Sunday 19 May 2013
We woke to fine weather on Sunday. After breakfast, we cleaned the apartment and packed our bags to leave. We were heading to Breda, to visit Rowena Crowe, one of Susie’s friends from Film School. Rowena had moved to Breda from Maroubra in Sydney to Live with Marielle Hornstra and Marielle’s son, Sam.
When we arrived at the train station, there were no trains running to Breda because (as we were told) there was someone on the tracks. We assumed this meant a suicide, but the person at the station office corrected us: the person on the tracks would be dead were the trains to run. There was clearly no denying the logic of this argument. A flurry of messages ensued back and forth from Ruby at Tilburg University and Rowena in Breda, and the problem resolved itself in about half an hour—apparently without bloodshed. We caught the train to Tilburg university, returned Ruby’s clutch to her, and she put us on train to Breda. From Breda railway station we caught bus to a stop near the apartment where Rowena, Marielle and Sam lived.
The apartment had lovely big windows (as do many houses in the Netherlands) with a pleasant, leafy aspect. Marielle and Ro treated us to a delicious lunch, and afterwards the five of us set out on bicycles to Meersel-dreef in the North of Belgium where there is a playground and a fabulous pub. The ride was superb: the sun was shining; the swans were building nests, and the canals shone in the sun like rivers of honey. We were impressed by the quality of the bike paths. It is possible to ride for long distances in beautiful surrounds without having to negotiate dangerous roads. And unlike Australia, where the paths would be dominated by impatient enthusiasts dressed in lurid lycra clothes taking themselves far too seriously, the other cyclists were people of all ages on sensible bikes in sensible clothes riding in a calm, breezy manner. Gotta love the Dutch.
When we arrived at our destination, the outdoor venue was packed with people of all ages. The children played noisily on the equipment and the adults chugged away at the world’s best beer. Marielle told me the story of how she and Ro met and got together as a couple, and Ro and Susan caught up on each other’s news.
Just as we cycled back into Breda around 5 p.m., my cousin Walter pulled up outside Marielle and Rowena’s apartment in his car, and Ruby arrived on the bus. The timing was perfect! We all went up to the apartment and had a coffee. We then took leave of Rowena and Marielle, thanked them for a fabulous afternoon, transferred our luggage to Walter’s car, and drove for about an hour past Antwerp and Sint Niklaas to the new family house in Temse.
When we arrived in Temse, we were greeted by Walter’s wife, Veerle, and their daughter, Merel. This was a special moment for us, as we had heard much about Veerle and Merel, but we had never met them in person. Merel’s older sister, Marikje, was not in Temse at the time, but she was to arrive home during our stay after spending four months as a volunteer teacher in Suriname. Merel’s older brother, Arnout joined us for dinner. He is studying medicine in Ghent, and divides his time between Ghent and Temse. Merel is still at school, and is a delightfully cheerful person. Veerle had prepared a delicious meal of pasta with spicy chicken. This was the first of many wonderful meals we enjoyed during our stay. After dinner, Susan and I retired to Marijkes’ room, which was our home for the next three nights.