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Daytime Birthday Parties

When I told my colleagues at Land van Fluwel that the title from this weekend’s newsletter was going to be ‘Daytime Birthday Parties,’ I got some confused looks. Marian however, a young at heart lady who does have a few more years under her belt than most of the team, knew exactly what I meant by that. A Daytime Birthday Party is a known thing here after a certain age: it’s what retirees do once they no longer work during those hours, and the whole day is suddenly free for social activities. 

Arjen with one of his two beloved Mariannes 

I remember vividly the Daytime Birthday Parties of my own mother, though the last one was a few years ago now. Before a certain point in time, visitors for birthday parties came over at night, armed with flowers and a bottle of wine, usually during the weekend that was closest to the actual birthday date. But suddenly, everyone was there on the actual date, preferably at 11 in the morning, with the flowers but without the alcohol (though the Dutch delicacy “Advocaat” always remains beloved among the elderly). The kids of the 65+ birthday person in question are slightly annoyed by this: there is lots of work to do, but there’s a whole family that’s come over, a whole effort at this age, so you’re expected to show up and talk with all the aunts you specifically see at this birthday party every year. We are expected to cut cake and serve coffee and tea in the nice china, and if we also manage a nice not too heavy but still hearty soup during lunch, we can be 100% sure that everyone will be there again at 10:30 next year. 

Planting Bulbs

But we did have a good time. My mother came from a family of 11 children, and my father had another 10 brothers and 4 sisters, so if half of them didn’t show you still did not have enough chairs for everyone. A few lucky uncles had lost their hearing completely, but the rest of us was subjected to a house full of gossiping elderly folk going through all family member’s activities of the past year. My aunt Francien enjoyed the previously mentioned Advocaat until it was gone; neighbour Gert and my uncle Tom were always in the same place, where they could best make fun of another uncle, Theo, and his Scrooge-ness with money, to Theo’s own great amusement. 

During Spring, Arjen is tractor driver for the tours of the flower fields in our ‘Bloembollenboemel’ 

All great fun, but without noticing I’ve already gone off track with this newsletter again. What I wanted to say is that my brother Arjen had his last workday at Fluwel last week. He has been with the company for over 40 years, and now he has finally hung up his overalls in order to attend Daytime Birthday Parties with his wife, Marianne (another Marianne than colleague-Marian previously photographed). 

In-between job: building a conservatory attached to my other brother Sigge’s house

Arjen has always been our handyman, the engineer of the entire place. He started working as a tractor driver at a different business in the Belkmerweg, the road we live on, but when he had driven enough kilometers for a bit he came to Fluwel (which was not yet called Fluwel then) to do something different for a bit. We had a lot of technical things that needed to be done, stuff that needed to be fixed or built, which is neither Sigge’s nor my own talent. But Arjen can do literally everything, and once you have one of those people, you’d be a right idiot as a business owner to let them go, so you make sure they always have good, fun projects going on. A new warehouse, to be built from the ground up? Arjen was in charge. More acres of Daffodils? Arjen planted them and dug them out a few months later. A windmill, switching to sustainable energy? Arjen. The warehouse needed to be larger? Arjen. Land van Fluwel was bought and needed to be set up? Arjen. Solar panels, a hotel for our seasonal workers, a battery for the increasing amount of sustainable energy, technical errors that needed to be fixed, a new greenhouse for hybridizing even more Daffodils: Arjen. Everything was done exactly the way we all wanted it, so everything you see, especially at Land van Fluwel, has probably been made personally by him. 

The Dark Tunnel-part of our bare feet hike at Land van Fluwel 

The Watchtower at Land van Fluwel 

The Pond at Land van Fluwel

The Pond flipped over during a particularly intense game… has someone called Arjen yet? 

Planting Bulbs Surrounding the Terrace

A Mud Path for the Bare Feet Hike

Now that I’m writing all about this, I find it very extraordinary to see just how much one person can do over the course of just a couple of years. If you ever visit Land van Fluwel, you can see for yourself and keep in mind that most of this was created by just one particularly handy person:

Other than that, last week was spent doting on some more Daffodils at various flower bulb growers from th area. After the Covid years, the previous Lentetuin had a hard time starting up again, and to replace its function, which was mostly to show colleagues what you were currently working on, a group of growers organised smaller flower shows in different locations where buyers and other interested people could come look at what they have to offer. Fluwel was present at A.C.M. Smit, located at the Korte Belkmerweg in ‘t Zand.

You may wonder why you have never heard of this opportunity to look at all these flowers while the Lentetuin always used to have visitors, but unfortunately, at these new locations, it is not always possible to have many people over. The people in the flower bulb world know all about it and at which warehouse every grower presents their flowers, but for now, it’s more of an insider event. Everyone working in the flower bulb business comes together, which means it’s a very educational event, and also a lot of fun. 

In Flower Bulb center Bollenoord in ‘t Zand, a lot of growers were presenting their products

To my delight, lots of young people attended the events. Right, you see Marcel Noppen sharing his knowledge about the industry with young growers. 

Time to go back to my Daffodils. See you next week. 

Kind regards, 

Carlos van der Veek