Another Van Pletsen Storyteller
Introduced by Roon Lewald
My cousin Dina Ann is providing fresh proof that the ancestors of the Van Pletsen tribe all qeued up to kiss the blarney stone. Dina’s mother (my Aunt René, who is still hale enough at 89 to plan her umpteenth trip to Europe this year) is the last survivor of my maternal grandfather Frans van Pletsen’s brood of four daughters and one son. The story-telling gift which prompted my own mother (Reinet’s elder sister Helen) to record the family’s history in her “Van Pletsen Saga” has resurfaced in Dina Ann Boessenkool (née Vincent). She left South Africa for the Netherlands with her Dutch-born husband Johan a few years ago after a chequered career which included business, teaching and running a South Coast holiday camp. Having swotted up enough Dutch grammar to land a part-time English teaching job at a secondary school in Almelo, she now entertains a far-flung fan community of relatives and friends with periodic e-mail reports about the funny, weird or downright exasperating aspects of social, bureaucratic and professional life among the Dutch.
Here’s the latest of her round-robins:
From Dina-Ann Boessenkool
Almelo, May 2009
OH BUMS….IT’S BORG!
I had a moment of enlightenment last week………..
I suppose we all remember when low-slung jeans became fashionable – and it
was almost obligatory to have the tantalising strings of a thong peeping out
above the top of the jeans? (Of course, in Australia, thongs are worn on the
feet. Strange, but true.)
There’s the sad tale an innocent soul down the South Coast, where we used to
live, who got himself into huge trouble because he twanged the thong of a
fellow employee who happened to be bending over for some or other reason.
My impression was that he was genuinely a good-hearted person who wouldn’t
dream of any kind of sexual harassment. Anyway, this lady took him to court
and he had to pay massive damages.
So I take that as a salutary lesson : Do not smack, flick, cuddle or
otherwise pay attention to the impudent round bottoms of the pre-adolescent
boys who cannot resist displaying their curves in the classroom. Just
recently, the waistline is even lower. The boys wear their trousers so
loose that they are kept up only by :
b) a hand clutching at the waist?? band under their long overshirt
c) they get themselves so turned on by their daring that they have
their own private coathook holding their trousers up .
I once sent a boy to the Meldpunt (that’s sort of the present-day version of
being sent to the “office”) with the instruction that he could return to my
classroom when he knew how to wear his trousers properly. He was told to
ask his father to make another notch in his belt. Fair enough, I thought.
Things have gone from bad to worse. Now the boys sometimes allow
their trousers to drop to right under their buttocks, to display two pert
round cherries covered in a variety of patterned underwear. When seated,
the waistband (for want of a better word) hugs the top of the thighs. They
actually sit on their underwear.
So, OK, then I decided to practice tolerance and let it be without making a
Now for my epiphany. Last week Johan and I were strolling down the high
street, quietly window-shopping. Lo and behold! There, displayed in the
shop window were two pairs of luridly patterned men’s underpants, loudly
proclaiming the brand name Bjorn Borg. Enlightenment.
Hey, I have to go. Have three bijlessen (coaching lessons) this afternoon.
OLD WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
More news from
Dear friends and family, Almelo, Netherlands
– August 2009
Guess what? School starts again on Monday 23 August – and I’m not going to
be reporting for duty. The long and the short of is that I quit. From now
on I’m going to concentrate on freelance work teaching adults. I enjoy this
hugely, though the pay is much less, and I shall have to work mostly in the
My subject head is very much a “mensch” and was a good friend to me in the two years I was at the school. He said a very nice goodbye and thank you very much. After extolling my virtues and talents at some length (implying
how lucky the school was to get someone like me), he said that he had ondered whether the children would accept me with my funny mixture of Afrikaans and Dutch. He concluded his speech with an invitation to join the English department high tea function. So I came home with a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers and a gift voucher and a huge feeling of relief.
Now I will try to “take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully
surrendering the things of youth”, to quote Max Ehrman. Hmm.
As far as I’m concerned, teaching high school belongs to my “youth”. I
think I surrendered that reasonably gracefully.
I spent the first few weeks of the holiday doing little more than sleep and
flop around. If I really wanted to bore you, I could go on and on about the
various ailments I have been afflicted with during these past few years. As
you are my friends, I will spare you the gruesome details. Suffice to say
that both Johan and I are quite happy to count our blessings, enjoy our
home, potter around, see friends, watch the grapes grow, make jam,
work on restoring the old Porsche he bought, go for a bike ride…
If you have read any of the Terry Pratchett books (or if you are
post-menopausal), you will know about the three ages of woman : the maiden,
the mother and the old crone. My favourite old crone is Granny Weatherwax.
She lives in the Disc World, flies her broomstick very badly, wears red
flannel underwear and metes out punishment to anyone who shows her
disrespect. I have to admit that there have been times that I wondered
whether I was turning into a not-so-old crone. Of course, there are
wonderful advantages to being an old crone, as Jenny Joseph points out:
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.”
Right, I’m going to find myself a red hat. That’s much more flamboyant than
Granny Weatherwax’s red flannel underwear.
My working year kicks off on Friday 28 August with a barbecue hosted by the
coaching school I work for. My adult English class recommences on 3
September. Then it’s time to get into active go-get-‘m mode.
Till next time,