Go crazy! Reading Piens Newsletter 8 minutes Next Bulbs, bulbs and more bulbs

Dear reader, 

If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a few years now, you’ve probably been waiting for the moment of the summer at which my dad decides he is too busy to be writing a newsletter this week, and consequentially pushes the task my way. This time he did so with a very short deadline, so I did not have a lot of time to come up with an actually interesting story to tell you all this week. Normally, I would not have a problem coming up with stories about Fluwel on the spot, but this summer has been a first for me: I haven’t worked at the warehouse this year. 

My summer this year. The quality of the picture is quite poor, but that’s alright: we had just been in a plane for twelve hours, so we don’t look too pretty anyways.

I say that this has been a first, and that is not an exaggeration: I have worked at the Fluwel warehouse every summer since I was about 11 years old. We cleaned the bulbs, counted and weighed new varieties, hand-packed little orders of rare Daffodils, and did remaining odd jobs like getting the sand that comes in with all those bulbs outside again and cleaning a little. There was always a lot to be done, and my siblings and I always had a group of friends that we took with us to work over the summer. 

Our first year cleaning Crocus bulbs

The first year I started at Fluwel, I had just started high school. I had met a ton of new friends, who all wanted to earn their own money for the first time in their life as well, so everyone was lining up to work. We were quite young, eleven and twelve years old, and while that is the age at which a summer job is allowed in The Netherlands, you cannot work with machinery or heavy equipment until you are fourteen or fifteen. This meant that we basically won the lottery: we had our own table at which we could sort bulbs fully by hand, without the sound of a grumbling, loud machine next to us, so we could talk all day long, exactly like twelve-year-old girls tend to do. That first year, we also only had to work until 15:00, so after work, we could always go to the beach, which is about two kilometers from my parents’ house. And after we got paid on Friday, we spend Saturday in the city to buy ourselves something with our hard-earned money. Obviously, we had not seen each other enough at that point, also. 

The second (or third? I’m actually not quite sure) year at Fluwel. My sister Pleun has also joined the table.

My friends and I worked at Fluwel throughout our entire high school years, so six summers in total. The group of people stayed pretty much the same during that time. As my sisters and brother got older, they also invited friends to come work, and with the added bonus of a beach close by and never-ending sleepovers at our house (because why would you go home in the city when you had to be at Fluwel at 8 in the morning the next day?), the summer schedule was a constant factor in our lives.

The table at which we cleaned bulbs. We used the markers meant to write down names and weights of varieties of new bulbs to liven the place up a little bit, too. We wrote down everything on the table, like criteria for ‘the perfect flower bulb’ and tallies of how many times we heard the most popular songs that summer on the radio. Winners included Moves Like Jagger and anything by Adele.

I’m telling you all of this to try to explain that it feels quite weird to not have spent any time in the warehouse this summer. My high school years went this way, and after that my gap year and most of my university years, too. There are not a lot of jobs out there that allow you to work this many hours, so for a lot of people (like our friends), that’s a very attractive idea. But as we (my siblings and I) got older, summer naturally also started to consist of holidays with friends and student association activities. I almost can’t believe we’re over halfway through August already: it feels like I went to class just last week.

So, when my dad asked me to write the newsletter yesterday evening, I wasn’t sure what I could even tell you about. I know what is happening in the warehouse right now, I know who is working there and how this season is coming along, but it’s different when you are not there in real life. It would have been an idea to ask my brother Karel to tell you more about the daily business at Fluwel, but he left for his introduction week in Groningen last Sunday. Last year, I think I told you about our made-up verb ‘Karelen,’ a description of how Karel sometimes goes about his work. The attentive reader may remember the definition: you look at the work from a distance and think about if there could be a more efficient way in which it can be completed. Then, you execute a full thought-experiment on that scenario to see if it may work better than what you’re currently doing. Usually, the answer to this is no. Finally, you get back to work the same way you were doing it before. But anyway, can’t tell you more about that this year, as Karel has moved to his college city last weekend to attend the introduction and club-recruitment week. He wants to join a student association or club during his time in Groningen, but last time I talked to him, he was not yet sure which club he was going to go for. I’m curious to see what it’s going to be, as I have had a great time at my university. 

Impression of my own student life. I joined the student boat club and became a coxswain.

When I moved to Leiden, I joined the student boat club, so I could say to everyone around me that it wasn’t just about, like, partying: we were doing sports as well. And that even turned out to be true: I was an active member for five years, and I became very good friends with my teammates. We still see each other every week, and that is also the reason I was not at Fluwel much this year: we had our five-year anniversary, so we went on a celebratory holiday to India. Our fifth vacation together! We traveled through the northern part of the country and saw cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Varanasi. I had never been to any country in Asia before, so I thought it was very impressive and it was so much fun to go on a trip like that with friends. 

One of the two group pictures we took on our holiday. These are the same people as the previous photo, but five years later.

I hope I have been able to give you at least a little insight into Fluwel this week. There is still a lot to be done in the warehouse, but you already know that, because if it wasn’t busy you would be reading a letter from my dad instead. I enjoyed writing to you again. I hope you’ve had a good summer so far, and that you’re looking forward to adding new bulbs to your garden this autumn! 

Kind regards,