One of my first trips over to Holland involved visiting one of my wife’s ex work colleagues. The formal invite had already happened without my knowing, so we walked the 10 metres to the flat. Once in, the customary three kisses took place, seating arrangements sorted and then the standard question, similar to “Can I get you a cuppa, gwarn, gwarn, gwarn….”, the Dutch ask “Wil je koffie?” Of course I would like a coffee, but it’s polite to answer “Ja graag”. I didn’t even know that graag was a word never mind what it meant so I just said “Ja dank u”. Out came three quite small cups, followed by a thermos flask. Three slices of ontbijtkoek were placed on the table. The friend poured three cups of coffee from the flask and indicated to take some more when I wanted. I was always under the impression that the Dutch were coffee connoisseurs, so that myth was quashed pretty early on in my induction into Dutch culture. Having said that, they have a phrase “koffie verkeerd” which means coffee wrong. It’s a large mug or glass of coffee made primarily with milk, so there’s a bit of paradox-ism going on somewhere.

The Dutch have a coffee machine called a Senseo, manufactured by Phillips of Eindhoven. We have one, a Mk1 version. It still works a treat but you can’t get coffee pads in the UK anymore, we have to buy bags in bulk to bring back with us. However, I’ve just received a special permanent filter that fits perfectly so I can dispense with the pads now. As usual the UK has gone for the ecologically higher carbon footprint aluminium pods and more expensive machines! But then the UK isn’t even trying to lower it’s carbon footprint. It was a huge effort to ban plastic bags in supermarkets, so the Tories put a 5p levy on them, paid for a few bribes here and there I suppose! The fact that fruit, veg, meat and fish is still vacuum wrapped in plastic squarely illustrates what a crappy half measure it was.

This is called koffie verkeerd which means coffee wrong.