Friday, February 27, 2009

Antwerp, Part II

I just searched for Hendrik Conscienceplein, my favourite place here in the city and found this site with some stunning panoramic shots of some of my favourite Antwerpen places.

I think it gives a sense of some of the beauty here in the old city.

A Flemish advertisement that made me smile.

Rough translation:
Everyone prefers dancing to the music of their youth.
So you know what is waiting you ...
drink milk now for later.

Pete McGregor, Blogger

A smell contains worlds.

This morning the kitchen smells of jasmine and sandalwood and lapsang souchong tea, smoke tinged with piney resin, a glimpse of a mountainside in a strange land, in a time alive in a stranger's deep memory. Old, crazy poets drinking alone in cloud forests, laughing at reflections in mountain streams, waiting to follow the fast flight of birds as they disappear around the mountain, beyond those great, mist-wreathed cliffs, on beyond knowledge into oblivion.

I wish I had written this but you can read more of this man's beautiful writing and view his stunning photographs over on Pete's blog.

Thanks to Frida for showing the way to this powerful taste of home.


Perhaps Antwerp city is like one of those people you fall in love with sometimes, that love where you fall in love so very quietly that you don't realise until one day you look up and see how it is.

There's a little of that feeling today, as I sit here in my favourite city cafe, near the wooden and glass doors that create the front wall and open out to sidewalk tables in summer. Closed today, they cocoon us in the soft warmth that is inside the Via Via Reis Cafe, with our cappuchinos and their excellent music making it difficult to stand up and wander away.

I was escaping the chaos of our school holiday home, the one that seems full of small people with their circus-like noises and mess. Reading on the tram from the suburbs, walking through Italian-designed Conscienceplein to arrive here - a cappuchino, free wifi, my table with a view and voila ... there was this idea that somehow, while not paying attention perhaps, I had fallen in love with this flat Belgian city I call home.
I was clearing my inbox ... the inbox I spent hours going through the other day, in an effort to gain some control in my life and now, I try to spend a few minutes just dealing with mail I would normally put to one side ... for later, when I have time.

But the problem is that while I was doing that this morning, I was broadsided by a desire for 'things'.

Paul Kelly, a favourite singer of mine, is offering a deluxe package over on his website ...

I have almost reasoned myself out of it.

But fresh from that battle of wanting, I walked into another newsletter I had signed up with and was easily convinced that this might be a book I would enjoy.

I have never found my favourite song, Midnight Rain, online but here's something else by Paul.

If curious, you can read more of the song's subject here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One's prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must live it to the full.
Miss Brodie, taken from a scene in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Thank you to Francessa. (and Lydia.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I imagine ...

Ropes, Honfleur, originally uploaded by - di.

in reality, these ropes are a hazard but through the lens, they invited a photographic attempt ...

Art, Honfleur

Art, Honfleur, originally uploaded by - di.

And this sight simply made me smile ... an art work alone on a street next to the Saturday market.

Boats ...

The wee boat sitting in the reflection of the big boat appealed immensely too.

Some images from Honfleur, France

Black Bike, Honfleur, originally uploaded by - di.

For some reason, this bike appealed to my photographer's eye and voila, a pigeon flew in just in time to complete it all ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The weekend ...

fishing boat, honfleur, france, originally uploaded by - di.

Although it was foggy and grey in Honfleur, the reflections still did their thing in the marina.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

And home again ...

a beach on the French Coast, originally uploaded by - di.

1200kms of wandering, in a car driven by Gert - beach-hopping on our way back from Honfleur - a beautiful little village in France.

I love two things about France (and so much more but) ... the food (the quality and the price of it) and the fact that it is cheaper to have wine with that food than it is to buy coke or coffee.

I love the wide-open spaces once you drive away from the highways.

It was good to be there again, and it's good to be home.

Gert gave me some lessons in landscape photography and I'm so very pleased with the results. This one was taken as we walked off the beach. Something made me look back and voila, we had 2 seconds of this light.

Friday, February 20, 2009

France has been good to me ...

