I’ve always said that I would never go to a reunion, but there I was, in a restaurant on a foggy December evening in Nijmegen. I had travelled from the West of England to my birthplace in the Netherlands to be among my classmates from primary school. The boys (and two girls) of more than forty years ago.
Here in Malmesbury, the place where I’ve been living for a week or two, nothing much happens apart from the fact that the first person who was eaten by a tiger in Great Britain (in 1703) is buried here. The odd thing is that I, a dyed-in-the-wool city person, really like it.
Instalment 57: This Ash Wednesday, in the Good Shepard church, a queue of hatted ladies crawls towards Reverend Uncle Peer.
I’m going to exchange London for the English countryside. The type of area that organises competitions for growing the biggest vegetables.
Instalment 56: Miss Tempelman asks the children to take a pencil in their left hand and use it to draw a picture of God.
Recently, when I had forty minutes to spare and was smoking a cigar outside Brussels South railway station, I thought: these are not the most wonderful of surroundings. In other words, quite a few oddballs were hanging around, but a relaxing cigar is enjoyable.
Only £10 just for today – a saving of £2.99
My apologies to Dutch readers. This time, it’s a very British subject. Read on at your own risk. My apologies also to British readers. It’s a very British subject and I’m a Dutchman living in England, so read on at your own risk.
At one time I was a very traditional boy. I was a senator in the cadet corps of the Royal Military Academy (Dutch acronym KMA) and in my spare time I wore a blazer with the KMA emblem. And I had put my para wing on my pyjamas and swimming trunks.
Instalment 55: Around 3 o’clock Axel’s father disappears into his shed with his son’s bike, stubbornly staying silent.
Instalment 54: The ‘I’m not talking’ campaign launched by Axel’s father from his TV chair on Christmas Eve, is only being interrupted by granny Reuser.
I had wanted to write about a course in Humming-at-Important-Moments. Imagine: you are the PM and you’ve just announced you’re resigning; you point towards the building behind you, which will be occupied by someone else tomorrow, and what do you do next? You walk over the threshold humming a tune.
Instalment 53: On the morning of his eighteenth birthday Alex discovers a bright red parcel next to his bed.
‘Bow Tie’ had already warned me. Bow Tie is a man of about eighty years, and I’ve nicknamed him Bow Tie after his ever-present bow tie. Every Saturday, he comes to our stall on Portobello Market for a chat. He talks to many of the stallholders. He has been a market trader himself.
I am one of the three million citizens from the European continent who live and work in your country. I’m not allowed to cast my vote in the referendum, but your country is the one I prefer to live in.
Instalment 52: The thick smoke from Reverend Uncle’s Hofnar cigar has finally reached the booth space of the rented VW Beetle. Axel has been sitting there for hours wedged between the fishing rods and live fishing bait.
I have to admit that, to kill time, I regularly watch Come Dine with Me (the way others go fishing). And I also watch its spin-off Couples Come Dine with Me. The programme consists of ‘ordinary’ people going for dinner in each other’s homes and, in addition, rating it. The winner receives £1000.
‘Doctor, I’m an Anglophile, do you think that’s dangerous?’ Every time I visit my GP I’m tempted to ask this question. But, at this practice, you keep seeing a different doctor. The last one I saw was called Georgios, and I don’t think Georgios would get my question.
Instalment 51: Clouds like orange candy floss float over the Sacred Heart Statue on Temps Square. A giant copper-green Saviour watches over Axel…
Instalment 50: The last night freight train changes track, grating mercilessly, on the
railway near the 2nd Daalsedyke and it wakes up Axel from a sweaty
half-sleep on his grubby green IKEA futon.
As you may know, every Saturday I’m on Portobello market with the Holland Park Press bookstall, and I don’t want to keep from you what happened there last week.
In the past few days my knee has been giving me trouble, which means that, at the moment, I’m leading the life of a partial cripple. Yesterday, I caught myself muttering: ‘I’m a bit like the EU.’
Instalment 49: During the Introit, the crippled sacristan, rubbing his hands, separates the sea of children who are making their First Communion, in the midst of it, the top of Axel’s head is bobbing up and down.
We were on our way from London to Rochester by train. ‘It’s something different, this UKIP safari,’ I said to my travel companion. And after this, as Rochester station loomed large, I added in a David-Attenborough-like whisper: ‘I believe I’ve spotted two of the species. They’re males.’
Proverbs and expressions are tricky to translate. This is a great commercial opportunity: a Dutch–English dictionary of proverbs and expressions.
Instalment 48: On their way, Reverend Uncle Peer had to leave his mitre with a waitress in the Crowned Cock, but…
I’m 53, and my first relationship, which lasted about as long as WW2, has just broken up. It sounds like the opening line of a novel.
Instalment 47: While the dental nurse, dressed in a harsh pink trouser suit with a wide white belt and platform shoes, takes him to the dentist chair, Axel left fist tightly grips Virgil Tracey, the Thunderbird 2 pilot.
People from the Netherlands regularly ask me if I think the UK will leave the EU. The date for the referendum still has to be set, but already they sound concerned when they ask me the question. Others sound a bit sarcastic when they pose this question, as if to say: ‘Well, in that case we’ll be better off without them.’
A last poem by David Ayres which was read at his cremation service on 29 January 2016
Instalment 46: The sign board of Balkan grill Boro shows two hot-headed chefs who are out to kill each other with shashlik skewers.
Pantomime is one of the best kept secrets in Britain. Dutch readers may well think it’s like the mime (in Dutch: ‘pantomime’!) which was a recurring interval act during the big TV variety shows of the 1960s and 1970s, in which a mime artist wordlessly performed actions such as placing hands against an invisible window. In our house this was the signal for a toilet break.
Spreekwoorden en gezegden zijn lastig te vertalen. Het is een gat in de markt: een woordenboek NL/ENG, uitsluitend voor spreekwoorden en gezegden.