Art & architecture

Quite some years ago my second son was a student at the dance academy.

Often people could find me there participating in activities to improve either his school and the academy.
It was a time of money and plans. and because I had some architecture courses at the university I was invited in the building commission, first of the school and soon after of the new to build academy.

I enjoyed working for the school. The architect was an old man, with lots of knowledge and a good insight in what the school needed. We had to use the old building, but we had lots of ground for extensions, an interesting landscape, as it was in a valley, and none had problems with replacing walls with huge glass panels. My courses had provided me with knowledge an insights that fitted in the team, and none had ego's to prevent changes. So the end-result was a merge of all ideas, options and a lot of suggestions.
It didn't only look good, the school was a good place to use for both students, teachers and other personnel.

Planning and building the academy was a complete different experience.
It had to be a new building, with a large part build under ground-level.
It needed to be a building one of its kind, prize-winning and not too expensive.

The former academy had a seperate theater, very nice, with a great atmosphere.

The new building needed a theater incoorporated in the building, accessible at all times without opening the rest of the building.

I worried about ventilation. Dancing is a very intensive sport and good ventilation is crucial for the performance and the health of the dancers. The buildings with multiple layers of cellars I know have no proper ventilation and with a limited budget I worried.

The team of architects had some good ideas, but the costs were too high, so we were spending part of the meetings discussing materials and adjustments, tiptoeing around vulnerable ego's, stubbornness and lack of insight.
In the meantime time passed, the ground was prepared, the bills were piling up, and nothing was approved.

There were some parts I didn't agree with.
On the photo you can see the red bench at a lower level than the walking corridor. There is nothing to prevent people from falling. Not even a colour difference. And there would be no elevator, so the building would not be accessible for people in a wheelchair. Not for theater, not for injured dancers who should be able to view the lessons. And not for people with equipment.

I also thought there should be a good size theater, not a small one, and one with movable rows of chairs that could be fixed flat to the wall. One large theater would mean a seperate entrance at the level of the theater, so no elevator would be needed. Heating in the weekend and evening would only be for that part of the building, so the exploitation would be cheaper.

The whole team started to grow apart. We wanted more colour, they wanted grey, so it would safe costs. The whole feel of enthusiasm changed into a kind of contest. And I don't like ego games.

My participation ended at my own free decision.

When the whole thing was finished I was and wasn't surprised.

At the last moment elevators were fitted in.
Instead of going with one, people who wanted to use it needed to go from one to another,, with very small turning space. The main entrance wasn't accessible for wheelchairs, due to stairs, and the other side was not accessible because of stairs in front of and behind the door!!!!

Ventilation isn't always good enough. Some rooms, even at the top levels, can't host more than a certain amount of students.

People have tripped and fallen from the main corridor.

And the theaters don't work well enough (but the ventilation there is rather OK.). And the whole school needs to be opened up to host the visitors.

I've learned a lot from being part of such different architecture teams.
To get an insight in the needs of the users and to translate them into a building that gives a happy feeling and enhances creativity is a challenge and it always should be balanced by a healthy attitude towards the funds available.


33. I want to learn sheepfarming

In the past I didn't like sheep. I considered them to be a stinking lot, but the little ones were cute.

Gradually my opinion changed, and I started to get interested in what's needed to farm them.

I don't expect to be able to keep sheep unless I can realize my dream to live somewhere in the UK and some money shower hits me.
But as life never stops to suprise me, I decided to put this on my bucketlist too.
I have far too many items on it I'll never able to afford anyway.

So let's value the dream, and enjoy dreaming!

I would love to go crofting and keep some sheep.

I know there's a lot to learn, as keeping sheep is not only taking the wool and selling it. It's keeping them healthy, help them lamb, protect them, and a lot, lot more.

I've seen a farm with sheep along the road to Germany.
We went there when they offered the public a peek at their farm, but I didn't get the opportunity to talk with the farmer.
I feel a bit shy going there and asking to learn there without being able to offer them money or something else. I think that students from the agricultural school should be first to get a place there.
And I wonder if I'm able to go there, as there are no bus stops in the area.

So I've got excuses enough at the moment, but, knowing myself, they'll disappear as soon as an opportunity of a small farm lingers nearer at the horizon.


We only saw one of them!

The dance academy offers lots of opportunities for students to be creative, but there isn't enough tuition about the influence of their actions on the public.

Most of the time it's about messy performances, chaos on the floor and completely not artistic issues.

This time the decision was made to have a couple of performances at the same time and the public was supposed to walk between them.
We got a very large leaflet, with lots of test, two schedules, one with a lot of text, and the message when we arrived half an hour early: it's starting within two minutes outside.

So we went outside, in the bright sun, sat on the stairs and had no time at all to read anything.
We just followed what happened, walked with the rest, and assumed that the performances in hall 2 and hall 3 had to be followed both, regardless of which one was viewed first.
There was also something in hall 4: reality check. So we assumed it was for the dancers to check things they needed to know, and in hall 5 movies were planned. Well we didn't come for movies.

We had a good time.
A good friend and one of what we call ballet-mothers of the twins joined us. Which is always a joy, because we both have the same ways of criticism,
She saw the performances of daughter 1 (who was a guestdancer, she's not studying there), saw the choreography of daughter 2, and left before the last part, because she thought she'd seen enough.

After the whole event we realized we'd missed the performance of daughter 2.

Right at that moment one of the teachers asked me for my opinion about the event.
I'm always a bit hesitant to give my honest opinion, for several reasons.
I've worked in the organisation of the academy 10 years ago, was part of the auditioning committee, and been a ballet reviewer.
One of the things I've learned is that ballet teachers there have huge ego's, expressing in extravagant clothing, pouted mouths and straight backs. None is even allowed to touch the ego, it should be slowly and softly caressed, with a nice smile. No matter when it's mean, as long as it's a smile.

I turned around, like stung by a wasp.
'I can't give my opinion, I haven''t seen it all.... I haven't seen my daughter dance!!'
If I'd wondered if her eyes could have opened under the heavy load of make-up I now got the answer:
they opened.
'Then you'll have to come back tomorrow'.
'I would, if I could afford it', was my rather straightforward answer, referring to the high cost of the evening.
'Then it's on me...' and to my daughter: 'contact me for free tickets for your mom and brother. Or do you need more tickets?'

She left on her high heels like she wanted to take off for a flight high to the roof... She'd done her good deed of the day.
She didn't even bother to say something nice about the twins dancing....

Photo made by me.

32. The Settle-Carlisle Railway

Even though I was (and am) a girl, Ron wanted to show one of the Welsh most remarkable features. He told me we would go to see a viaduct, and first wanted to hear from me if I knew the meaning of a viaduct. I was 11 and knew the meaning. He smiled.
I remember his smile and the way he looked to my dad, as if they had prepared a huge surprise.

Well, he didn't prepare it himself. Lots of hard working men did that before it opened in august 1875.
I was surprised indeed: 24 arches to cover the distance of a beautiful area in such a way that human design and nature merged to enhance each other.

When I stood there with those two veterans at my side I was silent. The first thing I said when we went away was: 'I'll be back', followed by: 'and then I want to be on top of it'.

When I learned that the Settle-Carlisle Railway enables to be on top it had my attention.
Maybe I can make my promise become a reality?

With sons who love railways, and certainly love steam engines...

This railway journeys is one of the best in the world. The scenery is so outstanding.
And my memories are so special.
Two friends from the war showing the country they loved so much, showing the best it has to offer.

Maybe I can give that heritage to my children....

In case you want to know more: click here.


Heatwave 2017

We're dealing with a heatwave.
And 'we' in a broad sense.  Even in England the temperatures are at a high that is seldom seen.
I believe London has its warmest day in 20 years.

Here temps are above 30 degrees Celsius.
I opened the door and it was like pushing against a wall and then someone pushing a pillow in my face.
Laundry doesn't dry in the wind, it's steamed dry.

The brambles dry before they become fruit, the red berries are already dark red and juicy and the clay is drying out and killing all new life in the ground.

The past week I've dealt with a nasty cold and it feels ridiculous to have a old with this weather.
Some people feel they need to explain to me that it's hay fever. Yea... right.
I know the difference. I'm always sniffing and using hankies, this is far worse.
Well, it'll soon be over, before the warmth has left the house.

My daughters school has made another mistake.
Advising her to take an exam, even though she was on her way to cancel it.
And now they say she can't take the exam anymore, because she took it.
Why give wrong advice?
They gave her an extension of 6 months and the only requirement was that she had to hand in a paper before January. Why give an extension when you create rules after giving it?
This school makes me feel sick.
It has been a constant battle, first for one of the boys and now for her.


Dolf Toussaint has died.

Today it was announced that Dolf Toussaint has died last Tuesday at the age of 92.

Dolf was wellknown photographer who was valued and admired for the way he was able to tell his story not with words, but with photographs.
He taught me that photographs should speak for themselves and one should depict people in such a way that no extra information is needed.
So one should not only focus to get a sharp image of a person, the environment is just as important, and needs a true representation which is at the same time artistic.
Dolf was the first to make photodocumentairies. He portrayed one of the most well known neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, the Jordaan, during one of the most outspoken changes.
He loved Amsterdam and thanks to him we can see how during the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties not only the housing changed and the overall look of the neighbourhoods, but also how the people changed.
He was also closely connected to politics. Had friends in the government, which enabled him to portray political leaders in spontaneous ways.

He stood up for better working circumstances for photographers and more opportunities.

Present photography is an expression of his influence to make people the center of the story of their environment.

Thank you Dolf for taking the time to explain things to me when I was training as a photographer and journalist. OK, you sold a photo to the magazine I worked for and you got a cuppa, but you enjoyed explaining to me that the attitude of a photographer doesn't give a visible expression on the photo, but that it makes the photo and is as much part of the process as pushing a button.

My respect will be forever with you.


31. Go to Glastonbury

In the past I've enjoyed a lot of concerts and a few festivals.

A few times I've even worked at festivals, because I couldn't afford the entrance and wanted to be there.  The jobs were different: handing out leaflets, bringing VIP's to their dressing facilities, accompanying them to and from their performance and talk with them during meals to prevent people bothering them, singing in background choirs, and being the first to dance.

I'm in the lucky circumstances to live in a city where each year a lot of free open air concerts are held.

But I would love to go to England and visit the Glastonbury Festival.
I'm sure some of my friends would love to go there too.


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