-7.7 minute read-
The Sunday Session welcomes Edwin Nales!
It’s early on a cold and wet Sunday morning in Amsterdam West and I have to admit I have no desire to leave the house. In 90 minutes I’m due in Spaarnwoude, Haarlem. I’ve planned my trip, but I don’t really know where I’m going. I set off, camera on my back, adrenaline pumping, looking forward to meeting Ed Nales who lives on a boat in a nature reserve.
I’m cycling towards Sloterdijk train station, and ask a fellow cyclist if I’m going the right way. The Dutch are great multi-taskers whilst riding, somehow able to conduct tasks as they travel. She says “follow me” in English more perfect than my own. We arrive at a sprawling station with many interchanging lines. I decide that it’s easier to haul my bike up the stairs to my platform, rather than search for a lift. On the train now, only fifteen minutes away, I chat to a guy heading out to work on the coast. It’s brightening up. I leave the train and wheel my bike down a dedicated channel at the side of the steps.
I find my way towards the nature reserve, moving from concrete to grass. There is Ed making his way to meet me. We head towards his houseboat where he lives with his partner Marijke and son Lars. Marijke makes us a tea and I begin my recording. As we talk the planes soar overhead from the nearby Airport and Ed begins to tells me that he has lived there for eighteen years. Ed bought the houseboat and further converted into a really beautiful and functional home. The boat doesn’t have a wheel house as it was once a cargo ship. It really is big and beautiful floating there in the water.
I ask Ed about life on the boat as I have been lucky enough to live on a boat for six months thanks to my sister and brother-in-law.
“In the middle of the night do you hear a strange tapping on the bottom of the boat?” I ask.
“Yes” he laughs!
“It’s quite eerie isn’t it!”
“Well, we were living on the boat for a few months when we heard it for the first time. My wife went outside with the flashlight. Then when I heard it, I shouted yes! Marijke put the flashlight on to see what it was. Then we found out it was ducks diving under the boat to eat the mussels. We also heard a ‘beep…beep…beep’. We couldn’t find it. And I was looking to see if one of the tyres was ‘beeping’ on the boat. It wasn’t. A week later I met my neighbour. He said what are you doing outside. I told him: I hear a beep. Then sitting next to us. hidden on the back of the boat, three little owls were making that sound: beep….beep…..beep”.
I ask Ed more about his daily life. Currently not having a permanent job he wakes at 4am then goes out and delivers morning papers, comes home and sleeps a little more. He wakes again, does the dishes and then works on maintaining the boat. He then waits for his son Lars to return home. Lars is 19 and autistic. He currently goes to school one day per week and has three days in special employment.
We comment on the fact that fewer things are delivered these days, even butchers used to come round. I ask him where he buys his food.
“I go to the supermarket like everybody else. But there is a project close by where you pay €200 per year, but that’s too expensive for us, although a friend lets us use their pass when they go away. They grow everything, all the forgotten vegetables.”
“Forgotten vegetables?” I say.
“Yes, forgotten vegetables. The vegetables that no-one eats anymore, like Pastinak (parsnips, I now know). Before, we used to eat them. But they were more like a poor mans food.”
“Do you like the taste?”
“No, but really I’m a meat guy.”
I find the way of describing food as forgotten quite bizarre. Do the Dutch have a bad memory? But I really do enjoy the cultural differences between the English and the Dutch. And of course, I and other English people have our own peculiarities. After this session I went to a restaurant and the menu actually listed Forgotten Vegetables. Maybe the Forgotten Vegetables should be called
Back to the moment. I mention to Ed that I have a friend who has an Autistic brother. He tells me that Lars sings Christmas songs all year round. He also tells me that phrases and sayings are taken quite literally. For example there is a Dutch saying. “The cat is angry.” Lars may respond by looking around and replying, “No, the cat isn’t angry!”
When Ed and his family go out for the day, they have to be wary of open spaces like beaches as Lars will run into them and just keep running until he is out of breath, then sit down down far away in the distance. Also in buildings. open doors are to be gone through, and gone through again. He recalls a day where five year old Lars went into a supermarket store with aisles stacked high. We could hear him, but we couldn’t see him. Sometimes they go to the airport for an outing. Ed says it works well for them as it is a large controlled space.
We set off on our walk. The Haarlem landscape is very flat; you can see for miles. Ed tells me that there is a beautiful view of Amsterdam’s New Year fireworks, some twenty kilometres away.
Ed is from Haarlem, he is happy there and never wants to leave.
By now it’s 12.30p.m., and I’m really happy I made it today to hear Ed’s story and I’m looking forward to sharing it.