My first meal in France was a plat du jour (or plate of the day) ... stuffed leg of duck (stuffed, in a good way) in a pepper cream sauce, with fries and all kinds of salady yummy things and red wine that was cheaper and so much nicer than coca cola.

Tonight ... oh tonight, that was this incredible delicate salmon with some kind of light potato mash in a red wine sauce with a waiter-selected Haut Medoc red for drinking.

A talented live jazz band in a beautifully picturesque French village.

Tomorrow the market, armed with the camera where it is possible that good cheese may be bought and many photographs will be taken.

Au revoir!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Barista Workshop, Antwerp.

Barista Workshop, Antwerp., originally uploaded by - di.

I'm just in from an excellent night out tonight.

You see, I had wanted to write an article on one of my favourite coffee cafes here in the city and then suddenly had the opportunity to attend one of their 2 hour barista workshops.

I always forget the difficulty of participating and/or doing an interview while taking the photographs. My very first handmade cappuccino was okay but I had hoped for perfection and my love heart on top was all but unrecognisable.

The course began with a 20 minute movie and talk by the guy running the course - I actually learnt a lot. There were things I wish I didn't now know about coffee however knowing does mean I'll be a little more selective in which coffees I buy.

If in Antwerpen and curious, you can check out Kaldi's website here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sperlygirl posted this song by Lisa Hannigan and I am pleased to have found her.
Thanks Ms Sperly.
New Zealand is the most far-off country in the world, for the good reason that if you try to go any further than New Zealand you start coming back again.
Wallace Reyburn, Flushed with Pride (Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1971), p. 74

One of my favourite colleagues made me smile with this quote.
Thanks Gidon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

2am ... still working

a roman puddle, originally uploaded by - di.

I'm trying to process Friday's photo-shoot for a colleague who only has a couple of days in the office this week.

Earlier this evening I was telling a Roman friend that even the puddles in Rome were beautiful. I was talking of this ... and now, of course, I'm thinking about how good it will be to return there in March.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I had been reading of the Melbourne fires, I have friends and family living in Australia but I couldn't imagine the scenes survivors were describing.

The Age newspaper has a video clip of a fire approaching the home of a man who filmed until the spot fires needed attention and who, before he headed for the fire bunker, experienced his sunglasses beginning to melt on his face.

Last Night on the Tram ...

a gift, originally uploaded by - di.

Gert and I travelled to the Marlene Dietrich concert on the tram and while waiting, an older woman talked with us.

She was pure delight and somehow the conversation turned to age.

I really really hesitated to guess that she might be 70 but her face was beautifully lined and there was something about her.

It turned out that she was the baby sister in a family of long-lifers. She was 81 and just heading out after an afternoon of volunteer work at the hospital ...

I was stunned.

We continued our conversations, making space as a small group of women boarded a few stops down the road. It turned out that she was good friends with one of them - they meet every week to have conversations in different languages. English one week, Spanish another ... just for fun.

I adored her, of course.

We only talked for perhaps 30 minutes and I was sad to say bye.
And then as we were leaving, she touched my arm to get my attention and handed me the chocolate hearts you see in the photograph here.

A truly remarkable woman, I thought.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

... this woman was not created by contemplation to be what everyone wants her to be, one for many. She emerges, is displayed, her wings rise, and, behold, she returns the look!
Elfriede Jelinek

From the official Marlene Dietrich website.

If she had nothing more than her voice she could break your heart with it. But she has that beautiful body and the timeless loveliness of her face. It makes no difference how she breaks your heart if she is there to mend it.
Ernest Hemingway

Leah Thys, Actress, Part-time goddess (aka the Flemish Marlene Dietrich.)

They repeated the concert advertised here tonight and my goodness, it was superb.

Gert and I first saw Leah as Marlene back in September 2006 and I wrote of that visit to another theatre here. She was as magical tonight.

Marlene herself.

Busy days ahead ...

Monday I start an online course with the talented Susannah ; Wednesday I'm attending and photographing a barista workshop here in the city; Thursday there is the whirling dervish performance (I hope my camera is allowed in); and then Friday I'm off and wandering.

In the coming month, there's a trip on the Thalys to Paris (25euro each way) to visit with Tara for some long conversations and photography; a flight to Rome to collect some stories for the new website, and then mid-March the loveliest London-based Australian friend arrives for a few days.

I'm having a lesson with my web designer now that the new website is all but ready to load Monday I think and then I want to fit in a visit to the Marcel Niels Museum of Oriental Art here in the city sometime during the week.

I hope to finish the last of the work newsletter tomorrow and distribute that next week, then process and deliver the photographs I took in Oostende before 18 February.

I picked up the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L usm lens today, the one I need for the Berlin/Middle East project and replaced the phone lost by Jessie.

I do believe I'm back in the world again ...

Have a lovely Valentines Day where ever you are and if you don't believe in that stuff, then happy weekend to you.

Shashikiran, Blogger

I guess those who have read me for know that I am a huge fan of Shashikiran's site . I wandered in there this morning, tired from yesterday and enjoying the sun pouring in through the east window and was so very delighted to find a beautiful slice of Istanbul over there.

Friday, February 13, 2009

At the beach ...

At the beach ..., originally uploaded by - di.

We left the workshop and headed out into the freezing cold thin wind on an exercise and 'this' was the quality of the light out there.

Unfortunately hypothermia was just a heartbeat away so I had to wander off not long after this shot.

A 12 hour today ...

Remarkable, originally uploaded by - di.

Today I met and photographed the most remarkable people.

A 2 hour train trip, a little bit of lost, a whole lot of fun and conversations about truly incredible things.

It ended down on a freezing cold beach with stunning last light.

It was a good day.

Interviews to follow on the new website in the months ahead ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marta Sebestyen, Szerelem

This song has haunted me since hearing it on the English Patient...

Monday, February 09, 2009


Some days we have need of silence and time away from the world, just to save ourselves from drowning in the life that surrounds us, activities we've created but can't sustain endlessly without some kind of input from someplace else.

A friend threw a lifeline this morning. She wrote asking if Vienna was close if she attended a conference held there.

I wrote back, 'Of course!'

And she wrote back asking if I had time for Italy and/or Greece while she over.
You can imagine, I replied with another 'Of course!'.

We ended up talking on skype and imnmediately fell into the conversation and laughter of old friends reunited. We talked about everything. She's a wise woman, a doctor of clinical psychology, a writer, a person who used to walk beaches and drink wine with me back in the dark days of my marriage breakdown.

I miss the messy time-consuming deliciousness of that kind of friendship here in this country not my own ... but perhaps it is complicated by the fact that my life is no longer just my own.

Back then, before I was 20 and still in Dunedin, there were people like Fiona and Liz, Paul and Martin and Chris - to name just a few. There were long conversations, motorbikes and horses on days that, in memory, seem long and sunfilled, quite unlike this Belgian life I live now. Afterwards, moving towns every few years there were people like Anne in Cromwell, Christine in Marlborough, Sue in Te Anau, Corryl and Pippa on my return to Dunedin and so many more I can't name because the list would probably seem long and boring to anyone but me.

There's an Italian saying 'Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro'. I've carried that with me in a tatty old journal for years. I have been told it translates as, he who finds a friend finds a treaure.
It is surely true.

And so, my day turned around some ... from a day filled by an unrelenting load of work that has to be complete by Wednesday, and other work that has to be finished as soon as possible, it became a day with a little bit of hope that one of those great spirits who sustained me in my past, might wander into this life for a while and fill it with good conversations and the easy laughter of an old friendship.

I hope so.
'In maturity, it is necessary, mankind has discovered, to suppress outbursts of strong emotion - joy, rage, grief - that may, in their irrationality, disturb the general peace. The Greeks came to fear those who threw themselves against the will of the gods. The grave choruses of the tragedies continually warn, caution, and seek to make reasonable the man or woman in the throes of whatever overweening passion; the gods are sure to punish such pride.

Yet is it true, and always has been, that innocence of heart and violence of feeling are necessary in any kind of superior achievement; the arts cannot exist without them.

