‘Spend two weeks with us in our condo in Portugal. We’ll help with travel.”

Sound like an offer you can’t refuse?

My wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, did – because she knew that if she left her post, ships would founder on the rocks. There was no way on this green earth her boss could get along without her for 14 days.

But one thing led to another, and it was determined that she would find time to rendezvous in the Netherlands with our generous friends at a later date.


Which is why, on a cloudy day in mid-October, I found myself driving a rented car from the Netherlands to Sweden. We think trains are the easiest way to get around in Europe, but the last time we were there visiting friends and relatives, Marsha was already having trouble navigating steps. So we drove the 612 miles from Niekerk to Falkenburg.

As usual, Marsha had her eye on the speedometer so she could constantly remind me that the speed limit was 45 and that I was only going 40, and that “when it is 45 you can really go 50.”

But alas. On many German roads, there are no speed limits. So she said, “You should keep up with traffic. Everyone is passing you.”

I said, “My dear, we’re doing 154.” It is just as well that she still doesn’t know that 154 translates as 95.69115 miles per hour, or the next time we go to Portland, I’d hear, “Can’t you at least go 85? You did in Germany.”

If you have driven in Germany, you know that you are not as concerned about the road ahead as you are with the NASCAR aficionados who are about to blow you off the road from behind. I kept saying to Marsha, “Lookit this one coming, lookit this one,” and a car would swoosh by us at 140-plus mph.

There are few stop signs in northern Europe. They have been replaced by yield signs at traffic circles, which facilitate a smoother and more rapid flow of traffic. Saves gas. Saves brake linings. True, Maine stop signs might just as well be yield signs, as few people ever stop at them. The crumpled back bumper on my truck testifies to the penalty paid by silly folks like me who do.


In her halcyon days Marsha worked for Time in Amsterdam, and, in 1960, after flunking out of music school, I hopped a freighter and spent several months sponging off my aunts in Sweden. Although we are familiar with the languages and customs, every time we return we see significant change.

Too many of our old friends and relatives are no longer there, but some of their great-great-grandchildren speak perfect English and think nothing of flying to Hong Kong on business or to Boston to deliver a scholarly paper on language acquisition.

Marsha was impressed by the supermarket in Hilversum where her linguist niece shopped. Each grocery cart is equipped with a hand scanner. You scan each item as you take it off the shelf and drop it into one of the two large grocery bags you brought from home. At the checkout (there is never a line), the clerk wipes your bank card through your scanner and you are out the door. Should there be a line at the register and there are three people ahead of you, there is no charge for anything in your cart.

We flew in and out of Schiphol. You might have experienced, or at least heard of, the endless lines and hurdles one must navigate before being allowed to board an airplane. Did you know that if you request a wheelchair for your spouse when you buy your ticket, it comes equipped with a knowledgeable, smiling minion who whisks you past the lines and through forbidden gates marked “diplomat”?


Time is tip money to these sprinting youngsters, so your biggest problem will be trying to breathe as you trot along behind.

The security at Schiphol is strict. When we last went through there in 2009 Marsha was relieved of a Swiss jackknife that had lived, forgotten and previously undetected, in her bag since she worked with Rod Stacey at Maine Teen Camp in South Hiram.

Have you been patted down at an airport lately? Because I am 80, I didn’t have to remove my shoes. But you should know that the adroit fingers assigned to my case massaged places that have not been seen by man, woman or child since I was potty trained. Every cubic centimeter of the hidden follicles on my body were caressed with a professionalism that would easily earn that man 30 million votes in any presidential election.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website: