Saturday, 2 April 2011

Journey Through The Netherlands: 4. A Piggery, A Spurned Rooster And A Dutch Sense Of Humour

It was a perfect day in the Netherlands. The sun shone. It was a warm Spring day. The traffic was good. It was only 2.5 hours to the destination of the genteel town of Hardenberg.

"I must cut these trees sometime," said one of the Dutch hosts as the bus inched past the foliage into the car park behind the church. It was narrow yet manageable with care. The ensuing laughter potentially set the tone for the week to come. The Dutch sense of humour is always something to behold. Frank with a hint of schadenfreude. Fun and mischievous. This was going to be a great week.

There was a large crowd standing outside the front of the church. Welcoming, waving and smiling. These were the host families who had come to take the children into their homes. Then I and another organiser were taken to our hosts, who lived five miles out of the town on a beautiful, traditional Dutch farm.

"We have just converted the piggery," they said. "We hope it is comfortable."

Comfortable? That was an understatement. It was luxurious. They had even been kind enough to stock the fridge with cheese, eggs, bacon and some juice and wine.

"One thing though," they continued. "Our rooster is not very happy. The hens have kicked him out. They have gone off with another rooster." It proved to be a timely warning.

The evening meant a half hour drive to the town of Coevordon for the first concert. Coevorden may have indirectly given its name to the city of Vancouver in Canada. It was named after George Vancouver, the Victorian British explorer. His forbears may have originally come from Coevorden - van Coevorden to Vancoevorden to Vancouver.

Coevorden is a town with a good feel to it. Designed in a star shape with all streets converging on a central market place. The 17th Century reformed church is fine. Inside the acoustics were remarkable and the choir sounded good. At the end during the traditional Dutch standing ovation, I turned to one of the organisers and said:

"What a fantastic church. The sound must be like going to heaven."

"Yes," he said, "but as we say in the Netherlands - it is like going to heaven with one wooden leg."

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