Monday, 4 April 2011

Journey Through The Netherlands: 10. Goodbye Netherlands

It was Sunday. The final day. It started with final goodbyes to everyone. The Policeman, the host families, the organisers, even the flaming rooster. The rooster had proved elusive. He had become wary of me and my Size 15 shoes. The day before, I had come out of the front door of the piggery for some air and he was sitting on the lawn a few feet away. We made eye contact.

That was enough for the rooster as he turned and raced away at lightening, heading for the refuge of the beech hedge. It was consoling to find out that we had a mutual understanding of each other.

It was a surprisingly emotional farewell at the church. All the host families had appeared for one last time. There were so many hugs and presents. They had been so kind during the week, and such fun, inviting us into their houses and giving us any drink or eats.

It was going to be a busy day. Back to Ommen for the 10 o'clock service at the church. There was a concern about the Priest's sermon. In the Netherlands the length of the priest's sermons often run to over half an hour. As we had a ferry to catch in the afternoon and a 2 hour plus drive, someone whispered in the priests ear to curb it.

He mounted the spiral steps to the pulpit situated in the middle of the church. His stance and stature could have been similar to John Knox. He raised his hand and for a millisecond I thought he was about to bash the Bible.

"How long are the sermons in your church?" he began "11 minutes? I will be 10, then?" Everybody breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was eight minutes in Dutch and two in carefully prepared English, telling jokes.

We left as soon as we could, after the service. "Don't go back," said one of the hosts, "come with me to Groningen. I'm off to a whisky festival." It was a tempting offer. I had wanted earlier, for sentimental reasons to have one final herring sandwich in Ommen, but all the shops were closed on Sundays. It was a refreshing change to see a deserted town, with only the cafes open and a few people strolling around the streets. So different from Britain and the frenetic run to the shopping centres.

The roads were less crowded too. The return journey to the port was going well, until the authorities closed the motorway for maintenance works. At the start of the diversion there was a van with its back window smashed, sitting in the middle lane. Behind the van was a motorbike lying on it's side. There was no sign of any people, but it looked as if the bike had hit the van and the motorcyclist and gone over the top of the bike and through the van window. Nasty.

Despite the jams, we arrived at Ijmuiden with plenty of time to spare. The boat was larger than the one we arrived on and it was fuller. The passengers seemed more tranquil too. No Richard Geres or Lady Gagas. Only two grumpy Scotsmen who were evicted from the buffet restaurant for obnoxious behaviour, possibly inspired by a wee dram or two.

The bunk beckoned.

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