By June 10th I had actually completed the entire 1st draft of my book and was delighted how well the whole story had come together. I discovered I had become to care deeply about my characters and on the day I started the excruciating process of editing, I knew I would invest much time on the fine-tuning of each one. One of the central characters was Jake Jansen, a talented young musician from Holland who played in his own rock band.
I’m not sure what inspired me to decide that Jake would be Dutch – but I remember how years ago, my Husband and I spent a few days in Amsterdam and found the people over there to be incredibly lively. But in 2001 we enjoyed a little camping holiday across Europe and ended up in a historic town called Nijmegan, where Peter knew some friends from his travelling days – but it left a lasting impression on me. So I also decided Nijmegan would be Jake’s home town too.
Then on June 11th Peter received an email from his friend Marjolein: “we are going on a holiday for nearly 3 weeks, as of 18 July. And since we have a cat since last September, we are searching for someone to look after her and maybe enjoy a stay at our house at the same time. So I was wondering whether you and Helen would like to visit our country again…”
Of course, I was ecstatic! Not only because it would be a great opportunity to see Marjolein and her family again, as well as get a free holiday, but the timing could not have been better!
To begin with it was a lovely tranquil neighbourhood (see picture above) with cobbled streets lined with tall, narrow houses which were deceptively large inside. We did not use our car for an entire week – and went everywhere either by foot or bicycle. But then 100s of people cycle in Holland – the country is so flat and their entire traffic system is designed to accommodate bikes.
To make our stay even more enjoyable, we stayed in Nijmegan on the week there was a 4 day walking festival taking place (de Vierdaagsefeesten), with lots of live music in the streets, as well as on various stages around the town, day and night.
Everywhere we went, we found the people to be exuberant and friendly – nearly everyone spoke English. We danced to music, drank beer, watched a firework display from the banks of the river Waal and visited a mini-festival in a small area known as Havanna.
There we befriended a man named Youf, a vinyl enthusiast who spends his life touring an old fashioned bus around, entertaining the masses with records played from a traditional juke box.
I don’t think I need to say much more about what a great country Holland is – nor how much we appreciated this beautiful town with its graceful bridge, splendid architecture and the wonderful culture and people who inspired me to refine Jake’s character in the context of my writing! I even edited parts of my book, whilst living in their house. I am eternally thankful to Marjolein and her family for such a golden opportunity.