Fri
29 Aug

Sailing The Dutch Sea

The following is a dramatic re-enactment of how I spent part of my holiday.

It is day two of our voyage across the Waddenzee. We are returning from a small island just off the coast of Friesland that we discovered the day before. I have decided to call this island Vlieland (because that is what it is called). We are sailing back with the many exotic and wondrous goods that we discovered on this tiny island (in the small harbour shop). Even though we only departed from its shores a short while ago land already seems like a distant memory and I wonder if I will ever see it again (within the three hours of estimated travel time).

Communicating with my fellow crew mates has proved to be a challenge. I am the only Englishmen on board and I find myself surrounded by a crew of Dutch and German men and women. However, over time we eventually found a way to understand each other (they all spoke English to me).

I am now accepted by the Germans who insist that I join them for a traditional drink of beer (at eleven in the morning). Likewise I have been accepted by the Dutch (who are all my family-in-law and already know what I am like anyway).

Through our fragmented conversations I am able to piece together that there is talk of a traitor on board, a would-be mutineer, someone who has eaten all the wine gums out of the Haribo Star Mix and left only the drop. No one on board knows who the guilty party is yet but the accusations have already started. I remain silent and nervously push the remaining wine gums deeper into my pocket in the hope that my confectionary based guilt goes un-noticed. I do not wish to walk the plank.

Luckily for me there are bigger concerns occupying the minds of the crew and our captain. We have sailed directly in to a storm, an ever present danger during the Dutch summer months. The boat lurches (slightly) from side to side as we attempt to navigate the treacherous sandbanks that lay hidden just beneath the surface of the water. No one says anything. We have all heard the stories of those poor souls unfortunate enough to run afoul of these dangerous obstacles and become stranded on them, lost forever (until they were safely towed back to open water or until high tied came along). We can all hear sand scrapping across the bottom of the hull as we get too close. No one says anything but we all fear we might be next.

Waves crash against the side of the old ship and salty sea water sprays over our waterproof jackets (which most of us have bought especially for this trip). Wearing shorts suddenly seems like a bad idea.

Even without the dangers of the storm conditions on board are harsh. We have been forced to leave behind the comforts and luxuries of life on land. Life at sea requires a tougher resolve but some of us are having trouble adapting than others. Out on the open sea we only have a 3G network connection, not the fully high speed 4G connection we are all used to. Without a fast connection to Twitter or Facebook I fear that it is only a matter of time before cabin fever sets in and we all lose our minds to the sea.

Some of the crew are already talking about areas of sea where there is no network connection at all. I pray that we do not find ourselves in such bedevilled waters.

We sail on. Towards land. Towards Friesland. Towards hope. Towards the harbour we left so long ago yesterday. With any luck we just might make it (before I run out of dry clothes).

At Sea
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Wed
16 Jul
Categories: Cartoons
Dutch Barbecue
This cartoon first appeared in the July/August edition of DUTCH:The Magazine
……

It’s time once again for the annual Invading Holland summer break. I’ll be taking a short break from writing to rest, recharge, catch up on a few things and spend some extra time with the family. But fear not; in a few weeks I will return to share more of my crazy adventures in Holland.

Until then, have a great summer and see you all again soon.

As always you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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Tue
8 Jul

Football Supporter

“COME ON!”

I had spent the last ten minutes shouting similar words of frustration at the Dutch football team each time they had kicked the ball at the goal in front of them only to miss, have it blocked or bounce it off a goal post.

“YOU’RE SO CLOSE!”

I was not shouting these words at them directly of course. It wasn’t as if I was sitting next to the coach in the stadium (even though he seemed to be shouting similar words in Dutch). In reality I was sitting next to my beloved Dutch wife, in our front room, shouting at the Dutch team via our television. It didn’t seem to be helping much, probably because they could not actually hear me. My wife seemed deeply amused by my actions nether the less.

“And I thought you were not that into football that much,” she says with a sly smirk.

It is true. Normally I have no interest in football at all. In fact, under normal circumstances I have about as much interest in football as most people have in the study of agricultural crop rotation. I just seem to get sucked into it when the world cup starts, more and more each time… Although I still was not going to admit that I have no clue what the outside rule means, especially to my wife who is the football expert of the house.

“Yeah… Well… I’m not but this game is really tense,” I offer as a shorter explanation as I sit there wearing my orange t-shirt and little Dutch flags painted on my cheeks. Maybe she has a point. Maybe I do get a little too enthusiastic for someone who claims to have no interest what so ever in football.

But I am quickly distracted once more as the Dutch team suddenly gets the ball again and starts running like crazy towards the other team’s goal as if they just stole the dinner of a particular hungry, fast moving pack of wolves.

“YA!”

The ball is suddenly kicked and it sails through the air towards the goal.

“YA! YA!”

The members of the defending team try desperately to knock it off course. Each one of them fails. The ball continues its journey towards the goal until…

“YA… COME ON! COME ON!”

… it bounces harmlessly off a goal post and flies off in a random direction.

“NEEEEEEEEEE!”

“You do know you’re not actually Dutch right?” My wife asks, just to make sure. I get the impression that she is no longer watching the game and is instead transfixed by my out of character football enthusiasm.

