12 June 2013

Tulips, Cheese and a Dutchman called God

A Dutch friend of mine sent me this image by email today. The picture is of a tulip field in a place called Lisse in the Netherlands. 

It is pretty spectacular.

My Dutch friend's name is Godewyn but I used to call him God for short. 

We all did and I still do. 

He would constantly correct us and tell us to pronounce it 'Gode' - but we much preferred God. God is a Banker who used to live here in Singapore and he is as mad as a cut snake. He has a Harvard education which he harps on about that no-one cares too much. Harvard is just one of many schools and Oxford or Cambridge or Sydney University would impress us more. God returned to Europe earlier this year but not to the Netherlands. 

God now lives in London.

God did not take this picture and I am not sure where he got it from. He often sends me random pictures of scenes of Holland. He has sent me several pictures of windmills before as well as images of cheese and clogs. I have asked him to stop but he persists. I have pondered acts of retaliation by sending him pictures of kangaroos and koala bears but I simply couldn't be bothered.

Many Dutch people are quite mad - like God. 

When I was a lot younger I spent quite a bit of time in Holland. I spent most of my time in Amsterdam but I wandered around the Dutch countryside as well. I was traveling and was just meandering about the world during this period of my life.

I recall sitting at outdoor cafes and getting great pleasure from watching the Dutch lunatics riding their bicycles past and walking the streets. Holland had and still does have a very liberal policy on the use of recreational drugs and I suspect that this is a contributing factor to the madness. My time in the Netherlands was very entertaining and I have many good and happy memories of the country and the people.

The legalization of recreational drugs in Holland is tied to a very Dutch concept they call "gedoogbeleid"

It is as difficult to pronounce as it is to spell. 

My spell-check function on my laptop computer has gone into a frenzy of rejection of it. 

When I try and say "gedoogbeleid" it gets stuck in my throat. 

There is no direct or literal translation of the term "gedoogbeleid" but it pretty much means that ‘we-don't-really-give-a-shit-because-there-are-bigger-things-to-worry-about’. There are bigger things to worry about for the Netherlands is a very flat and geographically low lying country. Approximately 20% of its total area and its population are located below sea level. More than half of its land is situated less than one meter above the current sea level. This is in fact the origin of the country's name for the Netherlands translates to 'low country'.

Such low lying land has made the Netherlands exceptionally prone to flooding and an enormous series of dykes have been constructed to protect it from being overwhelmed and consumed by the sea. A dyke is an artificial wall that is constructed to hold back water. The Americans refer to these constructs as levees and in Australia we call them dams.

A dyke is also a derogatory term for a lesbian. 

Dam is a slightly rude word that is the equivalent to saying ‘buggar’. 

Levee is just another made-up American word of no real consequence.

The construction of dykes and sea walls in the Netherlands commenced in the 1950's and it continues to this day. It is known as the "Delta Project". The project consists of more than 3,000 kilometers of outer sea-dykes and 10,000 kilometers of canal and river dykes. The Delta project is one of the modern engineering marvels of the world. 

It really is.

Irrespective of these massive barriers - the predictions of rising sea levels due to climate change place the Netherlands in great peril and their country could well be consumed by the sea in next century or even sooner. It is no wonder the Dutch don't give a "gedoogbeleid" about smoking a little reefer or woofing down the odd magic mushroom or space cake.

Drowning is a much bigger concern for them.

There is a very famous story which includes a tale of a little Dutch boy who uses a finger to plug a hole in a leaking dyke to save his village from being flooded. I remember this story from when I was a very small child. Interestingly the tale was written by an American author and her name was Mary Mapes Dodge. The story was first published in 1865 in a book called 'The Silver Skates". The tale of the little boy who puts his finger in the dyke is incidental and it is not the major theme. The main story is about a character named Hans Brinkler and his endeavor to win a pair of silver skates in a speed ice skating competition in his village. 

Not many people recollect this though. 

We all seem to remember the little boy with his finger in the dyke.

Dick Van Dyke was an American comedic actor who I mostly associate now with alcoholism. I assume that he has Dutch ancestry. Two of my favorite childhood films were 'Mary Poppins' and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' in which Dick starred. He was apparently wasted throughout the filming of both movies.

He was hammered.

I recall watching a documentary that was made about his struggle with alcoholism when I was in high school. 

It was very graphic and moving.

When I think of Holland I think of clogs, bicycles, dykes, cheese, fluffy little pancakes called poffertjes, sprinkles on bread, pickled herring, prostitutes in shop windows, dope, tulips and windmills - and God of course. 

My Dutch Banker friend.

Not the deity.

Much of what I associate with Holland is bizarre and it triggers recollections of the madness of the place and the people. I have very fond memories of my time in Amsterdam and traveling to the Dutch countryside. I went to many little villages that were famous for their cheese and I attended quite a few very strange cheese festivals where locals would dress up in traditional costumes and prance around with enormous balls of cheese.

There was much thigh slapping and dancing and whooping about village squares in a celebration of cheese. It is indicative of the lunacy of the place.

Here is a picture of a Dutch cheese festival:

I also remember being quite taken with my first Dutch breakfast - way back when I was a traveling teen. I awoke quite hung-over on my first morning on a houseboat in Amsterdam and I was served coffee in a huge bowl without any handle, some hunks of cheese, a few pieces of dried salted meats and some slices of bread topped with colorful sprinkles.

The Dutch like putting sprinkles on their bread and toast for their breakfast. You know the type - we used to serve it up for little children at birthday parties. We called them 'hundreds and thousands' in Australia and we referred to it as 'fairy bread'. Dutch adults love it for their breakfast and they call it "hagelslag". When I told God that I thought that hagelslag" was a strange and childish thing for adults to have for their breakfast he swore at me in a guttural Dutch fashion. 

God did this quite often and I liked it a lot.

I kind of miss it.

I once asked God why the people of Holland are called Dutch and I told him that it would seem more appropriate to refer to them as Hollanders. God informed me that it was the English who in fact referred to them as such and that the Dutch refer to themselves as "Duutsc" and they call their German neighbors "Duits".

When God spoke of Germans he spat their names out with some contempt and he also called them "Modderfokkers"

The Dutch don't like the Germans.

I think it is a World War Two thing.

It has been nice reminiscing about Holland and the Dutch and for this I thank God.

My Banker friend.

Not the deity.

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