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Holland Park Press

A Postcard Home

10 October 2013 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

‘I was easily lured by the prospect of dancing in a dirndl and sampling every wurst imaginable.’ For a moment I imagined I was reading Helen Fielding’s new book. By now, Bridget Jones is 51, exactly my age. But no, it’s Pippa Middleton writing in her column for the Daily Telegraph.

In this column, Pippa describes her adventures. This time Kate’s sister reports from the Austrian town of Kitzbühel, where she visited the Jahrmarkt festival. Not that much happens there. Pippa drinks a schnapps and takes part in a traditional dance: the Schuhplattler. It all resembles a meeting of the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria). And by now she has spent a weekend in Scotland, where she has shot a few pheasants and partridges.

We hear that Pippa travelled across Austria clad in a dirndl; for example she can be spotted in a picture from Salzburg.

Maybe she wrote a postcard home. ‘It’s rather jolly here. I’ve discovered the Austrian soul. Look, this is me wearing a dirndl. Love, Pippa.’

It also reminds me of a popular Dutch TV programme: Geer and Goor: being skint. In this programme the singers Gerard Joling and Gordon spend a month living in a terraced house on a state pension. During this time they support the elderly. The similarity with Pippa’s adventures is that, here too, nothing happens.

Except that Geer and Goor slap their thighs at every joke. For example, when their minibus hits a speed bump and they shout at the OAPs in the back: ‘Mind your ovaries!’, Geer and Goor laugh out loud, as if they want to show off their brilliant white teeth.

And then there is Sex Box on Channel 4, in which couples make love in a closed booth (the box) in the studio and report on it immediately afterwards. ‘To be able to talk openly about sex.’ Here too, nothing happens. Actually it’s just Big Brother, but with a panel of experts.

Or take discussions about football on TV, with long arguments about building your defence from the midfield. It’s the slowest form of sport. Hardly anything happens, but it looks OK when you show the highlights.

Even a programme such as The Voice, in which the coaches rotate their chairs if they like someone’s singing, is more about form than content. It claims to be a singing competition, but of course it’s all about the coaches. Only a few of the contestants end up with a singing career, but the coaches get more and more famous.

In many countries there are programmes about slimming. Here too, nothing happens, except that people try to lose weight under the supervision of strict instructors, preferably from the army.

This made me think of a poem by Craig Raine: A Martian Sends a Postcard Home. It ends like this:
At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

I hope no extra-terrestrials follow the news on earth, otherwise there is a good chance that, at this very moment, someone far away from the Milky Way is writing a poem about us.
After eating sausage
they hurt their soles and thighs.

The wrinkled types are
old specimens, travelling by bus

driven by roaring animals
with brilliantly white teeth.

With 11 against 11 they kick
slowly a round object to death.

For someone who sings in tune,
chairs rotate.

You lose weight
with strict instructors
and in the evening, under blue-violet lights,
they procreate – in a box.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

arnold jansen op de haar

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