Vivien Doornekamp-Glass
Comfortisse
DOOR Peter Zantingh
20-11-2011

The coach to Antwerp was to leave at half past ten this morning. As I had filled in the form with the hole at the top for hanging from the door handle, stating that I wanted my breakfast at around a quarter to nine, I was awake by half past eight. I could already hear cups and plates rattling on a trolley at the end of the corridor. I was having difficulty waking up, so I switched on the television to watch something that was moving.

There was an infomercial about a bra that didn’t cut into the skin and at the same time prevented rolls of flab from hanging over the straps. They called it the Comfortisse Bra. The Comfortisse Bra is so elegant it can be worn under any outfit, and so comfortable you can sleep in it. Several women joined the woman praising the bra; the first ones were wearing a bra that cut into their skin, reddening it a bit, the others the Comfortisse Bra. The difference was clearly visible, as the presenter herself confirmed. She said it also enhanced the cleavage, though I had my doubts about that. The Comfortisse Bra is very similar to a sports bra.

The coach is delayed. It’s eleven o’clock and I’m still waiting in the hotel lobby. We’ve just been told it would be here at midday. It’s raining. The man sitting next to me will probably miss his interview appointment. During the past couple of days, this lobby has been an information office for staff and performers at the Hague edition of Crossing Border, but now the posters are being taken down and the tables folded up. Stretched out on the carpet, a man is asleep on the floor.

If I had ordered the Comfortisse Bra this morning after the programme, it would have cost me 69.95 euro instead of 209.95 euro. Had I called the number on the screen, I would even have received three, a white, beige and a black one. The offer was doubled immediately: I would get two of each colour for less than 70 euro.

Again, the voice-over told me not to pick up the phone just yet, as a purple, a blue and a pink Comfortisse Bra were added to the offer, at the same price. The bra that did not cut into your skin and could be worn in your sleep had been reduced by 140 Euro in 90 seconds and came with eight free bras.

The rattling was moving towards me down the hotel corridor. There was a knock on the door.

‘This totally takes care of all your needs and problem,’ the woman on the television said, but I still wasn’t quite awake.

Alle vertalingen van Vivien Doornekamp-Glass
Comfortisse
20-11-11

The coach to Antwerp was to leave at half past ten this morning. As I had filled in the form with the hole at the top for hanging from the door handle, stating that I wanted my breakfast at around a quarter to nine, I was awake by half past eight. I could already hear cups and plates rattling on a trolley at the end of the corridor. I was having difficulty waking up, so I switched on the television to watch something that was moving.

There was an infomercial about a bra that didn’t cut into the skin and at the same time prevented rolls of flab from hanging over the straps. They called it the Comfortisse Bra. The Comfortisse Bra is so elegant it can be worn under any outfit, and so comfortable you can sleep in it. Several women joined the woman praising the bra; the first ones were wearing a bra that cut into their skin, reddening it a bit, the others the Comfortisse Bra. The difference was clearly visible, as the presenter herself confirmed. She said it also enhanced the cleavage, though I had my doubts about that. The Comfortisse Bra is very similar to a sports bra.

The coach is delayed. It’s eleven o’clock and I’m still waiting in the hotel lobby. We’ve just been told it would be here at midday. It’s raining. The man sitting next to me will probably miss his interview appointment. During the past couple of days, this lobby has been an information office for staff and performers at the Hague edition of Crossing Border, but now the posters are being taken down and the tables folded up. Stretched out on the carpet, a man is asleep on the floor.

If I had ordered the Comfortisse Bra this morning after the programme, it would have cost me 69.95 euro instead of 209.95 euro. Had I called the number on the screen, I would even have received three, a white, beige and a black one. The offer was doubled immediately: I would get two of each colour for less than 70 euro.

Again, the voice-over told me not to pick up the phone just yet, as a purple, a blue and a pink Comfortisse Bra were added to the offer, at the same price. The bra that did not cut into your skin and could be worn in your sleep had been reduced by 140 Euro in 90 seconds and came with eight free bras.

The rattling was moving towards me down the hotel corridor. There was a knock on the door.

‘This totally takes care of all your needs and problem,’ the woman on the television said, but I still wasn’t quite awake.

Garden State
19-11-11

I could have been a sailor

Could have been a cook

A real live lover

Could have been a book

Nick Drake

The film Garden State sees the main character Andrew, played by Zach Braff, return to the place he grew up. His mother has died, and is buried in a dismal cemetery. The old friends he encounters in his childhood village are still giving the same parties, where they still get drunk and stoned. Nothing has changed – except Andrew, because he’s been away.

People who have read my book sometimes ask me who my main influences were. I automatically start naming other writers, such as Johan Harstad. He wrote Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? It has the most beautiful opening line I know: “The person you love is 72.8 percent water and there’s been no rain for weeks.”

There are other authors I admire and can claim as influences, writers whose style I’ll sometimes steal, whose metaphors I wallow in and whose dialogue writing I imitate. I’m not the inventor of language; I merely play an instrument on which others have long ago discovered how to make music. All I can hope for is to make some of it my own, the way a guitarist swears by his own plectrum, or comes to cherish a scuffed little sounding box.

