Monday, 6 August 2018

Parades and processions...

I can never resist alliteration ... but in fact this is just a short item on Amsterdam's Gay Parade.
Which has turned into yet another excuse for some people to make a few extra cents ... selling beer, balloons and fast food...
There was not simply a parade of boats with exotically-dressed individuals, singing and dancing.
It seemed as if people had poured in from all corners of the Netherlands and other countries too, to take part in this extravaganza.
I spent as little time as possible walking along Prinsengracht, the scene of ear-deafening pounding  which I hesitate to term music (it wasn't). As the day progressed it became packed with folk who had drunk too much and and grew out of control, some spewing on the front steps of the houses where they happened to be, or sniffing crack (I suppose?) and generally making me feel sad that so many (young) people apparently thought this was a fun way to celebrate ... Because it is worth celebrating that we live in a country where one is not persecuted, imprisoned or viciously treated because one's appearance or sexual preference is not in line with the voice of the majority.
Ah well... here a couple of pix I took in central Amsterdam on the stretch of canal between Spiegelgracht and Vijzelgracht.
The next day (Sunday) much of the mess was cleared away, leaving only broken glass and countless strips of coloured paper confetti.

The first photo below is looking across the Spiegelgracht canal: comparatively unpopulated!

Below: there are so many people on the boats on this stretch of Prinsengracht, that no water is to be seen...

There are usually only two days per year when Amsterdam loses its head; one is for this Parade; the other is on the birthday of the monarch, now known as King's Day.
This event has greatly changed since I first came to the Netherlands, almost 50 years ago.
Like so much,  it has been taken over by money-grubbers. No longer can little children play their wooden recorders on the street corner and earn a few cents for their performance.
Commerce strides along the streets and small voices are crushed in the din. (Hm, I suspect that's a mixed metaphor, but I needed to have my moan!)

But here is another view: home-grown flowers and vegetables from somewhere on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, where the owners try to cultivate their land without poisonous pesticides. With thanks to my friend Machteld for the photos.
Happiness in a garden; time to read the poet Andrew Marvell some more.
What wondrous life is this I lead
Ripe apples drop about my head...

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Last day of July (2018)

Amsterdam becomes a new south of France ... the temperatures soar to the unprecedented level of 38 degrees in my living room, while a patch of Limburg in the south of the country becomes the hottest place in Europe...
Many people are delighted, ventilator fans are sold out, ice-cream production soars and beach wear is in booming business.
But in the gardens all withers are fades.
Some days it is too hot for me to move...
Today, as the month closes, we have just had a pretence of rain (it didn't last long, but it was wet...).
I have been very busy having family visits (not over yet, tomorrow one of my granddaughters comes foe a couple of days).
I have also been taking many photos in this beautiful city of Amsterdam.
And here is one of the beach near where my son lives. He is standing with his two daughters, gazing at the refreshing waves, while the sun sets and bather plash happily...
And now, into August.

And here is my other favourite photo of the month,  taken in Italy by grandson Isaak, showing his little sister skipping into the distance ... a kind of Cartier-Bresson effect in pale colour.
Still have to report on the Spanish rias... Next month.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Topsy-turvy weather

Have now been back in Amsterdam a month: every day sun, sometimes a little cloud, and once a whiff of rain. It gets hot and dry and the plants in gardens wither. But we live as if in the south of France, eating cherries and peaches, and grow happy...
The sun sets in golden glory ... here near the Maritime museum, where a kingfisher perches on a pole in the water:
I've had family visitors bringing much happiness to the house. Here is it, looking very welcoming...
The bright sunlight reflects on the windows; some of them are still the old glass, that was poured in liquid state and contains tiny air bubbles and looks wavy. The house has great charm but it requires continual loving care! A swarm of moths emerged in the small front room, caused, I was told by knowledgeable Amsterdammers, by the damp and chill. So every day I opened to front window (see the photo, where window is pushed up) and opened the back door, causing a through-draft. I also scattered many small wooden balls which apparently moths dislike, plus pieces of soap (a tip from my neighbour Godelieve) and gradually the moths diminished ...
I've had them before; when Judy lived upstairs they frequented the room immediately above this one. Someone called them "plaster moths". They are very small, palest creamy-brown and eminently squashable (sorry, Buddhists). I am glad to say, hardly any fluttering remains.
The garden wilts but there's a reasonable amount of shadow and my young neighbour Julius waters the thirsty plants at appropriate shady times.
Yesterday the Amsterdam Metro (underground) opened after about eighteen years of mud and misery. It's still unclear whether this is really going to be a great success in dealing with Amsterdam's traffic problem. (Much air pollution from car exhaust, also making buildings grey and sad...Increased bronchial infections, especially among children.)
Originally this underground was going to run to Schiphol Airport but due to lack of funds this couldn't be realized. I plan to try it out this evening when I go to meet my new set of guests arriving at Schiphol.
It continues very busy for me, pursuing useful contacts and addresses to deal with the plans for the building adjoining David's (jointly-owned) house on Prinsengracht. The large building in the pic below is the former French consulate, our much-loved neighbours in Maison Descartes. Now bought by property developers, and the future becomes unclear... (more of this in the coming months...)
Immediately below: my street in the evening sunlight
 The former Maison Descartes seen from Prinsengracht

