Sometimes, I feel like watching something that brings me back to the dysfunctions of my family. The fighting, the yelling, the accusations, the schemes and scams…

There is a long running television problem on UK TV called Skint, which follows several families or individuals, for a period of time, while they try to survive on minimal budgets, in neighbourhoods where work is scarce.

Inevitably I come back to documentaries like this. Partly to remind me, partly to warn me, and probably partly as poverty porn. As much as I like to distance myself from the people on display, I know each and every one of them. I know them well. It sometimes gets to be too much, as a result.

I heard you were telling lies. I heard say you weren’t born of our blood. I know we’re the crooked kind. But you’re crooked too, boy, and it shows.

Red Eye

Last week, I flew to San Francisco for a couple of days to hang out with Eva, Scott, and the girls. The flight over was eleven hours, but went by smoothly. The flight back, however, was another matter. I knew it would be a rough one (flying west to east always is, for me), but the girl sitting next to me deciding it was okay to use me as a back rest, and the guy in front of me thinking it was completely appropriate to throw his seat back, spill my drink, and then continue to lay his head in my lap for the next nine hours, was a bit much. It’s 2024; I thought we had all stopped putting our seat back without at least having a conversation with the person behind you first.

It was worth the fun time in San Francisco, though. Seeing Eva and Scott was really nice, playing video games with the girls was great, and taking a driverless taxi was cool too.

Mourning the Loss of a Number

When I moved to the UK I switched my Dutch mobile subscription to a prepaid number so that I could hold onto the number. I had that number since 2001, so I would want to keep it. One of the stipulations was that you’d have to use it at least once every six months or so. Unfortunately, I must have missed using it, and it got disconnected and assigned to a new subscription.

Goodbye, +31 653 212 414, you will be missed.

A Fun Day

My passport is expiring soon and I was offered two choices; for a renewal, I could either go to the embassy in London or return to the Netherlands and do it at the airport. A quick investigations of those two options showed that doing it in the Netherlands was about three times as expensive, but it would afford me the opportunity to go and see my family, which I had not done since early December. So I booked two tickets, one to fly round trip to Amsterdam on the same day so I could submit the application, and a second for a weekend the next week in which I could pick it up. Today I went to submit the application.

I got up super early in the morning, drove to the airport, flew over and had a pretty smooth time submitting the application. The only snag was that the passport photos which I had made in England were not in the right format (despite the photographer assuring me that it would be valid for Dutch passports.) The lady who helped me apply told me that my photo was rejected because of my “cage fighter ear”, which I thought was funny. Luckily I could get new ones made at the airport, which took five minutes, and are actually better photos, despite getting very little sleep.

I took the train into Amsterdam, met Moulsari, my brother, his new girlfriend Kataryna, my friend Mounir, and Ruurd and my sister for a big, steak lunch. Had a blast. Ruurd and my sister dropped me off at the airport. The airport was quiet. I breeze through security. Flew back to England and drove home. I’m pretty tired, but I’m feeling good about it. It was such a fun day.

Next week I fly back on Thursday evening, pick up my new passport on Friday and fly home on Sunday. I’ll have a bit more time, and if it’s half as fun as today was, then it’s worth the time and effort.

Aan een klein meisje

My mother received a poem, written out on a typewriter, from an anonymous sender. She held onto it until her death. It must have been quite special to her. Having read it, I can understand why.

Aan een klein meisje

Dit is het land, waar grote mensen wonen.
Je hoeft er nog niet in: het is er boos.
Er zijn geen feeën meer, er zijn hormonen,
en altijd is er weer wat anders loos.

En in dit land zijn alle avonturen
hetzelfde, van een man en van een vrouw.
En achter elke muur zijn an’dre muren
en nooit een eenhoorn of een bietebauw.

En alle dingen hebben hier twee kanten
en alle teddyberen zijn hier dood.
En boze stukken staan in boze kranten
en dat doen boze mannen voor hun brood.

Een bos is hier alleen maar een boel bomen
en de soldaten zijn hier niet meer van tin.
Dit is het land waar grote mensen wonen…
Wees maar niet bang. Je hoeft er nog niet in.

Annie M.G. Schmidt