I know for a fact, having recently lived there, that many of the apartment blocks in Amsterdam hide glorious secret gardens! Often assessable only through the ground floor apartments to which they belong the effect is of a tranquil and colourful oasis, hidden away from the dinginess and turmoil of city life.
Each rainy day in spring our modest lawns would be teeming with frogs – though lord knows where they came from, while bees, butterflies, snails and slugs went forth and multiplied. Blackbirds and blue tits abounded too, whilst the tallest trees were often filled with screeching families of wild green city parrots, who liked nothing better than to bombard us with twigs and poo (!)
So with all this natural beauty to keep us busy, it was with some surprise that one bright summer morning I discovered my seventy-six year old neighbour Mrs. V., halfway under a hortensia bush, feeding a dish of strawberry yogurt to her scrubbing brush….
Mrs. V: ‘Tch… It wont drink it…. do you think it’s ill?’
Me: ‘ Oh definitely.’
Mrs. V: ‘I don’t know. It’s unheard of to find one of these here. I mean how did it get here? Do you think it's dead?'
Mrs. V: Blinking and frowning. ‘You don’t seem bothered. I thought you liked hedgehogs?'
Me: ‘Well like you said - it’s dead… Oh Mrs. V., I am sorry but… you know that cataract operation you are due to have next week?'
Mrs. V: ‘Yes.’
Me: ‘And you know that scrubbing brush you lost last year and that is now half rotten and buried in the dirt under your hortensia bush?'
Mrs. V: Brightly. ‘Is it? Oh good, I wondered where… that… had… got … to… WEL NU BEN IK VAN DE POT GERUKT!’
Which means something like: ‘Well now I’ve gone completely off my rocker!’ The Dutch aren't known for spicy swear words.
P.S. We threw the scrubbing brush in the bin. A-men.