Holland, then. I’m sorry about the hiatus in blogging. The culprit: I’ve taken to writing three A4 pages a day, by hand, to get my creative juices flowing. The problem is that I don’t get around to blogging, which is my other form of free writing. I know that it can be seen as a sign of weakness and ill-commitment for a blogger to stop being regular. (I am ‘regular’, by the way). Well, that’s true. I am weak and oft uncommitted, I admit it. But who cares? I’m a writer, and I’m here now. That is the only apology I’ll make, because I make too many.
On the bright side, I’ve had a decent cappuccino since I’ve been in Holland. It was in Germany (photo below). I’m sorry, French Guy, but Germany is up on France. In a strictly non-military fashion, of course.
Andrew’s Aunty married Bob, a Melburnian, whose daughter Christina married Niels, a Dutch National. Niels Bijl is a celebrated classical saxophonist. As far as I know, he’s one of two saxophonists whose name will probably be on any classical album that was created using hired musicians, at this time. That is, I think, close to fact.
The fiction is that Niels has an arch rival, a saxophone touting villain with large, dark eyebrows and a monocle, whose only desire, since they attended the same sax prep school and became competitive rivals for the affections of a female saxophone master, has been to crush Niels’ rising star by laying out perplexingly wonderful riffs that some say have been stolen from an ancient tomb in ancient Sumaria. That is complete fiction, but it’s something I like to think about.
Christina is a taxonomist, and has been working on the world’s largest daisy classification database of for a number of years. Because there are so many species of daisy (for example, an artichoke is a daisy), and so few of the scientific names for each species line up. They’re named differently in different countries. Christina is on a mission to put that right.
Anyway, we’re house-sitting for Niels and Christina’s cat, pushki. She is quite cute, and needs to be drugged every day for her rheumatism. The house is again right next to the forest, in the town of Enschede, near the border of Germany.
The forest here is so green, and so luscious, that it is the essence of health that every fast food brand would like the public to associate with their high fat, high fructose corn syrup treats. I had to follow Niels to his Citroen mechanic, about half an hour away, and I have never had such a wonderful trip. It was picturesque, like being the rear camera car following James Bond through a European film location – though perhaps a little more rural. The cattle are amazingly conditioned. And of course, I am almost in Fresia, the home of the Fresian cow. I never cease to be amazed at the half a foot more muscle and lean meat on the bodies of the cows, here. Where ours might have hip bones that sometimes look like the tips of coathangers – although they are perfectly well conditioned cows – these cows look like body building Olympic hopefuls. And the horses! They are beautiful, and seem to be completely different breeds than at home. Niels stopped off at a stable next to his favourite restaurant on the way home, and I had a chat to a couple of the horses. I am yet to see a fat horse in Europe.
In the mornings, I run past the border to Germany under half way through the 5k. It’s a good place to be – their garden is amazing, and it’s a quiet, lovely place – but there is the risk that Butters will get another tick. He’s got history.
Ticks, to Australians, are the things of nightmares. Tiny, insidious and with the leg strength of Venus Williams at the peak of her career, Australian ticks are poisonous and if they latch on, they don’t let go. If you pull them out, but don’t get their heads, they cinch in, and kill you. In comparison, European ticks are a bit sissy – but they’re just as creepy. They’re a blue-greyish colour, larger, and all of their legs are in a little circle around the top, making them look like conniving mastermind tapping his fingers together (there are a lot of those in this post). Ro and Mel’s dog got them all the time. One fell off, we think from the dog’s mouth; it was a moisture-wrinkled, blood soaked thing, lying next to a coughed up clot of blood, like a soaked woodland berry. I actually thought it was a berry. If it had spoken, it would have said, ‘Auuggh, I’m never drinking again,’ rolled over and vomited in a pot plant.
I went outside and burned it. But I didn’t see it die. It could have crawled to safety and plotted its thigh based revenge on my husband.
Andrew never saw the tick, but there appeared this large red ring on his thigh with a large red dot in the middle. I made him go to the doctor, kicking and screaming, and the doctor told him it had been a tick. The danger is Lyme disease, and he has to be on antibiotics. It’s best to catch ticks when you get them, here, to prevent the disease, but we managed to get through France and Holland before seeking medical help.
Yesterday we went to the FC Twente open day, at the Twente stadium, about twenty minutes’ drive from where we are. The Punto has no air conditioning, and we attract the searing heat wherever we go. Europe really makes up for being a miserable, wet place, in the summer. The sun acts like its own little boy with a magnifying glass, holding it’s own glass up to itself, over everyone. The Dutch keep riding, riding; the cycle paths that line each side of each road, everywhere, are still lined with lobster coloured Nederlandiers, riding in and out of town, couples with their arms resting on each other, teenagers texting instead of holding the handlebars or looking in front of them. There are one million bikes parked in front of the stadium, like everywhere else. It’s about a 33,000 seat stadium, and looks pretty new and cashed up. Andy tells me that Enschede merged with North Enschede to form Twente a while ago. There wasn’t much football going on, but there were dancers from the Enschede dance troupe. They were pretty good.
Outside, there were beer stalls. And there were kid’s games (again, readily mixed with the alcohol) – not lame kids games, like coconut throwing, but bungee run, miniature rock wall climbing, and those giant plastic balls that you can get inside, and run around in, on water. That was funny. None of the kids could stand up because of the motion of the ball, and so they spent the whole time falling on their bellies like beached fish. It was funny, but sad. A kid would climb in the zip of a deflated plastic bag, and the guy would zip up the hole and blast it with air. Occasionally, the guy would get distrated by something and he kid would be sitting there in the deflated bag, like a piece of white market-bought fish, slowly running out of air. The ball would fill quickly. Then he would have a moment of thinking, ‘hey, I can stand up in this thing!’ And then the guy would kick the ball over the lip of the kiddy pool and he’d go flying, face first into the front of the ball and spend the next five minutes trying to get off his belly. Funny stuff.
There were merchandise stalls, healthy food stalls – including Herring, of course – and chips. There were clowned-up balloon twisters. Everything was in red – the Twente colours. There were signings with football stars. And across it all, blared at a volume only really seen in death metal concerts, was a hardcore dance soundtrack. This stuff was loud. But no one seemed to think it odd.
I will have to tell you about Amsterdam in the next post. It’s worth a separate post – or seventy. Today, my brother Adam, who is visiting is from Germany, and I, are going to see World War Z at the cinema. The great thing about Holland is that Dutch is so close to English, that most of the Dutch speak English. They don’t always dub movies – in fact, I don’t think they dub movies at all – like the Germans. Mel hadn’t seen a Hollywood movie with the original voices until she went to Holland when she was a teenager, and she hasn’t seen a German dubbed movie since then, I think she said. Rowan says that Homer Simpson dubbed is pretty hilarious.
But he says it with bitterness.