In mid-July 1996 I telephoned a company called Section 12 in The Hague. I spoke to a woman there whose name began with ‘Sc’. She gave the correct Dutch pronunciation of this.
I remarked that I understood that during the war the method of telling whether somebody was a Nazi masquerading as a Dutch person was to get them to pronounce the name of the Dutch coastal town of Scheveningen, (a familiar name to any chessplayer: it has become that of a classic opening variation.)
She confirmed this story and then added that she herself had lived for thirty years in Scheveningen.
(Years later I discovered that that is not such a coincidence, as Scheveningen and The Hague are contiguous.)
I then said that I had not been in Holland for a number of years, but that in 1980 I had had a girlfriend in Amsterdam who was a relative of Fanny Blankers-Koen.
Perhaps my memory was revived on that point by having recently read something in the Sunday papers about the Olympic greats and a reference to Blankers-Koen’s achievement in winning four track and field gold medals at the age of thirty at the 1948 London Olympics.
"Oh," remarked the Dutch lady. "Then your girlfriend must have been a skater." I corrected her.
"Fanny Blankers-Koen was not a skater; she was a runner."
The lady was surprised. She said that she had thought that Blankers-Koen had been a skater.
But actually my Dutch girlfriend, Rita Koen (pictured here with me in 1980) had been the ice skating champion of Amsterdam (and indeed, in 2004 was still, I believe, working as a trainer at one of the city´s largest skating rinks) .
I had first met her in Groningen, when she had been there for an ice skating event, and I accompanied her to several ice skating rinks around Holland.
In early 2004 I was at a car boot fair in La Florida, Orihuela Costa, Spain and chatting to a Dutchman who had a large stall there. He was the father of Allan, a boy with whom my son had done karate. It turned out he was from Amsterdam.
When I described Rita Koen to him he said that he knew her.
See also Entry 245.