Sunday, November 15, 2015

And then Paris happened

Before I write this I want you to know I take no credit for this. Had not someone else mentioned the idea nothing of what follows would have happened. My sole accomplishment would be not vetoing it.

With the current influx of refugees an old refugee center, approximately a mile or two from our offices, has been re-opened. About two weeks ago, during lunch at our offices, one of our employees asked "Is there something we should or can do for the refugees?" Of course a discussion developed and ideas were shared but until someone said: "Why don't we ask them?" it wasn't really going anywhere.
In the end a committee of three was formed who would do the necessary groundwork, like contacting the 'Central Organization for Refugees' (COR), to asses what was possible and we allowed them to do this, within reason, during work hours.

As a result a meeting with a group of twenty refugees was arranged for yesterday.  Due to the make up of our company and information from the COR it was decided it would be better to focus on female refugees. You can expect refugees to adapt to the country the fled to but you can't nor shouldn't expect that to be the case from day one. The COR was worried male refugees would have trouble with our female staff and even though I'm usually a "So what, suck it up." kind of guy I could see the problems it would cause and accepted focusing on the female refugees.

And then Paris happened.

Yesterday morning we (five) met for breakfast at a local coffee shop and you can imagine what the topic of discussion was and how it affected what we were planning to do. In the end it is quite simple. We all know and knew Paris would and probably will happen. It is a choice we as a society made. We are open. We live life. It will be dealt with by others but for us normal people the best reaction is to remain open and live life. Do not react but just go on living is in my opinion the best resistance we can show.

When we arrived at the center a coordinator met us at the gate and expressed his concern that we would not have come after the events is Paris. I guess the collective "Why not?" settled that. We were led to an area where the twenty ladies were waiting for us. It took some time to break the ice and explain to them there was no need for apologies about Paris and that we were well aware that things like Paris were one of the reasons we and they were where we were at this moment. All in all we spend about four hours at the center talking to the women and fielding a variety of questions. Some of them didn't want to talk to me, the sole male, but others didn't seem to mind.

We talked about their expectations coming to The Netherlands which resulted mostly in explaining that the freedom we enjoy is set in an enormous quantity of rules and laws we have to follow. In itself a contradiction, so hard to explain. We talked about their wish to work and learn the Dutch language. I was asked the question "Will they touch me?" when talking about the equality of men and woman came to the topic of gays and lesbians. I explained that no one was allowed to touch them uninvited. Hetero, gay or lesbian  and if such a thing happened that they should report it.  We talked about the weather and pointed out that they should brace themselves if they felt today was a cold day. We tried to explain The Netherlands to them and hope some of it made sense to them.

Beforehand we had some ideas about what we could offer but these people have come a long way and have a long way still ahead of them. Of course in time we can help them find jobs or start businesses but at this moment what they need is interaction. Just a simple conversation about life. Just an explanation about what's done and not done. Just a little help filling out forms.
Just someone to make them laugh or cry with them.

I think we learned as much if not more from them as they did from us. We've made arrangements to have representatives of our firm go back there every week. Just for a talk or lending a hand. We'll see what the future brings.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


"You look your age but you don't act like it."

Just a sentence directed at me by one of our younger employees this week. It falls into the category where people ask me how old I am and I answer that I don't know. And it is true. I don't know how old I am unless I do the math. And once I've done that I forget again until the next one asks me and I have to do the math again or have them do the math.

It also gets misinterpreted when I get asked and answer with: "Who cares?" or "Your guess is as good as mine." People start to think that it is a touchy subject for me or that I'm fooling with them but in all honesty: I really don't care.

And the same applies for birthdays or the celebration of those. I bow to social convention I'll admit. But not for myself. My own birthday I only 'celebrate' for my parents. And those of others because I've experienced people feel hurt when I do not give their special day some attention. And I don't want my friends to feel that way. But I, not often anyways, don't congratulate. I wish that they enjoy their day most likely. And I'm 100% percent behind that sentiment.

I just don't understand why making it through a calendar year is an achievement and why age therefor is something to care about. I know there are people who struggle on a daily basis and I don't want to sound cold but 99.9% of the people do not. Yet all celebrate as if they did.
Someone once said that it wasn't surviving the year that was celebrated but that it was being born that was. My response: "And what did you do to make that happen?"

Anniversaries and achieving personal goals are an entirely different matter in case you were wondering.

But back to the age thing. Had I written about how I thought a 40 or 50 year old must feel when I was young I would have to bow my head in shame. I don't feel anything like how I perceived a 40-50 year old should feel. Sure my body comes close to what I thought it would be but that is largely my own doing. After abusing it for twenty years and not really taking care of it the following twenty you can hardly expect to have the spring in your step like you had back in the day. But my mind and outlook on life are totally not what I expected for a 40-50 year old.

