The good news came about as predicted within a couple of weeks. Just when some other, even better tiding, knocked on barn’s door. The area where we had bought our second farm was near a village that was set and artificially kept in the 1800’s. It is called Orvelte and is a museum village. Some of the people living there were artists on the Government salary but, as they were given an old farm-house as well as a salary, also expected to produce art sympathetic to the bygone era of horse-carts, peat cutting, thatching, smithing of horse shoes, thrashing of hay and each other. Each Saturday afternoon there would be a village dance which tourists in strange shorts would photograph with large cameras and even larger lenses.
Our daughters, Susanna and Natasha, being enrolled in the local school. (their second Dutch school) quickly made friends. Both started to speak fluent Dutch at an astonishing speed. Through those friends we met some parents including a couple that lived in Orvelte and who made pottery. The pottery was in keeping with this historic village. Good solid salt-glazed stoneware. We bought a set of cups & saucers, a bulky vase, wine goblets and large serving dish. None have broken so far. The potter and his wife made a living from the potters wheel and also enjoyed the Government Artist salary. It turned out he was as fed up with his conveyer belt production of stone pottery as I was with the previous clock dials with seagulls in endless flight.
The potter and his wife soon joined another couple whereby the husband claimed to be a sculptor. He even managed to get the local shire to put up signage along the village roads pointing to his house with studio. When I visited him and after introduction asked if he would be so kind as to show me some of his work, he obliged. He showed me a glass case with a lid behind which he kept some drawings of work he had done at The Art Academie years before. And that was that! Not a single work, not even a block of stone or lump of clay laying about. He normally charged an entrance fee to tourists to see his drawings inside this glass case with a lid. When he spotted my Kombi he quickly asked me if I would be so kind to pick up a wardrobe somewhere. I did. Helvi wasn’t impressed. But I explained he did not charge me to look at his drawings.
Even so we needed friends and invited them for an afternoon. He ate all of our peanuts. He must have been so hungry. His hand kept throwing those nuts back into his tilted upward mouth. It is strange how those memories keep sticking. I mean we did not mind the peanut frenzy, but were just somewhat surprised. Heaven knows what others make of us? “Gerard is really weird and strange”, they could well whisper behind closed doors!
Another couple we tried to befriend was a printmaker. I knocked on his door. He just poked his red face through a window and asked what I wanted. I explained we were from Australia seeking friendship. “I am an artists too”, I said bravely while nodding affirmatively and somewhat conspiratorially. “Oh,” he said without hesitation, ” I am having a fight with my wife”, “I can’t see you.” He slammed the window shut. Marital fights in Holland are just as prevalent as anywhere. Just because they ride bikes, eat herrings and live abstemious lives, doesn’t mean they don’t suffer marital whiplash at times. It is universal.
We did keep a few couples as friends including the potter couple of stone-ware. He worked as a part time teacher and informed me the school for adult education was looking for a teacher in the creative arts especially painting and drawing. I got the job. This was the other good news I was alluding to at the beginning of this piece. But that wasn’t the end of happy and more happy! I won a commission to make a mural for a yet to be built school in the small town where my daughters attended school. This town is named Westerbork.
It all came good.