Johan’s 70th Birthday

Given that I’m Irish-Indonesian and work at a rather multinational company, the only time I really get to taste essential Dutch culture is when I shoot a wedding or a party – and hallelujah, today is such a day.

A former classmate from the old stomping grounds pinged me a few weeks ago, whether I’d be available to cover her grandfather-in-law’s birthday.

“Is the bar free?” I asked. “And what’s for dinner?”

Yes and paella.


Johan, the birthday boy, is a hands-on party organizer, and the vibrant catalogue of guests showed the breadth and depth of the life he’d lived, and the friends he’d made along the way. His mother attended, ninety years of age, and I’d been asked to show give her some special attention. How could I resist?

The speeches were lively and cheeky, as they ought to be, and with the backing of an eclectic orchestra (which featured a singing saw, no less) the crowd sang along to songs so ingrained in the fabric of Dutch culture that even I knew the words.

Generations mixed and mingled, but it was the silver-haired crowd that tore up the dance floor once the tunes started pumping, putting the younger folk to shame with their radical and outrageous moves.

Summer in Holland, and a septuagenarian birthday celebrated in style.

Happy birthday, Johan!

– Nico


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