The last month I have been visiting Huub on a weekly basis. Before the summer started, I didn’t know him and probably would never have. Huub lives in one of the small villages around Maastricht. My visits have been a ‘delightful moment’ because, part that I clean his house, we drink coffee and have a little chat. He finally has someone to talk to. Huub lives alone, since his wife died, 24 years ago. Huub has never lived anywhere else then in this village. Born, raised and planning to die here. For 4 decades he has worked in the paper factory in Maastricht. “Everyday, yes? Everyday, I cycled to work. Everyday!” aiming on his fixed cleaning lady, who drives a car. “Put your bike at the back!” he said, when I arrived on my metal stead. “The people from the camp could easily steal it.” To be honest, I’ve never been afraid of that, because my bike is quite colourful and makes the noise of 100 dying hamsters. “If you don’t do it, I will”, he grumbled at me. “Coffee?”. At the kitchen table, he made clear how much he despised the people from the camp. They were loud, rude and asocial. I could better stay away from them; if I ever had to clean there, I could better not go. “You’re not from here, are you?” He looked stern at me. “No”. This is something which always happens to me. As soon you’re not from ‘here’, elderly people become more detached and make you feel like you’re an outsider. “Oh but your family lives here in the area? No, no, than you’re OK!” What a relief.
“They (pointing to the other side of the village) are the intruders! They are not from here!” First I thought he meant Limburg, but he actually meant the village itself because most people from there, as he proceeded, came from Maastricht. But since his village is the suburb of Maastricht, it supposed to be better and higher valued. I was surprised by this, because the village does not even owns an exit at the highway. Even more surprising was the fact that there were ‘sides’ within the village. The population is less then 1000 inhabitants and by far, the biggest part is older than 50. Huub explained the important role of the 10 meters wide grassland. It divides the village in the ‘true’ and ‘fake’ parts. The true part is where all his sisters (4) and brothers (5) are living. Well, 3 of them have already past away (“they were old; 68 and 72”) and 1 of them is dying (cancer). His neighbour is his sister. She drops by every single day; to cook. Because he can’t. He never could; his wife made him his meals. But since Huub’s children are living far away (2 villages further; you can see the church tower), he is depending on his sister.
The meadow divides the village. The ‘bad’ part never comes to the ‘good’ part. “They don’t dare to”, Huub explained. “They cannot understand us. They talk different. They walk different. They are different.”nI wonder what would happen when Huub and siblings die. Maybe the new generation decides to move back? I did not dare to ask. Huub grumbles.
Luckily my bike wasn’t stolen. I had to cycle through the 10 meters of grassland, and on my way back Maastricht, I suddenly became very happy of thinking of my brother, who can cook.