Instalment 25: ‘Well, we simply have to make a new one,’ the reverend father, a short fat cigar clenched between his front teeth, had told grandma Reuser after little Frans had gone to heaven on the very first day of his life on earth.
I’ve been in hiding for a bit. This came about because I was up to my neck in a swamp of estate agents and solicitors here in London. My sister was selling a lovely, small, sunny apartment with a balcony. A sought-after item in a raving mad housing market.
Instalment 24: Aunt Joep’s birthday party really takes off when Reverend Uncle Peer with his dark, bass voice starts a polonaise, waving its chain through auntie’s living room.
Instalment 23: A soft pink haze, like a sea of orchids, covers Kunder Hill.
Last week, reports emerged from the Netherlands about Big Bird being seen at an over-18s festival surrounded by naked female dancers and men in bondage gear. This sprang to mind when Labour leader Ed Miliband began to get involved in the Scottish referendum. It was as if Eddie laddie had gatecrashed the wrong party.
Last weekend, after having lived in London for three months, I was in Amsterdam with Holland Park Press for the Uitmarkt, which is the opening of the cultural season. ‘The opening of the cultural season?’ you may well ask. ‘Summer is one big cultural event with all those tourists and busy theatres!’ Yes, in London, but in the Netherlands many venues are closed during the summer. It’s like having dinner on the dot of 6pm. It’s set in stone.
Instalment 20: Reverend Uncle Peer is quite tipsy. While he’s sitting on the green leatherette two seat sofa, he pompously drowns another Bacardi…
Instalment 19: Axel sprints panting through the fog homewards by way of a labyrinth of back passages.
Recently my sister, based in London, had to get her picture taken for her new Dutch passport. So we headed for a photographic shop which specialises in passport pictures. It was called Snappy Snaps. Photos for British passports were less than ten pounds. Pictures for baby and foreign passports were twice as expensive. This is an advance warning for the Scots.
Instalment 18: Don Carlo hails from Curacao. Axel can’t tear his eyes away from him when he looks with his neighbour
for fern imprints on the stone dump near the Silver Stream.
I’ve been to watch the Tour de France with my sister, in London, because I’ve been living there for the past six weeks. The Tour’s finish line was within walking distance.
Intalment 17: On the promenade, out of sight of Monsieur Jacques, a bronze man lost
among shopping women, mummy retrieves her pastel green customer card
from her big red purse.
The first thing we noticed about her was her hat; a black hat with
protruding bits. A witch’s hat. This hat moved up and down behind the
fence which surrounded the dog-walking area. These pets had to be
checked in by drivers who wanted to put their car on the Channel Tunnel
Instalment 16: Slowly the growing darkness encroaches on the world outside. The classroom windows become mirrors…
Recently, I went to a meeting of the Torriano Poets in Kentish Town, London. It was a beautiful summer’s evening. The stifling hot room was packed. I estimated that the average age was 73.
I’m in the middle of moving from Arnhem to London and thinking about getting a dog. You will say, ‘What? You want a dog?!’ Well, here’s the story.
Instalment 15: Every Saturday afternoon Axel’s father pays his weekly visit to his mother & Axel learns something about his granddad.
The European elections are imminent and Austria was represented in Europe by a woman with a beard or, if you prefer, a man in a dress: Conchita Wurst. I find this reassuring. Not only because Conchita Wurst really can sing, but also because this Song Contest entry comes from Austria.
Instalment 13: Suddenly Axel feels an upward pressure, and he manages to take to the air with pathetic moves of his arms.
The British cherish being islanders. From a geographical point of view,
their country belongs to Europe, but they are of a different view.
Inhabitants of islands are a bit opinionated. Islanders are a bit
eccentric. This is even more true of people who live on an island close
to a big island.
That day, I had given a reading in Birmingham library, a fortress of culture. From the outside it actually looks like a fortress, but inside they’ve created something on a grand scale: a tower of Babel for books.
Instalment 12: Squinting Joep and Carlo Clever have overpowered Manon Lokhof…
Recently, I had to go to the pharmacy. There is always a bowl of liquorice on the counter. Customers who have to wait are allowed to take a piece of liquorice. Most people do; after all, it’s free. I never take one; I’m in a pharmacy, people who go there are ill.
Instalment 11: On the dot of six, soup is served. The Reverend Uncle Peer has made the journey from Meijel in his beige DAF 33 in just under an hour.
The British Museum is showing an exhibition about the Vikings with the title: The Vikings Are Here! There have been times in the past when this wouldn’t have been such a welcoming message.
Instalment 10: Upstairs, Reverend Uncle Peer, with his iron cast Jesuit views, is ensconced in the smoking chair next to the hearth.
Enjoying poetry from the What’s your Place? competition
All English poems nominated in full
You get a lovely surprise every time the ski girls take off their helmets after crossing the finish line during the Olympic Winter Games. Someone somewhere must have decided that only models can take part in Alpine skiing events.
Instalment 9: From the schoolyard, made up of 400 by 300 concrete tiles around a bare
chestnut tree, Axel & Co. march in an orderly queue, swimming gear
in their bags, towards the municipal swimming pool, or numicipal
swimming pool according to one of the gang.
The anthology was prominently displayed in the bookshop. Quickly, I scanned the contents pages under J for Jansen op de Haar. Damn it, I wasn’t in it. Yet, at the same time, I realised that this could provide opportunities. Appearances as ‘The Poet They Left Out’ on radio and TV. Enough to make me break into a celebratory dance.
Instalment 8: For days Axel scooters himself into a sweat, leaving the others behind, to collect as many autographs as possible.
Congratulations to the English & Dutch shortlisted poets!
Don’t worry, I’m fully dressed, in my own clothes. Unlike Gerrit Zalm, CEO of ABN AMRO bank, who during his bank’s New Year receptions appeared as Priscilla, his sister, clad in a blue dress and sporting Dame Edna glasses.
Instalment 7: The walls of the waiting room are painted mint green. Axel mechanically thumbs Red Knight magazine until a door opens and six children are carried in by the same number of nurses.
It’s actually quite hard to be consistent. Boris Johnson has been thinking up various nicknames for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He’s not doing this in an entirely consistent way. According to London’s Mayor, Clegg is a yellow albatross around the collective Tory neck, a radio DJ, a lapdog, a wobbling jelly of indecision and vacillation, very, very decorative and a condom (although Boris used a rather more involved description). So what is he, then?