For more than a few years I have kept a journal. As I sat down to write this blog about my present visit to Amsterdam I realized I had no more to share than what I had already written in my journal this morning. And so, gentle reader: for one time only, my journal.
Friday, 29 July 2016
So, here I am again. Back in the HEMA café restaurant overlooking the Stadsplein of Amstelveen. Back with my coffee and double chocolate muffin, my journal and my thoughts.
It has now been five-and-a-half years since we lived around the corner and this was a weekly ritual more important to my well-being than perhaps any other of that time. I wonder how many journal pages I filled in this place. Many.
The intervening years have been far too rich, stressful, complicated and beautiful to review now. All I can say is I am glad for it all and am a better person for it.
Holland! What a wonderful country and society. Sure, it has its own challenges and weaknesses, but being here is like visiting a little bit of the Garden that Adam & Eve managed to preserve for themselves. I love the orderliness, the purposeful city planning, the way people are so comfortable with their bodies (and others’ bodies), the physical exercise built into living, the way men and women relate as equals, the no-bullshit-straightforwardness. God didn’t give the Dutch much, but they’ve taken their meagre inheritance and worked it wisely.
The reason for our being here at this time is the occasion of Sarah & Evan visiting Miriam & Thomas, so giving us the opportunity of seeing them all – and their adorable children! – all at the same time. H & S have left us their home (they are away in the UK), so we have all the comforts we need – plus peace and quiet when the adorableness of all those kids wears thin.
This is my kind of holiday. No crazy Costa, no uncomfortable endless camping trip, no expensive mega-city. Just the refreshment of a new environment and a long string of small pleasures to enjoy at my leisure.
And the neatest thing is that in the few moments when I actually do think about work I don’t have that “Oh shit, I’ve got to get back soon” feeling, but rather an anticipation and happiness about all there is that awaits me. I have become that rare person who loves their work, whose personal circumstances are overwhelmingly positive, whose health is good, and who wants more of the same. (Sure we still carry some $ debt for all that went on in the past few years, but I feel we are the Real 1% – not wealthy in monetary terms, but rich beyond reason in the things that really matter. We must not lose sight of using our position to bless others too.)
As fate would have it, the two weeks of my holiday have corresponded with the two weeks of Republican, then Democratic, conventions. So, not having to wake up early for work, I’ve been watching my fair share of the proceedings in the (for us) late night. At the end of the Republican convention the abiding sentiment was Fear. Fear of each other, fear of politicians, fear of Forces Beyond Our Control. And the solution? Give power to a self-absorbed Reality TV star who has never given a day in his life to public service. A week later, following the Democratic convention, the feeling is the reverse: fear is replaced by hope, pessimism by optimism, exclusion with inclusion, and individualism by the promise of a better society. Two visions of America are on offer and I will most definitely go with the one based on Hope.
Well, the day beckons. It’s market day in Amstelveen so I better get out, buy some cheese and a real loempia, and complete my fill of this tour of the Netherlands.