>> Monday, 18 February 2008

The Barbarians are at the Gate

A couple of posts ago I fancifully described a confrontation with Boy #2 in the style of a war report. Well, that will teach me. It seems the Boys have worked out there is safety in numbers and have combined forces. Guess who's winning? You be the judge...

Boy #2 is obsessed with what goes on in the kitchen. Every time I start sorting out breakfast, lunch or dinner for the pair of them, he wants to pull a chair up to counter, stand precariously on it, and watch what I'm doing, reaching for safe play objects like the knife block or a recently boiled kettle the moment my head is turned. So when he decides to indulge in a little role play away from the danger zone - namely, in his plastic play kitchen - I go with it.

This afternoon, he was bringing me pretend stuff to eat. As he got close, I would grab his grubby little paw and pretend to gobble it up - resulting in much hilarity. In fact, it was so much fun that Boy #1, normally far too grown up for that sort of thing, decided to get in on the act. He made a couple of feints, bringing me pretend chocolate ice-cream (my favourite), and pretend spaghetti carbonara (what else?), before he judged I was softened up enough.

The third trip he made from the play-kitchen, I noticed a look of 4-year old devilment in his eyes. Just as I grabbed his hand and bought it to my mouth, some guardian angel gave me a nudge, and I asked "What delicacy is it this time?"

Unable to contain himself at his own cleverness, he shouted "A bogey!"

It was.

A real one.

Which I just - just - managed to not put in my mouth.

I swear they planned the whole thing between them....


Dutch Treat

A couple of weeks back Iota at 'Not Wrong, Just Different', spotted a comment I made somewhere that mentioned I am married to a Dutchman. Tell us more, she said. I promised to, but then forgot in a rush of posts about awards, memes, the Boys and birthdays. But, a promise it was, so here goes; some Top Tips about spending time with the Dutch...

(Apologies to Sweet Irene if she should read this; as usual, I'm exaggerating for effect...)

1. Do expect men to open doors, pull back chairs, pay for dinner. I didn't, having only dated Brits previously, so all this chivalry was a little unsettling for little old feminist me. Don't worry though - I soon got used to it. (And then of course we married, and it stopped. Plus ca change...)

2. Do not expect 'a couple' of beers to mean just two. A Dutch 'couple' means anything between 2 and 6. If you go out for 'a couple of beers' with a Dutch mate, you may come home sober as a judge, or you may be 3 sheets to the wind. It's more likely to be the latter.

3. Do expect them to smoke - cigarettes. This has improved hugely in the last 10 years or so, but still expect most restaurants to be rather smokier than you might be used to, and not to be able to see across the bar. The Dutch are the worst chain smokers I have ever met... (This though will have to change this summer as I understand they are introducing the same anti-smoking laws we now have in the UK).

4. Do not expect them to smoke - drugs. They tend to leave this kind of behaviour to the tourists, so they can look down on them and feel as naturally superior as they believe themselves to be.

Which leads me neatly on to...

5. Do expect the Dutch to be arrogant. In the nicest possible way, of course. Despite their country's relatively small size, the Dutch have been at the centre of world trading operations for the last 6 or 7 centuries. They have fingers in every pie. They know people everywhere (well, in a nation of only 16 million people who it seems are all extremely good at networking, a person can expect to know a fair proportion of their compatriots). There is a strong belief in the Netherlands that whilst the Americans - poor fools - think they run the world, the Dutch know they do.

As a result, they are extremely well-informed about current affairs the world over, and see themselves as big players on the world stage. It often comes as a nasty shock when they realise a large proportion of the world's population not only don't know who their prime minister is, but can't actually name their queen (they have a queen?), or even place their country on the map.

6. Their men's fashion taste can be... interesting. Exhibit One: Red Trousers. Oh yes. Red trousers. In public. OK, so quite a few of them used to be in the army (they didn't stop conscription until 1994, and one in 4 had to join up for a year - Husband included), but really. Red trousers?

7. Do expect them to complain. Loudly. About just about anything. The prices of food, the distance between tube stops, the constant rain they assume falls in Britain, the fact that there has been no rain since they arrived in Britain (in fact the weather is usually worse in Holland than here, but they will never accept this). Complaining is a national past-time - and means very little. It's just something they do - don't take it personally.

8. Do not expect them to assume they will be understood by the locals when speaking Dutch to each other. This explains why Dutch tourists the world over will make loud deprecating comments about the country they are visiting at the top of their voices across a crowded bus / railway carriage / bar, and be astonished if you understand them. Husband once had an amusing experience on a tube in London when a couple of Dutch girls were discussing him, loudly. He wished them good day - in Dutch - as he got off the train. You can imagine their faces....

