Thursday, April 30, 2009

Today

Any Dutch readers will know what I'm talking about.

Today is Koninginnedag, the Queen's official birthday. Her real birthday is in January but to have the advantage of nice weather, her birthday isn't celebrated till 30 April (which is actually her late mother's birthday). It's a national holiday, most people have a day off. Streets are decorated with flags and bunting. People are dressed in orange. Lots of towns organise flea markets and open-air concerts. The Queen and several members of her family visit one or two towns or cities where they receive a warm welcome and attend the celebrations.

I was working in the office today and we'd organised a picnic with some Dutch and orange food with our department for lunchtime. Halfway through the morning I received an email from my mum, to go and read the Dutch news website nu.nl. At first it looked like an accident had occurred: in the town where the royal family was visiting, a car had driven through the barriers, hitting several people, then careered off and crashed into a monument near to where the royal family were travelling in an open-top bus. During the course of the day the news gradually became more grim: 2 people dead, then 4, and just now a fifth person has died. It is now clear that the driver of the car did this deliberately and that his actions were aimed at the royal family.

I can never quite understand why people would want to do something like this to other, perfectly innocent people. People who were there just to catch a glimpse of members of the royal family, wave at them, enjoy the sunshine and the festivities. It just makes me so angry - if you have a point to make, make it, but don't involve innocent people in it. The lives of the families of the victims will never be the same again - and why? what purpose?

I may have lived over here in Britain for almost 14 years now, but on days like this, I still feel very connected to my homeland. I was hoping to take I. and N. to Holland one day for Koninginnedag, as I think they should experience it for themselves as part of their Dutch identity. It remains to be seen whether Koninginnedag will ever be the same though.