We are back to school here in the Netherlands. It’s mixed feelings all round. 

Three days in and we already had the first child at home again, because his teacher was sick. THREE days… I hadn’t even had time to take the dingy out of the car or emptied the ‘summer lake bag’. 

This morning, the eldest lounged around in PJs, living his best life, while the smaller had to go to school. She was so mad about it that plants withered in her wake as she cycled past them.

When she returned home to a well rested and cheery brother, she had to get ready for trampoline gymnasticsNo, I don’t really know what that is either, but she said it sounded cool and I want her TIRED OUT –  so I will pretty much register her for any activity. Her trial class was today, to decide if she liked it (or in my case, find out what it was exactly). She demanded I cycle her, as she was still in a foul mood over the whole ’having to go to school’ injustice life had served her. 

She slumped grumpily on the back of my bike.
A pink shorts, new trainers, sulky gangle of crank.

I popped the gym location into Gmaps & hung my phone around my neck, so the helpful computer voice could cheerfully shout confusing directions at me as I cycled, and off we went. 

We were sent on a ridiculously convoluted route around my neighbourhood, eventually ending up at the giant old people’s home near our house. I think it is part residential centre, part retirement home, part hospital….it is enormous, like a university campus.

It did seem an odd choice for a trampoline class, but maybe the gymnastics people rent the space? This was my reasoning behind our next actions.

I want to try to justify it to myself.
It’s important.

We didn’t go to the main reception area of the huge main building.
“OH NO”, we chuckled to each other,
“It can’t be in there – that’s a retirement home”.

We headed to a side building that looked like it could be a gym hall. It had a convincing door. Really. That was the only thing that made me think it could possibly have trampolines in it. 

The kid wasn’t so sure.
“We’ll just have a look,” I said.
She made me go first. Her survival instinct is strong.

The glass door slid open, and we went in. There was a time delay on the second door opening. The first door slid shut behind us – a bit like an airport security system. That should have given us a clue that we were not really in the right place – The second set of doors opened…and I sauntered in, expecting to see….well….trampolines…… the door slid shut behind us and we were standing in a recreation room of an old people’s home. Corridors ran off this room, with what looked like hospital wards… 

“Nope, definitely not the place”, we agreed. We turned to go back through the door we’d just come through and IT. WAS. GONE.

The inside of the door was papered so the whole wall looked like library. Pretty cool, but also very disconcerting. You could not see the actual door at all. There was a key pad for a code…but nothing written next to it.

I realised we had inadvertently gotten ourselves into the bit of the retirement home / care home / secure unit for people who are not permitted to leave of their own free will….my thoughts ran to Dementia, but then I wondered if maybe it was psychiatric care unit as well, or maybe a low security prison…..

The slow fuse of panic started. We would end up not being able to convince them that we were allowed to leave. And we would be there FOREVER.

My kid was questioning our choice of location. She was getting a bit nervy and didn’t like my idea of having a look around to find help. The vibe was definitely some secure unit painted to look cheery.

We stood there, thinking, and just kind of looking around a bit confused. I think my simple brain was still hoping to hear trampoline noises. 

The door suddenly slid open and there was an elderly lady in a wheelchair and 2 nurses. We smiled and quickly walked past them as confidently as we could. 

We did not think it through.
The door slid shut behind us and we were kind of stuck.
We were trapped between the 2 security doors. 

We knocked. No one came.
There was a large camera. We waved at it.
No one came.

The kid was freaking out – I was trying to hold it together, but the first door was made of tinted glass, the sun was shining straight in and it was SO HOT in that small space. 

We banged again, this time with a little more urgency.
Nope. Not a sausage.

There was an emergency phone on the wall. I picked it up.
“NO MUM! What are you doing?” Wailed the kid.
“Are you supposed to do that?” 

A lady answered. I explained the situation in very dodgy Dutch.
 “My daughter wants to jump. We need a code to get out”.
Seriously. That was the best I could do, I mean that was really going to convince someone I was a sane person.

The woman did not even question me. She calmly explained I would have to wait as the code was in her folder and she didn’t know it. She put us on hold. It was a ruse. I knew then that my worst case scenario was about to happen. She was coming to sedate us and keep us there forever.

The 7 year old was really beginning to wail.
At the end of the path outside, I saw a nurse…I banged and waved and pointed to the keypad, she came over and opened the door. I think at this point, my brain had overheated. My Dutch came out weird and I asked her were the trampolines were. WTF is wrong with me?!

She smiled in a kindly way and pointed to the reception area.
And we ran.

The lady at reception looked at me with such disdain.
“This is not the place.”
“NO, the trampoline isn’t here”.
She flicked her hand, “It is over there. Where the shops are.”

I realised that the address on the gymnastics website was obviously incorrect – or that Gmaps sent everyone here and she was OVER IT.
“You are with the gymnastics club?” she stated
“It is over there, you have to go there …it is not here.” She rolled her eyes and dismissed us with a wave. 

When we got ‘there’ it was closed. I checked my agenda. I’d gotten the wrong week. We cycled home, the kid shouted abuse at me from the back of the bike  &  plotted my demise.

If you don’t hear from me again, one of 2 things have happened:
1. I have been arrested for breaking into a secure unit with a child. Send help.
2. The 7 year old has actually murdered me and is currently papering me into the walls of her Barbie house.

I was born in Ireland, grew up in England and met my Cornish husband in Catalonia. We now live in the Netherlands, in Dutch suburbia with our two differently wired, small kids. I spend my days parenting, writing and being amazed at all the Dutchness around me.

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