In English there is a name for the first decade of the new millennium: the Noughties. Did you know that in The Netherlands this poor decade goes nameless?
From time to time you meet one when walking down the street: a typical character for a novel. Often my attention is caught by the looks of the would-be persona. For example, I think someone has the face of a gravedigger and a story is born there and then.
Other times you realise that a relative or acquaintance has just the right attributes you’re looking for in this case it is not their looks but rather their character that interests me. I cannot wait until I can begin writing from their perspective.
It all began with images of the Cumbria floods. They made me want to explain how the Dutch deal with their surplus of water. In other words: a brief guide to the Dutch system for foreigners.
At the first sign of high winds, the Dutch react swiftly and order ‘Limited Dyke Watch’.
Prince Harry announced that he had gained a sister, something he had always wanted. This was the best quote of the day. On top of this he had made his mother’s engagement ring available to the happy couple. Prince Charles quipped that they had been practising long enough. His remark was just a bit vulgar and reminded me of his engagement to Diana.
His face made the headlines on TV and it was the first time I became aware of him. At first I thought they were announcing a repeat of the children’s TV series Catweazle, about the 11th century wizard who travels through time. Well, the man I saw on television certainly looked as though he had only just made his first acquaintance with electric lighting. However I wasn’t looking at Catweazle but instead it was my first glimpse of the new European president, Herman Van Rompuy!
I tried to explain to Big Bird this week: ‘The two figures who walked through the Brandenburg Gate were not Bert and Ernie.’ ‘Really?’ said Big Bird surprised, ‘but they very much looked like that couple.’ I had to explain to him that he had seen Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton. By coincidence they happened to be wearing the same type of clothes and hairdo.
I live in the small Dutch provincial town of A., about the same size as Reading. Nothing ever happens here. Late at night you will not find more than four cars waiting for the traffic lights on one of the main thoroughfares. Early on Sunday mornings the city centre is so deserted it resembles Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster.