The first one was when I was taking our fire extinguishers to be checked in the harbour here in our southern getaway. I was on my own (other half being off on a Polish-ing trip), and so I arrived at the marina office huffing and puffing somewhat as I was carrying two rather hefty fire blasters (or brandblussers as they are called here).
|My type of|
A burly individual met me at the entrance and kindly helped me down into the bowels of the boat that serves as the harbour office. Unfortunately, he had such a strong Zeeland accent, I couldn't make out a word he said. Everything that came out of his mouth sounded as if it had been through a tumble drier first before being ejected. Still I got the message that I should ask the man 'through there' (this was ascertained by means of a pointy finger - his, not mine) how long it would take.
Following the line of the finger, the man 'through there' proved to be a very congenial soul dressed in reliable blue overalls who told me I could safely go shopping and come back later for my extinguishers. He even found me a felt-tip pen to write the name of our boat on them, which I thought was very decent of him. Throughout this exchange we had been conversing in Dutch, but then he came very close to me and whispered "Can I hear that you are English?", "Yes" I whispered back conspiratorially. And from then on we were best friends.
My new bosom buddy switched immediately to English and proceeded to tell me he was a member of an Irish Celtic music group and that he'd been to Ireland about forty times to perform there with his band. I was duly amazed and genuinely impressed that a Dutch band playing Irish Celtic music should be invited to perform in Ireland. Not only that, he told me they'd been asked to go to America and perform there too, the American fans not actually realising they weren't even Irish. Well, I was tickled pink by his story and we shook hands and parted with big smiles, good cheer and promises to see each other at their next concert.
|Sea-going ships docked near Terneuzen|
Another encounter occurred a few days ago when we took a drive to the dock areas at Terneuzen and met a man there who was barge spotting just as we were (one of our favourite pastimes). It transpired he came from a skipper's family like Koos and the two of them had very similar backgrounds and educations. The funny part of it for me was that they both recognised each other as Skippers' 'children' from Skippers' families immediately. The Netherlands is a small country with a small population, many of whom are connected to the barging world which tends to remain within certain families.
This is something I find fascinating as it's like being part of a fraternity and this kind of 'recognition' happens pretty frequently. Many is the time Koos will give his name and his conversation partner will ask "Are you one of the X Fernhout's? From the Skipper's world?" And then they will find loads in common and chat like brothers. It seems this man was quite a linguist too as he spoke about seven languages including Afrikaans, which he tested out on me. I didn't like to tell him my Dutch is a whole lot better than its South African equivalent. He was also a musician, a technician, an artist and traveller - quite a surprise for someone who looked as if he'd be quite at home on a commercial fishing vessel... I know - books, covers and all that.
|Barge & boat watching on the canal near|
Maybe it's part of why the Dutch really are different. Or maybe it's just true everywhere if people are open to each other.