Family History: A Dream About My Mother

This morning I woke up from a very vivid dream. I had spent the day with my mother, going around Hoorn and visiting the sites. We talked about history, of the town, of our family and of ourselves. She filled in gaps, cleared up misunderstandings, put things in context and explained things that I was sometimes too young to understand. Then we had a meal together somewhere in the harbour of Hoorn. It was a good day.

There are so many things that are unclear about our family, about our origin, about the feuds and the fights and about everything which has had an incredible impact on my personality. So much understanding has been lost regarding the generational trauma which has been passed down. Gypsies, Jews, the war, Rotterdam, Katendrecht, poverty, Hoorn, a big family, a secret, second family, physical abuse, sexual abuse, death…

It’s unfortunate that I don’t have the relationship with the few remaining family members of my mother’s generation where I can go to have conversations about some of the things which have happened during my childhood and what caused them. I miss having someone who can augment, correct, corroborate and validate some of the history; like a tribal elder.

BJJ and Fifteen Months of Lockdown

I haven’t been doing BJJ for such a long time now that I’ve got hair on my knees again. I sometimes wonder just how much skill I have lost (if I had any to begin with). I have maintained that I will only consider going back under the right conditions, which at the moment should include Joasia being vaccinated and the situation looking a little less miserable (delta variant infections are on the rise). In the meantime I wonder whether I even know how to do a proper bow-and-arrow choke anymore.

It’s a Meijer Thing

Years ago, Eva sent me a t-shirt that said “It’s a Meijer Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand”, which was brilliant, for obvious reasons. It was something like this one:

And today I came across an even better one which reads; “I Can’t Keep Calm, I’m a Meijer”, which is fantastic!


9 June – Dutch Feast

John Camden Hotten was one of the first and best lexicogaphers of slang. He gathered and documented what he himself described as “that evanescent, vulgar language, ever changing with fashion and taste… spoken by persons in every grade of life, rich and poor, honest and dishonest”. One result of his indefatigable quest for the language of “fast, high and low life” was the publication, in 1859, of A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. On the day Hotten died in 1873 (of brain fever, or a surfeit of pork chops, depending on which historian you ask) he was still revising his work.

Among the back slang and rhyming slang, and the patter from sailors and shopkeepers, are such expressions as a “Dutch uncle”, defined by the author as “a person often introduced in conversation, but exceedingly difficult to describe”. A “Dutch concert”  is one in which “each performer plays a different tune”, and “Dutch consolation” is simply “Thank God it’s no worse”.

These less well-known Dutch formulae sit alongside those that have endured to this day; “Dutch courage”, namely false courage garnered through drinking; “double Dutch”, i.e. gibberish; and “going Dutch”, where everyone splits the bill and thus risks the suggestion of miserliness. But why Dutch?

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch and British were at loggerheads. Both sought maritime superiority, and not least the control of the sea routes that carried exotic cargo from the rich Spice Islands of the East Indies. The result of such vying for supremacy was three naval wars between the years 1652 and 1674. On 9 June 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway, sank multiple British ships, and blockaded the Thames. The ensuing bitterness on the part of the British resulted in “Dutch” becoming synonymous with such unappealing qualities as cowardice and stinginess.

Today, even while most prejudice towards our friends in the Netherlands has long since vanished, a couple of contemporary examples might occasionally feel useful. A “Dtuch reckoning” is a bill that is presented without any detail and which only gets bigger if you question it, while a “Dutch feast” is one at which the host “gets drunk before the guests”.

Word Perfect, Etymological Entertainment for Every Day of the Year by Susie Dent

May 5th, Liberation Day

I can’t help but get emotional on this day, each year. Watching chancellor Angela Merkel give the traditional speech, and afterwards answering questions from students, was amazing. The topic is on freedom, and what it means, especially in a time where our freedom has been limited due to the consequences of the pandemic. One of the students explained how her grandfather was sent to a labour camp in Germany. She said that the blood of his imprisonment coursed through her veins; that the consequences of that could still be felt two generations later. I often feel the same way, when I consider how the war has influenced my parents, and in turn me.

This is why I have a hard time with people who lack empathy for underprivileged people. Generational poverty, racism, classism, sexism, other types of bigotry; it all leaves enormous scars. The Dutch government was culpable in the incredible persecution of Dutch Jews. Recently, the Dutch government apologised for their role in that atrocity. It frustrates me enormously to then also see how the Dutch government does not take the same step and acknowledge that there is (or at least has been) systemic bigotry against certain people which can still be felt today. Wouldn’t it be a good first step to accept the criticism of painful symbols of bigotry, like zwarte Piet?