Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(119) The Dutch ladies´ skills

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.


didi said...

hi nice to see i'am on internet.
Doing fine live in oberstdorf where i teach figure skating.
My two dauhthers also skate.
Nice to hear you doing fine all the best rita

James said...

Lovely to hear from you again after all these years, Rita.

Hope you and your girls are well.