Monday, 9 December 2013

Amsterdam at Christmas

The words in my head today are from the 17th-century poet George Herbert :

And now in age I bud again
After so many deaths I live and write.
I once more smell the dew and rain
And relish versing.
O my only light
It cannot be
that I am he
On whom thy tempersts fell all night

I meditate on age and birth and light ... more soon, now I have an appointment!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Desert dreams...

Wrongly, I now see, I had supposed that during my two weeks in Dubai I would have ample time to write. Maybe not only some fine alliterative prose, but also some local-colour scenes and some amusing sketches sprinkled with the kids' conversations... No such luck. It has been a series of packed days, ranging from excellent Bible studies with Judy at the church she attends ... which brought back memories of my student days at Oxford ... to picnics in the Dubai parks, and shopping (Christmas is - yes - coming!) in some of the Dubai malls (my favourite mall is Ibn Battuta, named after the famous explorer).
Managed to snatch a few half-hours to read (am presently into William Dalrymple's From the holy mountain in which he recounts his journeys through some of the cities in Mesopotamia where David and I have just been. Fascinating, incidentally, to find how different his experiences in Turkey were, less than 20 years ago, from ours today in 2013).
And I sometimes read an international paper here, and catch snatches about the wars and conflicts that oppress the world (oh, listen for the angels' wings!) and I think about time and age, inevitably, surrounded by so much youth and energy, and in the midst of the buzz of blatant commercialism.
(Hm, I do sometimes get carried away by my delight in alliteration...)
Yet, here is a world of high ceilings, and outside, just across the road, the sea starts, and the waves stretch towards the east. And in the local market places the air is filled with scents of cinammon and frankincense, and silken scarves hang outside shops, and you know that not far away, the desert sands begin. And the muezzin calls at the appointed hours, and on small rugs the faithful bow their heads.
Another world.
I feel very much part of it, or rather, I find it in no way foreign.
Two more days and then back to Amsterdam, where the Sint Nikolaas festivities will have finished, giving way to Christmas sounds (canned carols with American vowels) and the cold damp northern air. Sadness for ageing bones...
Before I leave I'll attend the singing of Handel's Messiah, performed by one of the choirs Judy sings with. I find it a little disconerting hearing something which for me is so essentially English, performed here in the warmth of the Arabian desert (as it were!). Though, in that respect, Dubai is very special ... I do not sense great cultural incongruity when I see the Christmas trees in the Ibn Battuta Mall.
It truly is a melting pot. And so far, seems to be working, allowing people of many different ethnic groups and religious beliefs to live and labour together ... but of course, I never see behind the painted decors. I suspect that violence and discrimination abound ... how could it be otherwise. That is not a rhetorical question.
A flutter of angels' wings? That is.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dubai Days once more

The more often I come here, the more I like this place, scraped out of the desert over the past twenty years, now one of the most modern-appearing and buzzing cities in the world, I do believe!
Today, the whole of Dubai is flag-waving and horn-hooting and an official public holiday was announced: becasue they have been awared the right to hold the World Expo in 2020... the local Dubai paper described what this would mean for the city and its economy.

Meanwhile, I spend the days with my daughter and grandsons and their friends, read from time to time (when I can find  quiet moment) and talk to many people.
There will now be a succession of "holidays" since it is UAE day very soon and the boys are happily looking forward to days without school and picnics and other outdoor delights.

I am still trying to catch up with my Mesopotamia writings, so keep this brief until I'm ready with the near past.
But it's lovely here, huge light skies, the sound of hundreds of different langauges (over 200 nationalities apparently) and of course, the distant mountains above which hover the Dubai falcons.
And each culture practises in peace its traditional customs ... like Sint Nikolaas for the Dutch... shoes placed each evening with a carrot for Sint's horse.

to be continued...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

European interval...

