The photo below is one of the last shots of the Dutch landscape I took before our departure from the Netherlands. I snapped it on my phone out the window of an intercity train from Leiden, eindbestemming Den Haag Centraal (please excuse the graininess caused by the window). It captures well the feature of the landscape in the Netherlands that makes it so completely different to what we are used to in New Zealand (and particularly in Wellington): it is flat as far as the eye can see, not a hill – or even a hint of undulation – apparent. Fences are unnecessary on farms, as the small canals act as demarcating lines, mostly straightened through human intervention. On clear days, you can see to the next – or the next after the next – city or town, its skyline popping up in the distance. That always seemed quite amazing to me. As our time living in the Netherlands passed, we became accustomed to this flatness, but it never seemed normal or natural to either PJD or me. PJD recently chatted with an Aucklander who had spent time in the Netherlands on vacation, and who found the flat nature of the land, devoid of hills or mountains, made him feel distinctly unsettled, irritable. Neither of us had such a strong reaction, but as we travelled in Europe, we always found ourselves strangely excited to land in a place where we had to climb up slight (London, for example), or even extreme inclines (Barcelona, Luxembourg). We reacted excitedly to anecdotes of being able to find hills in the Netherlands as if they had some mythical quality (yes, they do exist, but you have to travel to Limburg to find them!).
Now that we are back in Wellington, hills are on the horizon in every direction that they eye can see. In contrast to where we have been, they are a novelty; at the same time though, they are comforting and familiar (not sure if the comfort factor will remain once we start climbing them again!). They bring a drama and variation to the land which I have missed. Soon enough, I’ll get some pictures up to show you what I mean. For now though, a part of me certainly does miss the serene flat fields of the Netherlands.
Photo by CIA between Leiden and Den Haag, the Netherlands, 19 September 2012.
I am happy to be privileged enough to remember a moment like this one:
Some of you out there might have felt the consequences of the attempts by the United States to extradite Kim Dotcom from New Zealand. His Megaupload site was widely used by many people worldwide, to the chagrin of many.
What I am now following with interest is the political saga regarding alleged illegal surveillance, and the effect this is having on the body politic. Enjoy this video (via New Zealand Herald) of Prime Minister John Key being grilled in Parliament.
There’s more here.
I have missed politics in a language I understand. Following from afar is not half so much fun, and politics is always local.
The ambitious narrative structure is what first caught me with David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. As I was pulled deeper into each part of the novel’s Russian doll-style story, it was the characters and their complex, interwoven state which sucker-punched me, and I as hooked. It appealed to my nature as a reader — the novel wove the stories of the characters together in a clever way, and Mitchell’s skill at pastiche* is exploited to its fullest extent.
Nevertheless, Cloud Atlas divides people. The London Review of Books, for example, suggested that perhaps Mitchell’s novel lacked a solid core, and that the novel itself, by working to demonstrate how small the world was (with the interwoven nature of past, present and future) worked towards a very conservative world view. On the other hand, writing for the Guardian, A.S. Byatt could not have been more glowing in her praise of the novel.
Regardless of the mixed critical reception, I loved the novel. I still do.
When the intended adaptation to film was mentioned to me by CIA some time ago, I pushed the thought far out of my mind: “you cannot possibly turn this book into a film; it’ll be awful!”. A year later, in the middle of a Reykjavík living room, we talked about the extended trailer, which my friends had seen, but I had not…
As we walked across the square in front (to the side?) of the Royal Library of Belgium, I spotted this cosy reading spot. I liked how nonchalant the reader seemed to be, the pose one of studied relaxation.
Is she really as relaxed as she looked? The angle of her legs seems a little uncomfortable, the breeze a little cold. But there she remained, calm as you like. And there is no question, she is as solitary as one can be in the middle of a busy square in a busy city.
Photo by PJD, of a complete stranger, Brussels, August 2011. Apologies to the stranger for this opportunistic picture. I hope you don’t mind too much.
Photos by PJD, Koi Pond, Changi Airport, Singapore