Amanda van Mulligen on what she used to watch on TV as a child compared to what little ones watched in the Netherlands, and still do.
If you marry a Dutchman, or move to the Netherlands to be with one, you will find there is always a big chunk of your past where there is no common ground. You will have spent your youth in different cultural universes.
What do I mean? In the ‘olden days’ kid’s television programmes differed from country to country.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in England and occasionally it is nice to reminisce about the television programmes I watched as a kid.
“The Flumps. A genius piece of TV programming,” I explain to my Dutch husband. He stares blankly at me.
“Fingermouse. Remember that one? What about Trumpton? Now they don’t make telly like that anymore.” I get the feeling that his eyes are glazing over and he is actually thinking about what coloured shirt he will wear to work tomorrow.
“Ok, Bagpuss then. You must know Bagpuss. Professor Yaffle? The mice? The pink and white striped cat? Seriously?” I am now starting to get a little irate. He picks up his newspaper from the coffee table and mumbles something in Dutch.
How is it possible that two people of the same age, growing up a few hundred miles apart have not a single kid’s TV program in common? I make one last effort, so he can redeem himself.
“Bod?” He pulls the newspaper up higher so I can no longer see his face. “Ok, what did you watch as a child?” With a large smile on his face, he folds the newspaper and places it back on the table. I now have his attention.
If you had been a child growing up in the Netherlands, during the years of flower power and the decade defined by leg warmers and fingerless gloves, here is an idea of what you may have been watching on TV.
Firstly, one that expatriates may already know thanks to a promotion in August by the supermarket Albert Heijn – De Fabeltjeskrant. In a nutshell, Meneer de Uil (Mr Owl) reads the newspaper every day to the animals living in the woods, such characters as Willem Bever (William the Beaver), Meneer de Raaf (Mr Raven) and Zoef de Haas (Zoef the Hare). Leen Valkenier created the show, which was first broadcast in 1968. By 1972 between one and two million viewers were enjoying tales from De Fabeltjeskrant on a daily basis.
Paulus de Boskabouter
Paulus de Boskabouter was a popular series in the mid 1970s, based on the adventures of Paulus and his friends – Salomo the crow, Oehoeboeroe the owl and Eucalypta the witch to name a few. All the characters were handmade by the programme creator Jan van Oort and Paulus’s claim to fame is that this was one of the first Dutch TV programmes broadcast in colour back in 1967.
Another favourite on the Dutch screen was Ti-Ta Tovenaar, about a magician searching for the magic spell to change strawberries into camels, accompanied by his daughter and his monkey. Believe me when I say I double-checked this fact to make sure I was not missing something in the translation from Dutch. I did not even try to find out why Ti-Ta wanted this elusive spell.
The brain behind Ti-Ta Tovenaar was also the mastermind responsible for Bereboot, a series about a boat captained by a grumbling bear with a heart of gold. The adventures of the crew of three were centred on the exotic characters they met (such as Lorelei the mermaid) on their travels across the seas.
Maja de Bij
One of the first Japanese animation series came to the Netherlands in the form of Maja de Bij, a cartoon about Maja the curious honeybee who wanted to see the world outside the hive. Maja has become quite a celebrity since her series debut in 1975 on Japanese television, the ultimate tribute being her star role in Nintendo DS and gameboy games.
The last example of Dutch kid’s television at its finest is actually a British series. In 1983, Pieter Post hit the mini screen in the Netherlands, accompanied by his cat Smoes, delivering the post in Groenendaal. I am of course talking about Postman Pat and his black and white cat Jess, and their escapades in Greendale, the fictitious village set in Yorkshire, England. Although I cannot admit to ever having watched this in my youth, I do recognise its cult status and acknowledge that my son watches both Postman Pat and Pieter Post twenty years on.
Maybe two decades into the future my son will not have the same cultural gaps that his parents have because of growing up in different countries. The world of children’s TV is getting smaller with the advent of channels like Nickelodeon, the popularity of BBC creations that are dubbed into Dutch (Teletubbies and the Tweenies immediately spring to mind) and the availability of multi-language DVD’s that allows Diego and Dora to play in Dutch or English at the press of a button.
However, for my husband and me our childhood years will always be worlds apart.