Monday, 28 August 2017

Golden late summer

A friend of mine who has lived in Amsterdam for around forty years claims that August is the best month to be here. I tend to agree (well, provided there's plenty of sunlight.) It's holiday time for schools and businesses, and the traffic is substantially diminished. Of course, over the past decade there have been increasing numbers of tourists, so that there are a few streets, like those round the Museum Plein and the Rijksmuseum, where it can grow pretty dense... But I have a soft spot for tourists, and just love practising my languages (presently I'm into Portuguese and have charming chats with visitors from both Portugal and Brazil). Yesterday in the Flower Market, buying Dutch cheese with a friend, I detected some vowel sounds that seemed unfamiliar, and indeed, our assistant told us she came from the Ukraine and had married a Dutchman. Kiev is one of the cities I haven't yet visited, although my son had a school-friend whose mother was Ukrainian and one summer the two boys went to Russia, as it then was, and adventured to the Crimea and swam in the Black Sea (or was it the Caspian...??). Things to do! We have a family from the Ukraine living in our street (employees of Google I believe) and contributing to the considerably multi-ethnic character of this neighbourhood. At our last street party I spoke to people, just from my block, of nine different nationalities. This is Amsterdam for you... 
Living right in the city centre, I am close to the Vondel Park, where once I took my small children to play in one of the sand pits, still there today. I watch the kids who are intently building sand structures, talking to themselves about, or with, their invisible heroes, making the necessary noises to enhance their story. So far they are not distracted by smartphones, headphones or such like and can create from their imaginations the adventures that they choose. I am relieved.
I saw an astounding performance under one of the bridges near the main entrance to the Vondelpark, by SK Thoth, whom I had never heard of but my younger companions had. We looked him up on Youtube when we got home and watched "the story of his life" made about fifteen years ago. Born in the US, here he was in the Netherlands, playing his violin (a very good musician),  dancing and rhythmically stamping his feet so that the small bells round his ankles chattered an accompaniment. He sang and the sound caused goose bumps, a rich full alto voice (I thought at first it was the young woman singing who accompanied him playing on her violin) and then a full bass tone, the words resembling Italian, or perhaps an Indian language. Amazing. Rich and tender, powerful and haunting.
The sun shone, people stood still to listen, scattered over the grass lay the young and old, relaxing in the warmth.
Here a pic of the light through the green...

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