Of this, the place where I would willingly invite every terrorist organization ever invented and persuade them that it would further their cause to annihilate it in the most brutal way imaginable, and would they please videotape the event and send me a copy, I have only a few old photos, because after I'd escaped from this death-pit, I couldn't bring myself to return even for a quick snapshot. The invective on the main page that applies generally to the Netherlands, applies very specifically to this place, where the deceptively amiable natives sick their children on anyone who doesn't stick a tongue up their backsides far enough. I have known genuinely sympathetic and/or intelligent people there, but stupidity and obnoxiousness so dominate that their presence just doesn't compensate. This claustrophobia-inducing community was the backdrop for my later childhood, and undoubtedly contributed to my clinical depression; moving back there in my twenties because I desperately needed a house and this was the only one offered, I hoped things would have changed, but no such luck. Stuck there for various reasons, I spent five miserable years in a house and with a garden that in themselves were all I could have wished for, before scandalizing the neighbourhood by packing my bags because I could stand it no longer. One valuable language lesson I learned here: there is no direct English translation for the Dutch word "woonwijk", but the word "hell" nicely paraphrases it.
Nineteen eighty-something, making an ass of myself in the yearly procession at "Koninginnedag" (queen's birthday, a national holiday). It was raining, the paper was getting blotchy and pulpy and I was terribly worried that no one would notice and appreciate all the work my parents had put into the fake horse and wagon. The irony being that we were walking behind a real horse and cart.
Having become personally involved with some Moroccan colleagues from R.A.Veen (or Turks as the natives call them, because the Dutch call every coloured person a Turk), I once got silly and put on a djellaba for a photo session with some guests; the thing I'm using as a bandanna should go around the waist, and I was teetering on very small narrow uncomfortable gilded sandals. It was all in good fun, but I should have known better than to do this in a village where gay couples are allowed as long as they socialize much and accept years of verbal abuse, and coloured people should not be fussy about racial insults. It's just as well no one had heard of Al Quaeda yet. No faces have been blacked out here, because one is mine and the other belongs to the extortionist from "Old photos". The house whose back door is visible is my old house, its garden minimally protected against the verminous neighbourhood children because I didn't have money for the high concrete fence with barbed wire on top that the situation called for.