vrijdag 3 februari 2017


Unlike you the chair didn't change, it's still that sombre dark green with the handy side pocket in which you keep all your remote controls so your wife has to ask you to please turn on or off the radio, the television , the d.v.d. player and all the other electronics. You used to take out a control and turn on the television as loud as possible when you got bored with visitors and pretended not to hear it when your wife pleaded to turn it off.

You yourself did change: the sturdy bon vivant became a dead tired shadow of that man. Your eyes lost their sparkle and most of the time you stare out of the window, a pile of books next to you untouched on the little table next to you. The remote controls stay in their pocket. My mother once in a while will ask you something, almost like she is checking you are still there. You lost interest in most things, starting a conversation with you is like dragging you from the bottom of a very deep sea to the surface.

I don't visit often after I left the country and in earlier years it was quite an event for you and my mother. But now it is like she is trying to convince you constantly somebody is there with you in the living room. We were never mates or buddies or whatever you want to name it, but during this stay it's almost like you forgot we are related. I look at you, hear the clock ticking and try to read on, like my mother is doing.

Suddenly you call out her name and announce that you need to go to the bathroom. You know very well she can't help you with that, being unable to have walk normally. Old age is hitting you both really hard, I wonder if I will be like that when I'm in my nineties and realise it will be me who has to help him to the bathroom. I tell him, I will do it, I can help. My mother looks up from her puzzle.

I see anxiety in your eyes, almost a fear and you refuse. My sister and her husband will help you, you say. I answer that they will not be here for at least another hour, maybe even two, you don't have a choice: it's me or no help at all. I get up and stand in front of you, stretch out my arms towards you, invite you to take my hands.
"No, no, you can't!" you say and there is panic in your eyes, "Martin has to do it."
"He's not here, you don't have a choice", I grab your hands.
"You can't!"
"We'll see about that!", I take your hands and pull you up.

Your eyes are wild now and I feel all your muscles tightening. All the muscles that you still have.
I know that not long ago there would have been no way I could have got you out of that chair, but things go quite smooth even with all your resistance. I walk backwards leading you step by step to the toilet, humming a waltzing melody. "What a nice dance, we have!", I joke. You grumble, concentrate on the little steps you take.

We manage alright and I wait in front of the bathroom door till you are finished. I hear you peeing and sighing from relief. When you open the door again, you stretch a hand out to me. I take it and use the other to close the door before taking your other hand. We make the same dance again and you end safely in front of your chair. When I make you sit down, you squeeze one of my hands very lightly. Something has changed, we both know it and we also know we will not talk about it. There is no need.

vrijdag 9 december 2016


It took some time before I became aware that I was watching a scene on the beach. It was very difficult not to notice because the people who were involved were the only ones to be seen. It was a beautiful day at the end of August, holiday season over and done with, which made it very quiet over here.

A child, no older than 4, was playing at the shore line, jumping up and down in the water. Sometimes he shouted "Daddy, daddy! Watch! Watch!"
Daddy was not watching, daddy was on the phone, sometimes shielding his free ear off to be able to listen better without distraction from the child. A bit further away was a lady standing on the beach, her arms in front of her body. She made it clear she was not really involved and the child took no notice of her.

This must have been going on for at least 20 minutes, when an elderly man came walking along the shore line with a large dog, I think a labrador. The dog must have been quite young and a bit wild, the old man had no control over the dog whatsoever. The dog was not on a leash and was totally out of place. During summer dogs are not allowed on the beach and certainly not unleashed.

The dog ran like a little pony, jumping in and out of the water and jumped on the little boy. The dog was almost bigger than the child, so he fell over and into the water. "Daddy, Daddy! Look! I'm drowning!" The man turned around, shielded his ear off a bit better and walked a bit away from the child. The woman did not move at all.

The child stayed seated in the water and splashed it all over himself. When the father finally finished his phone call the boy was really soaked. The man took a towel from a bag and called his son over. He dried him while the woman remained where she was before.
After the man was satisfied with his work, he put the towel in the bag and told the boy to come along.

