Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from August, 2011

A stone

Pictured above is my most prized possession. It doesn't even qualify as a stone, just a hunk of concrete. It sits on my balcony surrounded by more attractive objects, but none so relevant.

Shortly after arriving in Amsterdam in 1998 I began working in a busy ad agency in the city center. After a gruelling day at the Mac I would often stop at a coffeeshop homeward bound. It's still there on the Oude Hoogstraat, 'Pick up the Pieces' it's called. Sometimes I would smoke a joint, others not, but would always meet friendly colourful international types and chat with the staff who became good friends over the years.

Holding the door open to release the weary workers from plumes of marijuana was a large piece of concrete. After many months I inquired about it's peculiarity, it some how beckoned significance. I was told that indeed it was a very special piece of cement. The owner of the café was Kishore, an Indian Surinamer who also owned a hotel in Schneverdingen tha…

Brown Café

A café bedecked in all things dark brown umber. Sounds depressing? Sometimes it can be. It is a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. The colour of brown is adopted in the Netherlands as old Protestants once adorned themselves in black. Practical, reverent and clerical. By comparison the warmth of the reddish tone is almost indulgent.

I think back to childhood days in my fathers pub, where dark hues suited well the sticky mess of spilled Guinness and billowed nicotine. In Holland the Brown Café is an art form, each premises carefully replicating a non-existing time and place somewhere in the past. Today's commercial interior designer can choose any type of fitting and carpentry from weighty catalogues to meet the wishes of his 'food and drink' retail client. The Dutch are in no need of such catalogues. Once their houses looked the same, but today people are more likely to put Ikea in there living rooms with the wooden patina being left behind at the café on the corner.

Over the last…

"No dogs....".

I am an Irishman who has lived his entire adult life abroad. I'm a European, with youthful times spent in London and Amsterdam. Strangely, I have never traveled outside the Eurozone, not intentionally, but as I love to backpack at short notice in the mountains, I usually end up in places like the Alps or the Pyrenees.

I hope to journey to America and India some day, but I'm still intrigued by how varied and complex Europe can be. How it's many wonderful cultures continue to inspire and inform. These experiences make one feel obliged to vent opinion as an Irish European. Succinctly put, I'm sickened by the steady increase in nationalistic far-right anti-immigrant 'drivel' by some of my fellow Europeans, particularly as an Irishman who's countrymen suffered the same prejudices in previous centuries. "No dogs, No Blacks, No Jews, No Irish"!

I'm not writing about politics here, there is no far-right political debate happening in Europe, there are…

What to do on Sunday's

Fr. Leo Nedersticht, now that's a good Dutch name. Whilst busy with preparations for my marriage some ten years ago, I hastily called around looking for a Catholic priest to give a blessing at my civil ceremony. This was met with distain by my first contact, promptly being told by the cleric, "we don't do that sort of thing". An alternative phone number was privided and I was informed, "you need to call Fr. Leo".

"That's the man for me", I thought. A priest with a reputation, I liked him even before we'd met in person. And, he lived up to his reputation. It was a fantastic ceremony with blessings given by both himself and a Buddhist friend, with an equally charismatic civil servant putting on a crowd cheering performance as if not to be outdone by the traditionalists.

We lost contact over the years, as happens, but returned home from vacation to hear his warm voice on the answer machine. He came for lunch a couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed…