Wednesday 18 September 2019

Tulips in Amsterdam

I mislead you... there weren’t any tulips (except for masses of artificial ones in the flower market) but we have been in Amsterdam for the weekend. On Friday morning we were up at 4.30 am to catch a five o’clock train into London. Is it just me or is there something exciting about getting up in the middle of the night to go on holiday. I’m sure it goes back to my childhood when we would be bundled into the back of the car before it was light to make an early start down to the West Country for our annual camping holiday. As children I’m not sure we arrived any earlier but on Friday we were on a direct train from St. Pancras by 7.15 and in Amsterdam by midday. So much easier than flying.

I had pre-booked tickets for the Anne Frank house as we missed visiting on our one and only other trip to Amsterdam. I read her diary when I was at school probably at the same age as Anne when she went into hiding but I'm not sure how much it meant to me at the time. However actually seeing where the family spent two years hidden made it seem so much more real. I am always concerned that visiting somewhere like this might feel a little voyeuristic but it was certainly interesting and worth doing, if only to serve as a reminder of the atrocities of the past and how easily it can be for a society to embrace racist and fascist beliefs. A lesson for today I feel.

As with any city break there was also much walking, eating and drinking. Amsterdam is such a picturesque city that there are plenty of spots just to sit with a drink in hand to watch the world and boats go by!

We stayed at an AirBnB, a lovely apartment to the west of the city but withing easy walking distance of the centre. On our first evening we ventured out to a bar for our supper, recommended by our AirBnB hosts. The meal was lovely but we probably raised the average age of the rest of the clientele by about twenty years. We felt particularly old when the waiter asked us if the music was too loud for us! We actually enjoyed the mostly 1960s/70s music and watching the crowds of young people out relaxing and enjoying themselves on a Friday night. When I sent a message to our hosts to tell them we enjoyed their recommendation the response was "Ah yes, Friday night is party night at Cafe Thuys for young people - but typical Dutch experience". Perhaps the fact that our hosts looked no more than early thirties from their photos should have given me a clue, but we enjoyed our evening so much more than if we had gone somewhere touristy.

The following morning was a slow start and after brunch and a vist to the Oude Kerk (Old Church), rather ironically situated in the middle of the Red Light District, we met up with our friends Janet and Pete who moved to the Netherlands about a year ago. With them as our guides we spent another delightful afternoon wandering along canals, exploring markets, stopping for the occasional beer and just generally enjoying a sunny afternoon in the city. 

On Sunday morning we caught the bus out to Janet and Pete's home in Edam, a beautiful small city just 20 km north of Amsterdam.

After sampling some rather good Dutch apple cake, we spent another fine day wandering down to the lakeside, via their allotment, past many typical Dutch homes.

After a refreshment stop we returned via a different route and found ourselves back in the city with time to vist De Knijp (The Nip) a tiny little pub full of character, only open seven hours a week.

Whilst there we sampled the local liqueur... the Dutch way. The little tulip glasses are filled to the very top so full that the only way to move them is to slurp some off the top first... Proost!

On our last day we had a very leisurely boat trip around the canals of Amsterdam and another little wander before catching our train back home. It's been a while since we had a break and it was just what we needed... nothing like some walking, eating, drinking and time spent with good friends to recharge the batteries!

Saturday 7 September 2019

Second Hand September

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was signing up for Oxfam's Second Hand September - A month of not buying any new clothes. But as I don't buy that many clothes anyway it didn't seem much of a challenge for just a month. So a friend and I have pledged to not buy any new clothes for a whole year, except for necessary underwear. Second hand knickers are a no, no! We both like to do a little dress making so we are allowing ourselves that luxury, although I only intend to use fabric I already own, but other than that is is only going to be second hand clothes or maybe even rediscovering items I've not worn for a long time. I thought it might be fun to document my progress here each month.

The idea behind the campaign is to support a slower and more sustainable consumption. In the UK alone 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill every week - that's 300,000 tonnes every year. More new clothes are bought in the UK than in any other European country. The carbon footprint of producing new clothes is huge, just that of all new clothes bought in the UK each month is the equivilant to flying a plane around the world more than 900 times.
There is also a huge impact on poorer countries (where their carbon footprint is much lower than ours). Their garment workers are not paid a living wage and the textile  industry uses precious water resources making life tougher in poorer areas. And if all that isn't enough the textile industry creates more pollution than aviation and shipping combined.

Something has to change. So I kicked off on September 1st by wearing a new top that I made from fabric from my stash. It is the Camber Set pattern from Merchant and Mills.

To be honest I don't buy much in charity shops but then maybe that's because I don't usually go in looking for clothes. Mostly I go in to take bags of my own things and will usually browse the books or DVDs. I sometimes look at the clothes if I am looking for AmDram costumes or fabric I might use for projects, which is how I ended up with this T-shirt. I bought it for the fabric to cut up for rag rugging as it was reduced to £2 and a nice bright colour. But after giving it a wash I tried it on and liked it and have been wearing it all summer.

But I currently own only two other charity shop finds - a black patterned dress that I love. I wear it in the summer on its own with sandals and in the winter with thick tights and a cardigan. And a Phase Eight skirt that I bought just for the label and because it was only £5. I didn't think it would fit me but reckoned I could sell it on ebay if not. As it happens the sizing is generous and I have worn it for several summers now.

So I shall be perusing charity shops over the next few months, learning to mend and using up my fabric stash... although I probably have more than enough clothes already  as I don't throw much away!

So who's up for joining me in September... or even for the year?