I think I had restlessness bred into me. When I was a kid, I lived near the flight-path for Manchester airport. I used to watch the planes from our garden and wonder where the passengers were going.
Back in ’98, I had the chance to move abroad for work. We flew to The Netherlands in April. "We" were me, Carol and Carol’s bump.
Pretty soon after arriving, Carol got an appointment at the hospital in Delft, the Renier de Graaf Gasthuis. They kept her there. The baby had stopped growing in the womb and Carol was confined to bed, unable to speak Dutch and with no-one to talk to between my visits.
Meanwhile, my employers at the university had never employed a foreigner before so I was finding out about Dutch bureaucracy the hard way. At one point a friend thought to ask how I was feeling… It took a long time to write that email.
Eventually, Carol became so ill that they decided to induce the birth a month ahead of schedule. In another era mother and child would have died. Thankfully, on June 11th, we had our own scrawny scrap of humanity. Joshua Barnabas; 1.7kilos or 3½ pounds (in English measures); confined to an incubator in the couveuse afdeling. Our first experience of parenting was in Dutch, so we had to translate phrases like ‘couveuse afdeling’ into ‘intensive care unit’ for our families.
Four weeks later, we could take Joshua to the portiekwoning I’d found on Joan Maetsuyckerstraat 107 in Den Haag. We started our new life. An anglo-american-dutch life. We found our place in the neighbourhood. We found communities of friends at work and at church. We learnt to dream in Dutch.
Four years and another child later, we moved to Cramlington in Northumberland so that I could re-train and change careers. We’ve been here nearly 9 years now but for some reason the 4 years in The Netherlands still loom large in our memories. I often wonder why.
At the time, we didn’t think it would ever end. In some ways I still wish that it hadn’t, but it has.