Marching on In


They say in the Netherlands that “Maart roert zijn staart”. This means that March, coming in like the proverbial lion, is shaking his plumed tail rather aggressively in your direction.

We were lulled into a false sense of security on Friday, the first of March, when the last snow (we thought) melted. Warm enough it was (I thought) to wear one of my new spring outfits to the bookclub that evening. Saturday and Sunday were lovely. Vincent and I looked longingly at our pile of gardening magazines and invoked the magic name of “Titchmarsh” but we dared touch neither rake nor spade. You never know with March.

Alan Titchmarsh, author and gardener extraordinaire

By Monday the 4th, the temperature was an almost balmy 60 degrees and I celebrated by hanging the laundry to dry outside. Joe College and two other science hooligans spent a few days midweek at our house. Here they are drinking beer in the back yard on a lambent early evening in Twente. It was nice while it lasted, but the tail of March was to twist again.

By Saturday night, the night of the Verdi-Britten concert in Haarlem, the temperature went back down toward freezing. There were rumors of snow. Joe College sent word that the inside of the St. Bavo Church felt colder than it did outside and that the family claque* should dress warmly for the concert. We left for Haarlem around 5 because we planned to stop for dinner on the way. Dinner is a big word: we ate at Burger King on the A-1. There is something deliciously decadent about going to Burger King to enjoy a Whopper wearing evening clothes, wouldn’t you agree?

Bass and Tenor Section with Orchestra. Sops and Alts to the left and right, out of the pic.

The church is beautiful but it held the kind of cold that seeps into the marrow and stays for a while. I was glad that I threw on a mohair shawl at the last minute as I went out the door. The concert was appropriately heavenly. Nick Sales sang the stars from the sky with Britten’s “Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings”. The lyrics to this serenade are poems by Cotton, Tennyson, Blake, Jonson and Keats set to Britten’s ethereal music. “Divine” would just about cover it. Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem” included soloists Dorothy Grandia, José Scholte, Nick Sales and Marc Pantus supported by three choirs: the Leids Studenten Koor and Orkest Collegium Musicum, Haarlems Studenten Koor and the V-U Koor in the magnificent cascade of “Dies Irae”. We got home after midnight, just beating the snow.

Monday morning and the Mini’s doors were frozen shut. Remembering winters in Bucks County, I popped the trunk, crawled into the passenger’s seat and executed a modified Jackie Chan double side kick to the driver’s door. It opened. Today it’s been cold, the snow has stopped, the snowdrops are refusing to lay down and die and the mighty tulip remains undaunted. 


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