Friday, 5 October 2018

Summer returns

Or perhaps, glorious golden autumn is here once more...
Now we are enjoying days of delicious sunshine, 22 degrees Celsius, people in short sleeves, and here in Amsterdam, boats filled with happy relaxed folk ply the sun-flecked waters of the canals.
I am busy with houses and family and friends and much to-ing and fro-ing; so little time to write. 

Below, two sunset pix (actually, one is a sunrise)
The sun seem rising over the river Vilaine, in south Brittany, photo by David.
The sun setting by the Maritime Museum Amsterdam, photo by Machteld.
 Misty sunrise:
 Below: sunset

Monday, 1 October 2018

Had we forgotten winter winds... ?

My younger sister, in a Mediterranean country, complains it's too hot at 34 degrees C. But here in the Netherlands, chill winds blow the rain spattering against the window panes, and it's waterproof gear required when venturing outside.
Nevertheless, a friend form the US and I concluded yesterday that Amsterdam really is one of the best cities to live in. There's a great lack of harassment. And this city has a buzz: I don't frequent many of the haunts favoured by some, but for me, there is culture galore, plus the fact that this is an eminently walkable city. And now there is the metro, recently opened, to speed inner-city movement. There's a metro stop conveniently at the end of my street.
And this is what it looks like inside: steep...

This photo was taken the day after the metro was opened; over the following weeks people grew used to it, and now it has become an accepted mode of travel, though there are also considerable complaints. It's made movement, for example from home to work,  more complicated for some people.

Back to the stormy winds...

Here is Prinsengracht canal getting ready for a thunderstorm.

And me on the bridge, a very Dutch sight, beside one of the many thousand bikes this city boasts.
I love the colours in these photos, they're quite accurate.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Wild winds over western Europe

Bumping home across the cloud-filled sky to arrive in a sunny Schiphol airport, Amsterdam.
A calm evening awaited me. The following day the wind got up, banging loose doors and whirling down twiggy branches and coppery-brown leaves.
Fine to be back: after almost fifty years living in this country, it has become pleasantly familiar.
But there is no way it can ever compete with the country and the language that I was raised in.
Hope I can continue travelling for many years to come.

Ah yes, a word about Brexit: people I met in England are just stupefied about what's happening. 
And there will still be protest marches; no one has given up hope (I speak about the Remainers. The others are, it seems, going to wake up one day and wish they hadn't...)
Here in mainland Europe many people are also amazed. I observed a lot over the past three weeks about social psychology...

I bought the best-selling book Sapiens, and started to read, learning a great deal with every page I turned. Clearly, I shall emerge a wiser and a better Sapiensa!
Now to write a poem (it's in embryo form) for my friend who is celebrating her 65th tomorrow.
We share some parallels in our lives: both have English as our mother-tongue. Both of us married in the Netherlands,  had a son followed by a daughter, and then found ourselves as single mothers (with very young children, living in a country without family or relatives and having to work out the best way to manage the complications of child-rearing with a profession). I've written many poems through those years ...

Below two views of a canal close to my house; I try to make this part of my daily walk.
Looking down Reguliersgracht towards Thorbeckeplein. Wonderfully grey, with a warm wind. Later came a thunderstorm. Then quiet.

Monday, 10 September 2018

England, still green and pleasant...

September days, sun stroked and soft wind in the branches. We go for long walks in the countryside, along softly meandering waters or beside quiet lakes.
This really is like being on holiday. Far from the city's roar (and madding crowd).
I stayed in Bedfordshire and Nottinghamshire and visited places I'd not been before.
Deer parks and landscaped gardens. Balm for the eyes.
Here we go, some pix:
A small selection, capturing the light in this northern landscape, and a fine example of Norman architecture.

Yes, a picture worth perhaps a thousand words. Well, that's debatable.
On the ten pound note in the UK there's a portrait of the incomparable author, Jane Austen, and in tiny type, beneath it, her words:
'I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!'
I have just finished reading an incomparable book, by the contemporary author, Nina George. Its title in German is Das Lavendelzimmer. The English title got re-arranged to become The little Paris bookshop. A curious transition. The book is a joy, and when I finished it I was both greatly enriched and a little sad (like when one says good-bye to a dear friend who is about to move far away). Fortunately Nina George has written more. And I have a whole stack of books waiting for me to read at home.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Travelling again...

Have to keep dancing ...
Off to England to visit family and friends.
Have been very busy these past weeks, what with birthday parties (!) and researching archives and suchlike to unearth the history of the Walen Weeshuis, the former Maison Descartes, built late 17th century (same time as my house). All utterly fascinating.
Good days, lots of good talks with friends, squeezed in some reading, and lots of house cleaning.
Virtue in her shape, how lovely (Milton, Comus). Here two birthday pix:
The earrings are a present from my colleague Kate, companion in many translations.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

My 75th birthday

Oh joyous life!
Half-waking, I do my exercise on the bed to get my circulation going...
then roll over and begin the morning ritual.
Today I went to Anna Mora's Pilates class, starting at 9 a.m.
A wonderful way to start the day. Integration of mind and spirit, as it were...
They gave me a bunch of sunflowers for my birthday, and yes, it's been a sunny day...
Here's me with the sunflowers:

Then home to do the household chores, floor-sweeping, washing dishes, putting away clothes and general tidying up.

The sun shines, I open as many windows as possible, answer several birthday phone calls, prepare the yummies on the kitchen table.

With considerable effort I order the drinks for the party on Saturday and thank goodness my friend Lynn arrives in time to help finish the order  so that I've got it right (never done this before!!).
The first guests arrive. I love having parties ... down the years I have learnt that the great thing is confidence: of course there will be enough to eat, and of course people will come and of course everyone will enjoy it.
Oh happy day! Age seems totally irrelevant...

Monday, 20 August 2018

A song in time of discord

This is a poem I wrote twenty years ago, for the marriage of two friends of mine.
They had very different backgrounds: one of them from the Middle East, from a Jewish family, and the other from northern Europe, with a Christian family and schooling.
One trained to be a doctor, the other a teacher.
They are still together. It is a song of hope!

A Marriage Song

I'll tell you a story:
It begins in the quiet morning
Silver light spreads into a room
outside, tentative birdsong: chirrup, trill trill
Here is a new day.

I see a man and a woman
I see deserts and seas
Across the mountains, across the waters
arms reach out
fingers stretch out
and meet
Hands join.

Voices in different languages now mingle
Listen to unfamiliar intonations
try to remember new labels.

Why are we doing this?
What volcanoes have shuddered underground
What long long roads have been tramped
before two people
reach one place.
And still unknowing.

I see a man and a woman
who catch between their fingers the light of morning
and listen for new songs.

The story is about  rejoicing together
it is about hope and daring.
She says: I found you in a land of shadows
I listened to your voice; the words shouted for joy.
He says: Walking along city streets I found you and
All buildings became home.

Water in the desert
shade in the glaring light
my dance, my darling
my day, my night.

Day advances, the harmonies grow more complex
the statements change, questions arise:
Will you be there for me when it grows dark,
When I howl in pain, and in the greyness of unknowing?
And can I support you in your times of grief?

Having travelled so many deserts
having crossed so many seas
we will remember
the journey and the coming home.

Here: let us light a candle
Let the small flame burn upwards
to remind us: constancy, fidelity.
It glows and gleams through the darkness
telling us
that somewhere always there is day
that always, somewhere there is day

My joy, my darling
my love, my light

(Wendie Shaffer, June 1998)