think we can let him off though – he’s only 5.5 months so far, though you wouldn’t know to look at him. He dwarfs his 2-yr-old cousin Lydia quite easily.)
Mum and Dad left fairly sharp after supper, not wanting to be too late arriving at Aafke’s. We all went to bed. Kinda hot though… at one point The Little Missy and I dangled our feet out of the window to try and cool down. Very serene wee villiage! Not a peep to be heard at night, except that of the heat rising.
Us girls were all in formation in our room – me along the length of the window, Est immediately beside me on an airbed, and Christine on a bed at 90° to us, immediately touching the foot of our bed.
It *was* hot. Temperatures of 35°C were noted by Mum on Tuesday when we stopped to buy some cherries at some house or other… but better not get ahead of myself.
Tuesday began with us three girls snaked out behind Hanneke as she went down town. I had all the fun of standing there looking dazed as a shop assistant yabbered away in Dutch. I honestly didn’t have the foggiest – it was just small talk, so there was no way of guessing.
I was fine with the official lines, but had completely underestimated Dutch folks ability to talk. Everyone seems to tell their life history to whoever they meet. My dear cousin had a great time – she got 4 times the fun as she got to give all our histories as well as her own!
So yeah, by the time we were finished, half the shop assistants in Zetten knew we were off to a ‘bruiloft’ the next day. At least when we went into town again in the afternoon we avoided the shops, mainly seeing the market and buying drop (of course!) from a supermarket.
We had lunch at H’s, enjoying a Dutch speciality – Crochetje met Broodje – for the first time. It is sausage meat and potato all mashed together, then surrounded with batter. You heat it up, then put it on bread; alternatively you can just eat it plain. Either way, mustard is a traditional must.
Mum and Dad headed our way for the afternoon, suspecting the Zetten market would be the only one we’d have the chance to see. It wasn’t anything special though, the only purchase being Mum’s treat: her raw herring.
Late afternoon, Chrissie, M+D and I thought we’d try and get to the river. There was supposedly one not too far away, judging by the map. However, travelling time is partly proportional to how lost you manage to get. We never really got *very* lost – in fact that was the most frustrating part! – but we seemed to spend all our time wanting to go in the opposite direction to our current one on the motorways.
You see, Dad didn’t trust Mum’s intuition. Fair enough she can make mistakes, but she usually succeeds in the end. She was the one with the map; she was the one with 25yrs experience in Dutch roads (albeit a little rusty). But Dad preferred his own intuition. Only problem was, his was back-to-front. Not that he didn’t know that, but he probably put so much concentration into not being back-to-front that he made a mess of reading the signs. The signs were important… they told you that everything was rather illogically in a different direction from expected. For example, motorway slip-roads often – but not always! – had this weird looping sliproad where you completely reversed your direction of travel immediately before joining the motorway. Confusing or what!
Anyways, much frantic map-turning later, we did reach a little sandy patch next to the river. Sand was v.burning: unbearably so.
I ran into the water to cool down, despite the less-than-clean aspect of it. To be truthful, I must be spoilt. I found it quite repulsive just paddling in the stuff, while quite a few people were swimming in the river. So long as you didn’t swallow too much of it, I guess it doesn’t do any harm. It is best not to think about it too much, I suppose. Probably good for the immune system! It did give me an excuse to bag the shower first when we got back.
Est had stayed behind to play with little GJ and enjoy watching the birds in big GJ’s aivary: zebra finches, ‘Masked villians’ (as Esther called them) and many another little furry thing. The quarteltjes were especially cute! I’d have put one in my pocket on the way home if I’d thought it could have endured the ordeal.
M+D headed back to Aafke’s for tea, and Hanneke gave us lot some spaghetti. Broke the ice a bit as GJ laughed at our obvious attempts to be especially polite in our eating of it.
Hanneke had kindly ironed all our wedding clothes for us when we were out, so we decided on an early night before the big day.
Wednesday was the main focus of our holiday: Maarten and Henrieke’s wedding. It was interesting in a tourist-y way to see how Dutch weddings are done, but it was all the specialer to see a very dear cousin be united with an extremely lovely and loving girl.
Getting up was an ordeal as I was kinda responsible for getting C+E up too. It was early, so not straightforward. I managed eventually, albeit at the cost of Hanneke and I being denied access to the bathroom for the whole time before breakfast.
Breakfast was yummy. GJ made it as H was running late due to C. It was ‘sweet bread’ and ‘breakfast cake’. I managed to get an undesirable number of crumbs on my outfit, but that’s just to be expected when we just held the stuff in our hands, posh afternoon-tea style.
The wedding itself was spectacular. Truthfully it merits a whole post to itself.
Thursday we went to Uncle Cor’s. Hot – evening 39° in the sun, 31° in the shade. Just a lovely day of spending time with our cousins, quite well summed-up in the dutch word I learnt that day: gezellig.
For example, rather disconcertingly for my British romantic notions, bride and groom both joined us. But it was just lovely – they say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. There’s something uniquely satisfying in light of that when people choose to make their family their friends. It was “heel gezellig” indeed.
Friday was a trip to the OpenLuchtMuseum (Lucht = Air) All day thing, but didn’t arrive until nearly lunchtime. The best aspect had to be getting to “share” my Mum’s childhood with her. We went round on a tram, laughing to see her fullfil her childhood desires and make a beeline for the back seat.
Saturday Dad and I headed off to the Airbourne Museum. It was going to be another family trip, but the others had all decided they were too tired after the Open Air Museum the day before. It was quite special though, to just get a day of my Dad’s attention to myself – I can’t remember when that last happened!
We stopped at a supermarket to pick up some raw picnic ingredients, and then found a secluded patch of countryside to enjoy a good chat together about saving the world, and suchlike matters 😛
For church, we went to the GG(N). Gereformeerde Gemeente in Barnavelt (Hanneke + Gerrit’s church) We had to wait outside ’till 5min before the service before we could be allocated a seat. Mum and Dad had managed to turn up at the wrong door, so Gerrit had to collect them. We all got a seat together about 3/4 of the way down the church.More importantly as far as Christine was concerned, there was a nice looking boy in the row in front. Unfortunately from my vantage point, everyone either seemed ‘taken’ or ‘terrible’. I don’t speak much Dutch anyhow, so maybe its just as well…
I did not do too bad at understanding the morning sermon though. Maybe it was more to do with the frequent quotations of the text, which I was able to confirm the English for. At night I struggled a bit more though.
Monday was travelling again. Rushing to be on time for my (earlier) plane – I was about 45mins late for the 2hrs early specification, and so had to wait through the whole saga of them checking if they had space for me on the flight, etc. I was a bit annoyed as I could easily have got checked-in while Dad parked the car, but he was too keen to do things his own way and all that. Missing the flight wouldn’t have been too unworkable I suppose, but if they’d arrived without me, they’d have used the group train ticket and I’d have been left paying some extortionate fee to arrive home very late. It rather un-appealead… but it all worked out in the end anyway, so there was no big deal.
We kinda cheated on the train though. The ticket we’d got dirt-cheap only applied for the train due in about 2 hours time, rather than the (rush hour) train that was due in around 45mins. Well, we thought the worst that could happen was that we’d be chucked off the earlier train.
So anyway, much extortionate taxi-fares later, and much strenuous baggage manovers later we were all lined up military-style along the Dyce platform.
And after a little more perseverence, it was time to collapse into bed.