Murmured by the “bullying conference” – as my seven-year-old daughter calls Rutte’s orations – I decided to walk all the way down the ring dike, maybe even further. It was one of those lovely crisp January days with a clear blue sky and the sun shining brightly through the golden reeds, when I saw two boys standing along the ditch side.
Well, one of the boys was practically in the ditch. With his sneakers, he slid away into the dredge while angling a meter-long cable into the water. His friend stood there watching, arms crossed, like one of those cowardly jailers who refuse to get his feet wet.
They were sixteen or seventeen years old, at least of high school age, no doubt bored to death by the lockdown.
That’s why they were magnet fishing, the jailer told them cheerfully. He had a strikingly pink face with soft, fluffy cheeks, but then he was very young and probably in the prime of life. Attached to the cable, which his friend held firmly in the water, was a large magnet weighing at least twenty pounds. With this they could fish up steel and iron from the bottom of the ditch. In the muddy grass were a few steel plates and a scooter license plate. The jailer proudly pointed to a plastic bag containing a grinder they had just found. Probably rusty and all, but that didn’t spoil the fun, or maybe that was the fun, the rustier the better. No, I really had no idea.
Meanwhile, his friend with the half-long hair slid dangerously close to the water. His gray sweatpants were covered in mud stains.
Kissing behind lockers
I thought about my high school days; the vague daydreams on the back benches, the fumbling and kissing behind lockers, the delicious threat of being suspended, or at the very least expelled from class, but just in the nick of time, and how with a master’s hand I copied my parents’ signatures on the absence cards and managed to escape time after time.
But these boys were suspended with the whole school. Everyone. All over the country. By the minister. Of course, that didn’t make any sense.
I stayed a while with the fishermen, it looked so delicately desolate in this winter sunlight and it seemed to me exactly one of those useless hobbies that you can only dream up when you have way too much time on your hands and also live in the middle of a deserted polder. The knuckles of the fisherman with the half-long hair were red from the cold and he pulled up the magnet to see if he had caught anything yet. Nothing. Luckily he already had the grinder. And it was a beautiful day too.