It is a cold grey rainy morning, weather that really puts me in the mood for today's activity. The weather represents the people and the activity. Makes me wonder why we do this every month, whenever we actually remember.
After breakfast we get the boxes out. Find, in the very organised filing system the paperwork for each box and the counting starts with the itemised lists in hand.
Box 1: 5 people one with brown hair (the others don't), a door, the roof (which is actually attached, firmly with screws but is individually listed incase you have a child that pulls everything apart) a table, 3 chairs , 6 beds ( one was missing but the list now says it has been found) a house, battery cover and 4 screws. Check all complete and counted. Into the bag it goes.
Box 2: Easy, these are coloured we can organise them in stacks of 10, doesn't matter about the colour as if there are 50 (5 stacks of 10) all is great. Oh wait, one without a number, no F-123456 code must be one of ours.
Box 3: A game, easy, a board, 4 counters, and 23 cards. Wait a minute, there should be 24. Panic starts to set in. Oh the humiliation, the devastation, the embarrassment. Frantic searching under the sofa and CIA style interrogation to my 4 year Funky Monkey reveals nothing. We will have to face the devastating consequences.
Ready to go? Check the main form, S**** we are actually 1 week late, meaning more humiliation, more devastation and more embarrassment. Why oh Why do I put myself through this each month. Dutchie husband has given up, after one experience he refuses to go. But I say to myself each time I do it for her, for Funky Monkey, she likes it.
3 boxes and 1 child piled precariously onto the bicycle we wobble our way towards our destination. No don't glare at me big BMW, who didn't know which way I was going to turn, can't you see that I can't possibly stick my hand out and let you know. I have 3 boxes to deal with and a child who is asking why she can't later take home the Little Tikes police car that she can sit in. Anyway none of the Dutch ever indicate on their bicycles.
We arrive and jump into the best lift ever, a 10 minute ride to go up one floor which is 2 metres above us.
Funky Monkey runs on ahead and I can already hear the thoughts in their heads. "Oh, watch out, everybody at your positions, she is here"
I walk in and greet the lovely elderly Dutch ladies with my biggest smile ever. They are already smirking and thinking How late are you this month?
I hand over my bags and sneak away to search for more boxes to take home (Why I don't know as I'll have to go through all this again).
I am just figuring out the instructions in Dutch to a highly complicated game, when I hear " Eh excuse me, excuse me" (They can't mean me, can they? Please no) "Eh, English lady" I glance round hoping the room has suddenly filled with lots of English women. Nope Just me.
I saunter over
One of the ladies glares at me, "One of the cards from this game is missing" I mumble that I know and that we frantically searched for it all morning and that is why we actually arrived here 20 mins before closing time, certainly interrupting the long closing process that they always go through.
"We will have to fine you I am afraid and give you a ticket" Oh gosh it will go down in my Dutch criminal record.
I am processed and duly handed a ticket and fine of 2 euros. 2 euros for a square piece of card 2x2!!!
"Can we have the money now please? " Now, but can't I pay when I leave, when I pay for the things I take, I only have a 20 euro note.
"No it has to go in a separate FINE tin" Did she really have to shout it out, everybody turns round and looks at me heads shaking, What a bad mother.
I head off down to the bar to change my 20 euro note, trust me if I wasn't pregnant I would have downed something very alcoholic by now.
I pay my fine and am told not to lose the ticket as I need it if I ever find the lost card under the sofa. (No I wont lose it , been through this before and brought back a lego block, clearly labelled with G- 123445 so it wasn't ours (as I don't know about you but I don't tend to etch my children's toys with numbers) But it couldnt be taken back as I had no ticket to prove that it was the one I had lost!
I try to make ammends by stating cheerfully that in box 2 I have organised the duplo blocks into towers of 10 and that if you check the list there should be 50.
"Oh but we have to check the colours and the ones with pictures"
"But they all have J-4685906 on them so they are yours and there are 50 in total, 5 blocks of 10 = 50"
Whoosh! it doesn't matter the towers are destroyed and counted individually.
I wander away to check my new wares, I collect the revelant lists located under the relevant sections J for Jigsaws, C for Construction. I sit on the floor and with the help of Funky Monkey translating the Dutch words I don't know, we finally have 3 complete boxes of new toys minus one army man which duly is written as MIA on the relevant list. Maybe he went into combat under another poor bad mother's sofa.
We go to pay.
"You are a week late, this means another fine" Now comes a scene that reminds me of the League of Gentlemen toy shop
"Josephine, Josephine.. this lady has to pay a fine, How do I put that into the atiquated computer system we have"
"Ok "I mumble
How much now? I only have 18 euros left after the last fine.
"It's 25 cents per toy, per week, so that is 75 cents.
I hand over a 2 euro coin.
"Don't you have any smaller change?"
Eh no? this is someone who pays everything by card you are lucky I even have 2 euros on me.
A huge sigh is given and the change handed over . She smiles and says "I would try to bring them back on time next time then you won't get fined"
Oh my gosh not another 75 cent fine.
I walk out. Say goodbye and hear them "Tea, Maud? " "Yes please Josephine, it was a hard morning"
I vow never to bring things back late again. (But I have a nurses set at home which should have been taken back before the Summer hols, now they are not open in the Summer, at 25cents per week I will have to pay a fine of 3 euros Oh the shame!)
The Speelotheek (Toy Library) my new found activity to do with my daughter. Though why I don't know!
Speelotheeks are located all over the Netherlands. They can mostly be found in Culture centres, libraries and town halls. For a small yearly fee and a monthly cost you can cheaply borrow toys.
Don't let my experiences put you off! I love it really and moving to an expat country is all about integration and adaptation, I just haven't got used to it yet in this instance anyhow.
Here are some in the Brabant area:
De Duizenpoot (Reeshof)
All over Brabant
And in case you fancy an experience to mine!
T'treintje in Rijen
For other areas see this page here.
This post was written for the Expat blog hop. Week 23's theme was Activities we do with our children in our new country.
Is there a new activity you share?
Link it up below. Then please go and read all the other lovely entries.