15 March 2019

The Nether Netherlands

Where do we go from here?






There's a silence surrounding me
I can't seem to think straight
I'll sit in the corner
No one can bother me




I'm at Scheveningen, some four kilometres out of The Hague.  I'm gazing west across the water towards the town of Southwold (home of the Adnams family).  But I can't seem to think straight...

I've just seen a dead parrot, hanging in a church,





But no amount of Monty Python can drive  Pink Floyd out of my mind....

I think I should speak now 
Why won't you talk to me
I can't seem to speak now 
You never talk to me


Which could be because I have just had a near death experience, of sorts.....








I visited the Hotel des Indes, (at Lange Voorhout 54-56, 2514 EG Den Haag, Netherlands, doubles from €169.90 a night) and asked to see the cigar lounge.....  

It was here, on the night of January 23rd 1931, that Anna Pavlova, the inventor of Australia's national cake (but also, coincidentally, my mother's godmother) last asked for her Dying Swan outfit.....

And there, with her favourite swan, Jack, she is!  I see her spirit, lingering in the smoky atmosphere, having just descended the Stairway to Heaven....






My spirit soars.  I feel brushed by the feathers of death....

But I can't show my weakness 
What are you thinking
I sometimes wonder 
What are you feeling

Where do we go from here

And the answer is, perhaps, I would go to church, to sit quietly in a pew having lit a candle, looking up at the vaulting arches, pretending I am a spiritual being.....






But the churches are gesloten..... closed!

Even on Sunday.  

In the beautiful city of Delft there are two major churches - The Oude Kerk, with its leaning tower...






and the Nieuwe Kerk, with its restored 100 metre rocket launcher tower....








And, on a bright Sunday morning, both are firmly closed....  Except that a couple of black-clad close-shaven extremely-pure-looking young (?) men are carrying an electric keyboard into the New Church (which dates from 1381) and I slip in behind them, snaffling a picture of the elegantly rising columns.....,






Peeking towards the last resting places of the Dutch Royal Family, from William the Silent (aka William I, Prince of Orange, assassinated 10th July 1584),  to Queen Wilhelmina (Queen from 1898 to her abdication in 1948: died November 28th 1962)....

But the transporters of electric pianos will have none of it.  We will be having a wonderfully happy clapping service at 12 and a half to which you might be somewhat welcome, but you may not be looking at this building internally at this time, nor resting your spirit, nor quietly meditating the demise of your mother's godmother 88 years ago....  

Out!






(Lord save us from the Evangelicals....!  Release the dogs....!)


It doesn't have to be like this
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking










I have better luck in Gouda, where the central Markt is ripe with cheeses, which the people smoke in clay pipes.  

Here I am allowed into the great St Janskerk,  St John's, which at 123 metres long is the longest church in The Netherlands.    It was built as a Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, but became Protestant after the Reformation.  

The church is part of the Dutch Museum Churches, a collection of religious buildings which bring together the variety of religious heritage in the country's history, from early Catholicism, to Calvinism, back to Catholicism under Spanish rule, then back to Calvinism and the Dutch Reformed Church.....










Not that it was that simple....  In the 1940s the majority (around 100,000) of Dutch Jews were destroyed by the Nazis.  Since then the number of adherents to Islam (5%), Buddhism (2%) and Hinduism (1%) has risen, and the number of Christians has radically declined.  Around 70% of the population of The Netherlands has no religious affiliation, leaving churches closed, or empty.....

(or vulnerable to Evangelism....)








St John's Church in Gouda is remarkable, as it has 72 wonderful stained glass windows - the Gouda Glass - some of which were created by Catholic artists (Dirk and Wouter Crabeth, working between 1555 and 1571) and others which were created post-Reformation (between 1572 and 1603).  

Among the images in these windows there are moments from the lives of Jesus and St John, depictions of Judith slaying Holofernes,   Philip II of Spain and his wife Mary Tudor,  and of the Relief of Leiden in 1574.  

One great window was a gift from the city of Haarlem to commemorate participation in a crusade in 1219....










And The Liberty Window was designed by Charles Eyck to commemorate the Second World War.

My soul flickers in the shadows, a tiny glimmer in the vastness of this building. The great eighteenth century Moreau Organ towers over my head, but it is silent.  



There's a silence surrounding me

I can't seem to think straight




So, swallowing my spirituality, I take refuge in Gouds Beleg on the Nieuwe Markt, and wash some old gouda cheese with cumin down with some Dutch beer. The natives are friendly. Very friendly. Sans prejudice..... I feel welcome....

My kind of church.....










