Tuesday, 31 August 2010
The pilot finally winched down from the helicopter to the ship, to cheers from grateful passengers. He guided us into the port, where two tugs took over to slowly place us gently into our docking bay. 22km on the coach put us in the centre of Amsterdam and all that remained was the half-mile walk to the Hotel, but then, the wheels on my suitcase dropped off! There was a 3 year guarantee on it when I bought it last year! Guarantees are just about useless, don’t you think? For a start, you never keep the guarantee document and receipt because you think that if they are willing to offer ‘three years’, it must be bloody good. I am certain that manufacturers design products now to last just beyond their guarantee. When you bought anything in the 60’s it lasted for 20 years, but now, most things conk out after two.
Had a little one hour tour of the canal system followed by a sprint through the red light district . Well I was trying to take my time, there was a lot to see, but I felt like Ben Hur’s chariot as Beverley took up the slack and pulled me on! Ladies from around 16 to 50, sat in windows looking out at mainly tourists who were just stunned at what they were seeing. Must admit, they all scared the hell out of me!
Let me tell you about my Mother. She is from a lovely little town in the Republic of Ireland called Stradbally. I don’t know any details of her childhood, because like her brothers and sisters, they don’t talk much to their kids about that. Maybe on day she will write it all down for us, or even start a blog. I know that she came from a very poor farming family and had a very strict father and a very loving mother. She has two brothers and five sisters, two who are sadly not with us now. She also had a less than pleasant time in the convent school that she attended, perhaps no wonder then, she headed for London as soon as she was able. She met my Dad and had she not, I would not have been writing this now, but they were not really meant for each other. She was young, a bit naive but beautiful. He was charming, very sharp but protective, and that’s what she needed being a new girl in town.
It was not easy in the 50’s for a young Irish girl in London. The signs on most pub doors and many other buildings read, ‘No blacks, No Irish, No dogs’. In reality, the dogs could get away with it. She struggled all her life to fit in, thinking that she was some way inferior, where in reality she was as good as anyone. As a child I remember how resourceful she was in making money stretch. She could unravel an old jumper and knit a larger size by the next day. She found it hard to show physical affection to her children but then so did all her siblings. I guess it was a generational thing. She worked very hard all the time when we were kids and we never really wanted for anything. She had to always tip toe around my Dad, as we all did, and that made life difficult for her. Even now she lives with so many regrets and she shouldn’t, because she always did what she thought was best for us all at the time. That’s all any of us can ever really do, don’t you agree?
Today we made a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, well worth the effort. A year ago I would not have gained the same enjoyment from such a visit, but thanks to people like Frances, Katie & Alan at the University, it was a dream. I think that you have to have at least some knowledge of drawing, etching or painting before you can really appreciate what you are looking at. The thing I admire most about Van Gogh is that he was very much self taught and very poor, but still became a world renowned artist. He gained nothing financially from his art during his life time, doing everything for the pleasure it gave him. He killed himself after suffering increasing mental problems over many years, despite the support of a brother who was always there for him. A truly remarkable man, if only he could see the status that he attained after his death.
Anne Frank’s house was very disappointing. She was deservedly a true legend of her time and I pay full tribute to her as an amazing individual, who’s life was cut short under such tragic circumstances. I felt herded into the house, it was a passage that you could not deviate from and people were bundled through. The route took us through 3 floors where we were stopped for brief videos, always seeming to arrive half way through a video then having to watch the beginning again. Quotes from her diary were engraved at appropriate intervals on the stairs and in the rooms. The route predictably ended with a track straight through the gift shop and out! I didn’t feel as if I had been in a house, more of a 300 yard long corridor. The message that Anne sent us through her diaries was one of hope for mankind, but had she seen this so called tribute to her she would have put both fingers down her throat. It was a true symbol of capitalism at it’s worse. How to make a fortune out of a young girl, who died in the very worse of circumstances? A little bit sick, but that's what the world spins on now!