Archive | August, 2015

Visitation II

31 Aug

The same wood, a remote spot in Northern Europe… The craft were there again. A stranger appeared and asked if she might help. I said that she could. She explained about the craft. I turned to look and they had gone.

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Still, it’s cheaper than a babysitter.

All text and images © PSR 2015

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What I Did on My Holidays

24 Aug

Two and a half weeks out at the writing den in Brittany… and where did they go? In truth, more time was spent playing board games and swimming in the Western Channel with my children than writing my latest masterpiece, but hey…

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Not enough time was spent at this desk…

We got out and explored the local countryside a bit. Unlike the Dutch (see my previous post here), the French aren’t light years ahead of the UK in terms of public transport. When it comes to wind power on the other hand… Clusters of gigantic turbines stand astride the hilltops as though Jötunheimr had been transported to the Atlantic coast. My children and I discovered a new pastime – lying on the grass beneath the giant structures, watching the sails turn and listening to the wonderful swishing sound they make. You have to imagine that you’re above the clouds, looking down from some enormous dirigible. It makes you feel giddy. Try it!

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Wind turbines are rather tall…

As I floated on the warm water in an almost deserted cove beneath spectacular cliffs, I experienced one of those moments of pure joy that feel like epiphanies but probably aren’t. It seemed to me that all days should be spent like this. Ah, if only…

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The pure waters of the Breton coast

And then there was the local reservoir, temporarily drained one hundred years after the fields and villages were drowned beneath it. Visiting it was an eerie experience. A dessicated orchard caught my imagination in particular. It had something of the nuclear winter about it.

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Drowned house…

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…drowned orchard

In the evenings we went bat and owl spotting. We heard our resident tawny every time but never saw her. No photos, then, for this activity…

Amid all of these distractions, what did I manage to write? Well, here’s a tiny fragment – see if you can spot the influence of my holiday…

Moorten Klokk and his fellow players are seated around a table at Kaffe Bjelkros in Coach 40K.  And though they prefer the Kaffe Muzeesmis, they know that the games table will be occupied by Hrr Kiirilavnas and Krutt at this hour.  It’s Klokk’s turn once more.  He picks up a card.  The telephone company has threatened to disconnect him and he must pay 50 krn.  He believes that he knows the identity of the missing person and has narrowed down the cause to suicide.  As yet, though, he remains unsure of the method or motive.  As far as the room is concerned, he doesn’t have a clue.  For the last six months he has been locked inside a cupboard in the basement.  This wasn’t helpful.  Hypnosis (his secret power) proved useless there too.  Looking at his notes, Klokk suggests that Hr Krevnkopp poisoned himself with a cyanide pill due to monetary problems while residing in attic room 98.  Mattuus Vestrgaat cannot help him.  Stefaan Smetz holds up the motivation card and shows it to him.  Klokk nods in acknowledgement.  The sheer number of permutations means that it’s incredibly hard to arrive at the solution and it takes a great deal of time to complete a single game.  The game that Moorten Klokk and his friends have been playing is already well into its fifth year. 

All text and images © PSR 2015

De Oude en de Nieuw

2 Aug

De oude en de nieuw… the old and the new coexist peacefully in the Netherlands. I alluded to this idea in my previous post about my visit to Rotterdam where modernist architecture in the rebuilt city sits happily alongside traditional Dutch building styles. Images of old Holland – the sails of windmills and wind-pumps turning, barges drifting on a vast network of inland waterways – appear centuries ahead of their time, viewed in retrospect. As you arrive in the country from the sea, the vast wind farms that confront you seem emblematic of the Dutch approach to energy-generation and transportation.

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Moving freight by water in the Netherlands

In many ways the Netherlands feels much more civilised and progressive than the insular Saxon kingdom in which I live. Government policy in the UK seems to be heading backwards with respect to the environment. The apparent abolition of the tax regime designed to encourage the production of low emission vehicles, the removal of subsidies for domestic solar panels, the obstacles the planning system places in the way of onshore wind farms, the enthusiasm for fracking…

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Electric cars charging in a Rotterdam street with those ubiquitous bicycles in the background

Meanwhile, back in Rotterdam, cyclists are everywhere and electric cars charge in the streets. It’s a blend of old and new approaches to transport, but focused firmly on the future. Here again, the Dutch appear to be years ahead of the British in their thinking.

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Electric sports saloon recharging. Look carefully – the bikes are there again.

State-owned public transport, clean and efficient, inexpensive for the citizen to use, forms the third element of the Dutch approach to getting around and between towns and cities. In Rotterdam, there is a genuinely integrated transport system, overseen by RET and NS and consisting of trams, buses, metro and trains. “Hier veranderen voor tram, trein en bus,” the pre-recorded voice merrily announces as you approach the next metro station. The situation could hardly be further removed from that in the UK where priority is entirely focused on the private motorist and private ownership of transport provision. Roads are congested and public transport is dilapidated and inefficient.

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A gleaming metro train arrives in Delfshaven station

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The old and the new combine in a celebration of Delft earthenware at Delfshaven’s modern metro station

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Trams in Den Haag – oh, yes, and in the right hand margin, women on bikes…

So while the Dutch embrace a cleaner, greener future, the British, it would seem, are going to hell in a handcart, or at least, nowhere fast in a filthy train carriage. De oude en de nieuw

All text and images © PSR 2015