To me, the summer was busy and hot. After months of renovating, moving and lots and lots of cleaning, I can hopefully enjoy a few summer evenings with my room-mate / partner / best female friend Pascale. Another painting against the wall here, another cosy plant in the window sill there, and then autumn 2019 will follow.
I moved from the top of the Randstad (the urban agglomeration of Western Holland) to the top of the Province of Brabant. From Zaanstad to Hooge Zwaluwe. According to Wikipedia, I was born in Breda fifty-one years ago, and when my room-mate / companion / best female friend said she wouldn’t mind moving to Brabant a year ago, I found that I was also thinking it would be a good idea to move back. A bit closer to family and old friends. Back to my original dialect and the local sausage bread. And despite the fact that I was having a good time in Zaanstad - a beautiful, diverse municipality near Amsterdam - I noticed that the thought of “being able to leave ‘the wild west’ behind me” did attract me. So, we did. To a village of about thirteen hundred residents.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is a well-known African saying that is supported by various pedagogues (and none other than Hillary Clinton). It always leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, it was great to grow up as a child with a certain sense of community. Growing up as a child in a small community perhaps stands for a happy childhood, but I have also seen enough happy and responsible children in Amsterdam, London and Tokyo. And yes, it is sometimes nice that the education of children is done by more people than just the parents, but I have also known enough people - especially GLBT people - who grew up extremely unhappy in a village.
“I would never consider leaving Amsterdam. Not on my life...,” a (gay) friend of mine said when I told him about my relocation plans. He wasn’t the only one. I do understand. I myself have lived in Rotterdam for ten years, in Amsterdam for six years, and in Zaanstad for eight years. I had a boyfriend in both The Hague and Utrecht. I got to know the Randstad well and I have enjoyed living there all these years.
The first autumn in Hooge Zwaluwe.
“Does it take a village to grow old?” I wondered one night while I was sitting on the bench in front of my new home with a glass of wine and watching the floating ducks in the little harbor.
I like the idea of living in an environment where I know the people. People who greet me when I pass by and who visit for a cup of coffee or a beer.
Anyway, I am such a chummy type that in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Zaanstad I managed to get to know my neighbors in no time.
Pascale and I have already spent some nights drinking wine and beer with the new neighbors and some other villagers. And just like in all the places we have lived in, we let people know right from the start what the situation is.
It never caused problems. Not in Amsterdam, not in Zaanstad, nor in Hooge Zwaluwe. “Oh, it’s something different,” you heard some neighbors thinking and that was the end of that.
An elderly fellow villager came by with one of his horses on one hand and his granddaughter on the other. Pascale and I kindly waved back and asked how his sick pony was doing. “It is up and about in the paddock,” was the friendly reply. I petted the horse.
“Are you two married?” the girl asked us. Her grandfather, Pascale and I started laughing. “Yes, something like that,” her grandfather said. “Yes, something like that,” I repeated, and stroked the granddaughter on her head. “Okay,” the girl said, and pulled her grandfather along, “Bye.”
Perhaps I will write a book, just as Hillary did. The title? “It takes a gay in the village to raise a child more tolerantly and it takes an old drag queen in the village to let straight people grow old more cheerfully.” Or something like that.
We have decided to go for peace and quiet, far away from the bustling, urban (gay) life. On the day of Pride, no boat passed by in the little harbor in front of our house. Just three little ducks.
Well, wherever you live - in a town or a village, in a palace or in a flat - I wish you a beautiful Indian summer and a peaceful or vibrant autumn.
Perhaps, if so desired, as quiet as the little harbor in Hooge Zwaluwe.
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