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Something I wrote for someone else that deserved to see the light of day.

G&T’s really really nice place does a really really nice weekend brunch. You’d have to deliver in order to live up to the billing I guess. It is a non-descript gem tucked away on a mostly residential street in north Jordaan with simply Café written across the frontage. G&T’s has grown mostly via word of mouth. They offer an extensive brunch accompanied with cocktails. G&T’s meets the need of the regularly noted, and lamented, lack of breakfast and brunch locations in Amsterdam for those of us looking for something a little heartier than a broodje kaas on a booze-buffeted Saturday or Sunday.

I hesitate to apply the sobriquet of Berlin-esque. It seems to apply to any place with second-hand furniture that is cooler than its surrounds. I settle on Hemingway-chic. G&T’s is a small place with chandeliers draped over the bar, which is anchored at one end by a gleaming gramophone as classic jazz burbles away (Nina Simone a favourite). The walls are bracketed by a photographic exhibition Girls Only! by local artist Myscha, http://www.myschaoreo.com. My personal favourite is a pensive, exotic mistress day-dreaming in her kitchen as her negligee drapes perilously across her shoulders. A slightly out of place stainless steel pole bisects the room, I just can’t shake the feeling that it serves no structural support purpose and resolve to keep an eye on it.

The brunch is picked out with attention to the details. The menu has been developed by a chef dragooned from Hotel L’Europe and is not the heavy English-style bacon and baked bean brunches so beloved of stag parties but rather displays a deft touch with plenty of customisability. Fresh flowers accompany our table settings, serviettes adorned are with the stamped logo. Bucolic scenes of milkmaids and their cows grace my plate china and teacup. Our party tucked into a well-presented feast of scrambled eggs with sides of bacon and a sort of French-style potato fritter, a nut-laden salad, a breakfast burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs and that perennial favourite, eggs Benedict. There were some items missing from the menu, which I put down to unanticipated demand and growing pains. Smoked haddock, I’ll return! My choice, the breakfast burrito, was delicious and accompanied by a slightly piquant bean salsa. The coffee is similarly of an appreciable standard and the fresh OJ good quality. Hustling, attentive wait-staff ensure there is enough cappuccino.

The couple that run it, respectively G(eorge) and T(anya), are developing a concept revolving around a space where you can eat AND slowly get sozzled, elegantly. Lest we forget, the raison d’être of G&T’s is cocktails. The option is open to loll on the relaxed-looking couch and prepare for a long, drink-sodden afternoon that has the potential to drag on into the evening. Their Bloody Marys are notorious amongst the ad crowd. Currently G&T’s have limited opening hours but they are also branching out into theme nights, movie screenings and Wednesday night midweek drinks. Stay tuned. We receive a hand written bill with thanks from the eternally smiling Lenka. It’s the small things.

Where:
91 Goudbloemstraat

Times:

Saturday 11:00-20:30

Sunday: 11:00-18:00

Prices:
Bottomless filter coffee with food – €2

Bloody Mary – €9
Eggs Benedict – €10,50

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Our bold hero elected to cycle through the Vondelpark. An ecclesiastical calm pervades accented by the regular will-o’-the-wisp street lamps doing their damnedest to be both energy-efficient and security conscious.

Like a moth drawn to the flame, Icarus pedaled up P.C. Hooftstraat. Pieter of course being a poet, playwright and historian whose name lends cachet to Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ralph Lauren and several dozen other status-symbol dispensaries as well as playing host to a chain of champagne-coloured Christmas chandeliers which march down the street.

Suddenly there is an insistent tug on one foot. A wise head unclouded by too much red wine elects to stop pedaling immediately. Coasting to a halt, our hero pulls on one leg only to have his worst fears confirmed. The Kermit-green shoelace of one shoe are neatly coiled around the pedal. Over-balancing, a slow motion (in bullet-time) collapse occurs and Icarus finds himself on his ass on the wet ground, shackled to his bike. Worse, a concerned matron cycling home from her lover at 1am stops to offer assistance which is just as pleasantly turned down as the hero considers his less-than-heroic predicament.

As the rain patters gently, the hero picks at the lace and manages to uncoil himself from this treacherous contraption. Minor knee grazing aside, only pride is affected. However Icarus could have died had this and that and this happened.

Bringing this public safety announcement to all long-laced shoe-wearers everywhere! Double-knot or end up in a plot.

Summer time and the living is easy, a little too easy!

I have been challenged and beaten by my fellow partner in blogging crime – Oks – to break my blogging hiatus. I admit defeat, but of course one swallow doesn’t make a summer 😛

I am going to start a little project. My project is simple, yet requires the acute observational skills of Robert Pirsig, discipline akin to the Spartans and the writing skills of a dreamer.

She came in the next class with a puzzled look and handed him a five-thousand-word essay on the front of the Opera House on the main street of Bozeman, Montana. “I sat in the hamburger stand across the street,” she said, “and started writing about the first brick, and the second brick, and then by the third brick it all started to come and I couldn’t stop. They thought I was crazy, and they kept kidding me, but here it all is. I don’t understand it.”

Neither did he, but on long walks through the streets of town he thought about it and concluded she was evidently stopped with the same kind of blockage that had paralyzed him on his first day of teaching. She was blocked because she was trying to repeat, in her writing, things she had already heard, just as on the first day he had tried to repeat things he had already decided to say. She couldn’t think of anything to write about Bozeman because she couldn’t recall anything she had heard worth repeating. She was strangely unaware that she could look and see freshly for herself, as she wrote, without primary regard for what had been said before. The narrowing down to one brick destroyed the blockage because it was so obvious she had to do some original and direct seeing.

– Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)

Ok, enough padding already! Put simply my project is to pick one specific location in Amsterdam (or alternative city as my movements dictate) and write one post at that location. There are no restrictions or requirements other than drawing inspiration from that specific location.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions so here’s the rub: one post every Sunday evening starting this Sunday. Bam!

snowflakes and frozen rivulets.

I walked past where someone had spilled hundreds of little puzzle pieces on the cobblestoned road. Stamped into the snow, they lay there as if spilled out of a box, artfully strewn hither and thither. Blue and white and purple flecks, impossible to know the intended picture. A champagne bottle, on its side on top of the frozen canal. Cast aside once quaffed and unable to dent the hard crust. I can just imagine it spinning around when chucked like a never-ending game of spin the bottle. The trees lining the canals are truly bare now. Spare, barren and kind of sad.

The light has altered. Five month ago it was a mournful gleam, waning day by day, weighing on my spirits even more than dawns when there was no light and rain uttered its hopeless patter on the tin roof. Now it becomes noticeably stronger every morning. It’s racing towards spring and I can’t wait. Already the terraces are filling up with hopefuls in the weak sun, practicing looking suave and sultry with their shades. Wunderbar!~

If thou wilt be observant and vigilant, thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action.

Be observant if thou wouldst have a pure heart, for something is born to thee in consequence of every action.

Rumi


Music. Amsterdam is a fantastic city. Even Don McGlashen would agree. Sitting astride the great musical trade route between London and Berlin, many musicians stop in Amsterdam to play not so much for money but to take in the airs if you know what I mean. For us fortunate sons living here this means bands that play to packed venues in London, travel to a city a tenth the size equalling cheap and easier to see world-class music here. Allah be praised! I am going to see Cake next year and have discovered Katzenjammer!

Autumn. Twas fascinating to me to see the stately rows of trees lining the canals, all of a sudden brown and then steadily and surely flake off into the canals. On my early morning cycle to work, I would see flotillas of leaves lying still on the surface of the canals with the progressively-thinning, spindly tree skeletons looking more and more bereft of their coats. It really was a matter of two weeks. Winter is coming ever closer but the city is now coming into a different kind of beauty. The cold, clear autumn days are refreshing and the populace is converting into thicker winter coats and woolly hats. Scarves, mittens and hats a must!