9. Do expect to be asked personal and intensly private questions within, oh, about an hour of having met someone for the first time. I'm English, so this came as a bit of a shock. The first time I met my (now ex) Sister-in-law, she asked if I like children. A harmless enough question, you might think. Unless you're English, of course. If you're English, you know that the subtext is; "I know you only met my brother-in-law a few weeks ago, and that you're clearly not in any position to have a serious relationship given the distances involved (at the time Husband was working in Russia), but let's cut to the chase here: do you want to marry him and have his babies or what?"

Wow. Never knew that five little words 'So, do you like children?' could mean so much, did you? Flummoxed, and English, I gave the only answer I could. "Well, yes I do. But I couldn't eat a whole one."

And now, having no doubt got myself into loads of trouble, I will just make this disclaimer:

All of the above observations are based on a very limited sample, and of course my beloved Husband in no way displays any of these traits (with the exception of posessing both chivalry and a pair of red trousers); he is an angel in human form and I love him dearly.


Did I get away with it?


Tracey 19 February 2008 at 00:44  

I think you might have got away with it. But only because you love him!

My husband was only relating recently a discussion he had (whilst overseas for work) with a Dutch woman who wondered why there were all these expressions in English that used the word Dutch. For no good reason that she could see. Such as "Going Dutch" (doesn't fit in with your bit about chivalry!). "Dutch courage". "Double Dutch" (well, they explained that one - the language when spoken does sound incomprehensible!!!). My husband added "Dutch oven" - NOT the cooking utensil, at which point everyone except her fell about laughing. She hadn't heard that one, so he had to explain it to her later.

But she had a point. Why?!

But anyway, thanks, I've learnt a few things from your post. That quite possibly the next male I see wearing red pants is likely to be Dutch.

And to be very careful playing make-believe cooking and eating with four year old boys! My girls would never have done such a thing!!!

Kaycie 19 February 2008 at 01:40  

Your boys make me smile. Oh so much.

And I do think you got away with it. He'll read those last few lines and forget everything else you said.

Well done!

The Rotten Correspondent 19 February 2008 at 01:59  

I'm checking back in after the better part of a week MIA from my favorite blogs. Sorry - I'm not trying to ignore you!

I'm all caught up, I think. Sorry you've been inducted into the tantrum wars and being double teamed by nefarious boys. I know both of those well.

What does your Dutch husband do that lets him live in such wonderful places? And I totally think you pulled it off!

ped crossing 19 February 2008 at 05:40  

What is it with boys and bodily fluids, functions and general grossness? Thank goodness you avoided that boogy.

And yes, I think you pulled it off!

debio 19 February 2008 at 07:32  

Oh my goodness I laughed at your observations of the Dutch.....

They do so travel well, don't they? I was amazed - being British - that there were so many Dutch people here; and I recognise aspects of your descriptions in all of them.

Visited Holland (whoops - should it be the Netherlands, I never know?) twice in last 18 months. Had many a laugh with many people over 'Dutch' expressions in English!

Potty Mummy 19 February 2008 at 10:13  

Tracey, I hope to have got away with it. But only because he's not supposed to read my blog (hmmm, have my doubts about that. He's a smart cookie. If he puts his mind to it, I'm busted). And I KNEW girls wouldn't do that type of thing. Oh well - no going back now!

Kaycie, I was laughing as I realised the trick he was trying to pull. In a totally disgusted way, of course...

Hi RC, never thought you were ignoring me (I just have to take a look at your sidebar to see the number of blogs you check in to, must be exhausting!). And at the time, Husband was running the Russian arm of a British company in Moscow, which meant he got to travel all over the former Soviet Union. Pretty exciting, I agree. (But I still won't move there - too damn cold in winter, and full of fur-wearing blondes...).

Ped, I don't know - but if you work it out, can you let me know?

Debio, you're right, they're everywhere. I can't think of anywhere we've travelled (and we've done most continents) that Husband hasn't just bumped into someone he knows. They are world citizens...

Iota 19 February 2008 at 14:52  

That's fascinating, and I love story no 8.

Where does the expression "going Dutch" come from? It makes it sound like chivalry is dead and the man would never buy you dinner, but your analysis is the opposite. (Oh, I've just read Tracey's comment, and she's already said all that.)

Are your boys growing up bilingual? What is "bogey" in Dutch, I wonder.

aims 19 February 2008 at 15:04  

Oh Gawd help me - my sides hurt!

Girl - you are getting better with age...
(btw - I'm a fur wearing redhead - do I pass?)

aims 19 February 2008 at 15:04  

Oh Gawd help me - my sides hurt!

Girl - you are getting better with age...
(btw - I'm a fur wearing redhead - do I pass?)

Jonny's Mommy 19 February 2008 at 18:30  

I'm sorry but..they have a queen? Well, anyhow, I don't have time to learn about those people. I'm an American after all and the world revolves around me. :-) Just, so funny. Hope your hubby takes it all in good fun!

By the way, thank you so much for commenting on my blog about the feeding issue. It was nice to know that someone else has had some similar issues.

Jonny's Mommy 19 February 2008 at 18:32  

Incidentally...I live fairly close to an area where there are a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch...not the same is it? Turns out too -- they were not actually Dutch, but German, but the stupid Americans were too dumb to know that (hello, they were speaking German) so they called them Dutch. We also call them Amish.

Pig in the Kitchen 19 February 2008 at 20:30  

I didn't know Holland was a real country, I thought it was some fictional state made up for fairy tales, who says you don't learn stuff by blogging?
You have completely burst my dutch bubble...I've always thought dutch men rather big and sexy.
I know a dutch banker and i've met his wife, dun dun durrrr, could we have met each other?
A close one with the bogey pie, you did well.

GoneBackSouth 20 February 2008 at 09:53  

Oh gosh, my son is obsessed with the kitchen too - never been served one of those though (not to my knowledge anyway)

Potty Mummy 20 February 2008 at 13:05  

Thanks Iota, glad you liked it. And one point I didn't mention on my list (I thought it might be the teeniest bit contentious) is that the Dutch are famed in mainland Europe for being - how can I say it? - a little 'careful' with their money. Much like it has been suggested the Scots (gasp!) can be. So whilst your average Dutchman, in my experience, will pay for dinner, don't count on it's being at the Ritz. (Which again, is totally not my husband - but maybe I just got lucky). Oh yes, and the boys are growing up bilingual in so much as that as is possible living in London, and the Dutch for bogey is 'snotter'. Well, you did ask....

Aims, you definitely pass. But Canada might also qualify as too cold for me, I'm afraid (though lovely to visit, I'm sure!).

J's Mommy, hope you didn't take that as a criticism of you guys, it wasn't meant like that at all! Believe it or not, the US does not have a monopoly on it's citizens knowing very little about royal families outside their own country... Also, I guess you don't see that many Amish wearing red trousers... Although that's probably because, as you say, they're German.

Pig,you were right first time. They are tall, and rather sexy. But I decided not mention that - didn't want to make the rest of you jealous... And who knows, we may have met - but only if the Dutch banker you met was accompanied by a dark haired wife with attractive bits of snot and vomit decorating the collar of her shirt...

GBS - as you say, not to your knowledge...

Potty Mummy 20 February 2008 at 13:06  

BTW Pig - obviously, the snot and vomit are courtesy of my sons. Just thought I should make that clear....

Pig in the Kitchen 20 February 2008 at 13:47  

no, it's ok, it wasn't you. The one I met was blonde...(and i'm really glad it wasn't you, i wasn't that keen!)
pix of the husband? possible?

Pig in the Kitchen 20 February 2008 at 13:47  

oh, and it was perfectly clear, let's not burst the bubble of your gorgeous husband...who drools and has snail trails from his nose.

Jonny's Mommy 20 February 2008 at 15:07  

Oh offense. I thought it was hilarious. I make fun of Americans all the time. We are arrogant and rude most of the time and really do think the world revolves around us. Such as those who live in New York City. They forget there is a whole other world out there that doesn't walk through Central Park every day and drink lattes and eat bagels from New York delis. In fact, I was watching the news after their former mayor stepped down from our presidential race and the guy says "I don't understand why people wouldn't vote for him..he's done so much for New York."
Well, sir, that is because there is a whole other country out there beyond New York City and what's he done for them lately? :-)

Nobby&Me 20 February 2008 at 19:53  

Loved your double header! Girls do bogies too you know, more covertly it's true. Mine has never offered me one to try, but when I moved her bed recently I found where she does put them - into a work of art on the wall. She also wipes them on the wall in the toilet, right next to the bog roll. My boy just puts his on the front of his t-shirt so they transfer to yours when you hug him.
What say you about Dutch ladies? I'd say they are fairly similar, my dutch friend certainly fits many of your points although she favours orange coats rather than red trousers. She is married to an Indian, my god he cops some flack!

Potty Mummy 20 February 2008 at 20:58  

Pig, I will if you will...

J's Mommy; but I thought you ALL live in New York? So much for my general knowledge then...

N&Me, thanks for the visit and oh my god! Boy #1 does the bogeys on the wall thing too! I hadn't admitted to that one yet because frankly was too ashamed, but now, thank heavens, I know we are not alone...

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