Sunday, 27 April 2014

Holy Trinity!

Reasons I believe myself to be a deplorable individual(and why you might be also); potential explanations to behavioural traits (so that, you know, we don’t all abandon each other outright).

1. I think about myself, my desires, my time – in short my own interests, before and as above those of anyone else. This is particularly stressful being an empathetic person. I can see how putting myself before a loved-one would injure them, as it would me were the tables turned. I feel that pain, that becoming inured to the position of second best, it’s awful, yet, I do continue to neglect the feelings of others in response to my own actions both accidentally and on purpose. Why, just this morning I refused to get out of bed, cut out the silent treatment and say goodbye to a very good person, because of my own bedevilled bent on fury in quietude. Knowing all the while that it was both frustrating and saddening for the other person, indeed experiencing guilt and shame while fighting any move toward truce… I also know that were I in his situation I would have probed and probed and probed, “why do you want me to leave? What did I fail to detect in your tone prior, or in which ways did I fail to modify my behaviour or read your signals and respond accordingly?” Instead of feeling impotent in the face of the angry mute’s behaviour, I would assume anger, point fingers, send arrows ; “why didn’t you convey your feelings effectively enough that we’re in this situation now? How can you expect someone to grasp and then assume your position when your descriptions of it are so inadequate?!” You can’t win with me. If I’m in a sulk it’s because you didn’t read me well enough (and resultantly I feel neglected and maligned – for, who wants to feel misunderstood?!) , though were I to be in receipt of such sulkiness it is you who are again in the wrong because you failed in getting me to see your point of view! (On the subject of sulking please see this wonderful article in this gem of an online publication)

2. I look down on those who don’t agree with me. This is an awful trait to have stowed away inside your bones! Being as I am someone who disagrees with a great many people’s views, tastes, proclivities and so forth I should only come to expect and accept their lack of alliance with my own – without pain. I judge and judge and when I’m not judging I fear being judged! I should be able to see (and be soothed by the fact) that people can for instance be members of certain political parties without being inherently evil, since I know they subscribe little to my views on such matters but that I’m nevertheless not an egregious mistake on my parent’s part, that I too have value, as they surely must (despite my belief that I’m somehow deviant, and am presently outlining details of my unfortunate and wicked condition, I can’t deny that I believe my beliefs to be correct, else I wouldn’t pay them any mind!). I nevertheless am unable to shake this petulant, idealistic and holistic “all or nothing” sort of  mentality. I am perennially convinced that there’s no good dealing with part of an issue (in this case if a person is partly corrupt there’s no use appeasing and appealing to them and the whole system should just be wiped out, REVOLUCION!). Feeling misunderstood (and feeling sad about this) is no small part of the problem though, I can’t help but think that my contempt of or reluctance to engage with people who don’t share my views lies not in my desire to be above and to alienate people, rather to agree with and forge bonds with them, and when there’s an obstacle in the path of mutual sentiment I can’t help but feel something akin to “well, if you don’t see the sense in X, Y, Z, then, you’re missing a fundamental part of who I am essentially, and we can no longer take this dialogue any further, good day!” But you can’t agree with everyone, so, where does this leave me? Mostly angry and alone though increasingly indifferent…