(It is a rare individual who can) keep hold of these dangerous qualities, in a pure state and to a highly operative degree, into the years when most people have lost them for good.

May Sarton.
Journal of a Solitude.

someplace else

dreaming about someplace else, originally uploaded by - di.

Let me say this too that people don't read the journals to discover me; they read the journals to discover themselves.
May Sarton, an interview.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The wafel shop, Antwerpen Zoo

Zoo wafels, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

It was so unbelievably bone-chillingly cold that day.

Maybe this image gives you an idea of the bleakness of that particular winter's day.

An excellent day out with the camera though ...

He was smiling at me

he was smiling at me, originally uploaded by - di.

And I'm not certain I like the way his nose is wrinkling up ...

I didn't notice this until tonight.

A documentary I'd like to see

The Music of Resistance is a six-part documentary series that tells the stories of musicians who fight repression and sing about injustices.

They are unique musical personalities from some of the world's most troubled areas - what makes them different is their need to communicate their politics through music.

They are all ambitious and talented but for them 'making it' is not about diamonds and sports cars - it is about radical political change.

They come from Nigeria, Mozambique, the favelas of Brazil, Cape Verde, the desert of the Southern Sahara and inner-city London.

Framed in their historical context and current political circumstances, The Music of Resistance will illustrate their messages through live performances, interviews and images from the communities they sing about and inspire.

Presenter Steve Chandra Savale is the musical force behind Asian Dub Foundation - a London-based group that has for years brought a strong anti-racism message to an international audience.

Computer Game Boy

Computer Game Boy, originally uploaded by - di.

One life ...

man cooking, originally uploaded by - di.

Then quite suddenly a young woman, if she marries, has to diverge completely from this way of life, while her husband simply goes on toward the goals set in college. She is expected to cope not with ideas, but with cooking food, washing dishes, doing laundry, and if she insists on keeping at a job, she needs both a lot of energy and the ability to organise her time. If she has an infant to care for, the jump from the intellectual life to that of being a nurse must be immense. "The work" she may long to do has been replaced by various kinds of labour for which she has been totally unprepared. She has longed for children, let us say, she is deeply in love, she has what she thought she wanted, so she suffers guilt and dismay to feel so disoriented.

Husbands these days can and do help with the chores and, far more important, are aware of the problem and will talk anxiously about it - anxiously because a wife's conflict affects their peace of mind. But the fact remains that, in marrying, the wife has suffered an earthquake and the husband has not. His goals have not been radically changed; his mode of being has not been radically changed.

Extracted from 'A Journal of a Solitude', by May Sarton.

This appealed to me not only because May was writing of the fates of two of her best and most talented writing students but because it tapped into my past.

I will never forget my ex-husband telling me that I wasn't entitled to half of the proceeds from the house because he had earned the money over the years, as we followed his career from city to town.

Women often fail, or are not encouraged, to think about what will happen if a marriage comes to end. Obviously there are many men who also lose everything except their pants in a divorce but it's so important to be careful with educating our selves to survive alone in the world. I'm not sure that there is anything more important ...

Note: no men were harmed in the creation of this photograph however it was Gert who was doing the baking. I found a good man.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Almost blinded by the light

almost blinded by the light, originally uploaded by - di.

This is probably where I went too far and photographed the setting sun through the bamboo fence.

One can never be sure when one's parents were actually telling the truth. Should we or should we not look into the sun.

I've put the camera away and will now return to my life as house vrouw and well-behaved woman.

Tot ziens.

And then the moon was there too.

and then the moon was there too., originally uploaded by - di.

Rising as the sun was going down.

Flemish look-alike Sagrada Familia towers, Antwerpen

Flemish Sagrada Familia towers, originally uploaded by - di.

Out on the balcony and perhaps overcome by window cleaning fumes, I noticed the way the sun was lighting up the chimney things on the roof and was immediately reminded of the towers of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

It was the fumes ... wasn't it.

just playing, originally uploaded by - di.

I'm a wee bit of a photoshop gumbie ... I know very little, although Gert did just buy a big 'how to photoshop CS2' book.

