I’ve never been to Holland, Netherlands or whatever. Actually, is it Holland or the Netherlands? Technically, the term ‘Holland’ refers to two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands but ‘Holland’ has been more loosely used in the past, to cover all twelve provinces. The real name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is known for its flat landscape, cycling, canals, tulips, clogs, Delft, beer, Van Gogh, the place where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis and wrote her diary and the Red Light district of Amsterdam.
My grandparents went on a lot of cruises; my grandmother used to bring me back dolls in national costumes or souvenirs that really represented the country. The cruise ship called at Amsterdam; I remember she told me about her trip on the canals and she brought me back a pair of handcrafted, wooden clogs. They were small, tied together with a piece of blue ribbon. The insides were very rough but on the outside the wood was just varnished, after they were decorated with tulips. I loved them and have no idea what happened to them. That’s both the geography lesson and the lesson about being careful with any gifts you are given.
However, my grandmother didn’t buy tea towels. I have acquired these two tea towels from very different sources. The top one, blue with the iconic clogs in the centre along with the tulips, was a present from my cousin who has recently had a holiday in Amsterdam. A surprise, and generous, gift. The one at the bottom of this piece belonged to Alan and Christine. When I visited them in 2017, during an inevitable conversation about tea towels, they produced this one. They had had it for ages, they had no idea where it came from (but knew they hadn’t bought it themselves) and asked me if I wanted it, even though it had been used. Is the Pope Catholic? I ask. Hence with no visit to the Netherlands I have two tea towels.
So why am I inspired to write about these tea towels, at this point in time? Because I am scared, very scared. As I write, members of the Conservative Party are voting for the leader of the party and ultimately Prime Minister. The results will be announced on Tuesday and, there is no doubt, Britain will change forever. I am embarrassed that the two candidates for Prime Minister is the best this country can come up with and I am scared at how either candidate will deal with our proposed exit from Europe. I know the decision that was made by the referendum three years ago is unlikely to change, however much I wish for it. So these two tea towels, for me, represent Britain being part of Europe. If only it could remain like that!