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Barrowing the Fuzzy Policemen


I have been on a jaunt.

7:30 Monday: Leave for Luton airport where I made a very interesting discovery. If you get a plane which leaves at 9:30 ish then the security bit is virtually empty.According to the nice man who patted me down it is hellish earlier in the morning “lots of knees and hips setting off the metal detectors” but bliss later. That is my useful tip to you.
The lack of human scrimmage around the x-ray machines made it all relatively pleasant rather than ghastly beyond measure.

I am going to Holland- except that I am not really, I am going to the Netherlands. I was given a hard time once by Yolanda (the delightful Dutch cat lady) for calling it Holland which is only one province rather than a whole country. This makes things a little confusing as “Netherlands” does not exactly roll off the English tongue and to make things even more obtuse the inhabitants are Dutch. I have an ancestor who trashed the Dutch at the battle of Camperdown in 1797. He was called Admiral Duncan and we have various pictures if him looking stalwart. One of the notable events in the battle (apart from the fact that it was extraordinarily vicious) was that his flag was shot from the mast of his flagship. This caused general consternation until a courageous chap called John Crawford (of Sunderland) shinned up said mast and nailed it back in place. We have pictures of him as well.

19:00 I am in a very pretty town called Groningen in an hotel that was formerly a church owned by the Brethren of Communal Living which sounds much racier than it actually was.The place is full of very attractive young people beetling about on bicycles. The Dutch bicycle is a very solid workmanlike machine. Not for them skinny wheels, carbon fibre helmets and flesh clenching spandex. Everything is dignified and stately, one bike I saw even had a windshield.

You might ask, because you are mostly polite people, what on earth are you doing hanging around the Dutchlands? That would be a perfectly justifiable question. I am here at the behest of her deliciousness Juliet Roberts who has sent me over here to visit and write about three gardens for Gardens Illustrated. I saw one today which was an old farmhouse on the edge of a pretty town called Zwolle. There was topiary, apples, sheep grazing safely, views over a large lake, a good sticky cake and a very charming retired vet called Anky.

8:00 Breakfast is a typically Dutch convocation of egg, ham, cheese and chocolate sprinkles. I don’t know how the latter got on the menu but I remember being very overexcited by the idea when I was a child. An excuse to eat chocolate sandwiches at unorthodox times is always one to be welcomed.

10:00 Another garden, this one small but poetically planted by a tufty haired chatty chap called Heike. I like this country, it is uncluttered and green with long straight roads and some very captivating cattle. I saw some yesterday which were deep black but with wide bands of white around their stomachs which made them look like a herd of portly bakers wearing white aprons.
The people seem equally delightful although generally quite tall.

13:00 Lunch is a banana and a packet of peanuts pinched from the hotel before yet another garden. To be more accurate it is a very charming nursery where they harvest seeds from wild flowers. Big heaps of severed stems dropping seeds in tarpaulins. Fascinating.

17:00 On the road again, I have decided to countermand my sat-nav and drive in a lazy loop which includes a road which runs along a wide dike which keeps the sea from drowning the whole joint. I always thought the story of the little Dutch boy stemming the flood by plugging the leaky dike with his finger rather charming – until that is I grew up and was led astray by people with impure minds.

The Dutch have some very atmospheric place names – Sneek for example.Or Hoorn, Dwingeloo, Scharnegoutum or Goolumervaart.

19:00 Schipol Airport and a bit of hanging around before catching a flight back to jolly Luton. A very pleasing little jaunt: now all I have to do is write three articles before it all blurs together and I get my gardens mixed up.

Sadly I did not see a mouse with clogs on there on the stair.

I am listening to I wish I was in New Orleans by Scarlet Johannsen, a cover of the Tom Waits track.The picture is of a very snappy Rudbeckia called Henri Eilers.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. This sounds like a very fun trip, there are lots of interesting things to see around the world, I moved from England to Bulgaria and have seen so many cool things here from statues to plants I hadn’t seen before.

    November 19, 2013
  2. Looking forward to the Gardens of Luton.

    I doubt I could live happily in the Netherlands. I like hills too much. Huntingdonshire overwhelms me.

    I like cattle though.


    October 22, 2013
  3. Blue Shed Thinking #

    By the way, those chocolate sprinkles (which are eaten on a well buttered crispbake or slice of bread), are commonly referred to by the Dutch as “muisjes” – a diminutive form of the word for mouse. I didn’t realise why until my flat suffered a minor mouse infestation.

    October 13, 2013
  4. Bronchitikat #

    I did wonder whether the aforementioned cattle were Belted Galloways – a rare breed often used for controlling scrub invasion, bit like Highland Cattle. That & they’re quite decorative, and also come in a red/white version.

    Look forward to reading about the gardens.

    October 7, 2013
  5. janerowena #

    Did you know you can fly there from Norwich? You never know, that snippet of information could come in useful one day.

    October 3, 2013
  6. Your cattle are Belted Galloways – curiously, perhaps, given they were in the Netherlands, since they hail from Scotland.

    Perhaps, since your standard UK cow is a Friesian (bred in the Netherlands) there’s been a little cattle-swapping going on.

    The gardens sound lovely. I’ll look forward to reading about them!

    October 2, 2013
  7. Juliet speaks very highly of you too. I look forward to reading about the gardens. I used to live on the German side of their shared border and popped across to Holland (sorry The Netherlands) regularly, their condiments in McDonalds being superior to the German ones.
    Not that I would touch McDonalds with a long stick let along my mouth, nowadays. A favourite garden at the time was Kasteeltuinen Arcen gardens. especically for their fiendish “Golf garden”. Think ‘Crazy golf’ but firing the balls through waterfalls, and through Hydrangeas, it puts most of the crappy ones in the UK to shame. Unless you know a particularly fine British example of this noble entertainment?

    October 1, 2013
  8. Surely two provinces are called Holland? Noord Holland and Zuid Holland. (Sorry for being a pedant!)

    September 30, 2013

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