3. I occasionally begrudge those who agree with me. This next is even less lucid and far less tolerable than the previous; I occasionally disdain or experience inner denigration towards those who share my sentiments, possibly due to some intangible notion that they don’t share my sentiments wholly or enough (whatever enough is!), or perhaps that my sentiments are so solid and correct that voicing assent would only be subscribing aloud to the crudely obvious and utterly pointless. An example: in recent years I have read extensively about micro nutrition, numerous articles and books containing thoroughly peer-reviewed studies from respected (non corporate-funded) physicians (though some of which have family roots in the meat and dairy industries) who feel they’ve no choice but to recommend a totally plant-based lifestyle as the ultimate for health and longevity (as well as being the best diet in terms of sustainability of the biosphere). As a result of this compelling and damning research I have discussed these topics at length with my family, having them fall of course on deaf ears (if people are going to change they have to be personally willing, having ideas forced upon you, especially ones that contradict your whole lifetime of habit, is rarely effective, when the time is right (or running out) people usually seek these things for themselves as I did). So, you would think that I would be happy to hear my father broaching the subject of deciding to eat half a grapefruit every day to “cleanse his liver”, instead of applauding this slight increase in fruit intake however, I merely chide “stop eating meat, that’s the best thing for your liver”. I find it hard to see the positive. A more universal example perhaps is the phenomenon of “I liked them ages ago”, you all know it, you’ve loved a band, or designer, or filmmaker, author, whatever, you’ve been enthusing aloud to your friends, to little or no real interest (certainly nothing to match your own) then suddenly, months or years later, everyone’s telling you about this “new discovery” of theirs, instead of feeling relieved, excited at being able to enjoy and share your love of something/someone with your close friends, you just feel mildly resentful… Far from being merely a juvenile “I was there first” type of response though, I feel this too has its roots in the aforementioned experience of wanting to connect with someone and somehow failing slightly. Whereas in the example of the previous paragraphs where you weren’t being understood properly, here the problem is of not being listened to. Your parents and friends may nod half-heartedly, “yep, sure, shit diet, that’s probably the reason I feel so tired and bloated all the time, maybe it isn’t genetic”, “yeah yeah, thats song’s quite decent I suppose”, it can’t help feeling like a subtle rebuke, a pseudo-approval and agreement of your stance and taste when really your loved ones, the ones who you’re supposed to connect with, are humouring you because they couldn’t really care less (see paragraph 1 and self-interest I suppose, they’re all linked). Essentially, I guess, wanting to connect in some meaningful way - and falling short are the roots to many a harboured grudge, a heated row, a silent resentment. Must. Try. Harder.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Dreaming Dutch...

I've been having some odd dreams recently, not that they're ordinarily banal, but my dreams of late have been more memorable (due to some recent early mornings where I've awoken mid-dream perhaps?) and the last few have all shared the theme of Amsterdam. Last night I had a very vivid dream that S and I had decided, on a whim, to take a bus from Swansea to Amsterdam (for only £11!), I was so taken aback because such unpredictable, spontaneous behaviour isn't typical of Soph, I obviously had to join her. Unfortunately I woke up before we arrived, the journey was at least pleasant and astonishingly brief, odd that we seemed to be on a small local/city type bus, rather than a coach. Odd for S to suggest such modes of transport over planes or trains as, she hates long bus journeys... It took me back to Brussels, too early on the morning of Thursday, the 19th of July, waiting to board a megabus to Amsterdam. It was cold, because the bus left so early, and the earliest metro from Olga and Julien's place was around 5am (we were leaving at 4am), we left theirs just before the last train of the (Wednesday) night (around 11.30pm) departed for the centre. Then came a chilly semi-snooze in the centre for 4 or 5 hours, near the bus station.

Clock runs an hour early on the Brussels-Amsterdam Megabus, probably to give the driver a false sense of punctuality...

Ijplein visible as a spot of green and residential areas opposite the Centraal Station.

When we got to Amsterdam Zeeburg coach park (some 10 mins by tram from the centre of Amsterdam, partly visible to the East of the centre, right, on the above map) it was absolutely pissing down and ridiculously chilly for July. That, coupled with the iffy sleep, city-walking and unseasonable chill of Brussels from the previous couple of nights, meant it was hard to feel elated upon arrival. Though difficult not to express excitement at being in that unique little capital city for the second time in my life.

Jaap's building.

When we got to Jaap's place, a kindly chap who let us stay at his at short notice (he stipulates short notice on his couch surfing profile, indeed he only confirms a place to lay your bones some 2 or so days in advance - so, it was a little stressy in Brussels not knowing if we'd have a place or not. I often think having money to stay in conventional accommodation would have made the trip more relaxing, but, on balance, we would never have bothered catching a free ferry over to Ijplein from the central station, met Jaap, or, for that matter Olga and Julien in Brussels or Petra or Claudia in Berlin), we were exhausted. Since we were a little earlier than expected (I anticipated delays on the trams or ferry, but, I hadn't anticipated lovely old clockwork Amsterdam)and his other couch surfers hadn't yet departed, he offered us his second spare room as, on seeing us, he noted our exhausted demeanours and our need of sleep. We slept from 9am till noon, at which time the heavy downpour had subsided and the weather was, if not pleasantly warm and sunny, at least breezy and rain-less.