Back from Mesopotamia ... mind still spinning. We walked in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, climbed the hills where Abraham/Ibrahim once dwelt (so they say) and sat in the most ancient churches in the world...
I kept a daily journal, and some day when I have time will write the stories. Meanwhile, time speeds me on... we returned from Diyarbakir to Antalya and spent a wonderful day in the museum there. Superb pieces from the excavations carried out during the past decades. Every archaeologist's dream... See pictures in my Facebook albums.
After a few days in Finike (fighting a cold) I flew to Amsterdam, where I now am. And tomorrow down to Maastricht.
I thought I would be in for more of a climate and culture shock than in fact I experienced.
True, it is colder here than Finike (from 25 Celsius to 7 ...) but so far the wind is not biting and the rain is intermittent.
Walking towards the Leidseplein this afternoon I had a pleasant feeling of being in a most familiar setting; past the school where my children enjoyed their secondary education, the Barlaeus Gymnasium, past what was once a prison, the Balie, now a centre for cultural debate, films and meetings, and into the Apple Heaven, formerly the chic department store of Hirsch et Cie. Now full of techno-whizzes, all most helpful (I have an Apple MacBook...) for the not-so-technically-gifted, like myself.
There is always lots to do when I get home after a period away. But that isn't interesting for a story!
I have the feeling I should rush round a little less... but this travelling does keep me so alive and alert, and the stories are all bouncing and cheeping round, ready to start flapping their wings.
I am now loading my pix onto iPhoto on my Mac, and can't find out how to attach them to my blog. So no illustrations, I'm afraid. Just words...

Thursday, 31 October 2013

to the land of the Kurds and ancient kingdoms...

David and i have planned a 12-day expedition into southeastern Turkey.
This took quite some doing, and I was a little apprehensive, on account of the unpleasnat situation ongoing in Syria. We shall pass (in a coach/bus) fairly close to the Turkish border with Syria, then Iraq, then Iran.
(I try to recall my minimal Farsi...)

But what an adventure. It looks mind-bogglingly impressive.
I am going to write profound thoughts (of course) in my small black book (you know the kind, they have become very popualr of late) and will then sift and sieve on my return to Finike.
I'll have a week to do this, than northwards to wintry Amsterdam (and Maastricht) for Nadia's PhD ceremony. Remarkable lady, I am so proud of her, being a wonderful mother for granddaughter Yara, and working away, and preparing to be mother for baby number two. Always a great delight to be with her and Daniel (and Yara, of course).

After that a
visit to my darling grandsons and their lovely parents, in Dubai. So much travelling... but as long as I can find a place to sleep somewhere, it all seems to work and my world indeed grows wider and wider...
Lots of stories budding in my head; I plan to write a quantity this winter.
So long from Finike ... next stop, Gazantiap...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Jerusalem the golden

Complexity overwhelms me, the intricate maze of streets twisting and turning, a breath of recovery on Jaffo where one can gaze down an almost straight line before the tangle of the Old City overtakes... People talking and singing and shouting in whatever language they fancy, and the smell of spicy foods everywhere prevalent.
And the walls, the golden stone defining space, sandwiched with slim cypresses or plane trees whose brownish leaves crackle underfoot. Warm sun gleaming on the marble stones, reflecting light on the dusty windows. Trying to grasp the moment within these nets of gold (I pinched that from Auden, yes)...
Have taken some lovely pix of the city by night (and at sundown) and of the wonderful souk at midday. But havng problems with iphoto, having switched from Picasa (think that was a mistake)... Did manage to send albums to my Facebook though. You can see them there.
Yes, sometimes I suspect age is taking its toll... but last night in a small restaurant in the old city where we munched most scrumptious Belgian waffles, adorned with halva and whipped cream, David and I danced rock 'n roll to the cheering strains of Elvis, Chuck and old freinds from the 60s. Hm, well, are we growing older, slowly???

One last attempt to attach a pic or two... and now the sun is setting over Bethlehem.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Much have I travelled...

