Geschreven door: Jan Blaauw

On Wednesday a quarter to 18.00 the NHL intercom started talking to us. I was replying to e-mails when a female voice summoned all still present to leave the building within minutes.

Admittedly, it was only a surprise because I tend to lose track of time when I am writing. It had been properly announced and the NHL is hardly the only institution that closes its doors on December 5th.

The voice added a certain touch to the reminder. “Hopefully Sinterklaas will not bypass your house tonight when you get home.” The tone of voice was playful but something of a warning was in there. Sinterklaas might have a very good reason for not giving us what we want or deserve this year.

Tone of voice is a potent weapon. It reminds us that exactly how we say things is often  far more important than what we say. Consider the difference between a compliment and an insult. In the right tone of voice you can say just about anything. In the wrong tone of voice just about nothing.

I thought of the Sinterklaas of my childhood. How I once spotted a second Sinterklaas figure on my way home from school. To the mind of the believer that was like a stone falling upward into the sky.

In a village gathering Sinterklaas singled out kids and checked in a huge book if they had been behaving well. I remember being scared out of my wits because of what was in that book about me.

All I could think of was: who spied on me and told Sinterklaas? The Black Petes in those days to me looked suspicious too but they supplied free candy so that was okay. It was this Big Brother from Spain who clearly could not be trusted. With his book, his spies and his tone of voice.

Leaving the NHL, I decided to give my chocolate letter to an exchange student from Spain and to write this in English. Perhaps I did so to atone for my childhood sins, perhaps to tease the Old Guy. Let him figure out if I deserve an ‘S’, ‘O’,  ‘V’, ‘G’ or ‘U’ in that book of his once his spies tell him.


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