Sunday, 31 March 2013

Faux Paas

The public holiday calendar in the Netherlands is a bit lopsided in that apart from the Christmas holidays, the holidays are all clustered in the months of Spring. Queen’s Day (soon to become King’s Day) is on April 30, Liberation Day is May 5, and Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day and Whit Monday vary from year to year with the church calendar. So for the student, Spring brings a welcome respite not only from the cold weather but also from months on end with no holidays to break up the intense academic routine. Easter, “Paas” in Dutch, brings an especially welcome four-day weekend. This year it is March 29 through April 1, just after Spring’s formal debut and coinciding with daylight savings time. A fine forecast for the Paas weekend!

But, what is the MATTER with Spring? Have you seen it lately? “One swallow does not make a Spring make, nor does one fine day,” indeed! First sunny afternoons, chirping birds and blooming flowers, then an icy cold shoulder! Snow flurries give way to bright, inviting sunshine that turns out to look much warmer than it actually feels. Is Spring just a heartless tease? Is it menopausal, blowing hot and cold? Is it having a fickle and faithless midlife crisis? Is it bipolar and off its meds? Or is it being held hostage by Winter and suffering from a touch of Stockholm Syndrome? It certainly feels like Stockholm around here lately! As observed by Mark Twain, “In the Spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” But then the weather in the Netherlands is unpredictable at best in any given season; perhaps Spring comes by its impetuous mood swings quite honestly. So bear in mind, “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with Spring.” (George Santayana must have been lamenting a Spring fling in the Netherlands!)
Although it’s a real pity that Spring has custody of all the holidays, perhaps there is a silver lining to all this icy sunshine. Academic advisors caution that you must do as much work as possible before nice weather and the accompanying siren call of picnics, festivals and outdoor revelries becomes irresistible. When Spring finally makes up its mind, settles down and starts dropping hints about Summer, the last thing you will want is to be stuck indoors doing research. So rather than moaning about being stood up by Spring for the umpteenth time, perhaps best to ignore its antics and get back to work. Or try going a bit Zen: “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”
Zalig Paasfeest to all! Have some ice cream and hot chocolate, and like the Paashaas, don’t shed your winter coat just yet. After all, tomorrow is April Fool’s Day!

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