How would the four nouns in the title possibly make for a blog post, you may well ask?
The common denominator is The Kingdom of The Netherlands, our new home!
After an incredible nine months of adventuring the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia and America, we returned to the blessing of a new apartment, the timing of which could only be attributed to Divine intervention.
The housing market, both for buying and renting in The Netherlands is on another level, making it virtually impossible to buy and extremely expensive to rent. However, thanks to an introduction at a local gym on our arrival, four years ago, which led to another introduction to a self-taught nail technician, whom in turn, I introduced to my friend, she of the “angel” title, who, once again donned her halo and wings and made an enquiry of the lovely nail technician regarding a newly renovated apartment… Around three months after that encounter, we moved into that very apartment on the day of our eventual arrival back in the peaceful town of Heemstede, North Holland – coincidence? I choose to believe that it has all been a God-incidence.
Back to the nouns in the title.
Staircases in this country are narrow, winding, tight, steep, treacherous and simply terrible for moving furniture up and down! Whilst the staircase treads might be uniformed and even, they are typically very short, though not necessarily shallow. The descent requires one to either step sideways or use the duck feet method, requiring one to keep a firm hold on the stair rail so as not to find oneself flying headlong to the bottom of said staircase!
Best advice to anyone moving into a Dutch home is to remove the stair rail before negotiating any furniture moving between the levels, it will save a lot of frustration and wall touch-ups once the settling in has taken place.
Ironically, I still find it somewhat intriguing that some of the tallest people on the planet manage to fit themselves into such quaintly sized homes, equipped with above mentioned tight staircases which lead to and from equally small sized doorways.
Apart from the obvious challenge of moving furniture in and out of these under-sized apertures, most of which require some fairly creative tetris-style menovers, there is the other typically Dutch method of furniture moving: hoisting from the pavement, using ropes, via a giant hook that is suspended from the apex of the roof, and in through the window!
In Amsterdam where the canal houses are akin to an old person’s snaggle toothed mouth in the way they stand jammed up against one another, each shoring up the other in their higgledy-piggledy fashion. There the angle of the roof pitch to pavement is far more pronounced as the furniture item may swing and sway in the hoisting process, thus necessitating the houses to appear to be leaning forwards towards the pavement.
Needless to say, the blessings of family and friends (who have become family) meant that the hard work of hoisting and struggling, sweating and straining took place a few days before our eventual arrival, for which we are beyond grateful. Our jet-lagged and covid protocol-strained journey would have rendered the bulk move a bridge too far. Instead we arrived from the airport to our new apartment full of our worldly possessions, mostly waiting for us in one room, to arrange into the various rooms of our choice.
It was then that we discovered that our newly refurbished old apartment has smaller doorways than what is conventionally acceptable. More of the tetris-style menovering had us sweating and straining as we began the settling in process.
Fast-forward about three days, when we were virtually done with the furniture and the unpacking, that we needed to get a load of washing done. Then the warning of our dear friend became reality and the realisation dawned on us that there was no way that a regular front loading washing machine, of standard width, would ever fit through the doorway!
The search was on for a narrow width, top loading washing machine… Thanks to the multitude of online sites for all and everything under the sun, and the more tech-savvy friends to navigate them, a bargain was soon in the making.
Whilst the first couple of weeks passed in our new apartment, without the slim-fit washing machine, I discovered the nearest coin-operated laundromat. About a 20 minute bicycle ride into the city of Haarlem, on the quaintly cobbled square of the old Botermarkt (Butter Market, in days of yore), is the home of “My Beautiful Laundrette”.
These public laundering facilities are typically found in tourist/studen/ lower income areas of cities across the globe. The Botermarkt does not perhaps fit that sort of city district description; however, the facility is as typical of any public laundromat anywhere in the world. Fortunately the operating instructions are pretty standard but the odd Dutch quirk was easily ironed out for me by a friendly older local lady.
After getting my washing loaded and washing, I asked her where she lived, to which she replied: Heemstede. That was reassuring as I now had confirmation that this was indeed the closest laundromat to our home and that I had not overlooked one right in Heemstede.
We chatted a little longer, in my best conversational Nederlands, only to discover that this lady has been using “My Beautiful Laundrette” for 40 years as she has never owned her own washing machine!
WOW! Did I feel humbled and very much a spoiled, entitled brat when I realised that I had been sighing (somewhat heavily) over the fact that our new apartment had such narrow doors that I could not have a standard washing machine at my personal and private disposal.
“Belt up”, as my maternal grandmother would have said! Stop complaining about what you do not have and instead be grateful for what you DO have: a bicycle to ride into Haarlem, a perfectly functional public laundry facility and, above all, the physical ability of getting there and getting the cleaning job done!
It has been three weeks and we feel very much at home, especially since we do have a narrow, top loading washing machine under our stairs!