We have a friend, well not so much friend but acquaintance. She used to the civilian clerical assistant at a medical centre Nina’s midwives used. She is a Dutch muslim lady, married with two almost teen children. She and her hubby were not what I would call devote in their religion but still followed it. She always wore a loose headscarf but would remove it amongst women. Her hubby did not have a full beard but just some sort beard arrangement. This said they always took an opportunity to espouse the value and piety of islam. To be honest while I found her pleasant enough her hubby I was always uneasy near, so was my guide dog Sissi, she would always nudge me away from him like some little tug boat attending to it’s liner (not saying I am built like a ship !)
A few years ago after her hubby had come to pick his wife up from work he learnt Nina and I were married. Later at a St Nicholaas event he approached Nina and asked if she and I would be interested in joining him and his wife for “a night” ! Nina, eyebrows raised signed to me what he had just asked and I fully expect her to do her usual upon getting such a request. On this occasion she was very restrained and declined, more or less politely and he escaped without his gonads being crushed. When Nina asked what on earth possessed him to even think it was appropriate to ask such a thing his response that as we were lesbians we were promiscuous and would welcome such a request from such a, and here I quote him “fine couple like us” !
Interesting that to him “lesbian” = promiscuous.
I grabbed Nina’s hand and we walked away but I know that later Nina told the lady that if her hubby ever showed his face in the base clinic again she would have the MPs arrest him.
Yesterday in town we ran into her in a store and during the usual pleasantries she said to us that she and her hubby would still be interested in us joining them. Now while I missed exactly how it had been said because I was not face on to the lady and so could not clearly read her lips I could see Nina flex her back in that way she does just before she belts someone so I quickly intervened and asked how it was that she squared casual sexual encounters with other married couples to her religious beliefs.
Her answer surprised me, a lot.
“You are not muslim so you do not count” unquote.
Now I am not saying that HER interpretation of islam is one that is mainstream, certainly not, but it is reflective of a degree of exceptionalism that I have noticed before amongst jews and Christians as well. It strikes me that when it comes to getting one’s end away ALL followers of religions will find justifications – just ask the Duggers !
Before I sign off I will answer the question I know is in your minds………………………. NO
(we have standards you know !).
On this date two years ago Nina was heavily pregnant with Joost. This new addition to our family had been expected to be born around the middle of December but he was clearly finding his accommodations inside Nina to be very comfortable and so was in no hurry to leave. By Christmas Eve he was nine days over due but as all was well so there was no concern, besides people worry far too much about “due dates”, this modern obsessiveness about dates has been brought about by over medicalisation of birth in paternalistic societies. Our first pregnancy had over run as well, with Mariaske arriving 21 days late. Nina was still charging about, helping with our holiday guests, seeing to our other three children and generally making every other women sick with just how easy she made pregnancy look ! We were all wondering if Christmas Day would be the day, but happily that particular cliche’ passed without incident.
As we got closer to the day the longing inside me to see my child seemed to become almost physical, a sort of morning sickness of the barren and unfulfilled. At that time every mother and child I saw was a simultaneous moment of exultation and despair. I don’t know why it is that we women feel such a deep need to create life from within inside ourselves, why we yearn for a time when our own flesh will bring us comfort, but I did feel it, most exquisitely. That’s an experience that most women, women with their own children , miss out on in life, the intensively female grief which accompanies the fear that through our baroness those little lives will never exist.
When Nina had been pregnant with Mariaske she had breezed along though it and I had been carried along in her wake without a worry in the world, but with Joost Throughout her pregnancy with Joost I could not stop watching Nina. I was much more tense, always feeling like I was holding my breath with thoughts of what could go wrong always in my mind. I was terrified that we was putting Nina at risk and for what, we had three lovely children already, my genes were nothing special ! However, I was scarred for this slim chance that I might, against all the odds, actually one day hold a child of my own.
