Sunday, 3 April 2011

Journey Through The Netherlands: 8. Hilda's Haircut, Grolsch And Preparing For The Crazy Horse

It is 4.44am. This is the worst rooster morning so far. I have suffered a duet this morning. The equivalent of a depressed Pavarotti and an over exuberant Bryn Terfel matching each other with arias from I Pagliacci.

The disconsolate has hidden himself under the beech hedge. That shoe waving must have had some effect.

The programme had changed, meaning that we were in Hardenberg all day and the bus was not needed. So the night before, we were taken to someone's house and I was allowed a drink. Seeing that we were not too far from the Grolsch factory - that seemed a good place to start. it progressed onto wine and Austrian schnapps.

When the rooster's concert performance started up, my head hurt more than usual.

The day began with a visit to the 2000 plus High School. The choir attended a music class and sung to the students who looked initially bemused, then warmed to this new style of music.

"I teach them pop mainly," said the teacher, "then sometimes I try to introduce some classical."

"Yeah, we're not that good, we only try and sing like Lady Gaga," said a voice from the back.

Then the choir were free. The men went to investigate the opening hours of Hardenberg's celebrated nightclub - the Crazy Horse. The muscle pain continued as a second game of rounders was ordered in the park. There was a near disaster as one of the choir insisted in leaping out in front of you, in an attempt to stop you completing a rounder.

She unfortunately chose me as a target. I am not a fast runner. I consider my running style to be similar to that of an oil tanker - slow to start, get up to a pedestrian lollop but take five miles to stop. When this player decided to jump out, I was up to my full cruising speed of 1.5 kph. The impact was horrendous to the spectators who shut their eyes, fearing the worst. We landed in a heap and somehow, by luck rather than skill, I avoided flattening her like a Disney cartoon.

There had been a joke going around the host families about my forthcoming haircut, they had arranged with Hilda, a small yet vivacious flame, spiky haired woman, who had been cutting hair in Hardenberg for over forty years.

"Do you go to Hilda?" I asked them.

"Noo-no-ho-ho-no," they replied laughing, then tried to put the fear of God into me with stories of pudding bowls and fast cuts with hedge clippers. But it was a great experience. Hilda was a wow. A good haircut too. We joked and laughed, and though she spoke no English, we understood each other. The phrase - 'looking like a sheep' seems pretty universal. I ruined the hosts fun by mistake, by going in early for an appointment. Little did I realise that at the appointed time the hosts all arrived with cameras to record this remarkable haircut. I blew it.

The concert in the evening was the best attended yet and the choir sang their best too. Standing at the back of the church, I discovered the humour of the men, who look so serious and dedicated as they process down the nave of the church. One farted loudly. The others kept straight faces and awaited instructions from the conductor:

"Right gentlemen, sit on my cue."

"What did he say?" asked a baritone.

"He said - he wants us to sit on his cue," said a bass in slow, deliberate tones. The others stifled their giggles.

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