“England is already out. I have no one else to support. Don’t take this away from me.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………
Read more Confessions of a Non Football Supporter
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Mon
30 Jun

Dutch Celebration

1) The country’s economy gets a sudden boost from the sales of any product containing the colour orange.

2) All products that can be make orange, will be orange.

3) In addition, food that really should not be orange suddenly becomes orange anyway.

4) As the special event draws closer the amount of orange increases until it reaches critical mass. This makes the use of orange camouflage a realistic and necessary tactic for any foreign country planning to invade during the celebrations.

5) There is no alcohol left anywhere in Holland. The only option is to cross the border to Belgium if you want a drink.

6) You suddenly become aware of Dutch music being played ever where you go (and a lot of Dutch people singing along to it very, very loudly).

7) It seems as if every man, woman and child living within the Netherlands is trying to fit into the same public space because it has a television providing live coverage.

8) Car horns can suddenly be heard sounding over the entire country despite a lack of traffic jams.

9) The Dutch let go of the fact that their country is called The Netherlands simply so that they can say ‘Hup Holland Hup’ (unless they really are only supporting the West province of the country).

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Wed
11 Jun

Dutch Liquorice Drop

There is something slightly sadistic about Dutch liquorish (known as Dutch drop). If you’ve never experienced its unique taste it can look quite innocent. After all, what reason would you have to suspect that it would taste any different from the liquorish you are familiar with in your own country.

The Dutch seem to like it too. In fact, they consume more liquorice per year (2000 grams each) than any other country in the world. How bad can it be?

But this is why Dutch drop is evil. It subtlety lulls you into a false sense of security that it might taste quite nice.

And maybe, just maybe, you get lucky. Maybe you get one of the nice flavours of Dutch Drop… But probably not, because when you encounter it for the first time it’s probably because you’ve just been offered one of the more ‘popular’ flavours by a Dutch person.

For a brief moment, just before the flavour hits you, you might notice the slightly odd way the Dutch person seems to be ‘observing’ you, the way they seem to be studying your every expression as if they are planning to take scientific notes. By the time you realize this means something is wrong it is already too late.

Suddenly the taste takes hold…

Everything in your being tells you that this taste is wrong. That it should not be. What mad man would have created such a thing? Your taste buds cry out in objection or fear (or both) as the taste spreads father around your mouth. Suddenly you just want it to end, for the flavour to go away. But even when you spit it out the flavour still remains. It won’t go away. Will it ever go away? Why is this happening? Why? Oh god why?

Suddenly you realize with horror that this was done to you on purpose. You were offered this god forsaken taste for the amusement of the Dutch person sitting across from you. They wanted to see your reaction to it. They knew you would not be able to handle it. No foreigner can. Perhaps the fact that they started filming you with their phone should have been a warning. The Dutch can be sadistic sometimes too.

Taste – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly:
Taste wise the salty drop is one of the worst offenders. It has a very extreme taste. In fact, it is as if the makers of salty Dutch drop had a bet to see how much salt they could add to the recipe before someone died (and then reduced it only slightly when someone finally did). They are probably the same people who thought mint and salt would make a good liquorish combination too.

It is true that there is nice tasting drop (I know this because my Dutch wife once forced it upon me to make a point). Drop comes in many varieties. There is hard drop, soft drop, chewy drop, sweet drop, salty drop, powered drop, Engelse drop (English), honingdrop (honey), muntdrop (mint) and much more. However, this only makes things worse. If there was only the extreme tasting drop like Dubbel Zout (double salt) expats would only be caught out the once and know to stay away forever. However, since there is nice tasting drop out there it creates false hope that the little black sweet you are about to put in your mouth might be ok. It might be one of the nice ones. Then before you know it you’ve let your guard down and… *BAM* You’ve been caught out again!

Drop in Disguise:
Perhaps this is also why the Dutch have attempted to make drop look more friendly by disguising it in a variety of shapes from simple squares, circles and diamonds to coins, windmills, cats, little cars, bee hives and beyond. Anything to make them look more ‘fun’ and less like committing taste bud suicide.

And as if to disguise them even further the makers of Dutch Drop will often mix their product in with a bag of other sweets. Many expats and tourists have been caught out by this when they were buying what they thought was an innocent bag of wine gums. Usually they solve this problem by only eating the wine gums and then ‘giving’ the remaining bag of drop to their partner (as I often do with my wife).

Maybe this is why the Dutch took it one step farther. Wine gum and liquorish combined!! Half drop! Half wine gum! The Frankenstein’s monster of the confectionery world.

Dutch Fruit Drop Duo

This has not deterred those desperate for wine gums from only eating half of each sweet. However, this is very risky as it brings with it a high risk of ‘contamination’. Plus, your partner will appreciate it even less when you try to give them the bag of leftovers.

A Final Warning:
So, in closing, always approach Dutch drop with caution. Always identify the type of drop before putting it in your mouth. Always avoid anything with the word ‘zout’ in the title. Only accept drop from trusted family and friends (after you have done a full background check on them).

And finally, never, ever accept drop from a grinning Dutch person. It’s a trap.

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