Have now reached the ancient heart of civilization ...? Well, maybe... We are briefly visiting Jerusalem and savouring something of its ancient stones and wondering about peoples and languages and armies and mothers... and also loving the beauty of this city.
Today we went to the souk, the wonderful street market where you can buy almost any fruit or vegetables, soap or scarves, or hand-carved camels...
But now it's time to explore the city by night...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Overwintering in Finike, Turkey

Wonderful quiet marina here. About two hours' drive in the dolmus (small bus-cum-van holding about 15 people) from Antalya, which is one of Turkey's large cities, with historic centre, airport on the outskirts and a wonderful Archaeologial Museum.
So here we are until next April.
Many exciting events planned for the near future and meanwhile, the Lycian kingdom to explore, and the pathways tramped by Saint Paul for us to march (trudge?) along...
Hope to find time to send stories of our Polish visit (in September) and the cat burglar who crept into our (otherwise delightful) apartment in the dead of night (actually it was five a.m.) in the heart of old Warsaw...
Apart from that scary moment, we had a wonderful time in Warsaw with our Polish friends, and hope it won't be too long before we visit there again.
Here a pic of our Finike marina in the sunshine...
The food here in Turkey is excellent ... one of my favourites is lentil soup (chorba merkimez) which I also make myself, on our boat).
Altogether, happy days...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The birthday continues...

Arrived in the UK I trained down south from Manchester to Wales and spent some green days near Bangor, but in the countryside... wonderfully avoiding the downpours and rejoicing in the little hills...
Went to Aber Falls and beheld autumn apporoaching...

 Catching a sunny afternoon we visited Bodnant, glorying in the gardens...

some of the flowers in Bodnant gardens

We drove home from Bodnant over a pass and then down to the Menai Strait where in a sheltered spot we ate our delicious picnic (cooked salmon in sourcream and cold pasta with courgette, followed by berries...)

The sun sank slowly on the other side of the water, and in the last lingering light we drove home to the cottage in Penmon.

The beach at The Spinnies, Menai Strait.
The following day I took the train to Bedford, and after a fine visit there with family went on  Godalming. Dear friends there had prepared yet another birthday treat for me: a succulent sponge cake which we ate elegantly with silver forks, to the accompaniment of Prosecco (rose...).

Thence to Winchester.
the fly on the rose...

The skies grow grey, we do need an electric blanket to warm the bed, and thank goodness I brought our fold-up plastic capes that cover coat and rucksack...
Boots also much appreciated.
This is autumn in England, how could I forget the clammy beds before the sheets have warmed, and in the grey morning light the unwelcome alarm clock summoning us from the warm cocoon we'd made -- into the bathroom with its cold taps and shivering toilet seat (kind of transferred epithet there...).
Am really beginning to look forward to being back on the boat in Turkish waters...

We went to the Boat Show in Southampton. Cold wind, wet, need for strong tea...

Monday, 2 September 2013

On attaining Seventy years...

Yes. Pause a little here... but age is not important, not the numbers on the forms (date of birth, occupation, that sort of thing...).
But the places one has been (things seen, people met, changing skies, that sort of thing...).
Back in Amsterdam at the end of August and invited seventy friends to share an afternoon and evening;
some of them unfortuantely sick, or in far lands,
but the house was cleaned, the garden weeded, and a magnificent feast prepared by Alexander, the Vegan chef
Here a few pix.
the back garden before weeding...

the back garden after weeding, with Helene...

some of Alexander's delicous dishes...

Louise and the Qashqai rug (balcony scene)
There was much scrubbing and carpet-beating and washing of windows and pulling-up of plants... and happily, after a brief shower, the day turned sunny and warm.
So about fifty friends mingled in the back garden and congregated in the kitchen to consume Alexander's feast (better than Balshazzar's...)

And the following day we ate up the leftovers.

Wendie dusts down the cobwebs

cleenin' de vindas...

