What would Horace Miner (Nacirema, 1956) have made of this?
One afternoon at the beach we observed the interesting Dutch ritual depicted in the image above – a nearby university was running some of its orientation activities for new students, one of which involved attempting to play football while encased in an inflated plastic ‘ball’ – much fun and hilarity. The hoegschool had also organised wristbands so that students could get ‘free’ food and drinks at the beach restaurant/bar during or after their ‘games’, so lively conversation bubbled over the top of the glass wind barrier in the southern corner. Then, quite suddenly, at around 6PM all the students left en masse, perhaps at the conclusion of the designated time period, leaving the outdoor-indoor restaurant to resume its customary uber laid-back vibe, an interesting blend of classic rock and Dutch ‘house’ music seeping out onto the sand. Couples, groups of friends, and families with young children soaked up the vitamin D as the sun cruised very slowly towards the horizon and the shadows lengthened almost imperceptibly. (We are still getting used to the extended summer afternoon at these northern latitudes, when it is still light at 9.30 or so….)
Across the wide expanse of sand, at the water’s edge, children, who may well be the next generation of amazing Dutch engineers, were industriously constructing a dijk to holdback the inexorable, incoming tide as it flowed into a channel running parallel to the shore. I found myself recalling Ben Coates’s postulation (Why the Dutch are Different, 2015) that the Dutch national character has been partly shaped by the ongoing battle to keep the water out. Despite its essentialist undertones, the concept was starting to make some sense. Twin boys only about 7 years old, yet quite muscular, were leading the battle against the water, assisted by another boy whose long blonde hair was neatly divided into two plaits. Two pre-teen ‘girls of colour’ thrilled their parents with wonky cartwheels, but the inhabitants of the beach seemed to be predominantly ‘white’, leaving me to wonder what the significant numbers of people of Moroccan, Indonesian, Turkish and other cultural backgrounds may be doing at that time (see forthcoming post about de Haagse Markt).
Later, as we proudly trotted out the few phrases of Dutch we have acquired, including the essential mag ik een biertje alstublieft (may I have a beer please), we learned that we have just four more weeks to enjoy the restaurant’s heerlijk food and beverages. Come October 1 the entire building, including what seem to be pretty permanent looking kitchen, dining and toilet constructions, will be dismantled and stored away somewhere until next March. The water may be controlled, but the change of season is another matter entirely. The beautiful sand dunes that stretch hundreds of metres back to the first line of apartments and houses get to temporarily reclaim the area borrowed by humans for the summer, making an exception for the master of light and space James Turrell’s Celestial Vault, an amazing artificial crater from which you can observe the winter sky vault or a panorama of beach and sea. The Dutch and art – yes, could be the topic of many posts, but I may leave that for Leana Julian’s forthcoming blog…stay tuned!