My greatest wish is to live in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. As of right now, we live in an apartment near the centre of Amsterdam. Every now and then I need an escape, and this time we went to a holiday island – Terschelling.

The Netherlands is a small country with more people than necessary space, and that’s before the tourists descend. It’s also a flat country. Literally. It has no mountains (although a friend of mine once had a really large zit and it got officially registered as Holland’s tallest peak at 2.3 mm). Amsterdam is obviously the worst place for a lover of nature, space, and silence. The holiday islands are exactly what they say they are – 99% of their income comes from tourism. Luckily, we went a week after the school holidays ended, which made me the youngest person around with the exception of people who live and work on Terschelling. Nobody blasted loud music. I only had to pick up other people’s litter once. It was rather fabulous…

 

Saturday

It turns out that the change from living near the centre of Amsterdam to this place is brutal. I am not used to silence. Actual, near-complete silence, interrupted only by the sounds of rain and hail, birds’ mating call, and one rather insistent duck attempting to join us inside. We don’t let the duck in. My head is super-confused. I’ve been ready to go to sleep from about 7pm (when it was still completely light outside), because the only times when I experience actual silence are when I go to bed with earplugs in.

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Game of Thrones is coming back, just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of George R. R. Martin announcing that book six, The Winds of Winter, will be out soon. (You might think I’m kidding, but the completion of the first four chapters WAS announced in June 2010…) Since we are unlikely to ever read the last two books, we have to focus on the final season. Which starts tomorrow.

Read further for a (mostly) spoiler-free list of my favourite characters…

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Reading is dangerous. Addiction to books – expensive and time-consuming. Keep your kids away from books. Or they will fall in love with them and nothing will drag them back to Snapnite, Instabook, and drugs anymore.

 

My first book

I really wish I could remember more than that it was a kids’ book. Large print, illustrations, etc.

Every evening my Mum would sit with me and read me a book. Those were Communist days, which – you don’t see it coming – meant that there were PLENTY of books, they were cheap, subsidised by government, and a print run of 50 thousand meant the publisher was testing the waters. There was a series of kids’ books called “Poczytaj mi, Mamo” (“Read to me, Mom”) available. I had them all, as in all six or so, and Mum had to suffer through the same ones over and over again. I was a regular Calvin, knowing when she skipped even one word, and she worked two jobs. Eventually she got frustrated, told me “you know each of those books by heart, there’s no need to read them for you” and left me alone.

She was right – I really knew those books by heart. I quickly figured out how letters corresponded with phonems, then with words, and pretty soon I was reading other books. I didn’t know this was unusual – or that there were books that were not suitable for humans my age. I was four years old.

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