Blacktop Rain

…and other secret joys


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Why are you learning Dutch?

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Me, being Dutch

I get asked that question a lot, especially by Dutch people – even by the Dutch person who is supposed to be teaching me Dutch. At this point I have a set of pre-prepared answers I can rattle out: because I think it’s rude to live in a country and not make an effort to learn the language; because despite repeated assertions from Dutch people that everyone here speaks English, everyone in fact speaks Dutch; because I’d like to be able to understand the announcements on the train; because I thought it would help me find a job. All of these reasons are true, but at this point I don’t think they are the reasons that motivate me to keep trying.

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Where’d you get a name like that?

'Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab' by William Blake, 1795. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

‘Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab’ by William Blake, 1795. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The other day I went to my local library to sign up for a Dutch speaking programme. I filled out the forms and handed them over to the lady at the desk. She checked over my answers and when she saw my surname she asked, is that a Czech name? No, I replied, it’s Hungarian. I didn’t think anything of it because I’m so used to people asking me about my name. Usually I’m asked if it’s Polish. No one, except Hungarians, guesses that it’s Hungarian, so the answer has become rote for me. No, it’s Hungarian. My grandfather was HungarianContinue reading


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To be amongst friends

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This week I was in Paris for a work meeting and whilst there I went along with some colleagues to see Notre Dame. It was evening, so we didn’t have the chance to go inside, and once we had taken a few pictures we decided to go for a wander and find somewhere to eat. As we were walking along we spotted a bookshop with shelves outside. I assumed the books would all be in French and besides I tend to avoid bookshops these days since I usually end up buying something. But the books on the shelves outside turned out to be English books and when one of my colleagues went inside the shop, we all followed. Continue reading


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The art of wasting time

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National Tulip Day in Dam Square, Amsterdam

This weekend, as with every weekend, I had a mental list (sometimes it’s even a written list) of things I wanted to get done. For instance, this weekend I wanted to clean the bathroom, hoover, do laundry, revise for a Dutch test, work on an essay I’ve been writing, write a blog post and make a start on reading a report for work. There’s also the food shopping that needs doing, that dreaded chore that we usually end up leaving until late on a Sunday. That’s a lot of stuff to get done in one weekend, especially considering writing can easily swallow up an entire day.

So, its Sunday evening and how did I do?
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Home, in three parts

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Image by Richard Heyes, used under a CC 2.0 license

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Over Christmas I spent two weeks in Manchester. It’s the longest I’ve been back since I left over two years ago. I mean really left, and not the temporary severing of university. As usual when I go back to Manchester, I kept asking myself the same question: why don’t I love this place? The answer should be straightforward, there are plenty of places I don’t love, that’s just the way it is. I’m not sure why I keep returning to this question, but a part of me feels that I should love it, should feel some sense of attachment. Continue reading