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Rotterdam is very Dutch – well the rest of the Netherlands is too but I’m here so it holds my attention. I got here on Sunday after a very quick and pretty uneventful flight – though a few questions come to mind every time I go through an airport. What is it that makes people think it is fine to sit and drink pints of beer at 7 in the morning because they are going on holiday? Why are books at airport bookshops 50% bigger than books on the high street and what is the point of handing out packets of tuc biscuits in an attempt to make you think you have been fed?
The train from Schipol to Rotterdam was fast and smooth and sadly not one of the very exciting double decker ones. It was great to be met by eldest daughter and once I’d dumped my bags we headed off into the city centre. There are some intersting buildings including the cube house.
Yesterday I was up North to Amsterdam. I spent the whole day there and battled round the Van Gogh museum – I was delighted to see a handful of Gaugain pictures as well as some by Millet and Monet. Amsterdam is beautiful and there is another delicious view round every corner.
So a great day spent doing art, shopping and sitting about reading – bliss. Oh and finally - Happy Birthday Kate!
I had to travel to Liverpool for a meeting yesterday. As usual, I drove as far as Preston and parked at the station to get the train. As I approached the train, the guard or train manager or whatever they are called, was standing by the door. I checked with him -’ Is this the Liverpool train?’. I was a little puzzled by his smirk as he assured me that it was. As I stepped on board and turned into the carriage I stopped abruptly. The whole train was full – full of people dressed up to the nines. Above every other seat back I could see wisps of feathers in every colour imaginable. All the men were in very smart very sharp suits. I think I did actually reel and had to hold onto the door frame. What the hell was going on. Disorientating? I should say so. Was this a wedding party and they had taken over the whole train? I gave up and stepped back into the door space giving the guard an quizzical look. Then it dawned on me – it’s the Grand National Festival, they were all on their way to Aintree. I looked back down the carriage and yes almost every man had a copy of the Racing Post somewhere about his person. Apparently it was Ladies Day and my goodness they made the most of it. As I got into the city centre there were more everywhere and every woman there had some sort of fascinator in her hair.
The back end of Word Press has changed and I now seem unable to upload a photo but the BBC have captured the atmosphere here.
One of my favourite haunts in the North of England is Salts Mill on the outskirts of Bradford. Built by Sir Titus Salt in 1853 to house his weaving business it is a gem of a building. Salt was a successful Mill owner in Bradford in the middle of the 19th century. He decided to build a new mill away from the pollution, poverty and grime of Bradford and chose a spot between the river Aire and the Leeds Liverpool canal. There he built not only a mill, but houses, schools, meeting houses, churches – everything that his workers could want – except a pub. It opened in 1853 on his 50th birthday. The village was named Saltaire and its warm yellow sandstone is just as beautiful as ever.
The mill stopped production and in 1987 was sold to the entreprenarial Jonathan Silver. It is now a thriving arts and culture centre with a brilliant restaurant, Salts Diner. Two floors are now home to the 1853 gallery which acts as a showcase for David Hockney’s work. Not only that but they sell books, prints, cards and just arty stuff. This is part of a large painting of the Mill by Hockney.
I love it and enjoy spending a day browsing and eating and of course buying books. The official website has a brilliant 360 view which gives a great idea of the inside but unfortunately you can’t smell the lillies.
I was in W H Smith last week and as I was just browsing the bookshelves, when I noticed that one section had the title ‘Tragic Lives’. Good grief – I presume this is some subsection of biography and contains all those memoirs which seem to compete to show who had the most miserable childhood. I’m not sure it started with Angelas Ashes, which may have won a Pullitzer Prize but it created a rash of imitations which is obviously continuing today. Isn’t it rather sad that a whole display stand with 5 or 6 shelves on it is needed for this rather depressing genre. It reminds me of the ‘Four Yorkshiremen‘ sketch in Monty Python – ‘Eey you were lucky – we had to get up in’t mornin’ a’ lick ‘road wit’ tongue!’
Althea sent me a great picture of one of the basket stalls on the market in Tanga. I just love the way in which the stall holder is lounging back and working out his profits for the day. It’s a shame he hasn’t got a mobile phone in his hand.
If you look at the left hand side stall, he is also selling conch and other types of shells. I actually bought half a kilo of cowrie shells – for no other reason than we used them as counters when I was at infant school.
The delicious noise of them clucking together takes me right back to St Bernard’s Infants – circa 1961 – gulp. I now have them in a pretty japanese dish – well what else could I do with them?
I was using my African Tesco carrier bag yesterday and noticed that it had a ticket still on it. It said No 2 Babakasheshe. It was obviously the second basket of veg that Steve needed to pick up one day. This is the name that he is known as by many of the locals in both Amani and Tanga. Kasheshe is a sort of funny man or joker and Baba is father or Daddy, so it sort of means fatherly and funny, which he is. As such I got the name Dadakasheshe – sister of the funny man! Here he is proundly showing off his flowering banana plant.
Can’t imagine why they think he’s funny at all!
I was talking to the owner of a great shop in Skipton yesterday. It is called Dreamers and sells ethical and fair trade goods. They are hoping to become a member of the British Association of Fair Trade Shops so are only buying from accredited sources. She’s really interested in the bags from the Women’s workshop but we need to get a regular supply sorted and a Fair Trade accreditation. So just a bit of work there then.
They stock some fantastic stuff and I treated myself to some jewellery from Bali – very nice.
Welcome back to Clive, Alex, Kizzi and of course Steve and Pia. I’ve heard tales of malaria and earthquakes but will find out properly before writing anything. The staff at Tukae will be taking a holiday during the rainy season and everyone else has returned home. On my final day there, as well as sorting out bags for me to take, Kizzi came down to the Women’s workshop to pick up a couple of kangas. She very kindly offered to model them for me.
Kizzi was one of the two girls teaching English at the primary school in Amani.
I went shopping yesterday, nothing exciting, just the weekly visit to the supermarket. I had with me a small basket that I use for bottles and heavy stuff. I brought it back with me from Tanga market. There they are given free if you are buying a lot of vegetables, so I suppose it is the African equivalent of a Tesco carrier bag (other supermarket carrier bags are available).
Always with an eye for stuff I can put in this blog, I took a photo of it on my return home.
Prettier and more environmentally friendly than your actual Tesco carrier. I even put some veg around it – perhaps I’ll start a new career as a food stylist – or perhaps I won’t.