The little house, that’s called ANNA, can be slid open, really open. So not just a door, the entire glass roof and glass wall can be moved aside. But it’s October and it’s really not that hot, so the glass roof stays closed, the stove is burning and we’re sitting outside, as it were. You see everything, i.e. trees, moving grass, a few late evening primroses, you hear the birds, at night the moon looks in and you experience the actually tiny house as a huge wide sheltering space around you.
It’s all equally blissful. When you’re outside, why do you so easily feel like everything’s okay? Or is that only when you are outside for a while, away from your own hassle? After all, I live outside, albeit in farmland and not in a forest. People often say that it is certainly wonderful to work there, so quiet that you can probably concentrate very well outside. Of course you are not distracted by anything there, very different than in the city. So without a murmur back home.
Ketouk! does the bed. “That was quite a blow,” my husband says sleepily. “Mmm,” I say dully. “Earthquake.” It’s five in the morning. We don’t sleep for another hour, even though we pretend. Later we see how heavy it was: 2.5 on the Richter scale, epicenter here in Zeerijp. According to that scale, you hardly notice it, but it is about natural earthquakes, at a depth of 30 kilometers. These are due to the gas extraction and take place at a depth of 3 kilometers, which gives a different sensation on the surface. Well, we slept, the house has endured well.
But in the evening, I’m working, man is sick in bed or has he got up and even went outside that the outside door is so loud, no! The whole house is moving, as if someone is trying to extend this building… Ho!
Another earthquake. Back in Zeerijp. Would that continue? Is this the start of something? Two in one day is a new sensation. Suddenly I think again of the cheerful forecasters who kept saying that it was not a question of if but when the big blow would come. Never felt like believing in that, the heaviest blows to date (2012 in Huizinge 3.6 and 2018 in Zeerijp 3.4) caused a lot of damage but no major accidents and I believe that it will remain that way.
The misery lies in the endless bureaucracy that has been set up to repair damage and to strengthen homes. People with broken, leaking and drafty houses have to fight for years with authorities that send them incomprehensible letters and proposals, they keep seeing other experts come along, none of whom can or should make a decision. Those who live in the Groningen earthquake area are really not surprised by the way in which the Allowances affair is being handled. The fear of death that someone will be paid something unfairly, the distrust, the incomprehensible language in official letters, the seven hundred different counters and committees. See the interview with the exhausted secretary of the Groningen gas council Susan Top, recently in NRC. A large machine is going to turn and it is unstoppable.
If you were in a bit of a poetic mood you would compare it to a artwork by Jean Tingeluy, a large intricate structure full of cogs, sounds and moving wheels that serves no purpose. Only that makes Tigeluy cheerful.
Anyway. So about the peacefulness of life outside. Yes it is wonderful to be in the silence and the space.
Marjoleine de Vos is editor of NRC.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of October 11, 2021