Dam Square

Grey starts to creep in followed by hunger and the need to pee...

The latter alleviated by visiting a rather fancy mall. (during our European trip, (and most other times really) I tried to avoid having to pay for depositing my own urine, as we were short on pennies and not on amber liquid we figured we'd sooner use them for a pleasant tea in a cafe!) 

Fancy indeed!

After feeling that unique relief we felt able enough to wander without sustenance for the time being, and, me being a vegan, and both of us being relatively poor, decided to wait to find a supermarket. So we wandered the grey-skied streets, I took few pictures as the light wasn't the best and I was nevertheless engrossed in my return to those peculiar little streets with their drunken houses bowing down to greet you. We came upon a free to enter and rather fancy-looking abode, which turned out to be (rather amusingly) a purse museum, of all things! M and I were just glad to get a glimpse inside one of those stereotypically wonderful Dutch Grachtenpands (Canal houses)built by merchants and traders during the country's Golden Age.

Inside the Purse Museum - we didn't feel dressed for the cafe!

We wandered a lot that first cloudy day, ending up near the city's zoo, to the east of the centre. We didn't enter, I'd never been to a zoo and it was pretty expensive (like,€36 for the two of us I think, ticket's hidden upstairs though..)so, we weren't too sure. I think we were both tired and wanting somewhere we could have tea at. 

view from outside the zoo.

Mat had a tomato and cheese sandwich/baguette from a little store on this street, around the corner from the pink and gold, opposite the Zoo.
One thing I noticed wandering the outskirts of the touristy centre, was just how quiet a city it is, so many peaceful streets where we passed nobody for stretches of time. Another was that the place is a cut-above all others I've visited in terms of cleanliness, friendliness and wealth I suppose. The weeds are even classy, Hollyhocks for god's sake!

When we finally arrived in Poland at the end of July I sent my grandmother a letter with some watercolour illustrations of the hollyhocks, how they cheered me out of homesickness while reminding me of the gardens I'd left behind!

We also noticed a few very well cared for old cars lining the canal streets. Not just symbols of money, but, taste. There are plenty of extortionately priced new cars for the ample-bouilloned chap, but splashing out on a mint old mobile is at least demonstrating style.

Oh bonjour mon petit beauté!

We wandered some more before making our way back to Jaap's place in the lacklustre twilight.

A nicely emptied Dam Square, and bubbles!

In my dream a few nights back I was in a HUGE warehouse with a giant murky pool going through the middle, with a few of the above type of ferries going from side to side - it was creepy.

Thanks for the first day Amsterdam (we were much excited for the next!).

We awoke on the second day, excited by the expanse of time ahead of us in the city. We wandered over to the EYE institute (an impressive building designed by Zaha Hadid - much admired by Mateusz)as it was a short walk from Jaap's place. There were film screenings, beautiful montages and recordings and little surreal bits of interactive installation. It was brilliant. 

As we left the EYE we noticed the day brightening, beckoning our feet to walk all over and inside it, revelling in it's surfaces and contours, basking in the newness of an unfamiliar city in sun.

The world in plastic bottles, just outside EYE, opposite Centraal station.

We walked over to the city library, not far from the station, just across the river from our host's house. The Bibliotheek (library) was some kind of wonder, a mix of modern art gallery, science museum, centre of culture, and of course, library. I particularly loved the little models, though am unsure what they were there for (I'm hoping, just because). We used the Wi-Fi to find out about what was up in the city that day (some Jazz in the evening as it happened) and to send messages to family letting them know we were alive. We ventured to the roof after our research to have our first cuppas of the day and to take in the town (the library refectory was beautiful, as was the view, incidentally I have never known a library to serve alcohol! I recall M had a super sickly hot chocolate (I think White!) with cream). We then walked over to the NEMO science centre to check out the building and see how pricy it was to explore (too pricy for us to be inside on such a glorious day), after NEMO we passed an odd hotel that M wanted to look inside of (it was odd, a fancy, spotless, gothic, church-dungeon of a thing).

