At the end of her working days, when Van Kester cycles from the EUR campus to her apartment in Moordrecht, she will sometimes make a stopover at her garden. After all, that it is the time of day when it is quietest here, ‘which is when it’s at its best’. She will cook an easy meal on a gas camping stove and sit down next to the canal behind her light blue garden shed, on a garden chair whose cushions have images of kingfishers on them. “Peace and quiet, wind rustling through the trees, no obligations whatsoever. I’ll be surrounded by greenery, frogs and birds. Once I actually saw a kingfisher. When that happens, my mind is cleared at once.” Her view of the canal is slightly impeded by a small dead tree, but that doesn’t bother her. “We’re going to get rid of that.”

It should be noted that having ‘no obligations whatsoever’ is not that common for people who have vegetable plots. There’s a courgette (zucchini) on the ground that has grown far too large. “That will be thrown away! They don’t taste great. If you can’t make it to your garden for three weeks, you’ll be confronted with hugely overgrown vegetables when you return.” In other words, maintaining the garden takes up a lot of her time. “My husband and I come here twice a week, on average, to do some gardening for a few hours. But you could spend a lot more time here if you wanted to. You’re never fully done.” Isn’t that actually pretty stressful? “Strangely enough it isn’t. At work having a lot of things to do sometimes makes me nervous, but here in the garden it doesn’t.” And they’re getting some help, too. “Our children will be swinging by one of these days to get rid of some weeds.”

Outdoor yoga

Van Kester became a beadle at the university by applying for the job when it was advertised in Algemeen Dagblad. “That’s how easy it was,” she says, seated on her garden chair. “To be honest, I had no idea what a beadle was when I read the advertisement. But I liked the description: a job in which you will officiate at many ceremonial events.” She has been a beadle since 2007. Recently she has had to perform some off her duties online. The doctorate regulations had to be revised to allow her to do that.

That said, Van Kester does perform most of her duties offline, on campus, which she says is more practical. Also, it allows her to make regular stopovers at De Amateur Tuinders. “We didn’t get our garden until after the start of the coronavirus outbreak, so we’re still getting into the swing of things.” The first tomatoes are ready to be harvested. “I absolutely love flowers, so we want to plant a few of those, too. And we want to get a small lawn, so that I can do some outdoor yoga.”

It is quiet for a moment, the only sound audible being the wind rustling the leaves of the trees. Then, suddenly, we catch a glimpse of something blue with a pointy beak in the dead tree next to the canal. An elated Marleen whispers: “Look! The kingfisher! Isn’t it gorgeous?” And just like that, the bird is gone, continuing its hunt for small fish elsewhere. Marleen laughs. “Maybe we shouldn’t get rid of the dead tree, after all.”


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