What are you thinking
Where do we go from here
It doesn't have to be like this
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking









 Keep Talking

Pink Floyd

(from the aptly named album 
The Division Bell)



What are you thinking 

We're going nowhere
What are you feeling 
We're going nowhere
Why won't you talk to me
You never talk to me



Dave Gilmour/Polly Samson/Rick Wright












8 March 2019

Gran Canaria

The Great Canary.....






Our third trip to the Islas Canaria - the Canary Islands...... 

Maybe our last.....







Winter sun.  Warmth.  






A touch of exotica, erotica, carnaval.....

Cosce di bue....  Carne Vale





A break from the SAD syndrome of our desperate northern climes.




Four hours, and some, in travel. Oodles of pounds/euros/dollars/pesos. 

Concrete. Lava. Cinders. Sand.  

The odd cactus (prickly pears)......






Some fish.....

Yeah!  Some fish!





And some papas arrugadas con mojo (wrinkly potatoes with spicy sauce), the local version of chips.....








We make some friends, though they don't say much.....





We drive five hundred kilometres to admire the scenery.....






Which varies from mountainous.... to mountainous by the sea.....





To mountainous with a view of the sea (and El Teide on Tenerife just sneaking into view in the background).....






To a few grains of Saharan sand blown over from the African mainland by the Riu hotel at Maspalomas.....





I am a bit puzzled by the bird life.  On my first evening I notice some little ringed plovers scurrying at the waters' edge, then witness a yellow-legged gull swallowing one of these lovely little creatures.....





Have you seen this bird? 

Wanted on suspicion of murder


I thought these were the Canary Islands?  Where's the canaries?  Where's Humph Davy when you need a light?

I do see one or two sweet little yellow birds in cages, trilling for their supper, but the avian choice here seems to be the Macaw, which is weird because they are natives of South America and the Caribbean.....





But nonetheless they appear as the motif in many a carnaval costume.....





Maybe they are just Big Canaries?  Canarios Grandes?

Or perhaps it's because they look a bit like the bird of paradise flower, which thrives here (though it comes from South Africa).....





I begin to wonder whether anything is indigenous here?  The volcanic origin of these islands is all too plain to see: black beaches, calderas and monoliths like the Roque Nublo, which is an eroded plug sticking up at 1803 metres above sea level.

Though there are remains of human habitation going back two and a half thousand years, most people here are considerably younger than that.....







I did once have a brief relationship with a girl from the Canaries - her name was Aceseyle, or something similar (she told me her family preferred African names to Spanish) - and I look for her up and down the Paseo de las Canteras, but she's not there....

Perhaps this is her?  Dancing with her beau in the Parque Doramas?






Nah....  She probably looks like a walnut now (if she's still alive....)

Anyway, Great Canaries....  

Vegueta, the old quarter of Las Palmas, has some character, even though it creeps up the hills in ever increasing piles of concrete.....





And we visit the Casa-Museo de Colón, a fine Canarian house where Christopher Columbus may have stopped over on his way to America.....  His bed is unmade (perhaps he'll be back?)....




We swim a little.  The sea is still chilly, but the Hotel pool is 'quite nice'....







We marvel at the expensive (though impressive) Poema del Mar Aquarium by the harbour, close by the parking lot where the most enormous cruise ships discharge their restless thousands.....






We visit villages, like the vertiginous Artenara, beautiful Tejeda, where we dine with a picture of Hemingway and friends on the wall, and delicately restored Agüimes, where the tapas are excellent....







But the restaurants of Las Palmas are disappointing - overpriced and in some cases, really not very good (an example being how a number of different staff, without clean hands, gloves or other prophylactics, scatter dried oregano mindlessly over any and every pizza that they may be tasked to deliver to innocent clients)....





A stroll along the front at sundown is pleasant, with the palms rustling in the breeze.  

You could almost be abroad.....  On holiday, even....




But, despite the charms, it will take more than one of Miguel Portillo's puce and lavender outfits to entice me back to these cinder and concrete islands.  





But then, WTF?  My role as a Grumpy Old Git needs to be practised and there's plenty of other places to explore.....

I return to the idea of the canary, the pretty little bird that takes its name from the islands (and not the other way round - the islands were named after dogs - Cani....)  

And I return to play the wonderful music of Mina, an Italian Diva (who last performed in public in August 1978).  One of her finest recordings (in my opinion) is the double album Canarino Mannaro, issued in 1994, whose title combines the idea of a Canary with that of a Werewolf.




From the local press

Have you seen this person?
Wanted for the murder of a dream


And, without wanting to put anyone off a holiday in the sun, that combination kinda chimes with my recent experience of these islands.....  

Sweet warbles and agonising howls.....


Night night.....






Anzi ti chiedo scusa
Mi son sfogato un po'
Ma sai che al posto mio
Io restero'