Koningsdag unplugged

27th April is a public holiday in The NL, to honour the monarch’s birthday. It was the actual birthday of Queen Juliana and her grandson, King Willem has his official, special day on the same date. In the three years we’ve been here, the weather has never been less than appalling, but they haven’t altered the date to take advantage of sunshine later in the year, At least you now where you are; whether 27 April is a weekday or a weekend, it’s a holiday.

Rather than write a blog post about this deliberately, I decided to give you my diary entry for yesterday. I write a diary for each day we’re here, partly to allay future arguments about where we were and when, but also because I find it’s the minutiae of the days which trigger the strongest memories. So here you are.

After lunch, we set off on bicycles for Leeuwarden’s Koningsdag.  Of course, the rain started almost immediately, but we were more than a match for the weather, until it became a gale assisted hailstorm, Thank goodness for a convenient doorway on the university campus.

LW was noisy and busy with bikes and people. There were stewards in blue Gemeente (local council) uniforms stopping bikes from going right into the centre, so we locked our bikes up and walked. We saw lots of other bikes in the city though. They must know a secret way in.

I felt sorry for the people selling things – they had plastic sheeting on the ground and displayed their wares in it, but when the rain came, as it did over and over again, they had to either roll out plastic covers (think Wimbledon Centre Court, any summer) or watch their stuff get soaked.

There were stalls along both sides of most streets. So much detritus from modern life. I reckon if they could get rid of all this tat (in a large crater on the Moon, perhaps?) they could house a million more people in the liberated space. Like the UK, The NL has a great need for more housing and in the three years we’ve been watching, they have built a lot.

It’s strange that they have this tradition of hoarding crap and bringing it out annually, to sell to each other, because in all the Dutch houses I’ve visited, or seen through their un-curtained windows, there’s  a complete absence of crap and clutter – just tasteful tidiness.

Much of the stuff for sale is plastic. But there’s also some crockery and some ancient and rusting kitchen utensils, which reminded me of the inventory of Baden Powell bungalow, which we lived in many years ago.

We spent 4 euros and bought some things.  Not plastic crap, obviously! Four wine  glasses, needed because we  break them as frequently  on the boat as we do at home. Also three wooden giraffes which are really hooks or coat hangers. I’m very fond of giraffes, having had a glass one when I was a child. It’s spots shimmered inside crystal clear glass and I loved it. Unfortunately, it was badly (or realistically?) designed and it’s legs were too long and spindly and they broke. I will honour it’s memory by painting the spots into these wooden ones and using them in my kitchen.

We also saw kids climbing on lamp-posts, not something I’ve actually witnessed before.  I must lead too sheltered a life. Despite the rain and cold the general atmosphere was, I’m having a great time and I’ll have another beer!

We had hot chocolate in De Leven, our favourite café, where the serving staff really make us feel welcome. I do love the professionalism about serving food and drink here. We almost got back without being hailed on again, but not quite.

And lastly, a picture which shows some of the Koningsdag atmosphere. People also wear orange, sometimes orange hats or wigs, or dye their hair orange, or wear crowns. They are very find of their Royal Family,  but less precious about them than we Brits are about ours. Queen Beatrice used to cycle around the towns and King Willem was a commercial airline pilot until recently and nobody thought anything of it. He will have been at one of the Koningsdag Celebrations., I wonder if he wore his crown.

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