Such Sun!

Living the Dutch dream...

Another beautiful Citroen!

A polaroid I'd taken that morning on top of the library.

Sun on the Museumplein.

Giraffe cyclist.

After our sunny ambles we headed over to Jaap's to change for the evening's music, and to let him know we'd be home after dark.

Jazz sax at the Alto.

After dark, after wine, after amaretto on ice and after jazz, in the artificially-lit streets, my inner-voyeur crept out. I'm sorry I didn't take my digital SLR with us (fear of theft despite it's modest price), all of these photographs were taken on my iPhone 3, clearly displaying it's flaws in shots of poor light or in darkness. Nevertheless, Amsterdam at night sure is pretty, all those glorious windows! Streetlight and their glare are the bane of the night-stalker's life, as such many of the shots are oddly angled to block out the lamps, and many of the more dazzling window scenes weren't captured. I saw them with my eyes though.

Back to Jaap's in our tipsy-giddy mood.

The next day wasn't quite so sunny and we'd packed in a lot of wandering the previous couple of days, so, we thought we'd try out the Del Artis (the name of the zoo), we'd also been super good with the budget thus far and were able to pull forward the week's savings for a Saturday at the zoo.


American Hotel

Hello hoofed creatures!

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Birdhouse (in my soul!)

M strokes a bird

Taking Terns!

It's hard to tell and impossible to convey my excitement, but these were Bleeding Heart pigeons!!! Briefly described and illustrated ("Fixation 1") in this post from earlier in 2012. 

Pelican Brief

Oh hey fellas!

Fellow visitors, free entry for these sneaks though!

It's a weird place, I liked the birds (I love birds), and they're relatively small in stature (and some are allowed to fly off but return to the promise of food), but I felt so shit about the larger animals, it's a small site, and I can't help feeling it's abuse no matter how kind the "keepers" are, I mean, if you're in prison with a kind and thoughtful guard, sure it'd be nicer, but, it's still very much a prison.

Grey Crowned Crane

I have a hard time reconciling my desire to see at close range, exotic and beautifully odd creatures that I'd never be able to afford to see in their natural habitat, and my love of those creatures and unwillingness to take part in their maltreatment or incarceration. As I've mentioned, this was my first time at a zoo, and from what I've read, as they go, the little zoo in Amsterdam isn't too bad, modest in it's number of animals, high in it's number of trained and passionate staff. I do feel bad though, despite the fact that the high cost of entry goes toward the standards of the place and conservation charities, I don't think I'll be visiting a zoo again. I wonder, are aquariums of little fish and invertebrates as bad? 

A year after this picture was taken I was drawing and stamping images of such creatures on soon-to-be tiled swimming pools!

After my days at CBD in Denbigh this will always be known as "Brain Coral"

We moved on to the Butterfly house, which was a little traumatic as the erratic way they fly frightens me and leaves me in a panic. Yes, fear of butterflies enters a butterfly house. Gotta conquer these things.

Despite the unquestionable attractiveness of those winged devils, the little tank where the cocoons were incubated and the live and preserved beetles were the best parts. Love Beetles.

On our way out of the zoo I snapped a quick B&W polaroid (I was taking a photo a day on my One Step 600 camera, each day can be seen here) and we walked yet again through the beautify dappled streets. We only took a tram once, that morning in the torrential downpour after getting off the megabus at Zeeburg at early o' clock, not because it wasn't pleasant, rather, Amsterdam is such an easy city to walk, pretty much flat, not too big, and FULL of beauty that you wouldn't want to miss or see through a screen (except the screen of your computer as you race through my wonder-blog of course, ho ho!).  

Anne Frank Museum 263 Prinsengracht.