I think now it's time to compose some reflective poems.
David and I will go to England (and Wales) at the end of this week, and then to Poland and back to Turkey later in Septmeber.
A pause in the blog-writing now...
birthday meal in Oman

David, Wendie and Isaak in Oman
Maybe just a few brief comments before we leave the Netherlands on Friday.
The world has certainly widened for me over the past couple of years.
My head is almost too full and now I need to sit quietly and let the kaleidoscopic pictures settle into shapes, and the many words shape into songs...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

some Middle East places...

From Dubai to the southern tip of Oman.
 Monsoon land. After arid deserts, into a misty hilly countryside. Luxuriant and very very green... see pix! Sometimes when we were driving along a narrow winding road, the mist rolled swifly over us, thick white softness enveloped us; this could last for a long time, the car crawled, sometimes there were rear lights to follow, often there was nothing.
This is the southern part of Oman, around the town/city of Salalah. We had a delightful hotel booked by Judy, the Marriott Hotel resort right beside the sea, where the air was warm and humid (though very cold and air-co-ed inside!).
This was my birthday treat. All one delight after another.
Lots of adventures, hills to climb, pools to swim in, delicious meals to enjoy (I particularly recommend the splendid extensive breakfasts provided by our hotel). On my birthday they spontaneously made me a cake complete with candle and greeting in choloate letters decorating the dish. It was  a most happy occasion.
the verdant valleys (mosquito filled...)

the arid coast (castle ruins)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dubai days ... heat blaze

We are prepared ... the heat is similar to what we have been experiencing in Turkey, but here we have the advantage of airco and high ceilings...
Oh the delight of space to stretch one's limbs!
I am drawing up an inventory to explain to myself the startling differences between living in a smallish boat (about 40 foot long and 10 foot wide) and a spacious house with high ceilings.
And the company of two rumbunctious boys, wow, I do love my grandsons but they certainly keep me bouncing!
More tomorrow...

Friday, 16 August 2013

More metaphorical quills...

Well, yes, this is another picking-up of pen... Have now reached the marina in Finike, west of Antalya, the latter city where I arrived by plane (direct flight from Amsterdam, most convenient!) which I reached exactly 10 days ago.
Time is so strange at sea ... the days stretch out from dusky dawns, as when we watched a turtle hatch on Cirali beach, to purple sunsets when the light drops behind tooth-edged mountain ridges.
It is magnificent here. The hills grand but friendly, the sea clear and deliciously warm (we slide in without a shriek!), the air buzzing with cicadas, the sun gloriously fierce -- but the shelter of shady trees is quick to find.
Still too many languages rolling round inside my head.
But gradually the boat becomes home again. So small a space in which to srtech one's memories.

In Finike harbour we were adopted by a small kitty. Quite well-behaved, altough there were some minor thieving incidents (my freshly baked wolemeal bread ... in fact  I took it as a compliment! )
Here she is: we just called her Kitty.
One of the most wonderful experiences was when we slept outside in front of a beach restaurant, woke at five a.m. and walked along the beach in search of hatching turtles. And found one.
For almost an hour a crowd of watchers stood on either side of the tiny creature's path as s/he struggled across shingle and pebbles, sometimes falling upside-down, then righting himself (like a beetle that lands on its back), flippers flailing, occasionally losing direction when a person blocked the sun... then off again, heading for the light (the sun rising above the horizon across the sea) and we the watchers lining either side of the perilous path, not daring to touch him, sometimes moving a stone from in front of him, sometimes smoothing a little runnel for him to speed down more smoothly... and finally, a wave picked him up and tossed him -- back onto the pebbles, we cried out in despair -- but then another wave washed higher, picked him up again and launched him into the grey green waters. One turtle had made it to the sea. We all cheered.
One of the watchers was a boy from Englad who named the turtle Shelley, and called out encouragingly to the small creature: Come on Shelley, you'll make it.  And he did. As one person said, it was an epic struggle. So many humans observing one tiny being floundering towards his home...
turtle sets off for the sea

sun rising over the waves

turtle so tiny, pebbles so large

nearly made it ...
And on some days, there was just gentle sea and hours of sailing to a quiet haven. And the delicious swims. And even more delicious meals. We treasure our life, small creatures floundering towards the light...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Is this home again?

