Sorry for the radio silence, dear followers! I have been doing a turbo-boost fiction course which I blogged about for Writers Abroad here. That took up my writing energy for a bit.
The new series on BBC1, Sunday evenings at 9pm, Baptiste, is set in Amsterdam. Occasionally it shows the city in a flattering light, but generally the usual clichés are peppered throughout; scantily clad women in windows being leched at by drunken men in stag parties, a tulip farmer who hasn’t seen a bath in months, Romanian underworld figures who specialise in decapitation, and drugs being sold in every café. These are supposedly the types of people and activities that abound in my adopted hometown. No doubt this has a smidgen of realism, it would be naïve not to believe so, but it’s pretty easy to avoid seedy areas if you just look a little further afield and don’t fall into tourist traps.
Get the Ferry Instead
Few weekends ago, when the weather was all balmy, I got the ferry from behind Central Station across the River Ij, to visit The Ceuvel. This is a creative hub of start-ups, unicorns, and community projects based in a former shipyard that looks out over the River Ij. The community is entirely off-grid, in what the Dutch call a circular-living economy. All energy sources are renewables, everything, including the boats and their refurbishments are made from re-used and recycled material. It has a post-apocalyptic vibe, the phoenix arising from the ashes, but the views over the water are calming and it feels inclusive. Anyone can walk amongst the boats and soak up the atmosphere. It was fun to wander along the boardwalk wondering what all those creative young things were getting up to in their wooden houseboats. There is also a nice café called, unexpectedly enough, Café, de Ceuvel. So next time you are heading Amsterdam way, avoid the clichés and take ferry 901 towards Buiksloterweg instead. All passengers travel free. See another aspect of Amsterdam, just as real as the clichés, a little harder to find but definitely a lot more wholesome.