23 May
Cycling Like a Dutchman

This cartoon first appeared in the May/June edition of DUTCH:The Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine for Dutch descendants and expats living in Canada.

16 May

Growing up in Holland

On my way back from having a few beers with friends I decided to pass by my old Amsterdam apartment. I’d been curious to see it again for a while.

As I cycled through the old neighbourhood and saw that much of the area had been torn down, rebuilt and renovated I suddenly felt myself getting nervous that my old apartment might no longer be there. What if it was gone?

But it was still there, looking as old and run down as ever. I was surprised by the level of nostalgia that hit me upon seeing it. I certainly had not lived there for long. Only three months in fact, back when I first arrived in the country 13 years ago.

It had not been an amazing apartment either. In fact it was badly run down and in desperate need of repair even back then but seeing it again made me feel happy as a flood of memories came back.

As I cycle back to the station I began to looked around me and suddenly noticed just how much Amsterdam had changed. There were parts that I couldn’t even remember how they used to look and some that I was happy to see had not changed at all.

Once again I was surprised by the nostalgia that this made me feel. Not because the nostalgia itself felt strange but because, in that moment, I suddenly felt more nostalgia here, in this city I had moved to when I was 21, than I sometimes feel when I return to my home country of England.

At first I wondered why I would feel this way but it did not take long for the answer to come to me.

I was 21 when I moved to Holland. I had not yet fully worked out who I was and what I was going to do with my life. I was taking my first steps of independence in a country I didn’t even know and of course I made a few mistakes and had to find my way.

I am 35 now. I have a wife and a child of my own. My goal and meaning in life are clear now.

I might have grown up in England but I ‘grew up’ in Holland. I became my own person in Holland. I think that tonight I suddenly realized, in some ways, Holland is now more my home than England. And I’m strangely ok with that.

Not because I have anything against England or that it has less of a place in my heart. It will always be my true home, I will always love it and I will always miss my parents. But Holland is the place where I really figured out who I am and grew into the person I am now.

And that is why the places along that personal journey, like that old run down apartment that I only lived in for those first three months feel so important to me.

That is why I felt so happy to see the old place still standing and looking as run down as ever.


This post was originally written sentence by sentence on Twitter. Only a few alterations and fixes have been made. At the time I was thinking about writing it down on paper first to get it just right but I knew that I had to get it committed somewhere (twitter) before I tried to put too much thought into it and analyse what I was feeling. Thanks for reading. I know it’s a big departure from my normal writing.

7 May

Shocked Englishman Cartoon

During my recent return visit to England I made a shocking discovery.

I was simply trying to enjoy some time off work and a chance to catch up with friends and family. I certainly was not attempting to uncover any dark or sinister secret but I found one anyway while looking through the cupboards in my parent’s kitchen. It’s not the kind of place you usually expect to make earth shattering discoveries but there it was, impossible to ignore, nestled between a jar of strawberry jam and peanut butter spread. I had been quite unprepared to encounter it.

A jar of Caramelized Biscuit Spread…

English Speculoos

At least that is what the label said but I knew what it really was. They might have changed the name but there was no mistaking its true identity. It seems that the highly addictive substance known as ‘Speculoos Sandwich Spread’ has found its way across the border and infiltrated my home country of England.

I can only assume that the name change was how it was able to enter the country un-noticed in such large quantities. It was a smart move. Although I am surprised that it worked since it is essentially like rebranding ‘cocaine’ as ‘harmless white powder’ so that it can be sold in the local super market.

I tried to raise the alarm with the local authorities but my warnings fell upon deaf ears (maybe they were already addicted). There was nothing I could do. No one would listen. I fear it will not be long before the whole of England is addicted. There may be no stopping it.

And then what will happen next? Is it only a matter of time before English shops start selling Hagelslag? Knapperige Hagels? Stroopwafels? Where will it end?

30 Apr

 Funny Quote

The following conversation took place during a drive back from London, after passing through a street with a great many speed bumps (something that England is famous for):

My mother
(From the back seat)
“Do you have speed bumps in Holland?”

My Dutch Wife
(From the passenger seat)
“Yes. Since we don’t have hills we need speed bumps, otherwise the country really would be completely flat.”

19 Apr


Koningsdag (Kingsday) is the day when the whole of the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of the Dutch King, Willem-Alexander. It is held on the 27th of April (or the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday). The day was previously known as Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) and was a celebration of Queen Juliana’s birthday on the 30th of April. This changed in 2013 when Queen Beatrix (daughter of Juliana) decided it was time to catch up on her DVD box sets and handed the family business over to her son, Willem-Alexander.

1) Everyone goes orange crazy (oranje gekte) to show their support for the Dutch family (The House of Orange). There are orange banners and decorations, orange coloured drinks and foods, orange dyed hair and lots and lots of orange clothes and crazy accessories. This makes it a particularly depressing day for anyone with orange colour blindness. Most of the time they probably don’t even know what is going on and just think it is a bit busy for some reason.

2) The streets become packed with people celebrating. Moving through cities such as Amsterdam in large groups becomes an impossible task. The current of the crowd is too strong and before you know it part of your group is washed up on Dam square while the other half is being dragged towards Museum Plein at a speed of 12 knots.

3) No matter how hard you try not to you will end up wearing beer, even if you are not drinking it yourself. It’s a side effect of inebriated people trying to carry more beer than they have fingers.

4) Underage drinkers will attempt to join in on the festivities by concealing the alcoholic drink of their choice within innocent looking fizzy pop drinks bottles. To them this is the height of deception and completely undetectable by even the greatest of minds. To the rest of us it is extremely obvious due to their loud giggling, singing, constant fighting over the contents of the bottle and the fact that Dr Pepper has suddenly become strangely fluorescent blue in colour.

5) Because of the vrijmarkt (free market) on Koningsdag the Dutch can and will gather all their unwanted belongs from their house, take them outside, dump them on the street and proceed in a desperate fashion to sell them for a few coins to any passers by using any means necessary. Crack addicts trying to score money for drugs have more subtlety and dignity.

6) Amongst the items usually available in the vrijmarkt it is still possible to find things such as 80’s aerobic workout VHS cassettes, top of the pops music cassette tapes, 2D game floppy disks and other discontinued entertainment media formats. It’s entirely possible that these items have been changing owners every King and Queen’s Day since 1985.

7) Dutch parents will force their children to sing, dance, juggle, mime, play musical instruments, recite poetry, re-enact Shakespeare or simply stand on their head for money in a way that has been outlawed by most third world countries.

8) Vondelpark in Amsterdam becomes a children’s market (a place where children sell their unwanted toys, not a place where parents sell their unwanted children). This makes it possible for parents to see all the money they spent on toys for the last 10 Sinterklaas pakjesavond get traded in for Pokemon cards.

9) Selling toys at the children’s market is a defining moment in every child’s life. It displays something of the kind of adult they will grow up to be. Will they be honest and generous or will they try to sell those free McDonald’s Happy Meal toys for 50 cents each?

10) By 7:00 the streets are empty once again because everyone is far too drunk to do anything. Crushed plastic beer glasses and unsold novelty items is all that remain like some kind of bizarre post apocalypse movie scene (possibly one about the zombie apocalypse at Glastonbury).

11) The madness of Kingsday is a farther proof that even the Dutch royal family dislike Dutch circle parties and will do anything to make sure their party is a lively one.