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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Seventeenth letter: Body Language and onion skins

Unfortunately my Dutch language course had to go on hold for a few months while I sort a little problem in the UK. It’s a shame really as I was just beginning to achieve some small understanding. Although I’m not sure if it’s the actual verbal language I am understanding.

However, I’m still meeting my patient Dutch friend, Annemiek once a week, who’s been very encouraging. This week she’s loaned me one of her favourite childhood books Jip en Janneke, which is a more interesting version of the old British Janet and John books. Reading my first Jip en Janneke was a hair raising experience. Annemiek listened good-naturedly to me butchering her favourite story, while I tried to ignore the horrific memory of reading to my teachers in infant school. The mounting panic, thudding heart, sweaty palms remained unchanged four decades later.

No matter how much I might try to deny it, I am beginning to understand people in the Nederlands, but I’m not altogether sure it’s their words I recognise. The following sentences I can clearly grasp through expression and body language alone:

You can’t bring that dog in here.
The sign says; don’t put your basket on the counter.
Please don’t try to say it again in Dutch.
Tell the bald man next to you, he doesn’t need to order, we know already what he wants.
Why don’t you leave your dog at home?
I’m going to say this once more really slowly.
Our dogs like sniffing each other’s penises, don’t they?

Onion beach
Not my favourite beach
Yesterday we had a day trip to Westenschovwen, a kind of island connected to the mainland by a succession of bridges. The day didn’t go exactly as planned: The journey took almost two hours and the flat land and overcast grey sky’s made us both homesick for the rolling countryside of the Derbyshire Dales. Andy developed starvation syndrome and insisted we ate before our 20 minute walk on the pretty beach. The same beach, far from being picturesque, was covering with five foot wide rusty pipes, warning signs for quicksand and littered with onion skins. Yep, onion skins, I have no idea why or how they got there. To top all this, Alfie was ill again and we had to stop the car frequently on the journey there to allow him to release his fluorescent diarrhoea.
Very welcoming
Needing a break from the quicksand, we took a walk through a nearby wooded area filled with sand dunes; let Alfie off the lead and breathed a sigh of relief. This was much better, lots of nice clear trails, friendly people smiling, waving and blowing kisses from a distance. Actually I’m too short sighted to be sure they were smiling, but I imaged they were. Then as we crested a small mound, Alfie chose that moment to squat at the feet of a crowd of people, all watching a herd of wild deer a few yards away.
Their body language now I was close up, was much easier to read, they hadn’t been waving, smiling or even blowing kisses they’d been gesturing for us to stay back, stay quiet and put Alfie on a lead.

Did Alfie bark and chase the deer? No of course not, he’s the sweetest, quietest dog in the world, besides he doesn’t see so well. However the body language from the crowd clearly stated we should try to pick up Alfie’s fluorescent diarrhoea. I think we got away with it, when I explained in Dutch, het is water (pronounced: ut iss vater) and Andy joined in the explanation with a mime.

Yep, we were this close

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