In Memoriam: Robin

Translated from Dutch: “I emigrated to Canada in 1965. After a few years of working in the factories, I started studying and specialized in revolutionary peasant movements. From 1969 onwards I was actively involved in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. In addition, I also worked as a volunteer in setting up homework classes for African-Americans in the ghetto where I also lived. To pay for my life as a student, I worked as a bus driver and as a house painter during the summer holidays. […] In 2010 I retired. From 2011 to 2013 I also studied sociology. To learn more, not for a diploma.”

The walks in Scotland are over. So are the stories about social movements, the student movement of decades ago in Canada and the US. And Robin’s commitment to various anti-racist movements. He always passionately stayed up-to-date. He supported and where possible, discussed it all with everyone, including the current anti-colonial thinking and actions. With this memory as inspiration we can carry on for a while.

A calm and comforting person to relate to. So friendly, in fact, that it bordered on seeming timid, but Robin had plenty to say. Had opinions on everything. Opinions that he could also reconsider very well – in line with his gentle character. And as far as we could estimate, he didn’t just have those opinions out of bravado or to punch you in the face. Robin was energetic in his approach, quite tireless too, but his political fire was a slow burner. He was always surprisingly calm, while also socially and politically driven. It seems that his involvement in the struggle, and his will to experience a – radically – different world, arose from that calm and friendly gaze. Because if you view the people, our society and the wider environment, in a friendly way, stuff needs to change.

The Fort originated from the squatters’ movement, or simply: The Movement. Due to its disregards of many of the existing societal norms, mutual interest and friendliness within the movement can be very sincere and direct, but – paradoxically for the exact same reasons – it also happens that they may seem lacking at times. And to find someone who brings those qualities without mentioned bravado or shouting might be remarkable. Just one of the reasons hanging around with Robin was so reassuring. A soft, continuous flame.

In July 2015, Robin applied for a job at the Fort. His letter of application was overflowing with enthusiasm and all kinds of activities during his student days and next to his working life, which clearly had points of contact with what we as a bookstore have stood for since October 1977. Between the lines there were traces of his interest in Marxism, but at the same time also in the anarchist ideology in which our bookshop specializes. And so Robin came along for the first time to have the Fort and wider book business explained to him; in summer attire, with smooth walking legs, very properly half an hour before opening time.

He pulled a large clipboard from his backpack and began busily taking notes as if he were in a lecture hall. The announcement that everything was also always available in a digital manual didn’t make much of an impression. Robin lapped up the ins and outs of the book trade like a sponge, talked our ears off with questions and wrote his fingers blue. It was endearing. Also because he didn’t want to do it wrong. Being conscientious and loving comes at a price and can come with uncertainty.

That has not hindered Robin in developing initiatives. He was one of the drivers of our renovation plan, which started with a huge list of tasks with overdue maintenance work. Between 2017 and 2021, so many jobs were done until we could, in fact, cross off everything that had any urgency from the list. Robin was always one of the first to sign up for DIY days. He cleaned many corners of the Fort including the toilet. Right up until the last time he could drag himself to the store. His biblical upbringing may have left its mark, and he himself often mocked his Calvinist work ethic.

And in terms of book content, in addition to politically engaged fiction, naturally he also expanded the Black Studies/Black Lives Matter shelf. No, it quadrupled. The section is now solid. Various colleagues enjoyed attending the book club sessions coordinated by Robin and read his recommendations which helped them on their way through a genre they often knew little or nothing about. Robin was a natural born teacher. But here again he was a good listener and curious about what others thought. And with the same enthusiasm with which he made us wiser, he was also open to hearing about themes unfamiliar to him.

This initiative of Robin’s was one of many that he took or encouraged to step outside our usual familiar world with the Fort. The Fort runs on people from the movement or the scene, but it is precisely these that also flourish when someone else is willing to take the trouble to offer a different perspective.

And then this someone gets sick, cancer hits that person hard. There is no reason to play fair weather, to pretend that Life is always beautiful and finished when the end comes. However involved and sociable Robin was, he still walked a life path that always took him to different places, a walker in various senses and therefore sometimes walking alone. But in recent months, he has experienced, also in his own words, that many have deeply appreciated him.

Ciao Robin. You will be missed and are remembered with love.

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