When I lived in Amsterdam, ten years ago, I was informed by a gruff Dutchman that Christmas was an English thing, as he glared disapprovingly at my baubles which I was trying to hang in the foyer of the cable TV station where I worked. My step-ladders barely wobbled as I pointed out that Christmas owes a lot more to the Germans than the Victorians. I decided not to mention that Charles Dickens virtually created the notion of a White Christmas, and went on to highlight the uncanny similarities between the Dutch and the Germans. This led to much angry spluttering and indignant red faces, due to the Nazi occupation of Holland in the Second World War, a fact which seemed to have slipped my mind. Amazingly.
A crowd gathered in the canteen and I decided to make my position even more precarious by reasoning that since Holland was essentially a little bump on the coast of Germany, the Dutch should logically love Christmas too, since they were basically German. Things became rowdy and I was led away to safety. A large man in a pin-stripe suit shouted, ‘You waste your time and our money!’
Now, forgive me, but I really think that was exactly the reason why I moved to Amsterdam in the first place…
The lights of Amsterdam
You try and spread a little Christmas cheer… Now, of course, ten years later and the Dutch have finally realised what a money-spinner the Yuletide season really is, and embraced it with a ferocity which blows my hair back. The landscape has changed in other ways too. In my time, Amsterdam was cool. It was a cultural hub and a gay mecca, the liberalism of the hippy afterburn a perfect foil for the staunch conservatism which flowed beneath the surface. Both the European City of Culture and a beautifully preserved Bohemian paradise.
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While we wait for poor UK Primo Daisy Cameron to chew over a decision on exactly how much daylight the British are allowed in winter, we shiver in the dark, necking Vitamin D and trying to remember the Basic Rules of Tactical Voting. While Daisy dithers, you may need some colour and light in your life! Here are some random images which I took on my travels, focusing on colour and texture.
I love the way these glass bottles overlap, inventing new shapes and colours between them in the Castro, San Francisco.
A beautiful Greek summer, with hot reds and pinks on the balcony.
There’s something about crude fiberglass mouldings that says you’re at the seaside.
Categories: Photography, Random, Travel, Vibe Monitor
Tags: Barcelona, colour, Gaudi, Greece, photography, San Francisco, shape, texture, Travel
Liverpool keeps the dream alive. I went to see The Beatles Exhibition and John Lennon’s Memorial, mingling with Japanese tourists and ageing hippies. If you go to Cavern Walks, you get the feeling you’re in a Beatles theme park. Slightly more interesting is the Hard Days Night Hotel and The Beatles Shop where I bought tshirts and a Dinky Yellow Submarine.
Categories: Music, Photography, Random, Travel, Vibe Monitor
Tags: Hard Days Night Hotel, hippies, Imagine, John Lennon, Liverpool, Music, photography, The Beatles, The Beatles shop, The Beatles Story Exhibition, Travel, Vibe Monitor, Yellow Submarine
‘What exactly do we call these Abu Dhabian, Dubian people?’ asked my friend Gordon brightly one morning. ‘Arabs,’ I replied.
In the spirit of Las Vegas, Arab princes compete with each other to see who can build the tallest tower, importing foreign culture wholesale. In the case of Dubai, the West is best and Stetsons can be seen amongst the dish-dashes and kanduras. The architecture is stunning, hotels monumental. This is where money lives.
It’s difficult leaving an island like Santorini, particularly if you’re returning to the smouldering shops of Manchester. I will never complain about 35°C again. Everything they say about it is true: it’s impossibly beautiful, and seems to get more breath-taking every time you turn a corner. We had a garden apartment with a sea view, like a little Barbary Lane with a sun terrace and jacuzzi on the roof. There were lazy days soaking up the rays and nights were spent in the stylish cave-bars and restaurants which cling to the cliffs, watching the cruise ships and shuttles glowing far beneath us like deep-sea creatures in the dark. You could be forgiven for thinking you’ve woken up on the set of Mama Mia, and the sunsets looked like something out of a movie. I left my heart in San Francisco, but my flip-flops belong to Santorini.