Tag Archives: Ijmuiden

De Kop van de Haven – poem

Credit: R van Lonkhuizen

On Wednesday this week King Willem-Alexander opened the Zeesluis Ijmuiden. These new sea locks, built alongside the existing locks, are the largest in the world: 500 metres long, 70 metres wide and 18 metres deep. The existing locks were nearing the end of their life and becoming too small for the huge vessels heading for Amsterdam.

A major design fault was discovered. This resulted in excess cost of almost three million Euro and the grand opening almost three years overdue. Now ships can pass independently from the tides. But, with the cruise ships entering the locks, so does a lot more salt water… and are those towering liners still wanted?

A splendid view of it all can be had a little further out. The last time I had lunch there was, probably, in 2011 – that Icelandic volcano had closed air space. I managed to get a shared cabin on the ferry to Newcastle and treated my friend to lunch as a thank-you.

De Kop van de Haven, Ijmuiden
for Trieneke

It’s not a pub, it’s not in the UK.
It’s right by the tall chimneys
of the steel works, once Royal
Dutch, now Tata. The canal
to Amsterdam was dug by
unemployed men and now
there’s a gleaming ferry terminal:
Christmas shopping in Newcastle.

Fish is fish is fresh is fresh with
a view of water and waves and
smoke and boats and barges
and ships and liners and the wind.
Outside on the head of the harbour
the bronze fisherman holding
a storm lantern in his right hand.

Cheerio and Goodbye: going bananas


To date, over 13,000 people have booked to attend a party on the beach at Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands on the 31st of October. It all started as a joke on Facebook in August but quickly grew. People paid Euro 19.73 (the year the UK joined the EU) and they were going to wave goodbye to us here in the UK, listening to live music and being served Belgian beer, French wine and Dutch chips and cheese.

I know Wijk an Zee very well: it’s just two miles from the small town where I was born. I spent a lot of time there as a child and adolescent. From the beach you can see the chimneys of the steelworks by the port of Ijmuiden.

Brexit has been delayed and so has the party! The organiser, Ron Toekook, admits that it has not been possible to get the finance sorted for a party this size in such a short time. Money will be refunded, and they will try again early next year.

According to a recent survey, one third of the UK population reports mental health issues as a result of Brexit.  That’s close to 22 million people and I am only one of them.

This seems a good time to share with you my Brexit poem Going bananas. One of the lies told by politicians here in the UK was that the EU wouldn’t allow bananas to be bent! The poem is in the form of an abecedarian. This is an ancient form with each line starting with a letter of the alphabet. Apparently, the first examples were in Semitic and religious Hebrew poems.

Going bananas

Aliens’ Office: the first destination on my 1969 arrival, a somewhat
bewildering encounter with Blighty’s bureaucracy in London.
Colombey-les-Deux-Églises it ain’t and I’m in Manchester now, five
decades down the time-line, feeling like a sick parrot, a dead one
even. I was an economic migrant, attracted by English eccentricity.
Four candles? Fork handles? Wit and humour have been turned into the
Groundhog Day of Brexit negotiations. Jack took a fortnight’s leave –
halcyon days in September – and through marriage I acquired an
Irish surname while my husband held two passports, even then.
Je ne regrette rien screech those who voted non in the referendum.
Kafka would have been enchanted by a hard border in the Irish sea.
Languages were my passport, small flags sewn on the uniforms;
my Seaman’s Record Book rests in a box file with birthday cards.
NHS nurses and pediatricians are returning to Europe, even poets I know.
Oui, some of the three million are voting with their feet.
P&O gave the world the word posh: port out, starboard home. The
question of lorries queuing on the M20 still has no answer, as do the
refugee tales of children held in indefinite detention or stuck in Calais.
Schadenfreude is not what they feel in Europe, they’re just bewildered.
Tourist shoppers avail themselves of the sinking pound sterling and the
ugly UKIP man with Union Jack footwear, beery bonhomie, claimed
victory then scarpered sharply right. What kind of victory is it
when I now no longer want to become a British citizen? My neighbours are
xenophobes who, Macron says, will soon need visit visa to enter France.
Yes, the yahoos are among us yanking us closer and closer to the edge,
zealots who prefer the zilch-no-deal, while I cry and pluck my zither.