Skip to main content

Startblok Stories | Bitter Coffee

By 08-12-2016February 27th, 2017Blog

Startblok Stories are short stories about daily life at Startblok. Resident and filmmaker Bobbie Fay Brandsen writes about her experiences and encounters during the first months.

Text by: Bobbie Fay Brandsen
Image: Sigi van ‘t Schip

It is 12:30 in the night, I’m walking onto my hallway, exhausted because of my work at the cinema where I just finished. The door of my neighbour Mootie is open, while walking through I glance into his room briefly. ‘Hey Bobbie, how are you?’ I hear him saying behind me. ‘I’m good how are you?’ I yell back to him without stopping. I look back and see that he is standing in his doorway. ‘Please come and have a drink’, he asks me. I hesitate and stop for a second. ‘I’m really tired, I have to sleep now, sorry.’ I respond to him while shrugging my shoulders. I walk through but feel bad, he was clearly disappointed.

Katy Perry’s Fireworks
A few days later the same thing happens but then during the day. The timing isn’t much better but nonetheless I stop in front of his door. His face lights up, ‘Come in, come in’. There are two other guys in his room: his brother and a friend of them. Although I asked them twice, I instantly forgot their names. It took me some time to be able to remember and pronounce ‘Mootie’ as well. On the television Katy Perry’s music video Fireworks is playing. Somehow shy I settle down at the couch and immediately I get a cup of coffee pressed in my hands. On the cup there are old Dutch images from mills and battleships from the golden age. ‘Arabic coffee’, he says proudly. Carefully I take a sip. Good heavens, this is so bitter. ‘Nice, thank you’, I tell him out of politeness. I also get a pink glazed cake on a plate. Would he know how extremely typically Dutch these cakes and cups are?

He starts a story about ‘Vivienne’, who has helped him with many things. What a coincidence: I heard other neighbours about her too. Who could be that girl who helps so many status holders with school and work? With trouble I try to take another sip of my coffee, I do not dare to leave it untouched.

I ask him again about this Vivienne, who is she? He grabs his phone. ‘Wait’, and he shows me the website of ‘VluchtelingenWerk Nederland’. ‘This is V-W-N’, he tells me and not until now I start to get it. Meanwhile, Katy is done singing and some other video is put up.

Home video Aleppo
‘We show you Aleppo, our city’, explains Mootie’s friend with the difficult name. At YouTube we look at some sort of home video. Filmed from a car we see an ordinary day in the streets of Aleppo. There is a lot of traffic and the sun is shining intensely. ‘This is before the war, look, these were very expensive houses’, and Mootie points at a building block on the right. It touches me that here in a small studio in Amsterdam, three boys watch back at their city’s past through an, at first sight, ordinary home video. It is a bitter thought, which even makes the coffee stand out as sweet.


Still from the Film Academy documentairy ‘The Boys Next Door’.

Name: Bobbie Fay Brandsen
Age: 22 years
Study/work: graduates this year as a documentary director at the Dutch Filmacademy and works at de Filmhallen
Interests: film – balle – philosophy – travelling – swimming – cooking
Function: (short)video-blogger