Age doesn't matter. You matter.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Apparently I'm at war

When I have time off I start to think about stuff. Extraordinary stuff, day to day stuff. Whatever catches my eye can lead to conclusions even I hadn't seen coming. And you would be right to expect one of those thoughts to be shared in this entry had in not been for one incident over the weekend.

We had a family gathering over the weekend and I had told my mom I would be fashionably late but in time for dinner. Just before I was about to head out I received a text from my sister *perhaps you shouldn't attend*. *why?* I replied. *your brother has something to say to you and he is very happy about it*. *Do you know what it is?* I asked. *No, he only wants to tell it when you arrive.*

Now in my family we have smart and less smart members and it isn't just the fact there are different parents involved that causes this but it is safe to say that I'm one of the smartest in the bunch and I'm certainly the best with words. The fact my sister didn't use my brothers name told me it was the lame ass one. The one that had tried to loan money from me not too long ago and the same one that had asked me for a car. On top of that he is the one that left his wife and kid and I had to step up to get them back on their feet. With that in mind I texted my sis *interesting*. Her reply *shit!* told me she knew I would be there soon.

When I arrived one of my other brothers, a police man, was outside kicking a ball around with his grandson.
"Hey, it won't be long before he gets the better of you, old man."
"Ah there you are. I've been waiting for you. Hans has something to tell you apparently and he is very worked up about it."
"Well let's go in and see what it is then."
"I better come with you."
"I need protection?"
"Perhaps, but we also were waiting for you to start eating."
"Cops and food. Joined at the hip."
He hit me in the back.

When I walked in conversations stopped and Hans stood up. "Ah H., there you are. I have something to tell you." "I'm sure it can wait. Let me get a beer first." I greeted my mom and asked if dinner was ready? She said it was and also warned me to be careful. I was really starting to wonder what all this was about. Anyway, I got myself a beer and walked back into the living room. Hans was still ready to tell me what he had to say but I cut in "Is this going to be a long story? If so, why don't we go outside and let these peeps eat?"
"No, I want everyone to hear this."
"Okay" I said "But you'll have to wait till after dinner then. I'm not keeping this hungry horde from their food."
"I'm going to tell you now."
"No, you're not. You're going to wait till after dinner or I won't even bother to listen."
He was thinking about this just a little too long. One of my sisters and a sister-in-law got up and handed out plates and that settled it.

I know it was mean but I tried to get control. Even though I still had no clue about what he was going to say I knew I was in charge from this point on.

Hans kept eyeing me during dinner but I just kept making small talk with some of my other family members. During the after dinner coffee I noticed he was in deep conversation with his girlfriend. I caught him totally of guard.
"Hey Hans, what was that thingy you wanted to tell me?"
"Uh one moment."
"Now or never Hansiboy. Speak up now or forever hold your peace."
"Okay okay"

"I wanted to tell you that you are no longer the only one who has done good. As of last Wednesday I have 350.000 euro in my bank account. So what do you say to that?"
"Wow, that's great. Congratulations. I hope you obtained it the legal way but congratulations man. What are you planning to do with it?"
It wasn't the reaction he thought he would get from me. That much I could see. He clearly had his next move ready but not to that response.
"I'm.... I'm going to buy a new car of course and we're going on a cruise on the Mediterranean."
"Hmm, maybe you should look into settling your debts also. Not to me in particular. I can do without it but perhaps you could settle what you owe in alimony?"
"That Bitch is getting nothing of my money."
"Bitch? You mean the woman you betrayed and then left? She took care of your son, provided for a home and education, got a job and made sure the boy stayed in contact with his grand parents. You have no right to call her that. Nobody has that right."
"Well she won't get her hands on my money. That's for sure."
"That's a shame. What did you say? I'm not the only one who has done good any longer? I guess when it comes to you and me that's not true then. You do know that 30k in alimony you owe them is all for the boy, right? Sandra's part of it was taken out as soon as she got her job years ago. You know that right? The day she started working she informed your attorney. That's the bitch she is. So what you owe is to your son. Go take a cruise, go buy a new car but don't forget to pay up."
"He isn't getting any as well. He doesn't want to see me. So why should I pay?"
"That's his choice. The payment was court ordered. They can block your account when they get knowledge of the fact there is money in it. You know that right?"
"How will they know? And even then, she doesn't have the money to pay for a lawyer."
"Can I ask you something? Do you know anyone who knows you have a surplus of money at the moment, who feels they should get what is due to them,  who knows a lawyer and who has the money to pay for one? Do you?"
"You wouldn't" he yelled and tried to get a hold of me. My police brother stepped in and took him out (more or less). "Guess I needed that protection after all." I told him.

So Monday morning I had a meeting with Sandra and told her about what had happened. With her blessing I called my lawyer and we blocked his account. Not all of it but it is blocked for the amount he owes her. He can do whatever he wants but he can't touch those last 35k. I'm figuring he doesn't want to go to jail over it so he will pay up soon enough.

I still don't know how he got the money. My best guess is lottery or gambling, neither a good choice to rely on for income but as the above proves: He certainly is not the smartest in the family. He was so blinded by the feelings he has for me that he forgot I don't care about him. My mom and her husband weren't pleased of course but they understand why I'm doing what I'm doing. They rather had me talk to him more and try to reason him into paying but they also know the history.

I got a call this morning. "You're dead to me." he said. "Ah, you got the notice. Dead is fine by me." and I ended the call.
I got another call. "Really, you're dead to me." "Stop calling the dead." and again I ended the call.
I didn't get another call.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nathalie's friends

I've given up on running away from Nath's friends. That is until they form a group of 5 or more. Then I'm out. I've learned that I can cope with 4 of them. Fun fact for me is that they are still trying to get to know me and that, my friends, gives me opportunity.

Those who know me expect the odd answer or remark. I'm still able to surprise them but they know they can expect some. Those who don't know me are learning that the hard way. And I appreciate the help I'm getting.

Today some of Nath's friends gathered at her place because they were going to watch a play tonight. (And looking at the clock right now they went for drinks also) But this gave some of them the opportunity to meet me and ask questions.

Friend 1: "You have quite a large ego, don't you?"
I looked at her for a moment. "I do. But I prefer that to a big head. An ego weighs less."
"Are you saying I have a big head?"
"Do you think you have a big head?"
"So why would my opinion matter then?"
She looked at Nath, who put her hands up in the air. "Don't look at me for help. You asked him a question."

Friend 2: "Nath told us you only work with women. Why is that?"
"I'm a heterosexual man who has the opportunity to surround himself with women and keep other men out. Walk a few steps in my shoes. What would you do?"
"That's sexist."
"Yup, the question was."

Harry walks in. The last to show, as usual. One of the friends sitting on the couch says: "Let us make some room. You can sit right here." "Oh don't bother. I see the perfect spot." she answers right before she plants herself in my lap. I tap her on the shoulder and say: "Beer." She reaches for my glass and hands it to me. After I took a sip I tap her on the back again. Her hands reaches back, takes my glass and puts it on the table again. All this whilst wiggling her butt in my lap. "You seem happy." she says.
The friends look shocked. Nath just shakes her head.

At some point Nath is showing them her Facebook page and the Oh' s and Ah's over the puppy pictures Deb put up are numerous. "Doesn't that make you want one?"
"No." I say.
"So if Nath wanted a puppy would you be against it?"
"I don't decide what she wants. If she wants three puppies and a new boyfriend that's her decision. I only decide what I want and at the moment that isn't a puppy."
"What would you want at the moment?"
"Well, the safest choice is not to answer that question."
Harry cuts in. "He's probably thinking orgy. It's a man."

I took a good look at the puppies after they left. Yup, orgy still sounds better (at the moment)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dutch ? Or English wannabees ?

We have a strange habit. I have been asked about it before and I honestly have no idea why we do it. Is it because we can? Is it because it is softer then what we are expected to use? Is it because we can use the training? Or is it just (one of) our thing(s)? With Hanneke around it even happens more often with the added bonus of the regional touch she brings with her.

What I am talking about? Which language we use at home. On a normal day it isn't uncommon that no Dutch word is spoken. All communication is in English or as Nathalie would say 'our English'. As she has studied both Dutch and English at university she is a purist. Whereas I just mix and match my languages as I tend to not search for the correct word if it doesn't come to me immediately. I just throw in the Dutch word middle sentence and expect her to catch up. I didn't even realize until she pointed it out to me that I throw in German words or whole sentences as well. Weird thing is that at work I'm solely Dutch unless works requires me to switch.

So at the moment we have Hanneke, who has lived in Australia for the last 20 years, Nathalie, who has made a career out of translating between English and Dutch and vice versa the last 25 years and myself, who has this odd believe that reading books in their original language (mostly English or American-English) does more justice to the intention of the author. Even though his partner for the last 19 years has been translating books for a living. (I've assisted her on some occasions, mostly when she was busy with 'sports' books and needed help with the technicalities of the terms).
Of course Hanneke's English comes with a rather heavy Australian accent these days. Nath usually uses proper English-English although she can do a few dialects. And I ? I tend to just produce words. LOL.

Last time we were in England a man came up to us and asked me what region I came from. He figured Nath to come from the Cambridge region but he had a really hard time figuring me out. We had a great laugh when we told him we both were from the Amsterdam region. We spend the next hours with him using all sorts of dialects.

We've had a Dutch couple, who overheard us talking English the entire evening, gossiping in Dutch about us. They got a shock when I switched to good old Dutch to put them straight.

