by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
I am always exactly on time. We used to call this ‘military punctuality’. After all, I have served in the army. ‘Synchronise watches’ before a major operation has been drummed into me; in civilian life, being on time means being too early. No one expects you to be on time. The exception is the zeitgeist; you have to be in tune. For this, I hesitate to admit, I am usually too late or too early.
Yet, if we have an appointment, I am on time. Well, at least an hour before I hover around in the vicinity. If we have arranged to meet at your home, when you look out of your window, you will spot me walking past no less than three times. I am the man opposite with a cap pulled down over his forehead.
Recently I killed forty-five minutes on a two seat sofa in a department store, until customers started to ask me about its price. One lady even asked for directions to the lingerie department.
However, at the appointed time, I am there. Maybe I caught you unaware. But no matter what, I am always out of tune with the zeitgeist.
I was born before cartoons took off on TV. When Jeremy appeared on Dutch TV, I was no longer the right age. I thought it was a dumb bear. Children’s programmes you have just grown out off are the most embarrassing ever. Yet I can still sing the song:
I'm a bear called Jeremy,
I can do most anything,
I can play and I can sing,
Little tunes like doh ray me.
Jeremy appeared on TV towards the end of the 1960s. It was aimed at toddlers. So I was clearly too old for Jeremy but not old enough to enjoy the sixties. Actually you can say that I have missed by a whisker the wild ways of the sixties. ‘Free love’, I can still lose sleep over it; I was just eight when the Beatles broke up.
Yet I was just in time for the most embarrassing way of dressing ever; the seventies. My trousers were so wide, they could be taken out sailing and before I started getting bold, when I turned seventeen, I had never had a sensible haircut; I looked like a girl.
When I was eighteen I showed great promise on the 100 meters sprint. Unfortunately back then, there was no money in it. So I was too early.
During the time the biggest demonstration ever took place in The Netherlands (against cruise missiles) I was already enrolled at the Royal Military Academy in Breda. They taught me to be on time, with an exception for the zeitgeist.
In 1995, just when my army career took off, I left to become a writer. At that time everyone wanted to make their fortune, I wanted to write.
I disclosed an army secret in a few papers. It had something to do with the war in Bosnia and could have made international headlines. (You can trace it.) Yet nothing happened. It was Wikileaks but 15 years too early.
Four year later my debut novel was published. Chick lit was becoming the latest trend, but I was already 37. I couldn’t claim to be a young debutant, however I was quite bald.
Now I am 48 and remain single. Some of my acquaintances still carry hopes about watching me pushing a buggy. Knowing me, I will be 65 when this happens, so obviously too late.
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