The day we landed at Schiphol, we saw Umbrella Carpet 2 made from 6,000 cocktail umbrellas at the Dream Out Loud exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It’s one of the creations of the Dutch Collective We Make Carpets. Wim and I, we dreamt out loud. We decided to move back to the Netherlands after living in New Zealand for 9 years. We decided on 17 September 2016, we landed in the Lowlands on 30 November 2016. We are still finding our feet — that is what this blog is about.
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 the test we all had to do years ago 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 after work, I emptied my two bags in the bike shed at work, looking for my house keys… Nothing… I went back to the office, past security, up the stairs and still could not find my house keys.
In the morning I had left the house 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 cycled away…
What had happened with the keys? As I cycled home I psyched out. Visions of our burgled house, the cats roaming the streets, and then I turned the corner and immediately saw the house keys in the door….
So so lucky to find the keys still in the door at 6pm, locked and well…
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Crazy excitement at local normality gives me away every time. There I am cycling to work on a Thursday. Going round the corner to the Vrouwenpoortsbrug, red lights flicker, bells ring, the red-white barrier closes. The bridge opens.
I smile at the lady cyclist next to me who stares back at me like I am a nutter. Open bridge means waiting time, nothing to smile about.
But we ain’t seen nothing yet as the water side of the bridge brings up a gigantic painting. By Bonny it says. Wow! How cool is that?
Bonny worked with students of a local dance academy to create it as you can see in this YouTube video.
Here’s another YouTube video that shows the opening of the Vrouwenpoortsbrug
Not the fastest cyclist in the world, it’s fine when other cyclists overtake me. I started to worry when even greyer heads bobbed past me… Oh well, ebikes are the thing here. I am sticking to my Swedish Pilen Lyx as I bike for fitness and if it blows I bike a bit slower.
First thing I loved about being back in NL was the cycling culture, the no-helmet-needed because we have cycle tracks and road rules to protect us, the no changing into lycra please – just get on your bike and ride to work, to the supermarket, to the station, to the city, to the cinema, to anywhere.
Coffee though. Wellington you are blessed, blessed, blessed. I miss the Wellington coffee like crazy. If you look hard you can get a good latte in Leeuwarden. In Wellington you blink and a great coffee is there for the taking. So so good. Missing Greta Point Café, all Mojo cafés, and Espressoholic to name just a few, I bought a good coffee machine the day after crossing the Frisian border.
I am a coffee snob, I know. What about you? Can you sip a weak milky replica or do you need the real thing?
Every day it gets a little less dark
here it seems, not where I used to live.
Early morning colours spark
the sky alive fluropink parts
the dark, the horizon’s promise.
Every day it gets a little les dark.
Tui and blackbirds sing the stars
kissing back to life our senses.
Early morning colours spark
endorphins in the two halves
of this commuter’s brain to the office
Every day it gets a little less dark
till the evening fragrances from every stark
purpled pittosporum the garden in full strife.
Every day it gets a little less dark.
Early morning colours spark.