The child took the bag in his hands and started to walk towards the end of the beach. The man stopped him and yanked the bag with all his force from his hands. This caused the boy to fall and to cry. There are many ways of crying and the way of the child was the loudest possible. It was quite obvious that the man was very embarrassed. He held the bag under his arm and held the boy with two arms tight to his chest. Like this he started to walk away from the water, the boy screaming his head off and the woman following them, keeping some distance. It took quite some time before I could not hear the boy anymore and the seaside was peaceful again.

woensdag 12 oktober 2016


It's 15 October 2021. 

Theresa May is managing the Brexit as well as possible and maybe that is why the Conservatives have won the elections last year. She remained as the Prime Minister but reshuffled her cabinet a bit.

There is a constant flow of pensioners coming back from European countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece. The visas and permits to stay in these countries have expired and so they are forced to come back to the UK, often they have to sell property for a lot less than what the price normally would be.

There are already 600.000 of them and there are expectations that more than a million will follow. It has caused a housing problem. The Labour shadow cabinet has suggested that second homes and holiday houses should be used to solve this. The Tories have rejected this immediately, so the repatriates are forced to stay with relatives and friends.

A few weeks ago we received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Amber Rudd that I should prepare myself to be removed from the country for the obvious reason that I am a European foreigner. Of course we made use of the possibility to oppose to this. I received a reaction on this that my case was being handled but that it would not have the effect for me to not send me to a Return Centre when my time was due. It would be possible that the decision had to be made while I was being prepared for being forced out of the UK.

We talked about this with relatives and neighbours, but nobody really knew what could be done against it. A neighbour said this all was impossible, it was so very not British. I reminded him of some history: concentration camps were an invention by the British during the Boer wars. They had been very efficient, I added cynically, one third of the inmates died. He tried to assure me things would not be like that nowadays.

A Pick Up Truck drove up to the front of our house this morning. In the back I could see the pharmacist and her family (Chinese), the cook of the cafe where we sometimes ate (American) and two women from the staff of the hotel in the village, who probably were Polish or Bulgarian or such. They all looked a bit cold sitting there unprotected.

Two men came to our door, their hair very short like military. They were wearing civilian clothes but had armbands on saying Assistant Police. They told me to get on the truck.
I asked them if I could pack some things first at which they reacted quite irritated. I had a three week period already to pack, they said but they agreed anyway. While I was busy doing this, one of the men was ordering me to hurry, "they didn't have all day".

My wife pleaded with the other man, saying I was her husband and her carer. He reacted that there were plenty of Englishmen who could do this too.
I had my things packed and I could quickly kiss her goodbye.
At the door she asked the men where they would bring me; they told her it would be the Deportation Centre of Colchester.

"But how do I get there to visit him?"
"You don't!"
They pushed me on the back of the Pick Up and I sat down next to the pharmacist on a blanket. My suitcase was thrown in after me and the men went in the car and hastily drove away. I fell over and before I could wave at my wife we were out of the street.
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zaterdag 16 mei 2015


It is such a joy to be back in Paris. Of all the cities she has visited in the world certainly the City of Light is by far her favourite, even when there are so many bittersweet memories attached to it.  She tries to avoid thinking of these memories, maybe new nice memories are in the make. It is good to be here with her best friends. When they came with the suggestion of this trip, it did not take her a lot of thinking. The money is never a problem, Anthony’s divorce settlement gave plenty of room for pleasant things.  And travelling is always a pleasure, the life with Anthony has made her accustomed to this. She is one of the few people known to herself to never suffer from jet lag.  

Kate promised her friends to show them around and not limit them to the obligatory tourist sightseeing. Of course they wanted to see some of these things, but they have asked her to show some of the daily life of Paris as well. Two of the girls have never been out of Canada before, Melissa did visit New York but never went further than that. They started the trips through Paris enthusiastically but after two days the jet lag has hit Kate’s friends hard. So she asked them to stay in their hotel rooms today and take it very easy. Tomorrow things will feel a lot better to them.