Once a week on Friday nights our other children would have Mama ( “Nina is Mama, I am Moeder -Mother) stand in bra and panties against the measuring wall in their bedroom and carefully draw around her baby bump to mark the progress of our pregnancy. Outwardly I would be smiling and happy but inside I would be relieved that another week had safely passed for Nina and baby, my happiness coming from that.
It is strange how all this had come about. The reason Nina was having Joost because of of silly incident that resulted in me having a second intra-cranial bleed. This bleed had wrecked havoc on my visual cortex causing me many visual problems. It was while I was in hospital recovering from surgery for this that a blood test revealed that I might still have a functioning ovary. An ultra-sound scan confirmed that not only was one ovary still present healthy and functioning, but that eggs were present. No doubt they had been sustained over the last ten years by my cousin Tyjardia’s wonderful efforts with bio-identical hormones to keep me from dropping into early menopause following the loss of my uterus when I was twenty years old. On learning the scan results Nina had instantly demanded that those eggs be harvested and stored, she wanted them and as soon as humanly possible – who was I to object ! Five months later, and two rounds of IVF, a kind donation from our very good friend Nik and the eggs raided from my very own larder and she was pregnant with a child of mine. Ever since loosing my womb I had never dreamed that I might still see, hold and nurse a real child of my own, but now here I was holding my breath, drowning in the enormity of what she was doing for me.
During the day on News Years Eve we had gone out for lunch with friends at a restaurant on the Vrijhof. Normally at this restaurant Nina would order their baked fish but on this day she just settled for a light salad. I looked at her and she just smiled back and I knew, and she knew I knew, and for just a little while we shared that little time, a private little secret that her labor was just firing off its first little warm up shots as we sat in that lovely companionship with friends and family. We had hoped to get back home without any fuss from everyone else, but then someone observed that Nina was not eating much. Our excessively bright and sharp daughter Hilke stated that “Mama is not eating because baby is coming”. I was never sure if everyone stopped because of the content of her news, because of the calm way she had delivered the statement, or because of the looks on Nina and my face that she had known all along ! Then the dam burst and the questions flooded in as we tried to re-assure everyone that it was just the barest of first contractions and that our newest child was not about to be born there between desert and coffee !
As it turned out it was some twelve hours later after an uneventful labor that Joost finally slipped from Nina’s body. Joost arrived after surprisingly little effort and into my waiting hands in our bedroom, watched by our three children, our midwife Anna, two dogs and a cat. As a throughly satisfied Nina sat back I placed Joost onto her chest and as I did I could feel myself unwind a little inside. As my son lay there and rooted about for a nipple another part of me unwound, he was fine and showing normal behaviour. There was just the after birth to be delivered and we were safely there. As is our custom here everyone in the bedroom stayed quiet and just left birth mother and new baby to get acquainted until her body was ready to birth the placenta. I do not think I had ever been so unaware of my surroundings as I was then, my entire consciousness was there with them on my love’s breasts, over her thumping heart, and my son. I drank in every detail of him, desperate to know him, to imprint on me.
A little later while Nina and Anna attended to the afterbirth I held Joost for the first time. With my blouse off I held Joost to my naked skin so that he would get to know me as well. I have grown up holding babies, my mother was a doula for 40 years so I have handled babies for longer than I can remember. All our children are precious to me, adopted, birthed alike but right there and then I was holding this beautiful little soul whoes loss I had already grieved over some ten years before when told my womb was gone – I wanted to yell for joy for what I thought I had lost but now was here in my arms, and I wanted cry with relief that Nina and Joost were safe and well – caught between these two mountains of emotion I did the only thing I could do. I sat on the floor and asked his brother and two sisters the come and say hello.
Much later, alone and out of ear shot I wept and wept until purged and when I was done I went to our son’s cot, scooped him up and put him to my breast. While he suckled I put my face to his head and drank him in, trying to fix this new reality deeply in my mind.
