The Netherlands

Amsterdam, 2016

Bilingual kid

England, 1980s. The French teacher has just set fire to my homework. This is no accidental blaze. For any spelling test falling below the mark, Mrs Grey whips a box of matches out of her handbag. The exercise book is covered in Snoopy wrapping paper for the new term and now Woodstock’s nose has started to singe.…

Salon Serpent

Amsterdam, 2016 It’s not so different to a dentist’s waiting room. Bouts of frantic whirring (like a fully charged electric toothbrush) pulsate at regular intervals through the wall. Admittedly, the receptionist in my dental practice doesn’t pass round a box of sweets telling the clients ‘they’re good for the blood sugar.’ The parlour’s bare brick…

Red Clogs

The Netherlands, 1970s. (T)je – Diminutive ending commonly used to describe something small or little  It’s a hot summer’s night when Mum goes into labour. Needing to get her to the local hospital and with no one to look after my older sisters, Dad shimmies up a ladder to bang on the neighbour’s bedroom window. …

Learning to speak again

We pedal through trees search for Vincent’s starry night; the moon as waxy as those weighed by the cheese carriers. England, 2019. It’s taken nearly forty years to start speaking Dutch again. There have been half hearted attempts to learn, but I’ve never stuck the course. When people find out that I spoke Dutch as…

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