HOPE IN HOLLAND: At last, our man Craig finds hope in Holland ...

HOPE IN HAARLEM: Craig Hope and the van der Heijden family
HOPE IN HAARLEM: Craig Hope and the van der Heijden family

I’M glad that my Dutch doesn’t extend much beyond Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard.

Had it, then I might have signed off from my stay in Holland – again – with woe-laden tales of restaurant regret, hotel horrors and transport travails.

I have, of course, experienced all of the above, but at least I went out on a high (natural high, that is).

Taking my sun-soaked seat at the last available table in a brasserie (sounds posh, it was a bench really), my sense of satisfaction was soon shot.

I hadn’t even begun to peruse the menu when the manager informed me that the table was reserved, for his parents, no less, and there was a sign on the table to say so.

I think it must have been the look of disappointment on my face which led them to persuade me to join them.

Looking back, however, I do regret crying.

Tears dried and beer poured, the three of us settled for dinner.

It was a bit weird at first, they’d never heard of Hartlepool and they certainly weren’t interested in Colin Cooper’s search for a striker.

Maybe that’s where I’d been going wrong all week …

Anyway, we found common ground on golf.

Big fans of the European Tour, thankfully, for me, Hartlepool’s very own Graeme Storm picked the perfect weekend to threaten at the top of the leaderboard in the French Open.

I think I might have even shown them his number in my phone – they weren’t impressed and, looking back, neither am I.

Anyhow, they must have liked me, they even bought me a couple of beers – either that or the plan was to loosen me up to the point where the conversation might just move on from sport.

It did. And so to family, at which point they informed me that their daughter and her friend, fresh from a day at the beach, were set to join them for a drink.

“Might as well see this one out” I figured.

And so my decision was vindicated when Haarlem’s answer to Kate Middleton and Chelsy Davy arrived

I had planned to go back to my hotel and transcribe some Andy Rafferty quotes – poor Andy, however, soon found himself relegated.

With another round of drinks acquired – and another – I spent the next couple of hours with the van der Heijdens.

The daughter of the family asked how it had come about that I was in the company of her parents.

I explained that my ignorance of Dutch had meant I hadn’t known the word for “reserved”.

However, I think they began to doubt my credentials as a journalist when I was informed of the translation - gereserverd

Nonetheless, it turned out to be a pretty fortunate error.

At last, after three years, some company, and easy-on-the-eye at that.

Proof, eventually, that there really is hope in Holland ...