Discovering the Netherlands.
The subject of my blog was life through my personal art work. During most of my time at work and with Ken, it seems to have been black and white photography. When I look at the number of contact sheets I have and the boxes of A4 prints in my cupboards, my mind boggles at how much time I must have spent in my dark room. The photos usually take the form of collections around themes that I was interested in. There are the community celebrations, the carnival, the raft race, the fishing festival, the triathlon and the long distance running races all to do with people. Alongside those images are a vast collection of trees, sea weed and man made machines.
When I went to Holland for the first time I expected that it would be more or less like England, but I found it to be very different in many ways so I began a kind of photo essay of the things that were special. Of course the reason that we went there in the first place was boating again. We could tow the dinghy and put the canoe on the roof rack. It was in the days when it was so easy. The Olau night time ferry went from Sheerness at about 9pm and docked in Vlissingen very early in the morning, a cabin was quite cheap.
There was some fascination in sailing down the estuary, you could see Herne Bay in the distance, mainly the council tower block opposite the pier. We were very close to the old forts, they looked hauntingly strange. The ship then threaded it’s way through the channels between the drying out sandbanks. I had never realised how complicated the shipping lanes are out there. It is almost like another world inhabited by sea birds, underwater sea creatures and seals. By the time we reached Margate the shore lights had come on.
It was about 6am when we disembarked. Apart from the vehicles coming off the ship the motorway was deserted. We stopped at the first service station and had breakfast. The cafe seemed more civilised that ours. There were fresh rolls, delicious cheeses and cold meats and coffee to die for. We were staying on a campsite but we couldn’t arrive there till the afternoon. Parking up by a little village, we discovered that it was a gala Eel Festival, the whole place was en fete. All the houses were decorated with bunting. It makes such a difference for years afterwards I hung bunting from my house on the day of the carnival but since I was the only one doing it it didn’t make much of an impact. The fishing fleet were flying all their flags and taking people out on free trips. There was a band in the little square and tables and chairs set up. you could sit down and have all sorts of dishes of eel. Smoked, jellied and boiled. I know people feel squeamish about eels but they really are delicious. Sometimes when Ken and I came home from work, for relaxation we took our beach rods to the sea shore just opposite my house and caught eels for our meal. We had own smoker. I’m not sure that I would go fishing now as I used to, I have become more sensitive about cruelty. I did enjoy it though.
What did I notice straight away….
Small bricks-rather old fashioned looking bikes and millions of them- strange looking horses-decorative hangings in the windows- not pulling the curtains at night-boats everywhere-flat lands-dykes-dog mess-cobbles-brown cafes with carpets on the tables-apple pie-pancakes-up and over canal bridges. These were the immediately noticeable differences. Zeeland is always fighting a battle with the sea. It has a very distinctive culture of it’s own, as indeed have many of the regions in Holland.
Barrel organs and bicycles
Horses with very powerful curved necks.
Huge skies, flat with water everywhere and all kinds of aquatic birds. Dikes and sea walls.
We were rather lucky where we were camping. In the village close by, quite a few older women and men were still wearing traditional costumes for everyday wear. Lots of people were still wearing clogs too, they say they are warm.
We hired bikes to get around on, the cycle ways are so comprehensive. I hadn’t ridden a bike since college days and found it a joyous and liberating experience. When I eventually had to give up driving I was almost more heart broken that I could no longer ride my bike. When we got back to England after that trip we bought two foldable shopping bikes. Later I bought a Brompton.
Just a few miles away from us was the village of Staphorst. It is sometimes called the Dutch Bible Belt. There is one long street. On Sundays people come out of their houses wearing traditional costume and walk together in groups to their church service. It had already become a kind of tourist attraction. There were road signs of cameras with a diagonal cross …no photography. I did feel a bit gawpish and awkward but I did manage to make drawings. I was intending to include some of my photo essay but my negative scanner is not playing ball at the moment…GRRR! I’ll see what happens tomorrow. To be continued….
Staphorst family.and below Staphorst women.