I pick up my pen once more (metaphorically speaking) in Amsterdam, where I have just jetted in fro Boston, to encounter the annual Gay Parade; this time it seemed to center on the stretch of Prinsengracht just round the corner from where I live.
Happily, I arrived at dawn, and was taxied home through silent streets, under gently blowing branches of the very green trees lining the roads. So I had time to sleep before the trumpets began...
Thousands of people happily dancing in the streets, not too much drunkenness observed, and many very exotic costumes, with a quantity of elegant flesh revealed.
Tomorrow I'll try to recapture some of my impressions from the superb New York and Boston museums I visited.
Now I have to re-establish my Europena time zone and re-pack a suitcase for Turkey.
A final view from Brooklyn (the Roman touch)...

This is the delightful stained glass in the back door in Jane and Rafael's house. Brooklyn brownstone. As I already mentioned. Seems a good pic on which to close...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

New York, New York, part 2

Some impressions, not recollected in anything like tranquillity...
Spent two days in the Met. Worlds upon worlds... Then another day in the Brooklyn Museum.
Begin to understand, just a little, layering this new insight onto what I know (scanty!) of US history, art, literature.

I sit in the subway, and watch enthralled, so many different faces, expressing everything in human experience, Goya would have loved this...
Today went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, here the faces not so varied, a middle-class range.
Wonderful weather.
Here some pix.

Again I must stop, dinner arranged downtown (Korean restaurant this time).
More faces...
In between, I sleep, deep and untroubled in Jane and Rafael's home. Rafael cooks superb meals. And every morning makes Jane and me a mug of real coffee.

Brooklyn brownstone. Art deco window in the back door...

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

New York, New York...

Travel too fast, talk to too many people. Head spins with flashes of faces, snippets of voices, new sounds, new tastes, a wonderful whirling so that I gasp for respite... Here at last, a day in Brooklyn, after the wedding, after the heatwave.
Leaving Portland I went to Menlo Park, reviving memories of our Stanford days. Saw a hilarious production of Boeing Boeing by the ?Menlo Park players: how wonderful live theatre is, how it excels film, TV, video and so forth, excellent as they are for a cold night!
Then up to Berkeley, another scene, and then down to Santa Cruz to stay with my dear cousin Nomi, whom I had met just over a year ago in Como, Italy (see blog).
Celebrated Independence Day with her and her friend Kurt and people from the architects' bureau (company) where Kurt works.
Watched fireworks in the back (actually, front) yard.
I have a feeling I've alreadt written some of this on my blog; doesn't really matter, distance always adjusts memory...
Read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, borrowed from Nomi, and then gave it to cousin Joanne when I'd finished. Enjoyed it a lot, the telling by the daughter of Leah, first wife of Jacob in the OT, about her brothers and half brothers, a superb imagining of women's life at the time. The protaganist, Dinah, becasme a 'midwife'. She tells her story until her death and after, in an utterly satisfying manner. I had no trouble with anachronisms (there weren't any as far as I noticed). Highly Recommended!
After staying with my aunt I drove with cousin Joanne to her home in Encino, LA. Hot! But it was lovely, I felt so welcome, didn't matter that there had been a flood a couple of weeks before and the downstairs was filled with packing cases...
(I tried to attach a dismal pic here of the box-filled living room... too slow here...)
And from LA flew with United Air to NY. Now a good story: when I picked my suitcase off the carousel, a large chunk was missing (fortuantely just the outer shell, so nothing lost). I went to report this and was swiftly supplied with another identical (nearly) case by Samsonite... more soon about this but now must pause now for Brynn and the twins who have just come home...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Verdant Ventura (and the shining sea!)

