In 1976 I went to first grade in primary school. Towards Sinterklaas we had to fill out a multiple choice list in the classroom, with three choices. It was meant as a wishlist, and I ended up selecting ‘Playmobil’. I did not know what it was, I only knew that I definitely had no interest in the other two items mentioned. I clearly remember that decision because I was choosing ‘the unknown’ and still have a mental image of the form, except for what the other two things before the final option Playmobil were. We were given a small brown envelope to take home, and I returned it the next day with what I realised was a Rijksdaalder, a two and a half guilder coin. Then when Sinterklaas came to visit the school I received…


…the road worker shown in the image. It is missing either a pickaxe or a broom, I think it was a pickaxe. Back then Playmobil figurines came in three colors (blue, green, red). Now there’s a myriad of varieties. Playmobil came on the market in 1974, as a higher end product for plastics after the oil crisis. A Dutch company bought a year’s worth of production, and I suppose my first figurine may have been part of that batch.

“I would put the little figures in their hands without saying anything about what they were. They accepted them right away…. They invented little scenarios for them. They never grew tired of playing with them.”

It was like in that quote for me too. Some 45 years on I still have all the Playmobil toys I played with as a kid, and our 4 yr old Y is now playing with them. She has her own Playmobil stuff but gets to mix some of my old stuff into her play. Such as the pirate ship, knights and a queen (dubbed ‘the old queen’ by her, as she has a much nicer one of her own). My old stuff has held up remarkably well, despite its age and being in storage for almost 4 decades.

Pat a Mat is a Czech stop motion animation series from the late 70s. Two neighbours with the unfailing ability to botch every DIY project they take on, work themselves clumsily into a mess in each episode. Every time they think they’ve fixed things they loudly say “A je to!”, That’s it! in Czech. The Dutch spoken version has not translated that key phrase. Y finds the series very funny. After making the wooden puzzle below, Y said “now let’s do it Pat a Mat style!” with the result below. When she was done she shouted “A je to!” and erupted into laughter.



Today the queen of the ball was the 24th and last item of Y’s Playmobil ‘Christmas ball in the crystal ballroom’ advent calendar
So immediately after breakfast the queen and her daughter danced. First with just the violinist playing, but soon E suggested the 2Cello’s playing AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Which led to the ‘old queen’, as my queen figurine from 40yrs ago is known in Y’s playmobil household, joining the party, ditching her mantel on the side, and showing some 1980’s breakdance moves. A multi layered time and cultural remix for Christmas.

As we’ll be spending a lot of dark winter days inside because of pandemic lock-down measures, we bought the most traditional Dutch family pastime, a sjoelbak, shuffleboard in English. When I grew up this was what we did on New Year’s Eve.


An unpacked image of our sjoelbak can be seen here on E’s blog.

A clear case of “The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!“. Two weeks ago our oldest cat Lunel died. She was the head of the household, and our other cat, Shiraz, lived on the top floor and generally lived ‘around’ the routines of Lunel. In the past 10 days Shiraz has steadily reclaimed more of the house for herself. Culminating in now enjoying the morning sun and occupying the spot on the sofa that was basically Lunel’s prime spot in the house. Shiraz, in short, has fully adopted the mantle of being the head of the household.