So here I sit on one of the couches in our living room typing this. On the opposite couch my better half is asleep on her side with Joost tucked up ever so tightly against her and her arms enfolding him. Together like that the painting “Mother & Child II” by Gustav Klimt came into my mind. I want to reach over and catch that little run of dribble from the corner of Joost’s mouth and lightly push the hairs of Nina’s fringe that had fallen across her closed eyes, but I restrain myself
In a moment I am going to save this file, put the laptop down, slip over to the other couch, put my face to my son’s hair and drink in his lovely smell once again.
With all my grateful thanks to my Wife for this most wonderful of gifts.
Judith van der Roos.
Do you want to understand more about mankind ? Why do you believe in the nonsense of religions ? Why are we so violent ?
Well you could do no better than to read this book by Ernest becker “The Denial of Death”.
I was looking at the winter fields around my parent’s farm and feeling the cold wind over my face I felt some warmth touch me inside. I turned to see where this loving touch might have come from to see Nina watching me from track. I had felt her love in the breeze.
Our oldest son Nicky (10) likes trains, he likes watching them, reading about them and learning about those he sees and understand why they are built like they are. He is fortunate in that my father is also a big train fan, he has a model rail layout in one of the big barns that takes up the whole barn ! Opa (grandfather) knows all about trains from most countries to one degree or another. As my dad had no sons we daughters acted as stand in sons and learnt about trains from him – you would be amazed at just how much I know about trains ! Now father has a total of three grandsons and they have been infected with the train bug.
Recently a dear friend of ours from Norway, Karl, informed us of a programme on Norwegian TV that followed a 10 hour train journey in real time from Trondhiem to Bodo along the beautiful fiord coast. Nicky can now tell us all about every aspect of the Nordland Railway linking those cities, the design of the locos and trains and why everything is engineered the way it is. http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/Getting-here-and-around/Train-in-Norway/
As a little thank you to Karl Nicky has drawn his favorite Dutch train for Karl and now he is going to tell you all about the Plan V trains.
Judith vd R.
NS Plan V
After WW2 much of Dutch Railways (NS) rolling stock was damaged, worn out or stolen by the occupying forces and it was recognised that Holland needed new equipment so a series of long term investment plans were drawn up. Part of the plans was to continue with electrifying NS, which had been started before the war. Holland is a country with little coal, not much wood and no oil so electrifying railways made sense. The country is also small but with densely populated city areas which the government planned to grow quickly following the war so more efficient trains were needed.
The first were the the “Material 54” sets called Plan F, G, P, , M and Q, all based on a design that at that time were modern and stream lined. Very quickly they became known as “Hondekop” or “Dogs Heads”. They were comfortable units but rather heavy so when ten years later NS wanted more units the same basic design shape was kept, thought more effort made to reduce their weight, these were the The NS Mat ’64 or Materieel ’64 electric multiple units and were built by Werkspoor and later by Duwag and Wagonfabrik (later to become Talbot, then Bombardier) between 1961 and 1976. They were built in several batches from V1 to V13.
They have served all over Holland for over 50 years, carried millions and millions of people, bikes, school parties, soldiers and holiday makers. They have covered several million kilometres each in all sorts of weathers but they are wearing out. Many have now been taken out of service to provide spare parts to keep others running and in rail yards like Amsterdam, Amersfoort, Zwolle and here in Maastricht their are now long lines of them retired. Some have been rebuilt and sold to other countries like the Balkans but here by 2015 they will all be gone.
Now new trains with better and more energy efficient technology are being built. The new trains have much better steps that can extend and retract so that my disabled sister can use the trains more safely. You can see from one end of the train all the way to the other when you are inside. They have features like Monitors in them that show the train name, number, departure and arrival times, the route and if there is a problem so for those like my Mother and I who cannot hear train announcement still learn what is happening. They have brakes that do not make toxic dusts and that generate electricity to put back into the wires ! But they do not have the character of the Plan V’s. Perhaps character comes with age and so when I am my Opa’s age I will think the same of them. I will see.
Author: Nicky vd R.