It was in her training, the way she had been thought to consider and reason. It was in the daily round of telephone calls and interviews, people asking questions and expecting her to know the answers. It was in her genetics, and in the diplomatic pedantry that her father taught her.

“Father, why are you wearing green wellington boots?” “Well, now, lieveke, that depends on whether you would like to hear the practical reason, the medical reason, the environmental reason, the aesthetic, the pragmatic or the spiritual reason…”

“Just why?”

“Well, you see, my other shoes, the only ones I brought with me are not practical for wandering around garden centres…these boots are also more comfortable, since my toes are aching, and they are waterproof, which is useful on a day like today. I do not want to spoil the leather on my shoes. Also, since I forgot to bring my polishing set, and we are going to Tante Mieke’s funeral, I shall need to keep my shoes clean.” He smiled archly, enjoying the verbal game.

So, it was her habit, when making polite conversation, to attempt answers to most questions. When a guest at her sister’s “House cooling” party asked, “Why is the Earth round?” she answered easily, “Because round is the optimal shape. Leave a bunch of elements suspended in air, and they will naturally pull together in a round shape.”

He nodded agreeably, and then, fixing her with a stare, challenged, “Is that true?” to which the only honest reply was, “I’ve no idea, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?” so that he gave a grudging nod. She was not dishonest, since she would readily admit she was simply playing with ideas; but, ever and always in her professional career, she had made a living out of sounding plausible.



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