We never said to each other "Let's talk in English at home" and of course Dutch is used just as much but it is a strange thing to adopt a language not your own for usage at home. Yes, Dutch culture is heavily influenced these days by music, films and TV-shows from the UK and USA but if that was the main reason more in The Netherlands would do what we do.

So I ask you: Are we still Dutch or are we English wannabees ?

Two tits 'chased' me off my balcony

Waiting for the ladies to complete their efforts to make themselves presentable I thought it a good idea to enjoy my cup of coffee on the balcony. After all the sun is shining and there are only a few things that beat the combined pleasures of enjoying the morning freshness, that first cup of coffee and the sun coming out.


As you may know I have a little birdhouse hanging outside and the family of tits that set up residence there currently weren't too enthusiastic of my presence near their home. Mom and dad were flying back and forth to collect food for their kids and me being on the balcony clearly interfered with that. For some reason they felt I was a threat and stopped flying in. They sat on the branches of a nearby tree and made several attempts to fly in but every time returned to the tree. I could hear little tsjirpy sounds coming from the birdhouse. The kids needed food. So I decided to go inside to let the birds do their thing.

Hanneke, who was the first one to be presentable, walked into the living room.
"Hey, I thought we were going to sit on the balcony for breakfast?"
"That was the plan my dear, but your tits chased me in."
I just couldn't resist. She looked a little puzzled. LMAO.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What does work?

Had there been just one recipe for success in a relationship it would have become known to all. Much like the taste for wine and food the recipe is a personal thing. When your desire is to live together with another human being you should probably not live a life like mine. When your desire is to share your life with another human being it becomes a possibility but only when the other party has the same desire. And so on and so on. But I'm of the opinion that there is a guideline.

One of my friends asked me what to do. "You two seem to be in love even after, what is it?, twenty years? What should I do to achieve the same?"
"It's eighteen and a bit and the answer is think. Think about what you want but more importantly think about what you don't want. And only then you try to find someone who fits to you."

I do not believe in love at first sight for that matter. I rather call it lust at first sight. It can turn into love once you get to know each other and boxes are checked but not at first sight. In my case: The first time it took me several months before I knew I was in love and the second time is well documented. It took me a night to see the opportunity and 18 years and a bit later I can honestly say I'm in love. It has developed and changed. It has been challenged and strong enough.

Some notice the fact we don't fight and that is true. Of course we have discussions and arguments but fights are absent. I don't think my selection criteria alone are responsible for that but I do believe they do have a positive effect.  I know using the term 'selection criteria' sounds cold and calculated but why would anyone not use those? Subconsciously we do it so why not consciously?

But what about your partner I can hear you think. Doesn't the partner have an influence? Of course this is an influence. Just as much as I did my checklist she did hers. Perhaps not as much or perhaps even more.

There is one but. But you have to be brutally honest to yourself when thinking. Don't tell yourself you want an independent partner when at heart you want them to be there 24/7. Don't set your sights on a very intellectual partner when you don't want your opinions to be challenged. Etc. Etc. You can not have it all. That would be something like winning the lottery. I know there is a winner every time but expecting it to be you would be beyond foolish. Let the win come to you by preparing as much as you can.

And yes, I secretly do think I did win (twice).

Friday, January 16, 2015

The extra mile

"Hey, when you come over can you bring some food ?"
So in one sentence it was decided that we would spend the evening together, the location had been chosen and I was appointed the delivery guy.  For a man who loves straight talking it was hard to bring up any issue with it so I simply answered with a yes.

Simple task. Get over there and bring the woman some food. Well what you have to know is that I'm an impulse buyer. But not one in the normal sense of the term. I'm not triggered by promotional displays or discounts. My trigger is when my "Oh, that could be nice also" button is pushed. As a side note: I hardly ever buy something I didn't go out to buy. It is just different to what I anticipated.

So during the trip to Utrecht I had set my mind on Thai food. There is a lovely place near where Nath lives and I would not have to go out of my way to get it. Next to that it had been a while since we last had Thai so I couldn't go wrong with that. Envision me in Utrecht, a few yards from the entrance to the Thai place and all of a sudden my button is pushed. I turn around, walk back a mile and end up getting her sushi. I know she loves it, I even think you can wake her up for it, and she has been struggling with her leg all week so she can use a pick-me-up.
But I don't do sushi. So for myself I decide to get some shawarma with a pickled mango with chili sauce. Another half a mile walk to get that and another mile till I reach Nath's place.

When I finally arrive this is what greeted me:
"I expected you an hour or so ago."
"Why didn't you go to the Thai?"
"Oh, I love the smell of what you're having."
"Yay! Sushi, I never expected you to go for that."

Well honey, now you know.
PS My legs hurt from walking the extra miles.