Anyway, I was just playing and like a small child, here I am, putting it out there to show and tell.

A little from my day ...

View from the balcony, originally uploaded by - di.

I was out on the balcony, cleaning the big windows when this thing started happening in the sky ...

I almost blinded myself trying to capture something of the weird beauty that is sunshine and pollution here in the northern hemisphere city of Antwerpen.

It's been an odd day.
I decided, while walking to catch a tram to work on interviews in a cafe in the city, that it really was time I returned to District House for that outstanding paperwork stuff Gert had been nagging me about.

I need an electronic identity card so I can pay my taxes online and because my paper identity card has been so folded and jammed into my wallet for so long that people look quite troubled when I hand it to them ...

I also had to trade in my New Zealand driver's licence - a straight exchange for a Belgian one. I'm not arguing with that but I did get a wee fright when I realised how many years had passed since I had picked it up ... it runs out this year!

I wouldn't enjoy trying to pass a driver test again, in any country.

And then I wandered on over to another desk to ask about citizenship in Belgium. The woman took one look at me and said, no way, impossible!

If you followed the blog over the long months of my arrival in Belgium and subsequent trial by district house as an immigrant, you will immediately understand why I believed she was probably telling the truth - that this kind of outright rejection could occur at district office level.

Then the woman burst out laughing ... and I recognised her. A lovely woman I hadn't seen for a couple of years . She apologised immediately and asked me not to tell Gert, that he would be mad with her. I assured her that he would find it highly amusing and tell me I deserved it.

Unfortunately, because district house lost my papers more than once and took months to let me into the country, I can't apply for citizenship until October 2009.

I wonder if I can become fluent in Flemish Dutch by then ... ;)

talk to the hand, originally uploaded by - di.

Its a Heartache - Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, and Marianne.

I was over visiting at the Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping blog and left smiling over this beautiful youtube of the the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.

I wander there to read of her amazing life but also when I'm in need of a taste of home.

Thanks Marianne.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


This man writes the most beautiful posts ... vignettes that capture whichever place or space he is in.

I think he should allow me to photograph him one day.

May Sarton, Journal of a Soitude

I was having a low day here in the low lands when the postman rang downstairs and delivered a parcel full of delicious things.

Best of all, my book has arrived.

Begin here. It is raining. I look out on the maple, where a few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my 'real' life again at last. That is what is strange - that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and 'the house and I resume old conversations'.

Those who know the reality of my life, know why this might appeal to me, so reading will be my way out of the sadness today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The road is all ...

A staircase someplace in France, originally uploaded by - di.

Raquel gave me the quote, I couldn't resist adding it to a photograph.

This one was taken last summer in France ... somewhere.

The light was stunning.

Monet's Garden, originally uploaded by - di.

How beautiful is this?
Thanks Tara.

May Sarton, Writer

The woman who needs to create works of art is born with a kind of psychic tension in her which drives her unmercifully to find a way to balance, to make herself whole. Every human being has this need: in the artist it is mandatory. Unable to fulfill it, he goes mad. But when the artist is a woman she fulfills it at the expense of herself as a woman.
May Sarton (b. 1912), U.S. poet, novelist.

I have ordered May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude, having read of this book over at Christine's blog often as she has read through this same book.

Who can resist a woman who writes: What kept me going was, I think, that writing for me is a way of understanding what is happening to me, of thinking hard things out. I have never written a book that was not born out of a question I needed to answer for myself. Perhaps it is the need to remake order out of chaos over and over again. For art is order, but it is made out of the chaos of life.
May Sarton.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Waiting for 'Waltz with Bashir'

I went to see Waltz with Bashir this week, not suspecting for a moment that the story it told would have anything to do with me.

That, it turns out, is precisely what the film is about. It has to do with everyone who has been in a war here, which is everyone here. It has to do with all those who have succeeded in getting on with their lives by turning a blind eye to, blaming away, repressing, or somehow ideologically reprocessing genuine, tangible horror. It has to do with the fear of memory here, the reluctance to look inward, the quiet terror over what one might actually uncover. And because it has to do with the moral failings of bitter enemies, we are, every one of us, in the movie.

