Crafty History and Soggy Feet

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
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Trip End Jul 21, 2010


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Where I stayed
Robert's House

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I wake and stretch; everything is starting to crack and pop.

Today is the first of many craft days. Having been thinking about it for a while, I'm going to make a dress for someone special. So back to the Centraal Museum, flash the wicked card that lets me in a few places, and I'm down stairs faster than you like to the workshop area. The patterns are rather simple (though surprisingly time consuming to cut out), with the intention of the designer that this is to be used as a base that you embellish with your personal style. Fuck yeah, personal style (read: hood).

The pattern doesn’t take too long, but the selection of fabric is less than appealing. I ask one of the girls helping if they know anywhere around here to find something good. Her name is Mary, and she’s quite interested to see how my design will turn out, as hoods are not easy things to put on garments. I say I’ve kind of done this before, but there is a difference between adding to something that already exists and starting from scratch. There is one place she knows of that will have fabric. As I’m expected at Marja’s after lunch I don’t intend on coming back today, and Mary says she’s here all week to help out. The fabric shop is a ten-minute ride away (me without bike, but everything is measured in bike time around here) and I take my time getting there, stopping in crazy clothes shops and local galleries. The lady behind the counter is nice, speaks enough Dutch to help out, and I pick a wicked green/blue jersey for the dress. I notice at least five other mums shopping with their daughters to do the same. One mother asks if it’s for me. I smile and say sorry I don’t speak Dutch.

I shower quickly (loves the sticky poly/cotton, should have seen that coming) and I’m at Marja’s to walk the dog and explore the natural landscape of Holland, of which there are two parks left in Utrecht. It’s few a few streets and over and under a few bridges, where I comment on everything being just over a bridge. Marja points out the natural nature every few steps, noting the trimmed trees that would grow to suck the water out of the mud, but as they are trimmed back so heavily they never really mature properly, so instead the earth becomes layers of decomposition and while not always soft and damp and squishy to touch, does feel soft under foot. This reminds me of the Cameron Highlands, where the decomposition is so extensive holes have opened up in the ground beneath us. It may not happen to that extent here, as we’re a low as we can get. Instead the water level rises above the ground, isolating parts of the park that were originally paths and areas to take your dog. In places man-made tracks are above the water level, but much of it is abandoned until summer when the weather is dry and the land is visible again. Much of Holland is like this. To build houses on the land requires a number of concrete supporting columns, which are drilled 100 metres into the ground until they finally hit solid earth. So it’s almost like every building here is a replica of the raised shack villages of the rice paddies in Thailand, only instead of air and water they have something slightly more solid than mud, like mash potato.

Jahl (I think that’s how you spell it) is a Pyrenean Shepherd, and bounds away of his own accord, returning every now and again for us to through a small tree in his direction. Marja says every litter of Jahl’s parents was bigger than the last, Jahl being of the third. She blames the dog’s diet; that the food here is a lot richer and the mother passes much of that onto the infant. Marja also note the strange use of words.

"Litter, like rubbish? I suppose if a rabbit has a littler that would be so." Wicked.

We pass local council offices, where I am shown how the designer has attempted to integrate nature with the building. Park areas are scattered throughout, and uneven surfaces on in the outside walls make it easier for creepers to grow and cover. There was also once a collection of copper chains hanging from the roof into the grassed plant areas, when the rain fell onto the roof it would run down the chains to the ground, collecting nutrients for the plants to feed upon and grow. Recently council decided to remove these, saying they were an eyesore, the new officers being unaware of their original use. Once they were removed the plants began to die, allowing weeds to take over the area. Now gardeners need to be hired to maintain the area, where in the past it happily took care of itself. Marja also went into depth about the Dutch need for things to be new again; that every 25 years a building needs to be torn down and rebuilt the same, because we have money (the Dutch being among the richest of the union) we should spend it on things we don’t need. The shopping centre in Utrecht is one example of this need to build. No one in the community thought it was necessary, but houses were destroyed ot make room for it. It’s a very strange thing to have in a town like Utrecht, which is a town of strip shops situated along the water. The music halls seem to be falling in the same situation, moving and changing venues and rebuilding things when others are falling away. I don’t see this, I only see a construction site, so it is nice to have some insight on the workings.

The rain starts up again, so we head back a little earlier than expected. Along the way we find an underpass flooded, having to slip across the hand railing to get to the other side. Apparently the flood system has failed – when one of the lights goes the whole thing shuts down. That doesn’t make sense to me in a place where things are constantly being fixed for no reason.

Back at Marja’s she talks a lot of the work she and Robert did during the 70s – the Scholler and ProVo movements and their contribution to the political world of the Vietnam war and more. There was documentary made of them and others in the movement. It’s in Dutch but Marja translates in the general terms. It is amazing to see Robert in his role as part of the ProVo. He has an amazing jacket. Hearing about all the things both of them have done, and the way things are now and the things that are now forgotten, it is both amazing and sad to see.

Marja and I talk about relationships and auras and the one consciousness over coffee until it’s time I went home. I remember her being totally different when we met in Australia, but I guess I would have been maybe 14 at the time.

I come home to sound of me and uke coming through Robert’s phone, which sounds pretty good considering the speaker on that thing. He laughs and says "See now you are famous. See." I upload those bitches onto le web as quick as I can.

Dinner is amazing once again. I’ve noticed that for a man who doesn’t look like he eats at Robert uses an amazing amount of butter in everything, No wonder these potatoes tasted so good. After I am exposed to another Dutch delicacy – raw salted herring, head cut off and eaten in one go. Feels like I’m eating a plate full of sushi in one go. Robert cuts up an onion for the rest, saying this is the true true way. I will spend the rest of my time here looking for people with their heads back attempting to swallow this in one go, onion and all.

The rest of the night is spent tring to get more information out of Robert about his past, but this proves a little fruitless. While he likes to talk when given the opportunity, on this topic it is very much on his terms.
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