Terrace. As a densely populated city, space is at a premium. The highest form of living is a rooftop terrace. From there you can survey your neighbours, glancing into their windows, see the herons gliding, the marijuana crops of keen, green-fingered potheads, the fat old man playing chess with his boyfriend, the pretty blonde Dutch girl tanning, the regular chimes of the Westerkerk’s carillon and the distant, discordant notes of an argument carried out and reflecting, twisting its way amongst the houses to my window. Ahhhh, inner-city living.

Cycles. When building street cred in Holland, the more clanking, rattling and squeaking you can crank out of your bicycle the better. Batavus makes classic ‘Oma’ and ‘Opa’ bikes, grandma and grandpa bike designs which have been the same for over 100 years. My bike has started to develop its own personality, clacking away merrily on the cobblestones, silent on concrete and carrying extra passengers with barely a creak of protest. Her name is kiwi and she conveys me in splendid style from engagement to engagement.

Today, he said, more than ever before, men had to learn to live without things. Things filled men with fear: the more things they had, the more they had to fear. Things had a way of riveting themselves onto the soul and then telling the soul what to do.

– Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines (1987).

City dweller, successful fella
Thought to himself oops I’ve got a lot of money
I’m caught in a rat race terminally
I’m a professional cynic but my heart’s not in it
I’m paying the price of living life at the limit
Caught up in the centuries anxiety
It preys on him, he’s getting thin

– Blur, Country House

So here’s hoping I don’t turn into the rat! I have a new job, not in the country but smack bang in the middle of Amsterdam, a mere 3 min bike ride from Central Station at TomTom, a Dutch company that makes navigation solutions including the now ubiquitous personal navigation device you stick on your car windscreen or dashboard and then listen to whilst the dulcet tones of Andy or Yvonne or Darth Vader navigate you to your destination. It’s a very exciting move for me and as you can imagine, I’m stoked to finally join the getting-paid-for-doing-stuff contingent. I’m not going to reveal too much more about the specifics of the job given this is the wide-world-web and crafty managers and craftier identity thieves run rampant down its electronic alleys and byways.

I was biking home today from work (late if you must know) and was enjoying the buzz of private boats on the canals, tourists wandering dazedly in between whizzing cyclists, hubbub spilling from local corner kroegjes (bars) and the gentle pink glow of the setting sun when I heard faint honking and looked up. Geese flying in V-formation. I know nothing about migration timetables but it made me think of the coming autumn and winter. Summer is fairly much over here apart from some late, last gasps and then we are into a stretch of fairly bleak weather lasting from mid-October till April. I can tell you I am either investing in a thicker duvet and blanket, or am in the market for some identical twins with warm internal thermostats to share my bed.

For those readers who are also reading this via Facebook, feel free to visit peripatetickiwi.wordpress.com for more posts. I like to visit there sometimes, to caress my musings…

I decided to come along with Mike to the local community radio station who have an offering called English Breakfast which is Amsterdam-based English language breakfast radio with witty hosts (at least I like to think so). I’ve now had two shots at it both of which were very cool experiences, who knew talking smack on the airwaves at 7am would be so much fun? It’s also video streamed live on the web and on a local cable TV channel.

If you want to hear me in action you can check out the website http://www.salto.nl, click on “On Demand” for Salto 1. Then you have to put in the date and time I was on which was 20 August 07:00 – 08:00 and 08:00 – 09:00 and 6 August. You won’t want to listen to it all so perhaps 20 August 08:00-09:00 and skip about a third of the way through and I am talking about http://www.sail2010.nl, a five-yearly Tall Ships regatta.

Over and out.

The Netherlands had an election on the 9th of June which was of particular interest to me as a former politics student, a Dutch citizen and also someone woefully under-informed (compared to my usual standards) as to the various parties, policies and the Dutch political landscape in general.

The Netherlands is a bicameral constitutional monarchy with a proportional representative electoral system compared to New Zealand’s unicameral constitutional monarchy with a mixed member proportional electoral system. The key difference is that parliamentarians in The Netherlands are voted in by their position on the list of their party.