Bradley Burston, Haaretz.

The article continues here.

And thank you to Giovanni, over at his truly interesting blog Bat, Bean, Beam - A Weblog on Memory and Technology - for alerting me to the fact that Waltz with Bashir was out there in his post titled Gaza.

De Koninck Beer

Antwerpen Bier, originally uploaded by - di.

I've made myself sit here, wandering out in search of distractions occasionally, 2 painkillers in me, heating on high, hotwater bottle on my back, hoping this isn't the flu arriving, as I worked my way through the last of the 200+ photographs I took of an American/Canadian family visiting the city.

I showed them my favourite places here as we wandered our way through a photography session. Gert made me a beer list, first on the list being a Bolleke of De Koninck ... as per photograph.

The Magazine

The Magazine, originally uploaded by - di.

People asked about the magazine my photographs appeared in and I was going to scan it but my scan guy is also going to be scanning a whole lot of stuff for the new website and so ... here's a photograph I took of it this morning.

I am prowling like a bear at the end of a long winter. I have tons of work to do but picked up the camera to play for 10 minutes and this is the result.

My photographs are the two on the left - the art installation in Berlin and Ziya, the dancer, also in Berlin.

Today in Belgium ... on the inside looking out through the glass

And we have woken to snow, yet again.

It's bitterly cold outside, there's a wind too. I couldn't help smiling when I read that when New Zealand's most recent heatwave comes to an end, they're looking at a descent into autumn.

Smiling because it means we get spring up here in the north, and I need spring.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

An Accidental Spring-cleaning Event ...

I was too ashamed to photograph my desk ... suffice to say, it looked like someone had tipped a big box of 'stuff' on it.

So today was the day where all kinds of photography, NGO and new website work was earmarked as 'to be completed'.
I should have known ...

We bought little Miss Four a new bookcase/clothing box shelf on Friday and Gert did the IKEA do-it-yourself thing yesterday. Today I knew that there was a bit to do, having to move it into the bedroom, move what was there out, relocate it to the lounge, relocate the contents of both which led into spring-cleaning almost all of the apartment, including my desk.

So here I am, full of Gert's lasagne, beginning the day's other work just after 8pm ... sigh.

Guide to the Belgian Male: Lesson 1

Ms Deadly Jelly, of Irish origin, hooked up with Mr Deadly Jelly, a New Zealander and recently she put together an amusing post titled Guide to the Kiwi Male: Lesson 1

Manic, friend and Flemish bloke, challenged me in the comments section to write something similar regarding the Belgian male. Much laughter ensued at our place, as I tried to put together a first lesson.

To work within the frame provided by an extract from the post of the Great Deadly Jelly, changing the nationality of the man in question, the following list came together, the italics indicating the places where I made use of Deadly Jelly's words.

There are certain things you do not do with a Belgian man, never never, no seriously not even ever. These include describing football as a game for girls; telling him you don't particularly like Belgian chocolate, explaining that Cadburys chocolate is much better (I was new in the country - what can I say.); mispronouncing almost every word attempted in Nederlands (those who know me will know how much I adore every word I speak being immediately corrected); and I'm not sure about the wisdom of the impromptu lecture on my theory regarding the unnaturally large interior of the Dutch-speaking mouth. My theory being that the size allows the twisting turning trickiness that is Dutch to emerge in its most perfect form. (This was an accidental discovery - having watched both Diede and Gert quite naturally fit a good 1/3 of a baguette in their mouths on separate occasions, I began investigating, discretely watching when Belgians were eating and also questioning dentists here. Impeccably scientific.)

I would probably end with the possibly little known fact that the average Belgian male is never going to understand the kiwi desire for tomato sauce on most things, most especially Stoofvlees and sausages ... never never ever.

So, how did I do ... Manic, Peter?

Unfortunately Gert doesn't have his own blog and can't do a New Zealand female guide reply ... actually, there have been many times where I've been profoundly grateful that he doesn't blog ;)

And no, no guest blogging here, just before you suggest it, Meneer Manic.