Contagious fun on a boat, and the despair of a girl who can’t talk

Is it bad if I say that I Thinking of Holland did you like Thursday night? That I even laughed out loud three times at the jokes that André van Duin seems to make almost compulsively. Because let’s be honest, it’s an intensely cheesy program. Janny van der Heijden and André van Duin know each other from the program All of Holland bakes, she is a jury member, he is a presenter and now they are “bakery friends”. This is the fourth summer that they get together in a boat to sail through the Netherlands.

This season they started in Leiden to sail via the Vliet, the Rapenburg and the Oude and Nieuwe Rijn. Over the Kagerplassen with the final destination Katwijk aan Zee. A middle-aged ‘couple’ on a boat, her dog Naan is also with them, and then they spontaneously encounter Dutch highlights along the way. A herring cart. A barrel organ. Lots of windmills. A juniper tree. Why is that still fun?

To start with, André van Duin’s continuous stream of little bits, which get funnier the more often he repeats them. Always lift the dog from the boat first, walk away and say ‘Miss Janny will be fine’. And she who continues to laugh about it, as only happens in a pleasant marriage.

Their utterly peaceful way of having fun is infectious. The kindness with which they treat herring farmer Abdullah, who fools them as easily as she fools him. The happy surprise with which they discover that all the miller’s apprentices are girls. The interest with which they view the ‘find of the week’ of Auke-Florian and Liselotte who are cleaning the canals of Leiden. An unopened condom and an opened strip of the morning after pill. Janny van der Heijden immediately points to the slippers that, coincidentally, are nearby. “A slipper.”


Okay, I’ll stop about it. The evening also brought despair, with the documentary Elin at KRO-NCRV. Parents Marie-José and Patrick had twins. Born sixteen weeks premature. The mother says the doctors asked what they wanted to happen to the girls. To keep alive? The parents thought it was an impossible question, the doctors decided for them.

Why is this reported so early in the documentary? Is that perhaps to prevent the viewer from thinking: after all, you chose this yourself? Daughter Bente weighed 840 grams at birth, she was able to leave the incubator much earlier and is a healthy 11-year-old. Her sister Elin stayed in the incubator for eight months and is multiple handicapped and hard of hearing.

Your heart bleeds for both girls. For Elin who wants to say everything, but can’t because she has no control over her muscles. Only her tongue can control her autonomously, and only her mother (usually) understands the sounds she emits. For Bente, because she can say anything, but wisely doesn’t. Her parents want to listen, but they often fail.

Communication is the key word in this film by Walther Grotenhuis and Cinta Forger. They followed the family for four years in their search for a speech computer that Elin can operate by clicking her tongue. Twice under anesthesia to fit her a special mouthguard with a button that she can operate. Mother who, at the risk of her own fingers, tries to direct Elin’s tongue. Father who just gets anxious just looking at the fiddling.

strawberry ice cream

It does not work. A new computer, with a different operation. By then, you’ll understand the parents’ joy when Elin can get the computer to order a strawberry ice cream on its own.

You can write down what the reactions will be to this film. Brave people. brave. hearts. #Only love. persevering. All true. But it’s not like these parents have a choice. They are their daughter’s hands, feet, head and mind. As long as she lives, they are her interpreter.