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  • Writer's pictureNikko Norte

Unwillingness to yield …

Seated on a low, ancient wall, I stare over a bay in Galicia, in the North of Spain, lost in thought. Dawn had not fully broken when we walked the deserted beach along the bay with Moos the German shepherd. The sun still hides behind some hills as water gets to boil in a kettle on our gas stove next to me. Except for our Sibley tent, the campsite behind me is empty. The water over which I stare is blue and calm. That was different when I once passed the same bay on a jet ski, dead of winter, on my way from Málaga, in the south of Spain, to Scheveningen, in the Netherlands.

Being nothing but a frail part of a gray and angry mass of water, too far out on the Atlantic, I then plodded past this bay toward the village of Fisterra, some twenty kilometers north from where I sit now. Just before nightfall, I reached Fisterra’s harbor, exhausted, numb with cold, and … the murmur of the surf deviates my thoughts from that months-long jet ski trip to the coast of Normandy, France. June 6, 1988. With some friends, in an old-fashioned, inflatable, military raft, I paddled toward the Pointe du Hoc, a cliff on the Normandy coast. At 7.00 a.m., we slid through the surf, landed on a pebbled beach, ran to the cliff, and climbed it like 261 American soldiers did in 1944, realizing all too well we had only gravity to defy …

The cliff was not hard to climb, but its rocks were slippery, which made the climbing scary. I reached the top of the cliff, crawled underneath some rusty barbed wire, belayed the line I had carried on my back to a rusty pole, and abseiled to the beach. A journalist accompanied us. Crouched against the cliff, sheltering from the rocks my climbing friends kicked lose, I tied the end of the rope I had abseiled with to the journalist’s climbing harness, so that one of my friends could belay him from above on his way up the cliff. Trying to boost the journalist’s confidence, I registered the scream of the photographer on the beach, which coincided with Hans de Koning, one of my friends, landing, at our feet. Hans coughed up blood. Then, his eyes rolled away.

My friends returned to The Netherlands. I stayed in Normandy to see Hans recover. Each day, I walked a landing beach or shuffled between gravestones on a war cemetery, struggling with a strange sense of guilt that resulted from the sudden awareness that the Europe I saw developing could not possibly be the Europe soldiers had been willing to die for, forty-four years earlier. Each evening, I took a seat on the sidewalk terrace that made part of my hotel – shuttered windows, teak furniture in the rooms, traversins at the top end of the beds – and stared over a Normandy village square, lost in thought as ever, waiting for Erica to get off the bus after her shift had ended in the hospital where Hans recovered.

Erica wore her nurse's uniform with pride, and it was no punishment to see her walk to my table, the nonchalance with which she signaled a waiter to bring her a coffee. Man, I had climbed the rocks of the Pointe du Hoc to come to terms with something that had happened long before I was born. Those sultry June evenings, fascinated by the Ingrid Bergman aura of the woman next to me, more eloquent in French than I had ever been in Dutch, I came to terms with nothing, and the guilt I struggled with increased as I came to truly realize what courage lay buried under the grass of the graveyards around me, what unwillingness to yield …

I lift the kettle from our gas stove, pour boiling water into the filter on the rim of our Stanley thermos, and enjoy the smell of coffee. Galicia! The murmur of the surf. The chirping of early birds. Erica’s image fades as I focus on greenfinches and stonechats, but the feeling of guilt my recollection of that adventure in Normandy stirred up suddenly overwhelms me. May 20, 2021. I live in a world in which people are afraid of their own shadow, a world in which people accept fairy tales about a virus as if it were religion. Eighty years ago, no soldier would have considered risking his life for the Europe Heidi and I traveled through on the way from Austria – where we live, despite being Dutch – to Galicia.

Checks at most borders, but no customs officer interested in anything related to corona. We made no stops in Switzerland, could hence not judge the situation there, but the officers halting us at the border did not wear face masks. The French, not just the officers at the border, went through life with their mouths and noses covered, even in the open air, joie de vivre traded for something grim. Those who had joined la résistance distinguished themselves from other people by wearing their masks on their chins. Most hotels and cafes we passed on the back roads we traveled seemed out of business for good. The weather was pleasant, France desolate.

