Monday, 10 July 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

Release Date: 13th July 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Genres: Biographical

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn’t planning to be buried anytime soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he’d like. Technically speaking he is … elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

So he sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs – not least his new endeavour, the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead-Club. And when Eefje moves in – the woman Hendrick has always longed for – he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what’s left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The indomitable Hendrick Groen has become a cultural phenomenon. Now, he and his anonymous creator, whose identity is a fiercely kept secret, are conquering the globe. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 ¼ Years Old will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.


Tuesday 19 February 

Yesterday afternoon, by pure lick, the rebels’ club came into being.

  On the third Monday of the month there’s often some cultural activity on the schedule, to take place in the recreation room. Usually it’s a cringe-worthy exhibition of old people clapping along to someone warbling ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’, but occasionally there’s classical music. Everyone shows up, because it’s free, isn’t it.

  Yesterday the Music Association offered a violin, cello and piano trio. You can normally expect a bunch of uninspired moonlights who only ever appear before OAPs or the mentally handicapped, but this time it was two elegant ladies and one gentleman, about thirty years old, plating with abandon. They were not put off by Mrs Snijder, who almost choked on a biscuit, nor by Mr Schipper, who slid off his chair and landed sideways in a flower planter. They just paused briefly, and calmly resumed playing once the problem was taken care of. (As opposed to the pianist who once kept playing as if nothing were the matter as Mrs Haringa was being resuscitated. A staff member finally had to shout at him to stop (even though at that point it no longer made any difference to Haringa).

  After the performance a group of us found ourselves gathered round a table: Evert Duiker (who when all’s told prefers Engelbert Humperdink), Eefje Brand, Edward Schermer, Grietje de Boer, Graeme Gorter and I, Hendrik Grown. The talk turned to the chronic dearth of distracionts. Graeme then suggested that, if there was not enough in the way of diversion within the home, we should seek on the outside on a more regular basis.

  We’ll just have the minibus drive up to the front twice a month to take us somewhere. If all six of us at this table participate, and each comes up with a plan for four outings, then we’ll have twenty-four school trips per year. That’s something to look forward to, don’t you think?

  He was absolutely right, and, at Grietje’s suggestions, it was decided to meet in the common room tonight for the inaugural meeting of the Old-But-Not-Dead Club.
  I can’t wait.

Wednesday 20 February

I had high hopes, and they came true: it was an exciting inaugural session. The laughter was loud, the enthusiasm great and the alcohol, for us, abundant. Evert had supplied red wine, white wine and gin.

  After a lengthy and lively meeting, the following character was adopted by unanimous consent.

1.       The goal of the Club is to increase the enjoyment of advanced age by arranging outings.
2.       The outings will set off at 11 am on a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday
3.       No whining allowed
4.       The organiser must take into account the various infirmities.
5.       The organiser must take into account the limits of the state pension.
6.       The Organiser will not divulge more information about the trip beforehand than strictly necessary.
7.       Outside of points 2 to 6, anything goes.
8.       This club is closed. No new members until further notice.  

If necessary, Eefje will put her laptop at the disposal of the person charged with choosing a destination, and she will shortly give a ‘Googling for Beginners’ course so that everyone can learn how to search for information. Graeme will take on the first outing, followed by Eefje, Grietje, me, Evert and Edward. You could see everyone feverishly beginning to plot and scheme.
Opinions are divided on whether it was fate or a coincidence, but be that as it mat, it was an extraordinarily happy combination of circumstances that this particular group of six people just happened to be gathered round one table on Monday afternoon. They are all jolly nice, intelligent and, most important: not a whiner among them. 

*All book information and extract provided by Penguin Books.

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