December 28th, 2002


Bill Bryson - Down under (02-044)

Unfortunately it hasn't been a good year for reading for me this year. I will have to manage a few to even average one book a week. I started Irvine Welsh though, Glue. very good book, but having to read Scottisch does take a lot of time for a non-native speaker. Anybody else noticed the same?

For now I have to catch up with a few more reviews, lack of computer time does not make it easy. First this one:

Bill Bryson - Down under (02-044)

Bryson is the standard if it comes to travel writing. If you have any ambition to write travel stories, as I do myself, it might be a good idea to avoid Bryson completely. If, however, you do like to read a good book about what a country is really like, his books are a great source of information. Apart from that they are very entertaining and with a lot of black humour the best way to pass a rainy night in near the fire.

As for me, having travelled a bit lately, I read his books in search for recognition. Obviously there is plenty. Trying to understand Cricket, even though you are not from the Commonwealth. Driving through a desert and realising it is only the beginning of a huge area where nobody goes for fun. Rushing to get to Uluru. Sitting in a typical outback pub, surrounded by people who rarely see anything but their little part of the world. Standing on a beach in Sydney, knowing how many dangers are in the water ahead of you, still observing dozens of Aussies entering the murderous sea without any hesitation. All things I've done, all things he can describe in his book much better than I ever will.

Bryson in Australia is a must read for anybody who has ever visited Oz, who want to visit down under or even only contemplating what it would be like to travel where our antipodes live. It is also an hilarious account of a few journeys through a continent that is still largely unspoilt. Apart from that Bryson has so much background information, it almost makes it a worthy travel guide.

  • Current Music
    John Cleese & Jonathan Lynn - The penultimate supper


On this cold evening I wish I had taken the car. Or taken gloves. I haven't though, so I'm cycling, one hand in my pocket to keep warm, the other one carrying the plastic bag I need for the meeting a bit later. Near the football pitch it is dark. Only the artificial light shows that there are a few people like myself who are not so smart to sit near a fire or central heating. A football training, since I stopped last june something I haven't done myself for half a year now. Still, I remember I wasn't bothered with cold when training. I was usually the one idiot in shorts, even with temperatures well below zero. As long as you keep moving, not a real problem.

Just next to the pitch, outside the gate, is one man standing. He is not walking his dog, the usual reason for most people to walk this particular road, he is just watching the training. My team is not a professional team, even after our championship and hence the promotion, we only play 3rd level amateurs. So he must be really dedicated to watch them in this cold. When I get closer, I recognize him. Mischa. It is not a weird thing for him, he often watches. He loves the game, he loves a bit of diversion in his life.

We shake hands (cold!) and talk a bit, before I decide to continue to the warm heating in the clubhouse, where my meeting will be in a few minutes. It is good to talk to Mischa once in a while. He really knows the game, though he doesn't play anymore himself. Still, he knows what a good player should do, he sees the importace of good training at youth level.

He does have plenty of time to do so actually, as Mischa doesn't work. Correct myself: isn't entitled to work. Mischa is from the former republic of Yugoslavia and has fled his country a couple of years ago with his wife and offspring. A few more since he came here. His wife must be at least a decade younger than he is. So this family lives in a temporary home, a former monastry, just next to our football park. When he entered the Netherlands he was told that within a few months, half a year tops, they would tell him if he could stay or not. Now, four and a half years later, he is still waiting for an answer. He would love to stay here and build a life with his familiy. Have a home. Learn the language properly. Get a job. But he can't, because what should be an easy question, turns out to be a big problem for the government. In february the monastry will be used for something else, he will probably have to move elsewhere, still waiting for an answer. Is this how we like to treat people?

How can anybody still use that awfull phrase "Vol is vol" (Full is full) when we treat people like this. People who run for a war and terror. How can we make somebody wait for five years before telling him that he can continue with his life. Is it possible that the government wants them to go back? It is. Several young children could be on their way to a country they don't know, where they have never been or only short. To a country that is trying to rebuild after a decade of terror, where several minority groups are still trying to get some sort of independence, but are unlikely to get it.

How come that the world has become so greedy that people like Mischa and his family are forced to wait for such a long time without knowing what'll happen to them. The world has millions of Mischa's, many of them far worse of then him, all waiting for somebody to help them. Waiting for a country that says that one simple word: Welcome. I'm afraid a second car and luxury vacation is for most people far more important than helping someone who is needy.
  • Current Music
    Elvis Costello - Anyone who had a heart