dinsdag 2 december 2014

The End of the World

It was July 29 1960 and we were heading to our most beloved spot in the forest, Sandy Plains. The children living on the edge of this forest were used to going in groups and walking long distances. On this day our group consisted of my oldest sister and me, the boy and girl from next door and a girl of the same age as my sister. My sister was 12, the rest was of the same age or 2 years younger. I was 3 years younger and I was very pleased that they allowed me to go along.

When we reached Sandy Plains, we decided to stay there the rest of the day. Like always we had taken sandwiches along and a bottle of water. Our mothers knew that we would stay away for some time. The weather was wonderful and the sand almost reflected the light from the sun. It was very white and clean; there should have been sea to complete a perfect beach. Instead it was surrounded by ancient pine trees.

We all sat down on the warm sand and suddenly the boy from next door started to talk about the end of the world. According to what he heard we would all perish at 2 pm. Nobody had a watch, but we knew it was about noon, so we had some time left. We discussed how it would happen. I had read about the atom bomb in a political magazine and about the crisis in Germany where the West was in dispute with the Soviets. There were predictions about the cutting off of Eastern Germany. I knew everything about Nikita Khrushchev, Walter Ulbricht, John Kennedy and Willy Brandt, the mayor of Berlin. In the Congo were troubles around Patrice Lumumba and I had seen pictures of Belgian and French people fleeing to Europe because of the violence.

My sister said that there was nothing to be afraid of, we always stayed out of fights. The Netherlands couldn’t do anything, we had no atom bomb. The prime minister, Jan de Quay, was only worried about the wild youngsters called “nozems”. They scared the elderly with their noisy mopeds and their black leather jackets and greasy hair. My sister was sure she would never have a boyfriend like that. The other girls agreed about that. I didn’t know about this. My knowledge came from that political magazine that nobody read in our family and it had nothing about these youngsters.

Every week we got a set of second hand magazines. It belonged to a system that gave you the right to read the magazines in a week and after that they were replaced by newer. We had the cheapest edition: our magazines were 6 weeks old and very much maltreated but we were allowed to keep them and get a newer set anyway. I was supposed to be happy with Donald Duck and another magazine with comics. The other magazines were mostly meant for housewives except for a silly one. It had pictures in black and white of girls in bathing suits. They were film stars and posed in Cannes or such places. And there were jokes about women who had to go to the doctor. It was not my cup of tea. So I read this political thing that always looked like new.

We all agreed that we must be on one of the better spots on earth. We could be seen from outer space and be saved. The boy from next door thought God might do this, the oldest girl knew for sure the Martians would come. But maybe they were no saviors but attackers. My sister knew that if there was going to be a Flood, we would be safe. We were on quite a high point on Sandy Plains.

We ate our sandwiches and drank the water and the sun kept on shining. We all lay down, became quiet and almost slept for some time. The sun was much lower in the sky when we looked around us again. We were sure the hour was later than 2 PM. So we were spared if anything had happened. We decided to go home and see if everything was still there.

Near home we could hear some mothers calling that dinner was ready.


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