I am with my family. Musing upon why it seems different being with people who share one's genes, and concluding that it just depends which genes they share ... I am particularly lucky in having a really lovely bunch of relatives. Feel so welcomed and loved here.
So the picture shows some of them: auntie Elsie, the only remaining sibling of my father, with her son Jerry (my cousin) and his family, wife Linda, son Mark, his wife Krista holding the tiny great-granddaughter of Elsie, Dannika, and extreme right my cousin Joanne's step-daughter, Jessica (and me too, clever camera technique there!). We are in Mark & Krista's house. Their son Garrick, just three years old, was having his nap...
We miss the two other chidren of Jerry & Linda, Jeff and Mandy ... they were sampling beer in San Diego.

A lovely shot of my wonderful aunt, aged 93, her son Jerry (four years younger than me) and his wife Linda, who runs a flourishing buisness in Ventura.
They moved several years ago into a newish apartment in the old part of Ventura, near the city hall and some of the old missions (one dating back to 1782 (?maybe 92?). It commands a magnificent view down across the red-tiled rooftops (shades of Italy and Spain) to the sandy beach where the foamy rollers break upon the shore. Today it is a little hazy in the distance but most impressive. The white sails of a handful of dinghies speed over the distant sea.
Here a shot taken from the Amtrak on the way down the coast from San Luis Obispo to Ventura.
And here a slightly fuzzy one of me, with cousin Nomi and her friend Kurt, taken in Santa Cruz on our last evening there.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Independence Day and what is freedom....

The sun shines, the sky is blue, the birds sing, this is California and it is quite different from Boston, Oregon or Texas! I walk down the streets and enjoy the gardens filled with flowers and there is a quietness here all the time, and at night when the dark is deep, I hear the sound of the water trickling in the garden pond and occasionally the distant piano of the neighbour playing Chopin Nocturnes and the call of the mocking bird.
We went to an Independence Day party at friend's and talked of many things and watched the fireworks sprouting golden stars. The kids tried to recite for me the Declaration and when I heard the words I felt very sad... Ah well, I suppose the dreams and the ideals should always remain, even though the reality shatters hope.
 Tomorrow I undertake another advenutre, first by bus to San Luis Obispo and then the Amtrak to Ventura where I'll meet one of my cousins. For a few days I'll stay with my aunt (younger sister of my father) and then further south in California.

Later on I'll fly to New York for my nephew's wedding. I now have less than a month here, the time begins to gather up its skirts and soon will be rustling by...
But here time is still moving gently, and I softly walk down to a yoga class, enjoying the sun on my back, observing the flowers in the gardens, saying "Good morning" to the passers-by.
 This is the front hall in Nomi's house. The building dates from about 1910, is a charming huse with beautiful Jugendstil touches.
part of Nomi's living room
There is no internet at my aunt's so a hiatus in the blog for some days... California dreaming ...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

From Portland Oregon to Santa Cruz California

Leaving the lush green of Oregon I flew south to San Francisco. A mini coming home, since David and I have lived here on several occasions when he was on sabbatical at Stanford University. Here I gained my Californian driver's license (triumph of empowerment!) and here David and I lived together for the first time outside a European environment, free from some of the heavy baggage we were both burdened with about fifteen years ago...

Sad to leave Anne and her family and friends in Portland; there is never enough time to share all the life I would like to. But we got to skype Judy in Dubai and David in Turkey, oh the wonder of modern technology, yes, I have to admit! And very nice picture of me and Anne taken by Scott, her husband, on Facebook... Below, Scott and Anne and their elder son, William.

Plane from Portland (raining) to San Francisco (cloudy). In Menlo Park (easily reached on a shuttle from SF airport) I stayed with my dear friend and excellent poet, whom I call Chaya though her mother and others called her Sherry. We had a ball! She is a wonderful cook, making the food she presents a joy for the eye as well as the palate. We talked books, listened to some wonderful CDs (Mario Lanza singing Puccini...) and watched some goldie oldies such as Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers... Oh nostalgia... Here a pic of Chaya and one of me, outside her apartment in Menlo Park.

