As someone who is learning to speak Dutch I have learned to accept that there will be times when my attempts to speak the language will not go quite as I had plan and that there are other times when it will ‘really’ not go as I had plan. One such example happened recently during a dinner party my girlfriend and I were hosting for two friends, Marjolein and Marije. During the dinner we spoke Dutch and I like to think I did a fairly good job of keeping up with the conversation and taking part. However… After dinner I made an unplanned slip up which I am constantly reminded about.
After I had helped my girlfriend take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen she asked me, “Wil je de tafel schoonmaken.”
I understood, nodded to her request to clean the table and walked back into the front room armed with a cleaning cloth.
Upon approaching the table Marjolein informed me, “Ik heb het gedaan.”
I thanked her for informing me that she had already cleaned the table and returned to the kitchen with unused cleaning cloth in hand.
“Dat was snel,” my girlfriend commented upon my quick return to the kitchen.
I grinned happily like a kid about to show off his new Dutch language skills and announced loudly, “Marjolein heb ik gedaan.”
The grin lasted 1.5 seconds and ended around the time my girlfriend suddenly shouted, “What?!”
I quickly ran the words that had just come out of my mouth back through my brain and realized that I had just announced that I had ‘done’ Marjolein.
My attempts to quickly correct my mistake by shouting, “Nee, de tafel, de tafel.” (table) probably added to the imagery by implying that I had done her on the table rather then it being the table that she had ‘done’ (in a non-sexual sense).
“That was quick,” my girlfriend simply repeated again, this time in English with a smirk. The shocked look she had given me upon my false confession had been fake of course because (like I would have done) she was planning to milk my language slip up for its entire comic worth. She followed it with a request to her friends that they stop ‘doing’ her boyfriend.
I have not been allowed to forget this language slip up since and I always have to be careful at dinner parties that I don’t accidentally ‘do’ anyone linguistically.
This is not an easy thing for me to do but we need to talk about our relationship. This is why I am writing you this letter.
I accepted early on that I would have to share you with other people and sometimes it would be standing room only. I knew that you wanted to be treated first class but I could only afford second. We made it work back then but lately I feel that there is a distance between us.
At times when I think things seem to be going well you suddenly redirect your attention via another station. I try to understand where you are coming from and listen to where you are going but I am finding it harder and harder to relate to you. It’s like I don’t know who you are anymore. We’ve lost that connection we once had.
I know our relationship has changed over the years. I’ve changed where I want to go in life and you have changed your timetable. Sometimes the two are not compatible but I’ve always tried to make it work, I’ve always find other routes.
But then late last night you stood me up at Rotterdam central when I needed you the most. To make matters worse you wouldn’t communicate with me and tell me what was wrong. Later, when you finally did opened up a little you announced that you had issues between Den Haag HS and Schiedam but didn’t want to talk about it any further. I felt like you were shutting me out. I tried to ask how long you thought it would take you to work through your issues but you told me to check your website for further updates on the situation.
And so… I waited for you and I did not say anything else.
This morning you did your best to hide the events from last night and put on a happy face. I didn’t want to say anything but I could tell that whatever had happened the night before had affected you more deeply then you were willing to admit. When I couldn’t stay quite about it anymore I tried to ask you what was wrong you simply shut down again and dismissively suggested I take the bus.
I think it is time we both admit it. This is not working out. You obviously have a lot of your own issues to deal with. I don’t seem to be a priority to you anymore and that hurts. I think it’s just best if we end it and try to go our own separate ways.
But if you are ever ready, if you ever sort out all your issues… I’ll still be here, waiting for you, on spoor 8.
This photo was taken in the American Book Center on Spui. The crime section had become a crime scene after an argument over the last copy of Baantjer’s latest book got slightly out of hand. The investigation has concluded from the body’s position that the victim still tried to grab the paperback even during his final moments. Police are calling it the strongest book recommendation they have ever seen.
Have you ever done something on an impulse and never thought about the repercussions until it is too late? On Thursday I did just that. On Thursday I bought a mop.
I know this hardly sounds like earth shattering news. In fact it probably sounds like the only possible repercussion of buying a mop is that I would have to mop something such as a floor. However, while I was standing in Blokker and handing over 15 euros for the new floor cleaning device I forgot to take into account that I cycle to work from the train station. I remembered this fact later when I was standing outside my office, looking at my two wheeled transport with fresh new mop in one hand and bike keys in the other at the end of the day.
This provided a unique challenge. A unique challenge for me anyway since I am English and don’t have the super human like Dutch ability to carry anything and everything with me as I cycle. I thought about it for a moment and decided I was going to give it a go anyway.
What followed was what I can only describe as a jousting charge through the streets of Amsterdam which made me feel like shouting out loud, “Cycle men! Cycle casually into battle! Cycllleeeeeee!,” as I led the imaginary charge of my imaginary army.
The streets of Amsterdam are no longer safe.
Tourists jumped out of the way for fear of a drive by buffing, cats hissed at me as I passed and speed bumps presented an interesting balancing challenge which almost made me crash twice. I still had to stop from trams though since I doubted they would be intimidated by my mop.
Can’t challenge a tram…
…but that cyclist is going to get it!
Despite all these obstacles I made it successfully to central station and locked my mighty steed into the bike racks. I tried to do a cool victory spin with the mop and almost smacked myself in the face. After making sure no one had noticed I made my way to the train with mop in hand.
During the train journey I must have looked like a lazy NS cleaner ignoring his responsibilities.