Dec 30, 2009


Dutch New Year celebrations started officially yesterday morning, with the legal sale of fireworks in Holland. Legally, they must not be let off before 10 a.m. on the 31st Dec.; but unrealistically, billions of bangers, rockets and other heart jumping noisy explosives, are now in the hands of millions of over-excited Dutch youth.

So, since I am not allowed to leap out, screeching bloodcurdlingly (and brandishing my broomstick) onto the backs of our local youth - and physically remove their fireworks from them when they let them off right under my windows (!) - that just leaves the following:

Check list:
Wheelie bins under cover.
Letter box sealed shut.
Last minute shopping done.
All windows closed.
Monitor the dog's pulse and respiration.

A friend's German Shepherd mix is staying with me, while her 'mam' holidays in Dubai - and she is cowering on top of my feet. She has been there for almost the last 24 hours and my feet are numb. Toasty, but numb.

This poor dog is my greatest concern; what with all the smoke and noise coming from the street she is a nervous wreck, so I have created an elaborate, 'escape' route, out of my scullery door (mine is the only residence on the ground floor - a sort of granny flat) and into a small enclosed back passage. Then out through another door into the main hall, past the lift and out through the electronic back doors onto a large cul-de-sac of grass and trees - and from there it is just a couple of minutes mad dash across the grass, around a corner, across a road and into a large wooded park, where an 'off lead' area for our four footed friends, offers sanctuary. Phew!

After a bit of a run, I will put her back on the lead and since the local New Year's bonfire is being built further up in the park, we will then proceed the opposite way, past monuments and duck filled ponds, towards an area of high prickly bushes - to relax and sniff at rabbit holes. (The dog, not me (!) I gave up rabbit hole sniffing years ago...). It seems to soothe the dog's nerves and the local rabbits are apparently used to us now, since they don't bolt anymore.
I just hope that these cute, seemingly unafraid bunnies - and the local tame ducks - have the sense to bolt and hide from the growing swarms of kids armed with thousands of 'bombs': i.e, bangers that get louder and more dangerous every year... *shudder*..
Because some of them really are like small bombs. Obtained illegally from Belgium and smuggled into the Neths. I saw two of them blow a couple of impressive holes in the tarmac outside a party in Amsterdam, a couple of years ago.

Happy New Year everyone - and be safe! And that goes for your pets and the local wild life too.


Dec 5, 2009


Its that day of the year again in The Netherlands. Santa Claus is coming – or as the Dutch call him; 'Sintaklaas'.

Yes, that’s right, in Holland, Hollanda, Pays Bas, The Neths., little and grown up kids everywhere, are paid a visit by St. Nikolaas the 'good holy man', sometime during the evening of December 5th. – which also happens to be ‘the Sints’ birthday.

Bishop Nicholas of Myra, Turkey, as he originally was - except that little Dutch children are told that he now lives in Spain - travels to Holland every year towards the end of November in his steamboat; accompanied by his piebald horse 'Amerigo' and a bevy of 'Zwarte Pieten' or Moorish helpers. (Except, I have had this nagging suspicion - ever since seeing black make up on the Chief Piet's ruff (aha!) - that they are not real Moores, but rather a large group of Dutch chappies, with their faces painted black and dressed in brightly coloured silk knickerbockers and jackets, with black hose and a jaunty feather in their hats). But whoever they are, these Pieten will then dance through the streets of Holland and into the shops, throwing handfuls of sweets and pepernoten - pepper nuts - at throngs of delighted, excited children.

In the lead up to Dec. 5th. - the kids may periodically place one of their shoes on the window ledge of their bedrooms, or by the fireplace if they have one, complete with a carrot for Amerigo - and one of the Pieten will ..er.. break into the house, take the carrot and leave a small token gift in the shoe.

But December the 5th. is the really Big Day (!) - and I have been invited to share in this one, at my youngest daughter’s house this evening, where we will wait for that loud knocking on the windows and ringing on the doorbell, that will announce that Sint and his Pieten have galloped by and left a huge box of presents outside the front door..!!
Except that Grandma will not be in the room, because she will have left just a minute before to ‘spend a penny’ (darn this old bladder!) and after carrying what will seem like a whole toyshop, on tiptoe, out of the shed and placing it by the front door and banging on the windows and ringing the bell, will have just made it back into the downstairs toilet - a split second before…

‘Presents! Presents!’ The kiddies will burst from the sitting room into the hall, eyes and mouths wide and almost wetting their own pants with excitement…!
‘Oh, how wonderful!’ Mama will chant, opening the front door to a ton of brightly wrapped packages.
‘Yaaay!’ Grandma will manage, feebly, hobbling after them and wincing at pulled muscles.
‘You forgot to throw the pepper nuts around,’ Mama will hiss.
‘Oh h*ll’, I'll mutter, reaching into the hall cupboard and belatedly and surreptitiously chucking handfuls of the things, into the box of toys and all over the front door step.

And when the gifts are gathered in, we’ll sit by a roaring log fire with a glass of something deep red and delicious or brown and fizzy and devour plates of ‘lekker’s: i.e., tasty nibbles on sticks and chocolates and crisps etc.. and dole out the presents and count our blessings and try and build up some energy for December the 25th…and Christmas Eve, when the 'Kerstman' or rather, Father Christmas/Santa Claus (?) will be coming to Holland from Lapland (?)with his little elf helpers and dropping down the chimney and leaving a bunch of presents under the tree.. and oh yes, this fat, jolly, ho-ho-ho-ing (Coca-cola) fellow is a completely different chap to Bishop St. Nicholas of December 5th…. (er, isn't he....?)

Confused? You me both and every kid and adult in the Neths.! But who cares? Better to just go with the flow…. it’s expensive … but after all, isn't that what the next 11 months are for? To save up...?
Ho-Ho-Ho! Merry December 5th.!!!!