I should name other sources of inspiration more often. The idea for my book first came to me in the months after watching Garden State. In my book, too, someone returns to his place of birth, and this also follows on a death in my story.

While writing, I was listening to music by Ólafur Arnalds, a modern classical composer from Iceland. I can see the sound of his piano between the words in certain chapters of my book. I listened to Radiohead and Nick Drake, and made my protagonist listen to them too. Where I wanted madness to drown out melancholy, we put on ‘I Am the Walrus’ by The Beatles.

During one hundred days last year, I wrote a piece of exactly one hundred words about a favourite album daily, in homage to the music that has held so many memories for me to this day. Up to the moment I walked on stage yesterday, I’d planned on reading some of those stories. The three I had chosen were about artists performing at Crossing Border this year. It was to be a tribute to sources of inspiration. Of course, I hope that people will pick up and buy my book downstairs in the lobby, but I’d just as soon send them to see William Fitzsimmons, or The Low Anthem. They have helped me write my book, and now we’re performing at the same venue.

At the last minute, I decided to read from my book after all. An attentive listener may nevertheless have noticed a film playing somewhere in the story, or heard the music in between the words.

Half a World Away
18-11-11

I guess that’s all I needed
To go it alone
And hold it along
R.E.M.

I was sitting opposite Ben at De Paas, a speciality beer house in The Hague. It’s a short walk out of the centre, at a point where the streets have become so dark it seems unlikely you will come across a busy pub.

Ben is one of the other authors at The Chronicles. He comes from London. At nineteen, he has written four books, all in the same year, he tells me. Ben was drinking heavily, and I had difficulty keeping up with him. Earlier that evening, he told me he drank to get drunk. ‘Do you take your first swig of beer with the thought of eventually getting wasted?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Do you sometimes drink a beer just for the sake of that one beer?’ he asked in return, and I said yes, too. This seemed to baffle him.

We had been to the Royal Theatre to see the band Smith & Burrows, a joint venture between the front men of Editors and Razorlight. Behind the microphone, Tom Smith of Editors was sitting on a wooden crate with his legs crossed. He said that each year had its tragedies, and that one of this year’s tragedies had been the loss of R.E.M. They then paid tribute to the band, which split up this year, by playing one of their songs. ‘Half A World Away’ is about a man who’s drunk, alone and far from home, but tries to look on the bright side because he believes some things are best done on your own. Not all problems can be solved with others.

While Smith’s rich tones filled the hall as they did during other songs, they now seemed to hold back a little, letting the voice of R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe reverberate alongside them.

‘What do you think of the Occupy protests?’ Ben asked me at the pub late that night. I didn’t have a ready answer, but said I liked the fact that people were coming together to straighten out something they thought was crooked. To my mind, it’s essentially well-meant, as everything humans do instinctively should be well-meant. That is, if you assume that human beings are good by nature. ‘Are we?’ I asked Ben. He’d just finished his beer. ‘We’re clearly the dominant race,’ he said. ‘And we’ve done a great job, if you look at all the developments we’ve been through.’ He added, looking around him, ‘There are millions of pubs all over the world, and that’s because we get on so well with each other.’

I was hoping he would write his column about this, or at least remember it.

And Everything Passes
07-11-11

And all the time you wanted to keep
Slowly crumbles in your hand and is blown to sea
Spinvis

Several years ago, I belonged to a group of about seventy people who made mixtapes for one another online. Divided into different pairs every month, we would delve into our music collections in order to present the other with a valuable compilation, chosen according to a given theme. There was something to discover and rediscover on every tape.

The participants were located around the world, and one month, the theme was ‘music from your home country’. I made a mixtape with Dutch songs. I chose a photo that could serve as a cover, a small boat on a river under a Dutch sky, opened Photoshop and pasted the title into the picture. En alles gaat voorbij (and everything passes).

Once I had put the whole thing online, I let my mixtape partner know it was ready. The recipient had no command of the Dutch language, I knew that. My hope was that the music, the sound of the words and their underlying sentiment, would be able to cross the language barrier; that they would convey who we are.

You can find the song that supplied the title on YouTube, by entering ‘oevers van de tijd’ (the shores of time) and clicking on the first hit.

It is, perhaps, the Netherlands.

For, as is generally the case, this country is more diverse than might be evident at first sight. We don’t all spend our time peeling potatoes behind drawn curtains, afraid of our Moroccan neighbour, angry with the Greeks, unfeeling towards Angolan boys.

We build swings, playgrounds and dormers, and plant neat rows of trees along our roads. We watch football on television with our plates on our laps. In November, we pull the sleeves of our coats over our hands and try to remember where we put our gloves at the end of last winter.

When it snows, our trains stop working. We complain, but we also strike up conversations in the stationary carriages, surrounded by misty fields. When the conductor speaks over the intercom, everyone is quiet.

The Netherlands can’t be personified, but if that were possible, I would like its embodiment to be the man in the YouTube film. His name is Spinvis. He is performing at Crossing Border too, from 7 p.m. on Saturday. Maybe his songs will convey who we are.