Saturday, November 15, 2008


Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands, just in time to save everybody for a brief moment from economic misery and the expectation of difficult times ahead. He arrived this morning in Almere Harbor, applauded by numerous dutch children and their parents. A nationwide broadcast event. Sinterklaas can be considered the great-grandfather of Santa. His birthday is december 5th and that day dutch children are given presents by the bishop considered to be a protector of children. All the same his birthday is a very serious event. Economically in the first place. Lots of money is being spent in his name. Besides that it seems to have an importace as a kind of nation-defining event. If Sinterklaas arrives in town (as he does in every dutch town and village) he is traditionally received by the mayor and lots of families eager tho see the "kindervriend". Any mayor that happily concedes his own importance to Sinterklaas, for on that day Sinterklaas is the most important person in town. He's a kind, fatherly and very sensible man, almost untouchable by his enormous age. The kind of father-figure the dutch like looking up to; the kind they have been lacking lately. It's kind of instructive, just watching what's happening. It reveals something of dutch society in public not easily to be seen at other times. Each year the same little play is enacted. Dutch parents take their children to see something they have been watching with their parents. It's kind of odd, to see all these serious-minded dutch adults, in a big conspiracy aimed at tricking their children into the conviction, this old bishop really exists and will be riding the rooftops of their houses, to drop little gifts for them down the chimney. When Sinterklaas arrives, everyone sets aside their problems for a moment. Not only dutch children. You can bet his arrival was very welcome to all dutch, in these dire economical times. Deluding yourself a few days a year turns out to be a sensible way of surviving, not just in the late dark autumn of 2008.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Writer's block.

I left this blog two years ago. Don't ask me why. I do feel a little embarassed about it. I seemed to have run into a writers block; an old habit of mine. Just when things seem to be going nicely, i run out of breath, out of subjects to write about and lacking the required discipline to continue nevertheless. Let's have a look at my accomplishments so far. A rather diverse collection of subjects. No coherent view of dutch reality, which was part of what I was aiming at. So I was a little disappointed. I had hoped for more. Who was to blame? Me, myself and I; in the first place. If the writer doesn't have a coherent view he's the only one to blame. Developing something like that is not an easy mission. Despite its small size, as seen from a european scale, dutch society is complex, diverse and fractured. There are globalists and stiff-lipped calvinist provincials; both groups as dutch as can be. A blog that would matter, would have to take all of them into account. It would have to go beyond daily news, trying to make sense of the invisible undercurrent. It seems a huge task; maybe something more fitting for a novelist than for a parttime blogwriter, preoccupied with all kinds of other things. And yes, these are excuses, and in the end not all that relevant. If you want to be a blog-writer, there's really only one thing you have to do.. write.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Stay Sober; Have a Beer

Where alcohol is concerned the dutch population can be divided in two sub-classes. The ones that drink and the ones that don't. Don't know much about the actual percentages, but my gut feeling tells me a majority of the adult population is dtinking alcohol. If you remember the breezer discussion, you are perfectly entitled to think a lot of minors are using it too, but thats not what i'm trying to deal with here. I wanted to share some thoughts about a subdivison in the alcohol drinking adult population. Subdividing is possible here too. I am focusing on the ones who drink beer and the ones who drink wine. There is a crowd which foregoes both, but thats another post. I am not talking about the people who use all of it either. These people usually fall into the category of alcoholics. Back to beer and wine. The dutch have been beerdinkers for ages. Wine is a recent addendum to dutch drinking pattern. Wine consumption figures have soared. But beer is still the beverage of choice for most dutch. It's affordable, wonderful on a hot summer day and you don't have to teach yourself a foreign language be able to read the label. Wine used to be something for the very wealthy, the dutch nobility; nowadays the middle-classes are drinking it too in a futile attempt to elevate themselves. As you might guess; I'm not really the wine drinking type. I like a white wine on a sunny afternoon, but that's about as far as it goes. The rest of the time I turn my back on elevating myself. My adage: stay sober, have a beer!