In October, in autumn as the leaves were turning, we lived for a month in ‘de Pijp’, Amsterdam’s southern bohemian shabby-chic neighbourhood. I’ve always loved the Pijp. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t really. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the broad Albert Cuypstraat bereft of it’s famous street market and all of it’s charm. Oceans of tarmac, shuttered shops, a few parked cars … Continue reading Home. In Amsterdam.
We couldn’t decide. Should we go or not? It looked cold outside and the couch was calling. We’d got a stack of films recorded and food galore. On the other hand it wasn’t raining and we could get there direct from the tram stop outside the front door. We shrugged off the Christmas inertia, put on the layers and went for it. Sloterplas, the lake … Continue reading Taking The Plunge.
On a Sunday morning in November I stood on the Magere Brug in Amsterdam, surrounded by the under-tens, waiting for the Sint to roll up on his steamboat. The weather was throwing everything at us: showers, the occasional icy blast and an even more occasional burst of sunshine. The Sint probably wished he’d stayed in Spain, where he spends most of his year, but needs … Continue reading It’s Christmas!
Shelley likened them to ‘moths of which a coffin might have been the chrysalis’. Travelling down the Grand Canal on a vaporetto is wonderful, but the gondola is the ‘crème de la crème‘ of the water craft. To simply sit in one of those beautiful hand-crafted vessels is to feel like royalty. In the sixteenth century there were ten thousand gondolas in Venice. Today the … Continue reading The Gondola.
‘She would go to the piazza from where the doges had once set out to wed the sea with rings’.* Like Miss Garnet, we headed first for the piazza. It seemed the natural place to begin. A public space so grand that no other square in the city was thought fit to bear the name – all the others are campi or if they are … Continue reading The Piazza.
Byron swam home along it, George Elliot’s husband fell in it, Robert Browning lived in a palace along it, caught a cold and died by it. A hawker once towed a dolphin up and down it; and in the fourteenth century an earthquake drained it and left it dry for two weeks. The Grand Canal, at two miles long, and seventy-six yards wide at it’s … Continue reading The Grand Canal.
Memories are made of this. It was all very Brief Encounter. Clouds of steam on a quaint platform. A whistle. A chug of the wheels and a prolonged hiss, as train 31806 came to a halt. I should have been wearing gloves and a hat. I was transported back to a time when travel was slow, genteel and convivial; shared flasks of hot tea, pork pies … Continue reading The Age Of Steam.
Toiling up and down coastal cliffs from White Nothe to Durdle Door was breath-taking in more ways than one. But it was a piece of cake compared to what came next. Spectacular views come at a price – at least for us – up and down, up and down, ‘and when they were only half-way up they were neither up nor down’. I felt like … Continue reading More Summer On The South West Coast.
The English non summer didn’t stop us getting some walking in. Tully and Harley didn’t care about rain or grey skies and nor we decided should we. As Ruskin said there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes. Besides the South West Coast path ran almost in front of the door, and it would have been a crime to miss it. … Continue reading Summer On The South West Coast.
We spent the British summer (grim, grey and shower after shower) in Weymouth, looking after the gorgeous Harley and Tully, and Batman the cat. (I cannot think of Batman without that soundtrack running through my head). The dogs were gorgeous cocker spaniels; so pretty with ruffled ears like flowing locks. Tully, small and nimble, golden like soft brown sugar. Harley, always with a lopsided cheeky … Continue reading Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside.