Kate's On Why THIS Should Be Your Next Holiday Destination
IT STRIKES me as curious that humans always think we’re cleverer than nature.
I don’t just mean when it comes to skyscrapers, or putting plastic containers in a microwave, but more with regard to our rigidly monitored views of each other.
The way we have deemed it permissible, for instance, to recognise certain attributes in four-legged animals, but not in our own two-legged kind.
For example, it is indisputable that certain breeds of dog make excellent hunters. Some are lapdogs or sooky or friendly, or are brilliant “work” dogs, or “good with kids”. Some are ideal “family” or “guard” dogs. That is nature, yes?
Yet when it comes to human animals, it is verboten to associate any qualities — positive or negative — as being even generally peculiar to one’s race. This strikes me as the most ludicrous thought-policing ever. Every culture and race has developed (often pretty obvious) strengths and weaknesses. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why they sorted themselves into tribes in the first place.
Anyway, I’m going to swim against the tide here. I’ve just come back from Holland and, quite frankly, the Dutch are not like anyone else. Mainly because no one is. But also, because they are amazing. And confounding.
So, this was the idea; an all-in European holiday with my parents, my four children and my lucky husband Petie, who got to organise everything.
The trip was extra significant because not only would I get to see Holland and my relatives there for the first time since I was a child, my babies and husband would, for the first time ever, be able to see where Opa was from. And, consequently, where I am a little bit from, too.
As is so often the case, the people make the country. But in the case of Holland, that is literally true. It’s because they reclaimed it from the sea, you see. A lot of the country is under sea level. Yet it is fertile, and green, and only faintly damp, and the clever Dutch generally act like it is no big deal.
We drove over an amazing 26km dike, and dad told us how last century they divided the North Sea from the South Sea, and turned the water from salty to sweet.
They are capable people. They are disciplined and measured, resilient and hardy. We were there for 10 days and it was allegedly summer, yet it rained every day.
One day it was 17 degrees, yet the Dutch were on their bikes — in their thousands, everywhere — riding with purpose in the rain. Often, they didn’t even wear a rain coat and nobody, except a few road racers, wore helmets.
We saw older people, deep into their 80s, pedalling round their neighbourhoods or carrying bags of shopping on their handlebars.
The Dutch have a saying about going about your business in the rain: You’re not made of sugar. If you get wet, you won’t melt.
They were friendly and spoke brilliant English, and total strangers insisted on hearing about our itinerary, and then scoffing at where we were going. So Dutch.
They love cheese. And they are scrupulously, almost painfully, clean. We drove from one side of the country to the other, and saw so little litter that after a week I said to my husband: “I feel like throwing a Coke can in a canal to see what would happen.”
But I wouldn’t do that, of course, because who wants to get the tallest people in the world off-side? Not me.
For starters, I’d be scared to get a kicking from their giant wooden shoes.