It was hot but with a delicious breeze (see Chaya above) but apparently the day I left the temperatures went up to 100 Fahrenheit and life cased to be comfortable!
On one of our expeditions into Menlo Park I found a perfect pair of tiny heeled shoes to wear at the wedding. Photo to come, I hope!

With surprising ease I travelled from Menlo Park to Berkeley (shuttle again and then the BART) where I was met by Marijke, a friend of many years, born in the Netherlands but now living in the US for 34 years. She lives in a house filled with wonders: beautiful prints on the walls, cupboards home to curious ceramics and glassware, and everywhere books, books, books. .. I was completely happy.
Below, a picture of Marijke and me.
Right:  North Berkeley living room...
My cousin Nomi and her boyfriend as well as the daughter of Nomi's sister who in fact is no blood relation of mine (this is getting complicated) drove up to Berkeley for lunch and the five of us spent a fascinating afternoon talking about art and architecture and design and finding out who knew people we knew (great fun this!) and then drove into the north Berkeley hills in search of a house Nomi remembered from her dreams (I joke) which of course we never found, but did see striking buildings and at one point gazed down the wooded hills and across the glittering waters of the Bay to the Golden Gate bridge in the misty distance, with the mauving mountains beyond. Spectacular.

And in the late afternoon drove down the not-too-congested highway towards Santa Cruz (terrible traffic crawling in the opposite direction).
And here I attend yoga classes and walk again on the pavements strewn with mulberries and pine needles and crunchy leaves. And watch the Pacific breakers tumbling against the rocky shore. My early memories from before I could remember!

Monday, 17 June 2013

the world whirls on...

After leaving Turkey I spent four crowded days in the Netherlands, happily occupied with clothes-washing, chatting with friends, and spending a joyful day with my son and family (this means playing with the lovely two-year-old Yara). The weather was pretty friendly, I dried the washing in the back garden!
Then a pleasant flight to Boston (slept quite a bit on the plance, so no noticeable jet lag...).
It was raining when I arrived in Boston and continued to pour down the rest of the day.
Nevertheless, Nancy and I made a sortie in the late afternoon and walked down to Harvard Square and introduced me to some of the famous Cambridge Mass haunts...
We supped in a small sushi bar in the same housing block as Nancy's apartment where I shall be staying.
It is on the twelfth floor, looks down over Harvard with is many cupola-like college towers.
Here a hazy impression:

Above a sample of Nancy's impressive book collection, covering many walls, dealing with Architecture, Urbanization and general Dutch humanities topics...

Day Two started cloudy and I went to have my hair trimmed while the sky lightened, so that when I emerged the day was becoming warm, and I found a fine place to munch a slpendid salad lunch ( Dana Tea I believe is the name...).
Then I made my way to the Harvard Museums, to survey the unique collection of Glass Flowers (made in Dresden in the 19th century, shipped to Harvard, to be used in the teaching of Botany) and through to the Peabody, where I revelled in the collection on the top floor, showing maps by Blaeu and Indonesian articles that were familiar from my Amsterdam days.
On Saturday a concert of Ottoman etcetera music as part of the Boston Early Music Festival; simply stupendous, group named Hesperion XXI, led by the renowned Jorde Savall. Ah food for the soul... and out into a blue and golden afternoon.
Supper at Legal Sea Foods where I had my first New England clam chowder, followed by oysters and a boiled lobster... All excellent...
Then to a new film made by Terence Nance (also shown in the 2012 Rotterdam Festival). Enthralling. Title: How would you feel? (there is another title too). A kind of Virginia Woolf experience: one moment explored and embroidered... talk afterwards with the filmer, in the cinema.
More culinary primeurs on Sunday, when we ate in a Korean restaurant, dipping veggies into bowl of boiling meso soup...
Interesting that I comment on the music and the meals...
There is much else, but it slips through the interstices of time.
We read about the rioting in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey (David far away from trouble I
suspect) and the elections in Iran. The sky lightens there...
Tomorrow I fly to Portland Oregon. Another America.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Desert ponderings...

