Paraphrasing L.P. Hartley at the start of his novel, ‘The Go-Between.’ There are many similarities between The NL and the UK and these make it easer to live here day to day, enjoy ourselves and integrate a little. But the differences are apparent.
At home I like to drink coffee. Lots of it. On the principle of spending my money where it will do the most good, I get my coffee from a company called ‘Pact’. They source coffee from small farms, buy the whole crop and pay the farmer a fair price. Better than ‘Fair Trade’ branded coffees you can buy in UK supermarkets. Check out their website: www.pact.com and if you decide you would like their coffee, drop me an email or FB message and I’ll give you a promotional code. As theirs is a postal service, I’ve had to find an alternative here.
The biggest coffee company in The NL is Douwe Egberts and they started their business in 1753 in Joure, one of our favourite locations; where there’s a small harbour, good shopping street, a park and hundreds of very noisy jackdaws.
We won’t mention that they were also tobacco importers. They have roasting houses in many places, so we’re often travelling along a waterway or cycling a Fietspad, inhaling the beautiful aromas. They are big on sustainability and keen to help and support the farmers they buy from – and as they are a Dutch company, I’m happy to buy my coffee from them, while I’m here, although I try to find even ‘fairer’ coffee whenever I can.
Recently I bought some Guatemalan coffee from a independent shop and it was very tasty, but when we ground the beans, we found the coffee went everywhere, sticking to the inside of the grinder, as if it was wet. When Dave tried to clean out the grinder drawer, the coffee powder ‘jumped’ towards his finger. He worked out this was because grinding the coffee giving it an electrostatic charge. So if you want your coffee with a little extra ‘zing’ buy Guatemalan and grind it yourself!
We like to have flowers in the tiny, jug on the wall. It’s difficult to buy them in small enough bunches though and if we have flowers left over, there’s really nowhere to put them. Our boat is very small, remember? Today we stopped at a flower stall on the street and asked the man if we could buy just three or four ‘tulpen’? ‘No problem,’ was his reply and he selected four, wrapped them and refused to take any payment. He said ‘It makes me happy!’
Made us happy too.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing birds here. Many, many water and wetland birds, obviously and ones we don’t usually see in the UK, such as White Storks and Barnacle Geese. Mallards are ten-a-penny, though. They’re every canal, in every park and they congregate around the boats, hoping to be fed. Just like in the UK. But the female mallards here are quite different from those at home. Rather than a dull, brownish colour, they show a huge range of different plumages, from almost creamy-white, to gold. So far, this is the only one I’ve managed to photograph, but I will try to capture more of them on film, as it’s interesting that something so ordinary can also be so different.
A couple of things which the NL has in common with the UK. The trees in Spring are at their finest, fresh leaves and fabulous blossom.
We’re moored in ‘The English Garden’ in Harlingen and true to it’s name , there are flowering shrubs, sculpted flower beds filled with hardy geraniums and beautiful trees. To complete the ‘at home’ feeling, we managed to get some dog poo on our shoes. Much cleaning of the deck followed.