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(pagina 83)

... Dordrecht offered many attractions, but we were out for the extreme
in atmosphere, and at Rijsoord we had been told we should find it.
Rijsoord was a tiny collection of small houses set down in a wide flat
plain, crosshatched by innumerable canals. The one hostelry recom-
mended by our Rest Tour Book had no room vacant. However, the
cheerful landlady allowed us to deposit our bags and sent one of her
daughters, who spoke English as well as Dutch, with us to see if we
could get rooms at the ‘clomper’s shop’, that is, the shop of a maker of
wooden shoes.
Above this shop was a species of loft with a long aisle through the
middle, with small cubicles on either furnished with ‘American’
beds and washstands. The iron bedsteads, in lieu of springs, had wide
iron slats running from side tot side. In order toprevent them from
sagging, they were fully three inches higher in the middle than at the
sides. The mattress was stuffed with cornhusks and cobs, and the trick
was to balance oneself on the peak, as all real Americans were supposed
to do. We found it easier to put the mattress on the floor and submit our
bodies as dance and banquet halls for fleas, thick as the sand on West
Gloucester shores. Nevertheless, we slept.

(pagina 84)

On pouring water into my tin basin in the morning, I found it filled
with wiggling polliwogs, which made it necessary to strain the water
through a pocket handkerchief. After the first morning we wold our
landlady that Americans had a habit of washing in boiled water. She
shook her head and clucked her tongue; nevertheless, next morning we
had our polliwogs boiled, with the result that they were strained more
easily. The girl who spoke English explained to us the usefulness of a
canal system. From the little scum-covered line of water that fenced the
clomper’s shop, water was drawn for drinking, washing, and launder-
ing, and there was no need for any dirt to accumulate anywhere, as it
was thrown into the canal and carried away. This information was
given, it must be remembered, more than fifty years ago. I have no
doubt that by this time the uses of canal water have been somewhat
curtailed. In any case, I have never seen people who looked healthier and
happier than the canal users of Rijsoord.
Our travel cinema rapidly unrolled and showed us The Hague; Haar-
lem with its tulip fields, its Frans Hals galleries, and its memories of
Coster; Leyden with its bare church and its historic association with the
Prince of Orange and the Pilgrim Fathers; Amsterdam; and the trips to
Marken, a perpetual opera bouffe, Volendam and Edam with their
display of round rosy cheeses and of cattle in barns, with lace curtains at
the windows ...

An Indepentend woman, The autobiography of Edith Guerrier (edited by Molly Matson 1992)