Just holding it sends a pleasant chill down my spine and brings a big smile to my face. It feels good, it smells pleasantly and the quality of the illustrations is really good. Even the flat water colours come off admirably.
The past months have not really been frantic, and I've been through tougher publishing processes, but this is much more *mine* than anything previously. Even if I did it with two other guys, who were very good to have around. Co-operating with Ben and Jeroen has been a real pleasure. Their experience saved me loads of time and took away a lot of potential worries.
And somehow it all fell into place. Our chapters linked up with hardly any overlap, our writing styles meshed and the structure afforded by taking a time and place as the starting point of sections of our chapters worked out as well as might be hoped. It is one book, not three parts.
This also a good time to thank a number of people who provided help during the production of this book: Paul Lindsay Dawson and Stephen Summerfield who gave me access to cutting edge literature and together with Erwin Muilwijk and a number of other regulars on internet fora gave me a good idea of where to find the best current research. Jenny Gierveld, Herman van der Haegen, Michiel Schwartzenberg, Arjan de Jong, Barbara Mounier and Jan Kees Mol gave very useful feedback on the text at several stages. Egon Dietz, Mieke Mateboer and Lona Verkooijen made it possible for me to take four months of leave from work. And last, but certainly not least, Kaj Wijmans should be thanked for turning a switch in my head.
And I want to thank all of you: facebook commenters that sharpened my arguments, colleagues that kept asking when the book would be finished, friends that forgave me when I cancelled appointments, family that had to cope with me staring at a screen late at night, and all of you for showing interest and providing encouragement. It meant and means a lot to me.