On her own she can take a trip to memory lane, visit all the places that are so dear to her. So she goes to Pont Neuf, walks to the middle and looks into the Seine. She half dreams away, remembers the embraces and kisses shared on this spot, but the traffic prevents her to completely getting lost in her memory. The average Paris driver seems to think that you can speed things up by using their car horn. One that honks right behind her makes her almost jump and she decides to get off the bridge and go to the riverside. She wants to sit on their bench again, where she has felt as close to heaven as possible.

Kate is disappointed when she sees that the bench is taken by an international mixture of people, so typical for the city. When she passes it she hears all kind of languages but no French at all. She decides to walk on, only to see that the next two or completely occupied too. When she comes near to the next one she feels her heart skip a beat: he’s sitting there! Her mind tells her it’s not possible, but her eyes don’t lie. He looks up from his book and his mouth opens without words coming out. They both can’t speak while she sits next to him.
After minutes that seem ages he is the first to find his voice: “Is it really you? Am I getting crazy?” When she is able to answer her voice irritates her, she sounds like a kind of frog: “I’m crazy too, Justin. And I have been insane!”                                                                                                                
They sit silently next to each other, the book seems to function as a borderline between them. She looks at it: Jean Paul Sartre’s “La Nausée”.  He notices what she is looking at, tells her he wanted to reread the book and this is a proper place for it. She nods, her hand reaches out towards him. It takes a while, but then he takes it in his hand.
“I want to explain…”, she clears her throat.                                                                                    “Only if you want to”, he reacts. She nods, her eyes are full with tears. Her free hand wipes them from her eyes. Of course she wants to! This man gave her so much happiness in such a short time and yet she abandoned him like he was a stray dog that had followed her for some time.                        She starts about the sweet memories she has: the lovely days they shared in this area, the afternoons they spend in little hotels when they hardly left their room; ‘til the bitter end.

“I remember far too well waiting hours at the Gare du Nord for you. Sitting on a bench, my suitcase at my feet, glancing at my watch every few minutes. At eleven o’clock the reality of you not showing up hit me like a brick. Like a zombie I stumbled out of the station, took a taxi and went back to my hotel. I was lucky I could get my old room again.” She can hear the hurt in his voice. Even after more than three years has passed. “I loved you so much, trusted you so much. I would have done anything you wanted.”

She goes on: “When I got to the hotel that day Anthony was sitting on our bed. He was so excited, he told me not only the conference had been a success but he was going to be rewarded by the Minister. We had been invited by him to have dinner and Anthony would officially hear that he had been appointed as Undersecretary of the Delegation at the United Nations in New York. We had to fly back that evening. I realised that he would not get this job if he was going to the Minister on his own. These functions require people in so-called normal family situations. I could not get myself to hurt him and ruining his future at the same time. He had been so busy that week, hardly aware at all of my existence, let alone me having an affair. I know, it was more to us, but to him it would be like that. You have to realise that we were a couple since we were teenagers. I simply could not leave him.”
“Why didn’t you warn me in any way of this. Leaving me in this uncertainty was so cruel. I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for hurting me this much.” His expression is angry and sad at the same time though his hand fondles the hand he is holding. She is crying now, but he is not able at this moment to hold her, telling her everything will be alright. 

When she is stable again, she tells him about the pain she caused to herself. She felt so guilty and sneaky towards him while he thought so highly of her. Months later she had confessed to Anthony what had happened in Paris. First he forgave her, seeing clearly that she had chosen him above her English lover. Their relationship was not the same after the confession and had caused their marriage to be wrecked after all. Anthony now was somewhere in Asia at an embassy with his new wife, his former secretary. When he informed Kate, he had told her that he trusted his new wife completely. She would never betray him.

Justin tells her that he stayed in Paris a few days longer, first hoping that Kate might pop up after all. Of course he knew better that that, he expected nothing else than that she had gone back to Canada with her husband. When boredom and loneliness crept up on him he had gone back to London and had picked up his old life at the bank. For months he had felt numb, just functioning like a sort of robot. The plans had been so nice: he would have showed Kate Europe. He had been waiting for her with the tickets to Brussels in his wallet. It would have been such a nice start.

“We could do things now, Justin. We can travel the world if you want.” There is hope in her heart and she thinks she sees a sparkle in his eyes. Can she restore what she once ruined?     