There were two big issues dominating the campaigning, namely the economy (getting the deficit under control by reducing spending in welfare and potentially increasing the age of entitlement for superannuation to 67) and immigration. The strong showing by populist anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders and his party is reflective of the underlying unease and fear in many European countries over excessive immigration from Islamic countries such as Morocco and Turkey. Wilders and his PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid or Party for Freedom) have linked crime and security in many minds with excessive immigration and insufficient integration. He has also proposed a headscarf tax and banning the Koran. The PVV is now the third largest party with just over 15% of the vote. ‘More security, less criminality, less immigration and less Islam,’ is how Wilders summed it up on election night.

The results were very close with the VVD (centre-right) gaining 31 seats and the PvdA (centre-left) gaining 30 seats. There are 150 seats in parliament and an interesting dance will take place over the next few weeks (historically the shortest negotiation time 10 days, longest 208) as coalition is stitched together. Two main possibilities arise: a ‘purple-plus’ coalition made up of the VVD, PvdA, CDA (Christian Democrats), D66 (liberal democrats) and GroenLinks (Greens) or alternatively a right coalition made up of VVD, CDA and PVV. The biggest issue there is the stability of the PVV with the party dominated by Wilders but grumblings for increased democratisation from party members.

We shall see.

I’m thoroughly enjoying Amsterdam in the spring. The old oaks lining the canals are blazingly green, the population is slowly transitioning to shorts although jeans still predominate, the calendar of events is increasing, the locals sitting out on their stoeps reading or sipping coffees and of course the ever-increasing number of tourists mobbing the streets, inadvertently straying onto the bike paths and snap, snap, snapping picturesque canal scene after scene. I’m not going to write about canals, coffee shops, museums (in this post) or idiosyncratic Dutch habits. Sorry.

Metro. Amsterdam subway trains are notably ugly, snub-nosed and somewhat shaped like those reinforced aluminum coffins (transfer cases they call them) the US Army uses to ship bodies home from Iraq. I was somewhat surprised to discover Amsterdam even had a subway given the ease of biking everywhere and also the fact you’re travelling far below the water table… The local transport organisation is building a new subway line right down the old centre. Massive budget and timeline blowouts are now occurring because the ground, simply put, is sand and sedimentary soil which is subsiding as the tunnel is dug. Old houses are being propped up along the route as they have started leaning precipitously.

Bells. My local church is the Westerkerk which chimes out a varied ensemble every couple of hours. I can relate that the hour bell is the heaviest in Amsterdam and weighs more than 7,500 kg with a hammer weighing 200 kgs! It bangs every hour till about 2am. Lovely.

Chafing. I recently uncovered the reason why all the men’s underwear being sold in the shops in Amsterdam are toight. It’s because of the chafing brought about by regular biking. Let me tell you, it’s a health and safety hazard, these loose comfortable cotton boxers. A menace to future children everywhere.

Dancing. I attended ‘We Love the 90s’ dance party celebrating all that was early 90s techno and dance. My flatmate managed to get us VIP tickets so there we stood, drinking complimentary beer above a VIP stage meticulously constructed above half the subwoofers in the hall. Kidneys’s vibrating to life’s call. SNAP was headlining, and funnily enough they are a Dutch band, hup Holland, hup!

Droog Design store combines two great Dutch passions – contemporary design and storage solutions. Truly intriguing stuff you don’t need, outrageously overpriced, but sooooo cool.

But it’s all for a good cause => that being the increasing of pay for the hard-working rubbish collectors who have already been on strike for a week. I kinda like the mounds of black and blue rubbish bags, scraps of newspaper, greaseproof burger wrappers, discarded McDonald’s cups and swirling, twirling miscellany caught in small tornadoes caused by the thousands of rushing commuters and bewildered tourists at the Amsterdam Central Railway Station. It’s a good reminder of how much crap we actually throw away.