Image of Veranda


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I don’t know her name, but she is really pretty. She rides across the campsite on her bike without ever giving me a glance, with her brother and her Mom and Dad. Well, of course, they’re Dutch, all tall with yellow hair, it’s a winning combination!
Every other evening, she does the washing-up in the bathroom block. Her little brothers can’t reach the sink and her older brothers must be too tall and not able to reach the bottom. She walks the whole length of the path between the mobile homes gripping her bucket overflowing with plates and slops little splashes of water on the ground. With both hands shaking, she hoists the bucket up into one of the twelve sinks in the row and then it begins. A spurt of dish soap on the first plate, rub it, rinse the plate all over to get rid of the foam. Then she starts again with the next plate. It takes her two hours, 300 liters of water and a bottle of dish soap every night. She is always very beautiful, especially with all that foam. So, I have developed a great passion for washing up. Bridget, my mother, did not at first realize what had got into me. Bridget takes care of everything: the shopping, the cooking, the nail varnish, the remover, everything! My father, Felix, grumbles as he pulls pinecones off the roof of the car.
One evening, I announced that I wanted to do the washing up, but I will start with only every other evening so they don’t get too much of a shock. A little wink passed from Felix to Bridget, and she gave a smile in return. How had they managed to suspect something? It was a mystery! I am learning Dutch in secret, although it‘s difficult on the campsite with no dictionary. I started with the cereal box and the dish soap. By sheer luck everything on them is written in English AND Dutch: there are lots of double ‘aa’s and ‘ee’s. After three days I was ready to say to her “sugar”, “net weight”, “aids digestion” and especially “dish soap”: afwasmiddel.
Tonight’s the night, she is already there, in up to 40 centimeters of foam. I stand next to her with my three sets of plates, she is concentrating on her third plate. I launch right in proudly, pointing at her bottle of dish soap: “afwasmiddel!”
She opens her eyes wide, and I say again “afwasmiddel”. She shakes her head, then replies: “me Britt.”
She’s called Britt, a Dutch girl called Britt, what amazing luck, it’s fantastic!

Translated by Wendy Cross


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