On Saturday 18 September I went by bus from Halmaal to Sint-Truiden and took the train from there to Brussel Zuid (South). From Brussel there is an hourly intercity train to Amsterdam, with has its first stop in the Netherlands in Roosendaal.
The Benelux intercity has to run on two different voltages and drives on the left in Belgium and on the right in the Netherlands. In Roosendaal I changed onto the ‘stoptrein’ to Vlissingen, where my cousin Marie collected me from the station.
The trip worked out well in spite of the fact that all three trains ran a bit late and in spite of the fact that I had to wait 29 minutes in Sint-Truiden, 48 minutes in Brussel and 18 minutes in Vlissingen. I left from near the Gurdwara on the bus at 07.47 and was due to arrive in Vlissingen at 12.45. But of the official 5 hours travel I was actually waiting in railway stations for about an hour and a half.
In spite of delays and waiting time I still far prefer public transport over travelling by car, where you are a captive in a tin box and are subject to increasingly gridlocked roads, especially around Brussel and Antwerpen.
But if public transport does not improve its performance both on main and branch lines, the car addicts will keep clogging up the roads, and will keep demanding more and more roads, until small and densely populated countries like Belgium and the Netherlands are one big gridlocked motorway !
I went to Vlissingen to visit my cousin Marie, who I had not seen for years. She is the daughter of my father’s elder sister, and my family and hers have always been very close. In 1953 when our ancestral village was flooded for about a year, her father, mother, brother and the maiden aunt had to leave the island our family has lived on since at least 1200.
We lived in Roermond in the Dutch province of Limburg, where there were no floods and Marie’s family of 5 stayed in our small house with our family of 3 for the best part of a year.
As I had no brothers and sisters of my own I was very happy with the new arrivals. It was more of a strain on my parents, especially on my mother who instead of having her own way in her small house coping with a small family, was now dealing almost 24 hours a day with her husband’s family and their way of doing things.
My mother was an Amsterdam city girl, my father and his family came from a small village on what was then a rather isolated island in the province of Zeeland. She liked her new family, she liked the village, but her ways were different from theirs. And this was not a holiday stay, this lasted almost a year. Although there were tensions during this time our families remained close to each other. Years later when my mother was dying of cancer my aunt Sara (Marie’s mother) was part of the team of family members nursing her. (To be continued)