“First I need to get to know you again. I need a clean start, need to forget my moments of misery.” She feels she might have a chance to win this love of her life once more. She nods, she understands what he needs. She suggests that they could start with having dinner together tonight. She will have to tell her friends they will have to spend the evening without her, but they certainly will understand. He tells her the name of a restaurant; it’s not familiar to her. According to him it’s new and quite cosy. She tells him she will dress up for it and he nods approvingly, telling her he needs to go now.
She is sad to see him go, but feels delighted to be able to see him again tonight. That really is a new thing, they always met in the afternoon.

Her friends are happy for her and when she is dressed, they have a good look and give her their approval. She orders a taxi, it arrives soon at the hotel; the restaurant is not very far, but part of the distance she has to walk. The taxi driver explains how she can reach the spot. He looks at her dress in a funny way but she tries to ignore him. When she gets near the restaurant she sees that there is something wrong: it is almost a hamburger joint. The people are mostly sitting outdoors and are noisy. It looks like they are all Americans.

A boy starts talking to her: “You look beautiful, madam. Are you going to celebrate something?”
“I fear it’s the opposite”, she answers in tears while she is certain he will not be there.

Photo courtesy of Hera Bell, http://www.glamourmakeoverphotography.com/

dinsdag 2 december 2014

Being in the Way

Teenagers can be very tiring I noticed when I tried to sleep in my cabin on the ferry. Especially when there are some 20 of them and no adult in sight. I noticed them already in the bar the night before. They were having drinks and became louder and louder. In the night the boys wanted to meet the girls or the other way around,  and I happened to have a cabin right in between theirs.

So I stepped dead-tired on the train the next morning. I was the first in the compartment, so I found myself a very strategic seat, a bit near the door but yet not too near. It was 3-persons bench and opposite me was a 2-person one. I put my backpack next to me, crawled in the corner and tried to get an extra nap on the non-moving train. After some time more people came in, without disturbing me. I wasn’t really asleep but felt like a person that was looking at things almost unaware.

It was all too good to be true: right after there was an announcement on the intercom that this was the train to London, my self-chosen solitude was over. A woman with backpack and two suitcases came over and behind her a man with a lot of luggage. I had never seen a person dragging so much along. They began to make a sort of still-life with their luggage and I put my backpack between my feet. Most of their suitcases were put on the floor too, but it was too much so he put some on the bench and sat next to me while she sat on the opposite one with a backpack. Immediately the train left the station.

They looked like they were even more tired than me;  they must have travelled a long way.  That was proven when he produced a printout.  I could read that it looked like a reservation for a hotel somewhere in London and that this came from a Spanish website. Together they studied the map of the London subway. It seemed they agreed,  my knowledge of Spanish is totally none.  She got the backpack from her bench and put it on top of a suitcase and made a gesture that he should come over to her. She looked quite ravishing to me but he was too tired to feel tempted and shook his head and said something. She shrugged and joined him in yawning.

After a few stations some people had left the compartment and no new people had come in.
She sort of woke up, got up and I thought she would go for the toilet. But she went the other way and called the man. He took a look at her, next to two empty benches, looked at the luggage, shouted something back and sank back on the bench again. She came back and was now totally restless. She couldn’t find a nice way to sit, even took off her shoes and sat on her knees on the bench. Because of this she gave me a generous view on her bottom cleavage. She had this nice coloured skin all over her body. She must have been born this way or taking sunbaths in the nude, I couldn’t help think. But she moved in another position already, a bit like mine and pulled down her sweater.

When I heard the intercom calling my destination being the next station I got up with my back pack and moved to the doors. I heard some rustling behind me.  The train stopped and I got out, but I couldn’t resist having a last look on the couple. She had taken my place and snuggled up against him. He had his arms around her and they kissed.

A Dog in the Brewery

We love visiting breweries. So it was not unexpected that you could find my wife and me on this afternoon enjoying a blonde beer in the brewery in my hometown. It was not very crowded, it just felt cosy.  The people were four elderly men accompanied by a woman of half their age. They were testing the different types of beer and the woman was sounding like someone with a lot of knowledge about this.  Maybe she had been brewing herself, like my wife.  She had attracted the attention of the brewer himself who was testing a new  product with two other men.

