For the last time

by Rick Johansen

This could be the last time, I don’t know. Oh no. The last time in Rotterdam, well, probably not, but I’ve gone back to my roots, loved it, scratched that itch and now it’s time, God more more likely easyJet willing, to go home. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, return to the land of my mother’s and go Dutch for a few days. While I’m not at peace with my Dutch past – that will never happen and you will need to wait for that difficult second book to read about that – there’s no more need for me to retrace the steps.

Speaking of steps, I’ve managed 73,000 of them since last Wednesday morning, which for a man in my state of unfitness and still semi-gripped by the after-effects of Covid is, in my humble opinion, no mean feat. I’ve made no less than three visits to the apartments I stayed at as a child – up to age 17, I think – and I’ve been to the market between Blaak and Meent. I’ve been to Spangen and Leuvehaven and Feyenoord – I’ve been to far more places in five days than I did as a kid. And that’s been a startling discovery – my memory box is nearly empty because there’s hardly anything to remember. I now know what I feared: we did next to nothing during the summers in the 1960s and 70s. And why? Because my Dutch family was as poor as my mum and me.

That said, I don’t look back on my Dutch childhood as a sad time. It was what it was. I didn’t know any different and never thought to compare my circumstances with those of someone else. Mine was not a happy childhood – the polar opposite was the reality – but that was no one’s fault. We made the best of very little and that was the sub-conscious theme of my trip.

I was frugal with my expenditure, not least because I had just returned from a heady trip to the land of my father’s in Canada, but mainly because I wanted 2023 to feel as much like the 1960s as possible. And the simple pleasures from back then, of watching trains and trams – and this time actually riding on the buggers – were the same ones I got off on this time.

I had thoughts of finding out what happened to my dead relatives, like where and when they died, that kind of thing, but in the end I let dead relatives lie. And there was, and remains, an element of bitterness towards my Dutch family which gnaws away inside me just a little bit. Again, that’s for another day, the big tell in a book no one except me will be interested in. Still, hardly anyone bought the last one, did they, but I still loved writing and self-publishing my work.

When I am home, I expect to have a more clear idea of what happened here. Today, I’m just ready to go home.


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