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

And into Spain

First we spent a week in delightful Viana do Castelo on the coast.
They offered us a Medieval Fair for four of the days, with costumes, stalls selling wonderful "medieval" food, and music and dancing, to bagpipes and flutes (shawms!).
Gaenor has joined us on the boat, as many times before, and stayed until we reached Vigo in Spain. She and I made a couple of excursions to splendid old Portuguese towns, built on thousand-year-old foundations (as it were!); most impressive was Valenca. It stands high above the banks of the river Minho, which forms the northern border between Portugal and Spain. Opposite is the Spanish town of Tui : their cannon guns face each other!
Here you see the Minho river with Tui in the distance.
Valenca is a completely walled city, with winding cobbled streets and of course many tourists, but we didn't feel crowded, even though we went at the weekend. Excellent chilled beer, which was much needed on a hot day.

We travelled by train "Comboio Portuguesas" a most comfortable and inexpensive journey, largely along the Atlantic coast and then partly up the Minho. Very beautiful.
Another day's outing was to Ponte de Lima (The bridge on the river Lima) and that we did by coach, travelling inland through the bumpy hills amid vineyards and patches of green wheat. Roses everywhere. And bright wild flowers.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

End of June, end of journey...

Back in a radiantly sunny Amsterdam, after a varied and most interesting few weeks in Portugal and Spain.
When we arrived back in Porto it was pouring; we took a taxi from the airport, and the windscreen wipers never stopped swishing! Through the misty green countryside we drove north to Povoa de Varzim, where our boat, Stroemhella, was out if the water waiting to be cleaned and inspected.
Here she is on a sunny day... And below, two views of Povoa de Varzim.

Finally, the sun returned and we set off northwards with little wind and not too much swell. But too much for me: I became seasick, quickly went and lay down in the thoughtfully prepared bunk, and tried to sleep into oblivion. I managed not to throw up and slept several hours.
When we arrived at our arranged destination, Viana do Castelo, no one appeared to take our ropes. So I did my much practised act, balancing on the toe rail, ropes in hand, and stepping elegantly off onto the pontoon as David brought Stroemhella slowly alongside. We have got very good at this over the years. Provided there's not too strong a wind, all goes well. At Viana there is in fact a treacherous current that pushes boats off the pontoon, but we were the first to arrive and had a fairly easy job.

We came to love Viana; stayed there a week all in all, and Gaenor and I made expeditions by train and coach to nearby splendid historic towns such as Ponte de Lima and Valanca.
And while we were at Viana the summer Medieval Fair took place.
Above: Povoa de Varzim, before the sunny days arrived. Seen through a porthole.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Sailing to Spain

I'll be on the boat for the next four weeks and am planning to keep on low-profile Information Technology...
That means no laptop and very selective photos on my smartphone.
And for me, lots of looking, lots of gazing across the ever-changing waters, and let's hope it's not too cold.
Have booked a return flight from Santiago de Compostela.
Seems a good place to leave from.
Will have some good books to read and my notebook to write the occasional poem.
Back to handwriting.
Reviving the old traditions...
Below a not-entirely-successful selfie I took just after having my hair trimmed. Colours rather violent...
Another skill I need to practise...
So ciao until the end of the month.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

June in Amsterdam

Yes, red roses flutter on the walls of the houses lining the canals; tourists throng a few streets and leave the rest happily empty.
The weather continues to surprise; every day I can get a load of washing dried in the garden...
People wear shorts  and come home at the end of the day with rosy skins!
Time for chilled white wine and barb-a-qs.
David and I are preparing to return to Portugal.
I am praying the cold north wind will take a break!
Another take on light: this was the sky seen from my window as I flew back from Stavanger to Amsterdam, early evening...

Looking westwards...