Despite Heidi’s pleading me not to, I had left our sleeping bags in Austria, where face masks, by the way, are not mandatory in the open air, but where a recent, negative PCR-test is mandatory to be allowed into public places. Our duvets, I had been certain, would keep us warm at night. They did not. Not a problem. Most sports shops in France sell sleeping bags. Correct. But in Limoges, near which we had spent a cold night in our Sibley tent on an empty campsite, we learned that the risk of being infected with corona in sports shops is greater than in a liquor store or a tobacco shop; all sports shops in France closed. Somewhat taken aback, we took Moos for a walk through a forest, forgot the 7 p.m. curfew, and drove back to the Sibley. No traffic but no cycling, running, or walking people either, that night as cold as the night before. No uniforms at the border in Puigcerda, where we crossed into Spain, Guardia Civil roadblocks everywhere in the countryside, no Guardia Civil officer interested in anything but possible drugs, weapons, or explosives in the back of our Berlingo. Strict face mask discipline in Spain, no resistencia. Face masks in the open air – such as deserted forests and deserted beaches – and even the few cyclists we encountered gasped for air from under masks. But no risk to get infected with corona in Spanish cafes and ventas, say, roadside restaurants, or in gyms. In those packed places, the Spanish go about life barefaced. No curfew in Galicia and not a corona case more in Galicia than elsewhere in the world. Empty ski slopes in Austria, last winter. We did not complain but not a corona case less in Austria than elsewhere in the world, and … two flippers rise from the water over which I stare. Heidi is snorkeling and dives under the water. I would have loved to be snorkeling too, but Heidi spoiled my mood, and when she does that, I behave like a six-year-old.

Heidi reads herself through stacks of news items every morning. Since corona dominates the news, I plead her to only bother me by the end of the day with what she thinks I should know. Whatever it is, it rarely keeps me awake, but of late, it too often ruins my day when confronted with it in the morning. This morning, it was the news of a 44-year-old BBC newscaster having died after having been vaccinated against corona and the news of a Dutch soccer player who, with regards to the vaccine, is under attack because he interprets the word voluntarily in accordance with its definition.

Young, comorbidity free people should steer clear of those vaccines. No matter how often corona is falsely tallied as a cause of death, nowhere in the world does it drive the average age of its victims under eighty, and it is hard to find one such victim not having suffered from at least one comorbidity. Thankfully, governments had to let go of the lie that our soccer friend protects his grandmother when he yields to the attack on him and has himself voluntarily vaccinated – vaccines do not halt transmission – and it will not be long, I am rather sure, until those same governments have no alternative but to admit that two vaccines is not enough, the efficacy of vaccines waning rapidly. Deliberately unhealthy people populate hospitals and ICU’s. They have done so for decades. They will continue to do so, vaccinated or unvaccinated, and by vaccinating comorbidity free people, call them healthy people, we will only increase the strain on our healthcare system, for the embraced cure to corona – an experimental vaccine, mind me – could easily be worse than the disease. I eh… I study corona at least an hour each day – in the evening that is. In doing so, I meet lots of scientists able to circumvent the censorship that for some reason obscure comes with the subject. Meeting those scientist is confronting, but … Heidi, in her wetsuit, walks out of the sea, flippers, diving mask, and snorkel in hand. She grins and waves at me. I hold our Stanley in the air, and my mood lifts although an oppressive feeling keeps lingering in my system. It is the same oppressive feeling that lingered in my system when paddling toward the Pointe du Hoc in an inflatable raft. I was not worried about myself, back then, but I was responsible for the idea of paying tribute to those who gave their lives to grant us our freedom. Hans de Koning barely survived his fall. Man, I'm not responsible for corona or the developing corona madness. Of course I am not, but …

Last night, I finished my manuscript The Caveman Code. For almost twenty years, I worked on it. Tomorrow, we will travel to Brittany, in France, where I want to read the manuscript one last time before I send it to my editor. The caveman code! A simple lifestyle that transforms us into what we were until recently: healthy, strong, fit, slim, and unwilling, of course, to participate in a medical experiment that may give us back the freedom that should not have been taken from us. Courage and unwillingness to yield, oh man ...


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