At another table was a couple of around fifty with their son who seemed to have Down’s Syndrome. Except for his looks you couldn’t tell his problems. His parents didn’t have to consider this a long time before they gave him a beer too.

In came a father of around forty and his son of around sixteen. In everything it showed that this should be special for the boy. It felt like this was a divorced father and his son. This was his weekend and father had decided to make it worthwhile. So the boy was going to have his first beer.  They had some discussions before ordering, the bartender gave advice.  And he came with a bowl of water for the dog that the father had bound to the table.  The boy shook his head, “Did you really have to take Tommy along?  Now you will have to go out of the bar again soon.”  The father assured him that the dog was okay; he had delivered a short while ago, according to the man. And where else could the dog have stayed?

The brewer walked up to the lady who knew so much about beer and poured some of the new brew in her empty glass.  She had a good look at it,  swirled  her glass, nodded approvingly and then had a careful sip.  She made a gesture to the brewer: PERFECT! He poured some more in her glass and toasted with her.  One of the elderly men had ordered a new round for the others.

We asked the bartender for two more beers and after a short time the parents with the handicapped child did the same.  The divorced father had emptied his glass and was waiting for the boy to finish his. He asked him if he liked it. The boy seemed to shiver a bit and said that it was lovely.  So the man wanted him to finish his beer, so they could have another one.  The boy asked his father to take it easy on him and just order one for himself.  This he did.

When the beer had been delivered, the father stood up and went to the bartender.  He came back with a bundle of paper towels and started to pick up something on the floor next to the dog.  He went with the bundle to the toilets and then emptied his glass in one gulp.  “Come, we go” he said to his son.

The boy’s glass still wasn’t finished but he didn’t complain.  He unbound the dog and they went.
The other guests sniffed the air and drank their beers in great haste.  We did the same.  The brewer went to the brewery rooms behind the bar.  The stench was really awful.  Within five minutes the whole bar was empty for the bartender.


For years and years two blackbirds consider my garden as their territory. At least I think these are the same birds. They can reach the age of five, so there must have been a change a few times.

In the spring they are both very busy collecting material for their nest, that must be very near my garden. After that they almost seem to have disappeared. But in a few weeks they return and bring their children along. These look almost fat and are quite clumsy in their flying and walking the first days you see them. After a few weeks you will only see the couple again, the young have moved out.

This spring it was the first time Henry the cat was here. Why she’s called “Henry” is another story.
Till that morning I only had seen her chasing flies and without any success.

We were having a late breakfast in the weekend when we were disturbed by a lot of noise coming from the garden. Henry was being attacked by the blackbird couple. She almost crawled on the ground forward while the birds were swooping towards her head. Then I saw the reason for the aggression of these birds. A little one was trapped near the shed. It must have been very frightened, it seemed to be paralyzed by fear for the cat.

Should I let nature have its way? I could be very proud of Henry. Catching her very first prey.
But this seemed to be a very unfair thing to me. It was like former Russian president Yeltsin on bear hunt. His staff would drug a few, so they would not be able to move a muscle. In that way he was able to shoot them. I’m being told this method is used for hunting parties of some Royal families as well.

Anyway, I couldn’t bear to watch this and got out in the garden. I grabbed Henry and put her inside.
She almost went crazy and jumped against the window in the door.
The young bird was still sitting in the same position. It’s brothers and sister were on the fence with the mother. Papa went down to the ground to the little one and sort of showed what to do. He flew from the ground back to the fence. The little one’s heart seemed to beat in it’s throat and it didn’t follow.

It took more than five minutes before it was able to move again. There were some trials to lift off the ground, but they didn’t succeed. The father flew to the ground and back on the fence and sort of yelled. Finally it took off and made it to the pick-nick table that is in my garden. After a little rest the next step was made. It landed next to the father.

After I got a new cup of coffee the whole family was gone.
Henry was still jumping in front of the door, it was now okay to let her go. Immediately she ran over to the place where the young bird had been trapped and sniffed all around.

The father reappeared on the fence and looked at this scene for a while. Then he flew away with a sound that really resembled laughter.