One day, in August, 1997, I sat and chatted, on a bench, by the canal, with a little girl with blond pigtails.
I used to live, in one of those flats/home units, in that street, (1955/1956). I used to walk the length of it and cross a little bridge, to the left of this picture and walk up this dyke, to the ark.
There I used to meet my two friends, Imme and Karin and we walked to school together. I was 10. (Imme my age. Karin younger.)
On my very last day of my trip to the Netherlands, I walked across the town of Gouda, back to that spot, where the ark used to be moored to sit and stare at the water, when this little girl came to chat with me.
She knew all about Australia! It is far away and you go by plane and she had been in a plane. ( I guess she been on vacation somewhere in southern Europe.)
I was on long service leave and back in Sydney I had so much enjoyed sharing ‘Playing Beattie Bow’, by Ruth Park, with my class.
On that bench, in the mood I was in, I was rain-man. I was in a movie and back in the mid-fifties and this little girl was Karin.
When I told my colleagues about it, in the staffroom, back in Sydney, they said I was lucky that a policeman didn’t see me! Not that I had these photos with me then or they could see that this was hardly a private meeting.
From those windows of the flats, the occupants would have been seeing this grey-haired man and this little girl, sitting on that bench, having this serious conversation, and the cows that were listening a few feet away*.
Quite some time before we left for Australia, I was walking down the little street, around the corner. Imme was skipping, with some girlfriends. This was the first time, of a few, in my life, that I was being sung at in this vein:
While the other girls were turning the rope and Imme was jumping they sang, to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March: " Imme, heb jij je Jopie lief? Nee hoor….."
( Imme do you love Jopie? No….)
P.P.S. The girls’ father was an engineer. Everyone had name plates on their doors then and the name on their door had Ir_, after it. It meant that they were middle class. (_Pillarisation was only just beginning to wane.)
I was invited to come and have dinner with them once.
It meant eating with a fork AND a knife. Working-class people, like me, ate with just a fork.