Amsterdam · Family · Life


Watching an election from afar is a funny thing. Not funny as in, hahahahahaha!!!!! But more…. perplexing. I have the same media outlets as friends in the UK, more or less, but there is always the feeling that, if I were in my home country, I’d have something more of a measure of the mood. Or, perhaps not; living, as I did, in Lambeth, which is rampant with Remainers; doggedly insistent that diversity can only be a good thing and weirdly obsessed with such minutiae as the NHS, education and equal rights for all. I mean, what is that about?!

<hears a small child’s voice whisper “humanity”>


Now we live in Amsterdam, My Lawyer and I register to vote at distance; he by proxy and I by post. You know what they say; tom-aye-to, tom-ah-to, proxy, post, etc. I cast my vote around the time that the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas, during which many white people across the country don blackface and act like buffoons to make children happy. Don’t blame the adults; this is a children’s tradition, A CHILDREN’S TRADITION! If the adults did not don blackface, then the children would not realise that they needed blackface as part of this children’s tradition, and that would be so sad for them! And if it’s good enough for Justin Trudeau, it’s good enough for Dutch kids. Everyone loves the Canadians, right? SO NICE! People used to fancy Trudeau a lot, but now, not so much. I wonder what happened; he has such nice teeth.

Amsterdam doesn’t officially blackface any more, so that’s nice. A reason to be cheerful: overt racist imagery is no longer an OFFICIAL highlight on the municipality’s calendar. Jerry Afriye, the founder of Kick Out Zwarte Piet, says that he understands that the racist element of the Zwarte Piet tradition was – formerly – unconscious (pretty generous if you ask me – which you shouldn’t, because I’m a white lady), but Afriye goes on to say that now that people of colour are telling the world that they are offended, that they feel marginalized and mocked, ignorance is no longer a valid excuse. But still, in the Dutch provinces, Sinterklaas’s helpers – “Black Petes” – had blackface. And here in Amsterdam, tolerant, cosmopolitan Amsterdam, my five year old came home with a Sinterklaas work book that looked like this:


And, reading a book about inventors, the five year old pointed at a picture of Indian polymath Jagdish Chandra Bose – a physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist and archaeologist – and said to me, “Look, Mummy! I see Zwarte Piet.”

The days tick by, from one divisive tradition to another: AH, THE BIENNIAL BRITISH ELECTION. Because I cast a postal vote, it’s signed, sealed and delivered by the time I read that Boris has stolen a phone from a journalist so that he doesn’t have to look at a photo of a small child whispering “humanity” – oh wait no, sorry – small child sleeping/being unconscious on the floor of a hospital with suspected pneumonia. Not many people know that sleeping on a hard floor is actually really good for your back. Assuming your back is sore. Maybe Boris is one of the few to know this about sore backs. Perhaps he didn’t want to embarrass the journalist by exposing the journalist’s own vertebraeic ignorance. Also, I guess that Boris had concerns, having seen how attached journalists are to their phones. Okay, there you go! It was an intervention! Oh, Boris. Funny, ruffled, teddy bear Boris. Like an overgrown child. Imagine him in striped pyjamas! A sleeping cap atop his fluffy locks! Whisper “humanity” to me, Boris. Record it, text it to me, I’ll have it as my ring tone.

Here’s what I think, reading that story: That will do it. No one can watch that video, see that lack of empathy, that panic, that reluctance to face the vulnerable, that urge to – literally – turn away, and still think that this is a man with the moral fibre, the dignity, the respect for humanity that is required to be a true leader of people.

I read in the Amsterdam paper, Het Parool: Kiezen uit twee kwaden: “Choose out of two evils”. The article states that Johnson has a track record of offensive statements that have been misogynistic, elitist, discriminatory and racist. And Corbyn? He is seen as onverkiesbaar: “Unelectable.”

Het Parool

I listen to The Daily; the podcast of The New York Times, whilst I do the laundry. I hear a discussion about Boris Johnson taking aim at Labour strongholds in the North. This is the Brexit election, they say; Labour are going wrong with their focus on other lesser issues, like, say, health care, education, social equality. I hear them say, “Make Britain Great Again.” They talk about what a successful strategy this is. I shake my head. What do the Americans know! As if the turkeys are going to vote for Christmas! The reporters wonder what will happen when British voters “realise” that Brexit will not deliver to them the Britain that they thought they’d get back. I think, balling socks: that’s a bit patronising. I put the laundry away. No flies on me.

Something happens with Boris and a fridge. I say to My Lawyer:

“Did you hear the thing about the fridge?”

He says: “From Jumanji?”

“No,” I say. “Boris Johnson. He was in a fridge or something.”

“Oh,” says My Lawyer. “I thought you meant Fridge from Jumanji.”

We have just watched the Jumanji film for Family Film Night; in it, there is a character called Fridge.

“That was a pretty good film,” I say.

“It was,” says My Lawyer. “It was a pretty good film.”

I still don’t know what the fridge thing was.

Thursday 12th finally rolls around and we have to wait until 11pm for the Exit Poll. 11pm! While we wait for Britain to decide which road to go down, which “evil” to choose, we watch episodes of Living With Yourself, in which Paul Rudd watches a much better version of himself living his best life.

“This isn’t very realistic,” I say.

11pm arrives, pulls its pants down, farts in our faces, dons blackface and becomes leader of whatever country it wants.

“Shit,” I say.

“Fuck,” My Lawyer says.

My Whatsapp groups fill with comments that are along the same lines.

“What happened to Huw Edwards?” asks My Lawyer. “Is he ill? Or is he…. in really good shape?”

“I think it’s his hair,” I say.

My friend D turns up on Whatsapp: “I’ve just got in,” she says, “and Huw is hot!?!”

“D agrees about Huw,” I say to My Lawyer.

“Something has happened to him since we have been here,” agrees My Lawyer.

“It can happen to men.” I say. “They get suddenly hot. Look at Tom Watson.”

Then I get sad about Tom Watson.

“He does boxercise,” says A, on Whatsapp.

“Huw does boxercise,” I say to My Lawyer.

Blythe Valley goes to the Tories, and we go to bed.

In the same way that white working class women won it for misogynistic Trump in 2016, it seems that white working class men have won it for elitist Johnson. Better the devil you know; the turkeys voted for Christmas after all. Because there could be worse things than Christmas for turkeys, right? Like…. geese or ducks getting all the festive attention. Fear The Other! Listen: if anyone is getting fucked this Christmas, it’s the HOMEGROWN TURKEYS. Or hog, if you’re dining with the Camerons. Now, excuse me whilst I season myself.

Well. Merry Christmas, Amsterfans. I don’t know anything; do you? Let’s take comfort in that which unites us: none of us truly understands anyone else. Let’s celebrate our differences: we are all unique in our deficiencies.

Buckle up, turkeys; it’s gonna get hot.


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My cartoon from 2016. @newyorkermag

A post shared by Paul Noth (@paulnoth) on


2 thoughts on “Humanity

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