Remember remember

There is good news, because since last week I work at the research insti­tute where Fred­dy also works. My con­tract is for three months, with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of exten­sion. So from 9 to 5 I am now a research assis­tant Mon­i­tor­ing & Eval­u­a­tion, where I can indulge my love for Excel and paper house­hold sur­veys. Every­thing else, like read­ing good books, cud­dling Ivan and run­ning, takes place ear­ly in the morn­ing or after sunset.

Last Fri­day night I was sit­ting at the win­dow to update our admin­is­tra­tion when my sub­con­scious reg­is­tered the sound of our gar­den gate. One look out­side gave me the shock of the evening. At least 15 girls, with colours in their hair and cos­tumes on, thronged our hum­ble front yard. “Let’s try this one!” I heard through the sin­gle glaz­ing. A father also loomed some­where in the back­ground. Before the thought “Oh no! Hal­loween! Sweets! We don’t have!” could take place in my head, the door­bell was already ring­ing through the house. In a pan­ic, I ran to the kitchen, where Fred­dy was still unper­turbed­ly prepar­ing din­ner. For­tu­nate­ly, that after­noon while shop­ping he had felt like eat­ing almond paste cook­ies. With the pack­age of cook­ies in my hand, I rushed to the door and stood at last face to face with the children.

Right. And then nothing.

Uhm … shouldn’t you sing or some­thing?” I asked the mot­ley crowd. The girls just looked at me quizzi­cal­ly, so I decid­ed to address the adult who was just vis­i­ble on the pave­ment. His answer was not very enlight­en­ing: “No, it’s not Christ­mas!” I felt com­pelled to give some infor­ma­tion about our cul­tur­al igno­rance, as Dutch peo­ple in Eng­land. This inspired the father to some French and Ger­man sen­tences, and an expla­na­tion of the Hal­loween prin­ci­ple: “They say ’trick or treat’ and then you give them sweets.” Hope­ful I looked back at the chil­dren, but their lips remained firm­ly togeth­er. To put an end to the sit­u­a­tion it seemed bet­ter not to be too strict about the rules, so I hand­ed them the cook­ies and the par­ty went to try her luck at the neighbours’.

It is hard to dis­tin­guish the hol­i­days from one anoth­er in Gilling­ham. On Sat­ur­day there were fire­works in the park, prob­a­bly on the occa­sion of Guy Fawkes Night, a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the failed attack on the House of Lords on 5 Novem­ber 1605. But it may also have been for Hal­loween. And today the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions were already on the shelves. Sin­terk­laas is sim­ply ignored, but we already found out dur­ing our last decem­ber in Eng­land that this par­tic­u­lar hol­i­day is not real­ly a suc­cess here.