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The Australian poet Alan Jefferies asked his Facebook friends to tell him a memory of him and them. I told him I loved the way he had lead a poetry workshop in the Wairarapa to the north of Wellington, NZ in 2016. 

It was a truly inspiring day held in the Wairarapa residency for writers where Alan was staying. The workshop was organised by Wairarapa poet and artist Madeleine Marie Slavick. 

I took a poem I had done at Polytechnic Whitireia for my diploma in creative writing. About a weta. And I came back with two great interpretations. But that is a story for another day, because I need to find those poems in our new house…

On Facebook, I saw Alan had written an amazing poem based on some memories that had touched him . Unintentionally, I took that idea to sleep with me and woke up with a poem, that I noted down. I thought it was a first draft but it is actually as good as it will get. For now. Here it is:

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I bit the centre from the web

I let the silver lines loose

Not so they would end in candy floss

That tight unbreathable sugar 

More so they caught the sun

Twirling tiny rays spun

Spinning around my head

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Then and now: here a year!

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My bike and I are loving Leeuwarden, enjoying all the festive lights!

On Thursday 30 November 2017, it was exactly a year after we touched down at Schiphol and spent a few days in Amsterdam.

This anniversary was quite strange. First we went to do some stuff at a sollicitor as we are buying a house soon. Then back home I was just getting ready to leave for work in the afternoon when a neighbour rang my doorbell. She had been shut out when her toddler had locked the door from the inside.

I tried to persuade the 2-year old with a stroopwafel (syrup waffle) but she thought I was a looney and preferred watching tv. So my neighbour called the police on my phone. 

I cycled to work about 10 mins later when near my house I saw a dog walking himself. Not a normal thing here. So I followed it around the corner to see if he belonged to anyone. I thought he did when he ran up to a man with another dog, a white poddley thing on a lead. 

But he didn’t. The man looked back to me as I was observing all of them as if to say: get your dog back. I said it was not my dog. And the man and his white pooldlet hurried over the wooden bridge with the shepard on their tails. 

I called the police – yep my phone again – and told them about the stray dog. They said they’d be there shortly so I decided to speed to work seeing all this being a good citizen was making me late. But then I made the mistake to look back.

I looked back and the man was now carrying the white fluffy dog. The shepard was jumping up against the man and the man was trying to get the dog to go back over the small wooden bridge towards the busy roads. None of that!

I turned and yelled to the man that the police were on their way. He was getting in such a state with his white fluffy thing in his arms and he asked me to keep the shepard back. 

As I was once bitten by a shepard, I am not that keen on them… But a man cycled past and I got him to help so we barred the dog behind our bikes. Unfortunately he had to go to his appointment straight away. More important than keeping my job obviously but I stayed with the stray who was not a shepard but a husky, I had now learnt.

The dog did start listening to me. He was quite well-behaved. And now I really want our own dog after we have moved. Anyway, not much space for the photos. Next time! 

Then and now…

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Looking outside at the rain and the sun, the trees leafless but full of wild clouds and the occasional migrant birds, I decided to start a ‘then and now’ on instagram. It’s coming up to a year since we left NZ after nearly 10 years. Here’s this week’s series:

17 November 2017

The streets in Leeuwarden are dark at 5pm but the lights in the city are warm, even some blue light on the water under the bridge.

17 November 2016

The bright spring sky lights up the main street of Featherston. The yellow Wind-Grass sculpture is by Konstantin Dimopoulos

16 November 2017

The cloudy early morning sky is warmed up by the many colourful barges along the canals in Leeuwarden. Like this November.

16 November 2016

Took these photos walking to the train station on my way to work, must have been about 6am. I should try and add a sound sample of the enormous dawn chorus of birds welcoming the new day.

15 November 2017

On my cycle ride to work I am nearing the city centre. It is misty, to the right the old prison-turned-craft shops/restaurants. The high Achmea Tower is lost in the fog.

15 November 2016

Two days after the 2016 earthquake, the first day the trains were running and I could go to my last week of work at NIWA. Taken from the bus near Kia Ora Bay I believe.

Used up my luck for this year?

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People who know me well know I am not the highly organised and structured person that comes out of those employer tests. My partner Wim nearly choked when I told him I was very organised, and structured, according to this test we all had to do at the communications unit of this government department I worked for in New Zealand. 

And I swear I tell the truth in these tests. Sort of. When I tell Wim I have lost something like my glasses it has got to the point that he does not even reply. And then I usually say: “Oh they were in my bag” or my pocket or my this or that.

Tonight however, after work, after emptying my two bags in the enormous bike shed at work, and going past security back up the stairs and not finding what I was looking for. Tonight however, Wim believed me when I told him I lost my keys.

I left around 11:45 in the deluge of rain that had been going on since yesterday. I closed the door of the storage space, it’s like a second front door. And then I checked I hadn’t left the gas on. Is that not a bit  senile if you have not even been cooking and then I left. 

With visions of our burgled house, the cats roaming the streets, I cycled home. So so lucky to find the keys still in the door at 6pm, locked and well.

Where are the tui?

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Swans and their little ones, spring is well on its way in NL!

In NZ tui sounds meant winter was truly ending. In the backyard the kowhai bloomed and the tui came and sang their special tunes. This spring my ears tune in to their song but instead I hear the chattering swans fly over.

Brilliant as  well as imposant, I stand beneath them and wonder what they talk about as their wings make that sail-like flutter. Or are they just telling each other off like a road-rage in the sky: “Keep to your track Swan” “Dont make me give you the finger or I will drop dead.” “Sounds like a plan…”

They sound more amicable than that whatever they are discussing. All the fuss the tui used to make in that yellow kowhai tree. The more experienced the more beautiful the song. Is that what a swan song is all about then? 

The sound of swans is stunning in a different way, here’s a BBC video on YouTube. 

Tiptoe through the tulips…

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Wild tulips are always yellow. At least, they are in Martenastate, Cornjum just out of Leeuwarden. We joined a group for a tour on a spring morning that felt more like Siberia, where the wind most probably came from during our 1,5 hour tiptoe that could have been walked at a leiseurely pace in 10 minutes. 

Our knowledgeable guide explained every seed and leaf. It was beautiful, we will cycle back in summer.

Slauerhoff bridge to open skies

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Yep, that is a piece of road up there, the colours are from the flag of Leeuwarden.[/caption]

Adding a link to Wikipedia for Emily.

Some things just grab you. You don’t know why, they just do. And walking in my lunch break, the Slauerhoff bridge grabbed me. Look at that piece of road in the sky. 

It is kind of hard to explain how it works but here is a gif Google made for me:

The bridge also rekindled my admiration for the Dutch poet Slauerhoff. He used to speak to me when I was so sure I did not belong in NL. In his poems he often commentend on how the smallness of this country sufficated him. He was a ship’s doctor, lived in exotic places but was born and raised in Leeuwarden, which he pretty much left as soon as he could.

‘Nowhere but in my poems can I dwell,/ Nowhere else could I a shelter find’ are the first lines of one of his most renowned poems (‘Homeless’), which can be regarded as characteristic of his life and work.

A.Z. Foreman provides a better translation, I think, in his blog and you can also find the original there. 

One of my favourite poems used to be: In Holland

I wonder how he would feel having such a marvellous bridge in Leeuwarden named after him. I wrote a few lines in Dutch and a literal translation:

Slauerhoffbrug

Slauerhoff, ge dichtte
wereldzeeën en oceanen
over hoe het was in Nederland
over hoe ge er nooit kon wonen.

Hoe nu fiere Ljouwert kleuren
opstrijken vanuit het water
de weg openen naar oneindig lucht
eronder boten door het kanaal laten.

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Slauerhoff, you crossed
worldseas and oceans  
about how it was in Nederland
about how you could never live there.

How now proud Ljouwert colours 
lift up from the water
open up the road to endless sky
below boats pass on the channel.

I don’t think Slauerhoff would have much time for my thoughts, I do think he would be proud of this bridge.