As ‘Adeste Fideles’ quietly plays in the background, and box after box of Christmas decorations are brought down from the attic by a grumpy eleven year old, I feel ecstatic. Christmas is the festive season I adore – a white Christmas is heaven. There’s something to be said about crispy, dark nights illuminated by countless candles and twinkling fairy lights in needle shedding, scrumptious smelling Christmas trees.
As I sit admiring my own lovely tree I recall last year, up to my eye-balls in renovations and living in a rental that had the ambiance of a butcher’s fridge. I had decided not to have a tree as all our stuff was still packed in a 60 foot container and I couldn’t bear buying anymore decorations, not one more thing, knowing that we owned enough to decorate two houses, an orphanage and a zoo.
What a difference a year makes. We finally moved into the new house, unpacked our belongings and swore never to associate ourselves with a paintbrush ever again.
I started writing once more and joined a writers’ group and began contemplating the direction my life was taking. I knew that I wanted to write but whehter I could make a career of it concerned me, greatly. I must have been doing some serious thinking because the metaphysical law of attraction took over and something extraordinary happened.
A couple of months ago, Simone Harper Branson must have been doing the same – thinking about making a dream come true. This half-Dutch, half-English graphic designer, living in The Hague, had a vision. She was going to produce an English paper aimed at the multicultural and international community of the city she was born in. The paper would reflect not just the city but also the people living in it. She wanted to reveal what it had to offer beyond the usual attractions and with her background in design started looking around for people to help her with the content of the paper.
Jo Parfitt, a local British publisher, writer and teacher, filtered through her formidable network contacts and suggested Simone approach a number of local writers whose work Jo was familiar with. One thing led to another and I became a co-editor, together with an outstanding writer and friend Jane Dean, of a paper that at this stage was nothing more than a concept. Today we are the very busy co-editors of the English-speaking, monthly paper, The Underground, The Hague. Once connotations with the London tube are put aside the name of the paper becomes clear. Simone wanted to dig deeper, find a point of interest that would intrigue the long-term expatriates as well as the multicultural families, of The Hague. The logo, a mole, symbolizes going beneath the surface to discover new and surprising facts – undiscovered treasures of The Hague.
The first issue was ready within six weeks. This was only possible because we all worked day and most nights – till we had something that we felt reflected Simone’s vision. The response from writers wishing to contribute was tremendous, without them we would have had, well, nothing. It was not easy, I admit that, it was not always fun, I admit that too, but hell, it felt good when 1 November 2011, it came out to raving reviews!
Last week, the second issue, bigger and better was distributed at more than sixty distribution points. Feedback from advertisers has been amazing. One expat shop had 600 new hits on her website, from one ad in our first paper!
I write a monthly column, which evolved from an affinity for getting lost, no matter where I am. I have (had to!) been able to give it a positive twist. I honestly believe that there is a reason for everything and I look for it whenever I get lost. Believe it or not, I find the most extraordinary things and places that I share in my column. For all intents and purposes, I am a tourist in own country, never having lived here for long periods of time. Perhaps it helps that it’s all new to me, and the beauty of this country’s cities and landscapes never ceases to amaze me.
It can’t really get better than this, new home, new career prospects, new friends and neighbours, all in all it’s been a marvellous year!