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)

Summer and birthdays

Very busy these weeks.
Amsterdam buzzing with life: tourists, and excellent films, not to mention fine museum exhibitions.
I am becoming increasingly vegetarian and make superb thick and nourishing soups.
This one is basically pumpkin, but of course a secret recipe!
Often towards the end of the day the sun appears, creating long shadows across the water and between the thin bricks of the canal houses. Most photogenic.

 And here's a watery view:

I love this one: everything slightly askew; and the lamppost really is off the vertical. A drunken moment...
It's beginning to feel as if summer's drawing to an end. Many yellowing leaves (because of the long drought), the grass faded and the juvenile seagulls now white-winged.
This week I celebrate my 75th birthday. Have asked friends and neighbours though many people still away on holiday.
David has a few hours ago arrived in the huge harbour of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast of France.

I am continually amazed (and delighted) by how quiet it is in my street. Probably because it's not a through-way. And many neighbours are abroad.
Here it is on a sunny morning.

My house halfway down on the left

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...