Yay, our hood is on the up! Why do Americanisms always spring to mind when I’m feeling positive? I mean, jolly hockey-sticks our local area is climbing up the socio-economic ladder. Formerly called Bos & Lommer, a troubled neighbourhood, our main street now boasts; an organic food shop, indie bookshop, Bagels & Beans, artisan bakery and a cultural centre. This was all unthinkable a few years back. Now we just need a trendy name like Little Istanbul instead of the bland sounding, Amsterdam West. Suggestions on a postcard please.
Last week, world-renowned storyteller Jan Blake, came to our local Bagels & Beans for a storytelling evening. Her Jamaican-British heritage promised a rich cultural mix and we weren’t disappointed. What an incredible presence she has and a voice like velvet. A good storyteller needs the same timing skills as a musician and she has those in bucket loads. She was accompanied by storyteller Sahand Sahebdivani, an equally talented orater who told an ill-fated love story set in Persia. It would be interesting to discover how many versions of Romeo and Juliet exist around the world. Sahand organises regular storytelling evenings in Amsterdam at Mezrab. There was plenty of audience participation as well, the women were encouraged to punctuate an Aesop’s fable type story from Ghana with ululations. The free event was packed out and when the organiser asked who lived in the neighbourhood, about 60% of the audience turned out to be locals. Hopefully this will be the start of regular storytelling events.
To add to the deliciousness of the evening I bumped into a dear friend I’d lost touch with, Jill Hesketh. Jill’s a very talented artist who specialises in caricatures. Earlier this year I said goodbye to a few friends who were suffering from Expatitis, or Moving On Syndrome so it was lovely to reconnect with an old friend who lives locally. We had loads to catch up on, she has a caravan near the sea and my husband Frank and I share an allotment. Are we perhaps getting middle-aged?
The icing on the cake was two friends coming to visit from the UK, Sue Chadd and her husband Laurence. I met Sue in 1999 when we did a poetry and drawing course at Ty Newydd, Lloyd George’s former home in Wales. We had kept in touch by Christmas card (we’re British…) but three years ago I managed to persuade Sue to come over to Amsterdam for the first of many visits. As well as being a poet, Sue’s a keen gardener so a visit to de Keukenhofwas an essential. I’d always imagined the Keukenhof to be a tacky experience with hoards of tourists shuffling along narrow paths. But if you go on a weekday it’s easy to enjoy the dreamlike atmosphere of being immersed in an ultra Dutch landscape with windmills, every variety of tulip imaginable and the mouth-watering smell of poffertjes (mini pancakes) wafting in the air. The trees are not yet in leaf which means that the shadows are exquisite, the uncensored sun lighting up ribbons of tulips like rainbows. Swans float serenely on the lakes and the gardeners ruthlessly remove wilted flowers and replace them with newly-opened ones. The photos will tell you more…