Friday, April 08, 2016

Close encounters of the interesting kind

I love it when I meet interesting people out of the blue, don't you? Just recently,  we've had two such encounters and they've left me feeling refreshed and charmed in equal measure.

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
fire blaster

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
Terneuzen
So that was it: two meetings that gave me a smile and a new insight into the breadth of knowledge, creativity and experience you can find quite unexpectedly in the most unlikely looking people. But then this is one of the things I like so much about this country. You can't make assumptions about anything or anyone.

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.

16 comments:

  1. I love it when that happens Val and you find something out about somewhen you never could have guessed.

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    1. Oh yes, Anne, both encounters really made my day. I love it when these things happen.

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  2. I think it's true everywhere if people are open to each other. Your natural honesty and openness pays big dividends to you in meeting fascinating new people and enjoying new experiences--even the uncomfortable watery kind! Another great blog. Thanks. I needed those smiles today!

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    1. Thank you, dear Steph. I shall now have to find out why you've had a non smiley day!

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  3. It is always fun when horizons are broadened by unexpected encounters. And even better when they raise a smile! Have a lovely weekend, Val!

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    1. Thank you, Jenny! You too! The sun is shining and so I'm definitely smiling!

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  4. I think it can be true anywhere, Val, if you are willing to be open to surprises.

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    1. I think that is actually true, Jo. Yes.

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  5. Two lovely friendly encounters Val. When I go to Ireland I'd best watch out for Celtic music performed by Dutch musicians :)

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    1. I'd love to hear it if you did. Then you can say hello for me too!

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  6. see, you have to be out and about for this to happen...social media, great though it is, can't beat REAL meetings!

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    1. So true, CarolStar! They really are the best!

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  7. O this blog of yours has made me smile Val!
    It is amazing the number of nationalities who play Irish music and do so really well too.

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    1. Isn't that Amazing, Mel. I am so tickled by this. I absolutely love Irish music, but it seems other people and nationalities do too! :)

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  8. I agree with Stephanie, I think your nature lends itself to people talking to you and opening up. You also listen (a dying habit) and take it in, which means you can then describe such lovely anecdotes such as the above. People actually appreciate people who listen xxx

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    1. Thank you, Fran. I feel quite humbled to 'hear' you say that. xxx

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