On our last night in Amsterdam we shared a bottle of red by the canals, swigging, cup-less, just walking by the lit-windows. The next day, our last, as Sunday evening we were catching a train to Berlin (leaving at 9pm, arriving before 8am, with a stop for a few hours in Duisburg station at around 3am - so we still had a full day of chilling to get in before the travelling commenced again) we decided, as it was Sunny and Sunday, that we'd go for a lie-down in the Vondelpark (absolutely packed with Dutch families and students, I don't really like crowds but these were at least amicable and enjoying themselves nicely and not overtly rowdily). There's live music there every Sunday through the summer, for free. First I washed a week of my pants in the sink and set them out to dry on the roof of Jaap's building of course!

Not bad for a cinema, not used to these at home nowadays, everything's plastic and glass!

It's difficult to tell (perhaps I'll scan my found feathers soon) but there were free, or "wild" Ring-necked parakeets. I'd noticed a few flying high over Ijplein and some other parts of the city (Del Artis) in the week, but I guess they must live in the Vondelpark (being the city's largest park) because there were large numbers of these acid-green tropical birds zipping about overhead! Jaap told me they'd escaped from the zoo some years back and had since colonised the big park, go birds!

After the park (and what sounded like "Micheal Van Buble" crooning - M's words!) we walked back slowly to the station, crossed over on the ferry and gathered our belongings up to be at the train station an hour early. The bags were ridiculously weighty, but it was only a 5 minute walk (if that) to the ferry port from Jaap's and a 2 minute walk to the platform from the port across the river.

Last Polaroid in Amsterdam.

Jaap's strange decor.

Fare-thee well room of three nights!

Then for another night of travel!

I love to take photographs of train stations and other such places of departure and wanderlust, the cables, mysterious wires, the different types of train and coloured carriages with logos emblazoned on their flanks. Lights, clocks, reflections. I'm not a fan of taking a photograph through a dirty window, or of glare and reflections of myself instead of focus being on the distance and the thing I want to share, but, no matter how flat I held my phone up to the glass some of the soot from outside seems to have crept in to every single photo I took of the passing scenery (passing things at great speed and trying to focus is also troublesome!). Having said that, I think they do convey something of the mood. Indeed, that's pretty much the same view I had of things, through the grimy screens, but I have amazing human eyes capable of focusing beyond the capabilities of a lowly iPhone 3. 

It was the perfect end to an amazing 4 days in the capital of the Netherlands.

The start of a few hours wait in Duisburg, oh Duisburg! You bugger.

About to leave again for Berlin

Just about arrived, next stop, Alexanderplatz!

This is us, for the next 4 full days and nights at least!

Looking back, particularly at the travel, but also the sleeping arrangements too, I can't believe we managed to pull it all off without a hitch, no missed connections, no lost luggage, nothing left behind and nothing stolen. It's a feat! Particularly carrying around 2 weeks spending money in Euros around the whole time because we didn't want bank charges. Two crazy (one forgetful one anxious) introverts managed to navigate 5 capital cities (Cardiff, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin) and pass through 7 countries (Wales, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Poland) unscathed in a fortnight. It's important to look back if you tend to think of yourself as a coward, especially a coward who nevertheless yearns to travel again (but keeps telling herself it'll go wrong, you're dirt poor, you need someone with you etc., etc.,), it shows that, really, you're not such a wimp. If you'd told me as a teen (even at the beginning of University!) that I'd take the bus and train to foreign lands and stay with strangers (yes, strangers) on nothing more than good faith and some idealised visions, I would have looked at you in most odd a manner. Maybe that's why I've been dreaming Dutch recently, a reminder.

I'm likely starting work again soon, as a Barrista (in training and on minimum wage) in Swansea, I'm saddened at the prospect of having my time carved up for me by a corporation for a pittance, but, the people I've met so far are lovely and at least I won't make enough to be taxed much, and should have some money (if I stay at home, which, I have no choice over since I'm not going to be able to afford to move out on that wage) to save for another adventure sometime. I long to see Paris, the riviera, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Vienna, Prague, south to the Med again and around the coast to Croatia, Albania and Greece. Or just some place where the air is different, the people less grey, the noises less familiar and the flora alien and fragrant... Someday.