30 April 2006

ever gloomier, ever more awake

It is time for me to leave The Netherlands behind. Cees Nooteboom has opened my eyes to a part of Amsterdam I didn’t know existed.

Away from the clichés of sex and drugs, canals and tulips. I was shown a terrible sadness. Rituals was a tale of a man trying to get by in a world that is forever changing. It was funny and rude, miserable and unfair. But ultimately Rituals was depressingly real.

The book is only 144 pages long, and every sentence is important. When a character encounters three doves in one day, there is a reason.

The story is split into three parts and we meet our main character Inni at different points in his life. We see him age and mature like the city of Amsterdam around him.

The time feels right to leave, I have seen enough. Although, I have been left with a contradiction; On the one hand Rituals appears to tie up loose ends and conclude efficiently, but I also feel that I am taking with me unanswered questions. Maybe while Inni is content with the conclusion, my own thoughts have been stirred up.

But for now, I must depart. I have many more places to go and books to read.

the navigator

21 April 2006

the sky of death was a sky of grey clouds

I am in the capital city, Amsterdam. Nooteboom’s Amsterdam is dirty. It is stifling at times and I feel suffocated by the heat. The characters in Rituals drink crème de menthe. I can smell the sickly, syrupy peppermint in the air.

Just as Inni, the main character, fumbles his way through life, I try to find my way through this Dutch city. At times I feel as though I am being rushed through Amsterdam with no time to waste.

Today I have stopped to linger longer at the Prinsengracht Bridge. A bridge over one of the main canals in Amsterdam. Where cyclists ride and lovers walk.

the navigator

19 April 2006

decline accelerates into prejudice

Sometimes, countries cannot choose the manner of their deaths.

My literary guide through Wales was Grits by Niall Griffiths.

A novel of disintegration in the name of pleasure starring a group of people huddled together at the edge of the land.

Many of my expectations have been met - and turned on their head. Misery has been handed back a hundred fold. The mountains and the valleys are paralleled in the chemical and emotional highs and lows that the characters slide through. The music of the country is techno as the land of song becomes the ‘land-a screams’.

The Welsh dragon is ever-present, chased off tin-foil in the name of fun and forgetfulness - and stag becomes hallucinated dragon and is killed in the name of driving out the English.

The leek puts in an appearance when it is given in place of flowers to an overdose recovering in hospital.

Sheep are scattered throughout the novel as soft mute witnesses to the bruising antics that surround them.

The mountainsides around me are dotted with white blobs of sheep - which ones are dead and which are alive I cant tell like - and several people - a different kind of sheep I suppose - are on all fours

Sheep mirror humans - appearing to enjoy their freedom, but ultimately falling and rotting away at their last.

Drifters from the four corners of the British Isles are swept to Aberystwyth, where they linger, squeezing whatever pleasure they can find from their surroundings - until one by one they depart, dead or alive, to the next place on their list.

And so it goes that Wales cannot hold me any longer. My journey calls, I must move on.

the circumnavigator

14 April 2006

turn the page, start again

I began my journey on Tuesday. I am travelling clockwise around the world. I left behind the South of England and have arrived in The Netherlands, my first destination.

The book I am reading is Rituals by Cees Nooteboom, a Dutch writer who was born in The Hague in 1933.

Two other novels that I have read that were set in The Netherlands are Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach and Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Neither of these authors are Dutch unlike my guide for this part of my journey.

I have only been here a short while, only turned a few pages, but I’m already beginning to get a strong sense of the history that is around me. I hope to find out more…

the navigator

13 April 2006

now the time has come to leave

So my journey begins. From the south coast of Sussex I shall travel anticlockwise around our little world. My first stop will be Wales.

I have never visited Wales. As a child I remember my father driving us across a bridge across a river and back again - just so we could say we had been there. But I have never stopped. Never set foot on Welsh soil. Never seen what differentiates it from life
on my side of the divide.

My expectations of Wales lead me to believe I will encounter dragons and song and dual language signs. Mines and misery. Slag heaps and secrets. Deep valleys and high peaks. Daffodils and leeks and sheep.

I will report my findings once I have read my way through Wales.

the circumnavigator