Each day different, though the heat outside smoothes over everything and seems to suck out energy... so that, thinking back over these days in Dubai, all seems a golden warmth, and what I recall most clearly are the voices of people here (the boys, friends, acquaintances...)
Inside the house, though, with the airco on, life is most pleasant. Yet all the time I find myself thinking: this is a land for camels and snakes curving through the sand, home for the ubiquitous ants (large as black raisins).
The constant water-sprinklers, showering the grass and flowers in the hot hot sun, are more than an absurdity. My great neice and nephew are climbing (mount) Snowdon in Wales, part of a fund-raising effort to assist in providing clean water in parts of the world where this is a high priority need. And here, the utter waste of resources, together with the crazy empty skyscrapers (beautiful uninhabited architecture) reminds me again and again of lines by Shakespeare commenting on people's topsy-turvy sense of values.
That said, there is something most impressive about how this desert has been made to blossom as the rose... roses abound! And I love the care that is given to education, the learning centres, the schools which my grandsons attend, the activities for very young children (swimming lessons for two-year-olds, in outdoor pools which have huge canvas "wings" suspended on high to keep the sun off the swimmers).
Half of the year the climate here is a joy. So good for children to be able to play freely outside, run and swim. But in the summer months it really does get too hot. I fear for my grandson Nathan with his red hair and pale skin. The brilliant burning sun should never reach a skin like his (but it does!).
When we were in Cappadocia (Turkey) I kept myself as covered-up as possible and happily survived (though there the temps weren't up into the 40s yet as it was still early May).
See pic above.
Like many others, however, I feel lured by the desert, would like to creep out of the house in the night and sleep outside under the stars (well wrapped-up, for the nights grow almost as cold as the days are hot!). The desert holds a deep silence. You can scarcely hear the rustling of a snake curving across the sand.
And it makes you still and fills you with wonder and respect.
Here more than any other place I've visited, I feel the vastness of the universe, and my own littleness. And wonder at people's absurdity
Looking as it were, from outside, or above, I wonder what these tall tall structures of glass and steel are all about?
Why sprinkle water on grass in the desert, as if it were an English lawn? Why eat hot roast beef and roast potatoes when outside it is more than 40 degrees?
Desert musings, while outside it is too hot to think...
Tomorrow night I fly back to Istanbul and thence rejoin David on the boat Stroemhella, in Antalya.

This was taken near Kapi Creek, on the Lycian coast west of Antalya. Distant snowy mountian, still waters of the morning (wind gets up in the afternoon).

Quiet desert, quiet sea!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Once more the desert wasteland...

Hello friends everywhere, greetings from the real hot desert. You open the front door and a wall of heat hits you... not unpleasant, just takes some time getting accustomed... Rules for hot-land living: Always carry a large bottle of water with you, keep sunglasses and hat near at hand, and never forget to insmear suncream of at least factor 30 before venturing out.
I am having a wonderful time here being granny, which entails endless reading of stories, such as The Gruffalo, Superworm, Little Nemo, Lola who doesn't like to eat tomatoes, and many others. Interspersed with the children's Bible: Isaak and I are systematically studying the Old Testament, and having reached Nehemiah are now busy constructing walls wherever possible. See pic.

This construction is a house consisting of large sofa cushions. We also played the Walls Came Tumbling Down a la Joshua, so it was highly educational!
Meanwhile Nathan dressed up as a pirate for a special day at his nuserery school. He loved the costume so much he didn't want to change out of it.

Here the pirate king has finished his lunch and is having tickle-time.
Nathan tells us happily: I'm the pirate king!

Nice to be three and a half and pretty well carefree...

Judy and Christiaan are now in New York (Judy sings tomorrow in the Lincoln Center, with specially formed choir, performing Durufle's Requiem) and here in Dubai, Rose and I hold the fort. All goes pretty smoothly.
The parents return on Thursday evening and I fly back to join David on the boat on the first of June.