Simplify the simple.

The most wonderful solo adventure, to see my dear friend in the north of the country, led to a flood of memories as company for the almost two hour journey to Friesland.

Friesland is a unique part of this tiny country that I now call home. Not only is it home to the tallest humans on the planet, it is also uniquely locked into something of a time warp, particularly with regards to their language. The Fries dialect is actually more of a language than a dialect, one that they protect fervently.  As in most small, rural communities, the residents are close-knit, both in loyalty and in family ties and their language aids this form of isolation.

One of the twelve provinces of The Kingdom of The Netherlands and, for want of a title, it is a “very old country”, dating back to 500B.C., when the Friesians settled along the coast of the North Sea. They were tradesmen, seafarers, farmers and horse breeders. (Thanks Google)

Indeed, most of the Friesland region is agricultural. Dairy farms a-plenty, flocks of sheep and goats but also the most beautiful shiny black, silky feathered lower legs and thick mane and tail, Friesan horses. The stuff of fairytales in their agile elegance, and being most nimble for their size. 

This little jaunt made me think back to school summer holidays, since it is slap bang in the middle of such a time of the year, here in the northern hemisphere. The European summer is spectacular, possibly made all the more enjoyable as the antidote to the long winter months. However, this summer has been something of a non-event, in terms of the weather, mainly that there have been few sunny, hot summer days, yet… I’m banking on August for a bit of heat!

Since the global viral crisis struck the planet some 18 months ago, summer holidays have taken a drastic turn around, don’t we all know that well enough?!

Gone are the days of carefree international travel to exotic destinations. If one embarks on international travel, it is as far removed from “carefree” as one could ever imagine – we know very well after our nine month adventure!

Summer holidays 2021… Every family in the world finds the long summer holidays something of a challenge, in terms of keeping the children occupied for the duration. The idea of most of today’s children being bored, for even a moment, is simply unimaginable (insert eye-roll!)

Side note: I recall using the “B-word” with my Mum, around the sassy age of about nine or ten, having been a weekly border for a good two years, when I made this fateful declaration. Man, if I could have taken those words right back, I would have done so faster than they had made their exit! In the blink of an eye, Mum had a list of activities to stem that awful feeling, none of which appealed to my ten year old self, but needless to say, they soon became something of a holiday checklist in our home and an antidote to “that feeling”!

The travel restrictions have caused folks to explore local adventures and to enjoy the beauty within the borders of their own countries. For South Africans, this includes being able to holiday on local currency, at a slightly seasonally inflated price, but still more affordable than the exchange rates abroad.

So too for the rest of the world, though Europe is slightly different in that the travel restrictions are a little less rigid, countries smaller and thus closer, meaning that “international” travel is still possible for many.

On this note, I find it fascinating to read number plates when driving our little car and checking for the blue EU logo with the white capital letters beneath indicating where the car comes from. A vast number of German (DL) cars seem to stream west into NL, whilst many NL’s seem to travel east to the hillier countries – everyone likes a change, obviously!

To revert to the title of my post, I have been in total admiration of those who do not travel anywhere, either by car, bus, train or plane, no matter the season or the academic calendar. 

Our lives have simplified enormously these past four years, mostly by choice, and so we find ourselves living in a beautifully renovated rental apartment above a supermarket, with recycle bins below our window. Our neighbouring balconies house a smoker on one side and a renovator on the other, neither activity I find pleasant nor relaxing, other than the fact that the people themselves are charming.

The sound of summer is surely the chirp and chatter, screech and laughter of children, free from the regular routine of school days. The long, warm/hot mostly sunny days and nights, are filled with the  joyous sound of life and healthy outdoor activity.

I need to remind myself of this “joy”, particularly around 10 o’clock at night when the children from a block away are still shrieking and shouting in the street below!

It is rather cranky to ask kids to go home to bed when the sun is still fairly high in the sky so I have resisted the urge to become that “wicked witch” leaning over the second balcony above the shop, by asking instead that they kindly “lower their voices”, “keep it down” or “play elsewhere”. That was, until the other evening when the game of “hide and seek” reached a fever pitch of hollering, when I finally, very firmly, suggested that they return to their own street block, NOW!

So the solo adventure to Friesland had me summer holiday reminiscing as I passed lines of caravans and campers filled with excited children and slightly frazzled parents, that I also thought of the children below our window, with something of a pang of guilt:

These children live simple lives and are simply making the most of that in the only way available to them: playing in the street a block away from their own apartment homes.

So too, this prompted a memory from our girls’ nursery school days when a delightful retired child psychologist came to deliver some of his wisdom in the field of raising balanced children. One of his many nuggets was that every child needs a holiday to look forward to, as do adults/parents. His advice was that a holiday need be nothing more than a simple couple of nights away in a campsite, or a budget hotel, in order to have a change of scenery and a sense of excitement and anticipation, the proverbial: “a change is as good as a holiday.”

Wake up call 101 – instead of the irritation, go on down and join them, if only to offer them a packet of biscuits and to suggest that perhaps they venture a little further towards the Bos where there are a number of play parks especially designated for children of the community to play to their hearts content.

Keep it simple by simplifying the simple in a kind and fun way – quit the kranky, embrace the joy of summer in ALL it’s magical ways!

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