‘Now I love a lazy relationship’

Rob: “A friend gave me a Saturday job at a cobbler when I was sixteen. I cleaned the warehouse, went for a walk in the boss’s big Danske Danske, washed the advertising car. My boss had bought a hundred hides from which soles were to be punched. I was very precise about that. He saw it and he offered me a job.

“My father was fine with me getting diplomas in the shoemaking trade. I’ve been doing it for 45 years now and still love it. No two shoes are the same. Running a business just isn’t fun anymore.

“Because of corona, my income is 60 percent of what it was. People work more at home, shoes wear out less quickly. If all goes well, I’ll retire in six years. I haven’t had the opportunity to build a real pension Not at all with what has happened in the past ten years.


“The crisis came in 2008, and that really cut it down. I had two employees and had to fire them within two years. And in 2015 my wife died very suddenly. She had cervical cancer. I was completely out of the world for about three years.

“She was my second wife. I still have good contact with my ex and I have three children with her. Two years after that divorce I called one of my friends who lived in the south-east of Spain. I said: I want to start living again He said come by.

“We went out and ended up in a cafe, where he introduced me to Sole. She was immediately the woman of my life. The first second. She had never learned English. My friend said, I don’t know how you did it, but you talked all night. It was in May. I picked her up in October and she came to live here. We were together for thirteen years.”

Psychiatric report

“When she passed away, my job was basically nothing. I was there, but that was it. Almost nothing came out of my hands. A very good friend ran the shop at the time. And a colleague of mine from Sneek came twice a week to finish stacks of shoes that I couldn’t finish.

“If you are independent, you have to solve all your problems yourself. No one else to do it for you. But then I had no choice.

“For the first time in my life, I also called my disability insurance during that time. After three months I got a call from a young guy: ‘We think you can go back to work’. I said, “Have you ever lost a life partner?”

“He could have a psychiatric report drawn up. My portrayal of a psychiatrist was a man in woolen socks in Birkenstocks. When I got there he figured out what was going on in ten minutes – I had to adjust my image. He referred me and I received EMDR therapy. Without that help, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“I get up between half past eight. My business is under my house, down the stairs, and I’m there. I’m usually down around 9:30 and open from 10 to 5:30. There are days when I don’t get out because of it. I taught myself that. Even if I’m not going anywhere, I put on my coat after dinner and go for a walk.

“In the evenings, I am at least two or three times a week in the billiards room. It has also come in the bad period. If I sensed a bad night coming, it was okay, now put your shoes on, take your signal. It helped so much. Then I got distraction, a conversation other than what was in my head, and afterwards I could go to bed in peace.

“I used to play billiards almost every night. I just didn’t like being alone. Now I can easily sit at home one evening. I paint by numbers. I have a lot of patience for that kind of thing. I don’t care at all about the result. It is just a pastime. Then I can sit here on the couch without feeling like I have to leave. In the meantime, I watch football.”


“I have been with my new girlfriend Anneke for five years now. At first I wanted nothing but house-tree-animals. I missed that. But she wasn’t quite ready for that yet. But I love a lazy relationship now. The psychiatrist played an important role in that.

“I go to my girlfriend’s on Saturday after work. Our weekend is Sunday and Monday. Monday after dinner I leave her again.

“When I was alone, I sometimes lay in bed until twelve o’clock. Then I went out and turned on the television with football. Now we eat yogurt on Sunday mornings and go to the gym. I don’t want to stay up late anymore. It’s a waste of my day. We both just bought an electric bike. We cycle long distances. And we regularly go to Utrecht and Amsterdam because her children live there.

“My children also live in Leeuwarden. I have a really good relationship with them, but they don’t visit me every week. Sometimes they pop into the shop when they’re in town. Once in a while I go and eat with them. My son often pops in when he’s in town with my grandson. Then the little thing jumps around this room. “Grandpa” she calls out. That’s…yeah. That’s what you do it all for.”

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