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Monday, 29 April 2013

Letters from the Netherlands: Marking my territory

Letters from the Netherlands: Marking my territory: I don’t blog for ages and now, all of a sudden, I don’t want to stop. I’m like the bus that doesn’t appear while you’re waiting at the bu...

Marking my territory

I don’t blog for ages and now, all of a sudden, I don’t want to stop. I’m like the bus that doesn’t appear while you’re waiting at the bus stop, then as soon as you decide to go home, three appear one after the other.

One, two, three, four, five buses 

The only difference is a bus takes you somewhere, whereas my blogs just leave you confused and wondering what the hell did I just read that for?

Today, while Mr Sunshine was locked away in his Masters tower I took Aflie to the forest. Nothing usual in that, you may think, and you’d be right. But, while I was on the way to the forest I was thinking (a dangerous occupation of late). 

I have this misapprehension that Aflie is quite possibly the best dog that ever lived. He certainly is the cutest, I’m not deluded about that and towards Mr Sunshine and I he is most definitely the most affectionate. He, also, performs magic (badly), keeps our feet warm while watching Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, and stands guard all night protecting us as we sleep (sort of).

Look into my eyes

So why does this perfect dog, insist on dragging me towards every object that stands at right angles to the ground between here and the forest?

Hey wait, no really wait - I missed one.

I’ve watched The Dog Whisperer, I’ve read several How to bring up a well behaved dog books, and I’ve been told countless times that the reason he gravitates towards and cocks his leg at: all lamp posts, bollards, and slow moving OAP’s on the five minute walk to the forest is that he’s marking his territory. I know this is a truth, and yet why then do I always get the feeling he’s leaving a trail so he can find his way home.
Please don't leave me

He’s like Gretel (Hansel’s sister)leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, only wetter, in case the wicked step-mother (me?) tries to leave him alone and friendless in the dark sinister forest.

Very sinister forest
When I look at the garden I’ve been creating here in the Netherlands I wonder if I’m not all that dissimilar to Aflie. I’m not suggesting I’ve been - knowingly - cocking my leg against the wheelie bin, or marking the drain pipe with my scent. (To be honest I couldn’t do it, although that being said, I’ve always felt a sneaky admiration for anyone that can. Especially if they can do it while standing on one leg and cocking the other.)

By creating our own patch of garden here in the Netherlands am I marking my territory? Am I announcing that this patch of Dutch soil is ours - enter at your peril. Or am I like Gretel, so afraid of being lost in a strange place that I’m creating little crumbs of Britain so that when the time comes I can remember how to find my way home?

Marking our territory

Friday, 26 April 2013

When is an expat less of an expat?

I often blog about life as an expat or more accurately mine and Mr Sunshine’s life as expats which, to be honest, is rarely the same as other people experiences.

Take the last six months for example. We buy a house, move in and begin to get to really understand our new home become less expats and more prospective Dutch. We learn the language, get to know our neighbours and explore the beautiful countryside. 

No wait, that was a dream I once had.

What actually happened was: we bought a new house and moved in, Mr Sunshine then decided to work while completing a certain teaching qualification and a Masters all in six months. Knowing that we would have no life outside the office I kept my head down and carried on with my Open University studies, finishing 7 weeks ahead of schedule.

I’m hoping that dream I had once is about to come true.

Mr Sunshine has almost finished his Masters so we’re, tentatively discussing long walks on Sundays, considering inviting the neighbours round for drinks, and I’ve sent off an application to join a Dutch language course.  Will this make us less expat-ish?

I hate to admit it, but I think the answer is no. We will always feel a little thrill when we see a tin of Heinz Baked Beans, and despite the inflated price drop a couple of tins in our basket. Mr Sunshine will never get used to the klein (small) glasses they serve larger in, and I will always gravitate towards dulcet tones of an English accent – especially Northern accents.

Yet, something has happened, there has been a change, I’ve made a connection to the Netherlands.

Not with the language, culture or even the countryside, but with the soil.

I spent days digging over rumble filled earth, weeks unearthing artefacts, and analysing the remains of the previous 100 years of habitation. 

100 hundred years of rubble

Back breaking double digging (Alfie was no help)
I’ve raked, levelled (I invented my own levelling machine) to flattened the dry sandy earth. 

Patent already applied for!
I’ve braved Hornbach (D.I.Y shop) and bought a sprinkler on the first day of rain for two weeks.

Who buys sprinkles in the Netherlands?
I’ve ordered 32 m2 of turf from a company that speak no English. I’ve worked our small patch of Dutch earth till my back aches, my palms throb with blisters and my fingernails resemble an 18th century coffin escapee. I’ve had soil inside my ears, socks, and hair.  I’ve even tasted the soil that generations of Dutch have worked on before me, which is why I can after almost two years in the Netherlands say - 

‘I am becoming, not a lot, but a little less of an expat.’

Mr Sunshine connecting with Dutch soil?