Welcome!

Welcome to the English version of my website

Celebrate!

Everyone was glad the war was over. It was time to celebrate! Nine months later a baby-boomer was born in Bussum. That was me. They say my father was a lot more nervous than my mother and paced the corridors of the hospital. Sometimes I think men have more talent for grand suffering, while women`s is more practical.

Pippi Longstocking

With so many uncles and aunts squeezed into one house, living together was a continual exercise in peaceful coexistence. But no blood ever flowed. Plenty of tears though. Actually my tears, when my favourite plushanimal Hazelien was ripped to shreds by my aunt`s Boxer. There was no blood but piles of sawdust.

Amsterdam pavements

All those kilometres of Amsterdam pavements have left me with a life-long compulsion to walk. Roll out a shadowy path before me and there`s no holding me back. Show me a lovely little goat path and I`m off. The great thing about walking is that you can do it anytime of day or night, and you don`t have to join a club and chase some ball.

The Binoculars

My favourite children`s program was The Binoculars. It showed you how children lived in other countries: Chinese children eating with chopsticks in Mao jackets, African children swimming half-naked in a muddy river, Swiss children coming down the Alps with school satchels on their backs.

My life

Everyone was glad the war was over. It was time to celebrate! Nine months later a baby-boomer was born in Bussum. That was me. They say my father was a lot more nervous than my mother and paced the corridors of the hospital. Sometimes I think men have more talent for grand suffering, while women`s is more practical. At any rate, without that war, I wouldn`t be her,; a debt I repaid years later with a novel.

In the beginning we lived with a host of other family members in a Pippi Longstocking type villa in Hilversum. With so many uncles and aunts squeezed into one house, living together was a continual exercise in peaceful coexistence. But no blood ever flowed. Plenty of tears though. Actually my tears, when my favourite plushanimal Hazelien was ripped to shreds by my aunt`s Boxer. There was no blood but piles of sawdust. It was a tragic sight; the carpet covered in sawdust and here and there a remnant of hare. At night in bed I longed for her ears. I never attempted, like the famous children`s book heroine, to fly away out of the attic window. But the attic, with its secret rooms and smell of dry wood and old books, was certainly the perfect place to do so in imagination.

There were those who had used the war to get rich. Not my parents. We moved to Amsterdam when I was three and there wasn`t even money for a tram ticket. What luck! We covered the many kilometres between our house and our great-grandfathers on foot. As a reward, he would bounce me on his knee let me look through his little spy mirror at the Albert Cuyp market below. And what`s more I developed extremely strong leg muscles.

All those kilometres of Amsterdam pavements have left me with a life-long compulsion to walk. Roll out a shadowy path before me and there`s no holding me back. Show me a lovely little goat path and I`m off. The great thing about walking is that you can do it anytime of day or night, and you don`t have to join a club and chase some ball. It`s also a great counterbalance to writing, which is primarily an exercise in sitting still.

But I have noticed I`m becoming more demanding. There seem to be endless new paths needing to be trod, leading to ever less known horizons. And because you can`t just fill up your supermarket trolley with paths like bottles of whisky, now and again I have to cross an ocean to reach them.

My father was a chemist. He worked in a laboratory for Organon, where new medicines were developed. Over dinner I would sometimes hear about all kinds of diseases. One of his specialities was muscle atrophy. Between the potatoes and the yoghurt, I learnt how lucky I was to be able to do whatever I wanted with my arms and legs. The hospitals were full of children whose muscles were slowly fading away. It was a distressing image, enough to turn me into a hypochondriac. With every slightest pain I was convinced atrophy had hold of me too. Why should other children, who perhaps did their best more than me, get it and not me?

Because of Organon we moved to the Brabant countryside, near Oss. That was a completely different world from the one we had left behind. My mother felt like we had emigrated. Pure Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the Brabant plains! We had only just arrived when the neighbour lost an earring. He searched hopelessly for it everywhere. It didn`t seem so bad to us, one little earring more or less. But how naïve we were. What a lot we still had to learn. You can`t shoot straight with just one earring!

One day television entered people`s lives. Some consider the atomic bomb and the landing on the moon to be the most revolutionary phenomena of the twentieth century. They search for them in the bigger picture, in something on a greater than human scale, and miss the small things: a screen in the corner that provides picture and sound, so that you can enjoy the atomic bomb and the landing from the luxury of your own home.

My favourite children`s program was The Binoculars. It showed you how children lived in other countries: Chinese children eating with chopsticks in Mao jackets, African children swimming half-naked in a muddy river, Swiss children coming down the Alps with school satchels on their backs. I wanted to be all those children. Best of all the Swiss one, because of the mountains. I have never understood why Holland is so flat. From the start I knew that there was something not quite right about our landscape, but only on seeing the Swiss mountains did I understand what.

The things innocent children`s programmes can set in motion! Thanks to The Binoculars I now live in two foreign countries, Portugal and France. There are hills and mountains galore, all types and flavours - with or without whipped cream on top. If there is such a thing as ``the landscape of the soul``, then I`ve found it. Although ``Where you are not, there`s happiness`` still comes over me in waves.

I cover a great deal of terrain with my dog, a Breton spaniel who has worked himself effortlessly from stray to aristocratic lodger. He gets just as grumpy as I do if we skip a day. He decides where we go, the choice is sometimes too rich for me. What`ll be today then, I ask. The hills with the magic stones, the river, the red cliffs, the sea, the beach with the cacti, the lagoon, the path to the well, the cave or the little mimosa-lined lane? If he says river, river it is. He knows better than I do. In general the pattern of our walks is: whatever lies behind the next hill keeps us going.

I used to think I had to become something in life - I mean have a real profession for which you first have to obtain qualifications and then go for an interview. I spent some time pouring over incomprehensible texts before I realised that I simply wasn`t cut out for a real profession. Writing as a way of staving off mortality? I`m just happy if the reader, a year on, still remembers the dog that became grumpy if a day went by without a walk. The fact that this dog had an owner who loved The Binoculars as a child is less important. Although, it would be nice if that information lingered on in their minds for a while; if only because it was all so beautifully written.

Bibliography

De zoon uit Spanje (2004)
Een bed in de hemel (2000)
Een gevaar op de weg (1999)
Een varken in het paleis (1998)
Toen zat Lorelei nog op de rots (1997)
Alle verhalen tot morgen (1995)
De tweeling (1993)
Isabelle (1989)
Het mirakel van de hond (1988)
Het rookoffer (1987)
Meander (1986)
De meisjes van de suikerwerkfabriek (1983)

TRANSLATIONS:
Een bed in de hemel (2000) - A bed in heaven (2002)
De tweeling (1993) - The twins (2000)