In response to chronic pleas of “Please Come Back to Me”s, I’d like to remind you, internet, that as much as we adore one another, one does have one’s life to attend to outside of your constant infotainment. You don’t own me (today), and it’ll certainly take far more attention-seeking on your part to dilute my self-centredness and et-ceteraness.
That being said, kisses and cuddles. I’ve been culling the herd in a myriad of metaphoric fashions and have needed to focus on the admin of UGH in order to do so. Why is deleting aspects of one’s life such an arduous task? Surely it should be as simple as winning the “most batshit crazy” lifetime achievement award in Lindsay Lohan’s day-to-day? (Pretty sure she’s given the sash, sceptre and crown every time she regains consciousness. They’re on standby.)
I have also become rather obsessed with not being in London at the moment, forcing myself to absorb new and exciting destinations. As one does.
I woke up at 8:30 and felt a bit meh. At 10:00 I booked a flight to Amsterdam (as I had never been and was feeling all #FuckIt), and by 12:00 I was en route to Stanstead airport, which is basically the skankiest airport London has to offer. I’d pretty much rather live in Luton rather than face the journey to Stanstead (and moreover, travel out of it) again, but also, stupidly, I’ve just booked another hit on my magical mystery tour which flies out of – you guessed it – Stanstead. (Hereafter to be known as Skankstead.)
What kills me about Skankstead Airport is that there is an aura of HATE coming off that place like I can’t even. Usually I find airports somewhat bittersweet in the sense that one is usually excited to be leaving wherever one is (unless, of course that is Morocco, in which case one is gripping the side of an old filthy Merc and begging not to have to leave…not….YET). Skankstead, however, is filled with dreadful people who can’t express joy; no, not in the slightest. During the death march queue for security, I was told YOU ARE NOBODY SPECIAL by a security guard (because I had to lean on the counter in order to take off my boots and could not magically fly out of both at once like flipping ASTRO BOY). WTF! Like as a general comment for LIFE. Apparently she was blind and demented. Instead of responding with a scroll on parchment with contradictions to her argument, I shuffled into the mindless hell of Skankstead duty free, which pretty much only offers BOGOF crisps and Jennifer Lopez perfumes. No thanks!
Arrive in Amsterdam, to what I realized (at the end, unfortunately) was the best part of Amsterdam – the Airport. Oh Holland, you got ONE thing right. Pat on the back and a hero cookie.
Amsterdam – Beautiful art, otherwise, a whirlwind of disappointment and terrible food. I had come to see some museums (art fix) and also to see this festival which was taking place in the Museumplein and surrounding. After the first night, which could also be titled “the realization that all Dutch musicians write their verses with contrasting, yet very obvious STATEMENTS (i.e. ‘a cat is not a dog/a dog is not a cat’) which they then reverse in the next 4 bars of the chorus, followed by counting/call and answer/hand-clapping; followed by the realization that being a vegetarian who doesn’t eat filthy fast food fries and general GROSSNESS means living off paprika-flavoured crisps and freeze-dried waffles from vending machines”, I was all a bit “Oh wait, I think I might actually hate Amsterdam”. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Let’s say positive things about Amsterdam: the art. First up, the Rijksmuseum. Dutch old masters at their best-ish, I think some of the more recognizable pieces were travelling the world in an attempt to defy the truth about Amsterdam (filthy place full of tat and shit food, annoyingly planned, et cetera). Saw (obviously) tonnes of Rembrandt and Vermeer, among others, and certainly it was a pleasure to see the beautiful skin tones (Rembrandt in particular), so I will give the Dutch “painting”, at least. I was disappointed that The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulip was not in the Rijksmuseum – do your research if there are particular pieces you want to see, #LifeLesson, but to stand in front of The Night Watch was quite enchanting, and the staff in the Rijksmuseum were the most informative and least oppressive-without-reason in any museum in Amsterdam, though it was bizarre to me that they had no issue whatsoever with taking pictures of the art, so it was all snappy snappy snappy in there – a bit strange. At the very least one would have thought that the continual flashing would damage the paintings, but the Rijksmuseum staff were all whatevs.
I noticed that there was a distinct point in time in Dutch portraiture where the subjects were posed almost conversationally, and to my surprise, upon reading the card beside each piece I found that an entire period of time in portraiture spawned names like “Allow us to introduce ourselves,” “I beg your pardon?” and “Surely, you mustn’t be suggesting that to my mother’s vicar!”. You get the idea. Again, this is another Dutch idiosyncrasy, like being insanely liberal mixed with ridiculously finicky about “rules”, and queues were no exception.
Hates? The Dutch are all about queueing, no personal space, and talking total shit in the back of your ear like whatever. WHISTLING in a museum. Like, not whoops, I’ve just caught myself whistling a happy tune, I’m so overjoyed to be in the presence of these gorgeous paintings; I mean art lovers, you’ve paid 20 Euros to enjoy this experience, which will be enhanced by the repetitive trill of my random mouth-noises. Oh by the way, I’m a total bastard. Other pet-hate was the “children’s activities” sheet handed out to parents to amuse their children while plodding around the museum. It was stuff like “CAN YOU FIND AN APPPPPLE?” which, of course, had American tourists bombarding through the galleries to jump in front of people admiring a painting to ask their offspring in that loud “I’m placating my child” voice “SEE there is an APPLE in that PAINTING”. Honestly. I really don’t see the point of dumbing down “culture” for your child. Or making a museum child-friendly. It shouldn’t be a touch-n-learn centre. Have some respect, bitches!
Next up was the Van Gogh Museum, which contained …..Van Gogh. #OMG. I wasn’t as familiar with Van Gogh’s early work, which is very dark, very Dutch – so much portraiture, rich brown tones, etc, and I wouldn’t claim to know enough about the schools at the time (early 1880’s) to know whether it was more common in many artists in the same period/location, but it struck me that there was a distinctive malaise in his work at that time, which was not surprising in terms of having read about the artist’s life, but was interesting in terms of comparing it with the styles of painting in the Rijskmuseum. Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette was never a piece that I had attributed to Van Gogh, though I had of course seen the piece before (side note: I have never taken any sort of art history, so I imagine some of my observations will be a bit #Duh to some of my more artistically intellectual followers). For the most part, I don’t feel much of Van Gogh’s work is thrilling until he arrives in Paris in about 1886, and even then, it’s a bit feh, although it’s rather like listening to Radiohead’s The Bends then going back to Pablo Honey and saying “…Oh, that’s what that was about.” #DontHate. Girl, you know it’s true.
Van Gogh hits Arles in 1888 and starts cranking out hits like grits, which were wonderful to see up close. His brushstrokes are quite meticulous, which is not at all what I imagined they would be, and the landscapes he painted during this time are nothing short of genius, and contain an indescribable element of the unconventional, which is, for me, what makes Van Gogh’s work so unique. Wheatfield, The White Orchard and Crab On It’s Back are particular favourites of this period.
The Saint-Rémy period (alternately titled “Life in the Madhouse”) is interesting and feels sad sad sad mixed with colour colour colour, and each piece differs greatly from the next (how very bipolarish of it) and many are copies or interpretation of other artists’ work, which I did not realize, so pleased to have learned something. Gold star stickers for all! Of course the well-known Irises were a standout in the exhibition, and I also adored Snow-Covered Field with a Harrow (After Millet). For the last two months of his life (before shooting himself in the chest – how artsy!) Van Gogh went to Auvers, and the work of this period I don’t find particularly exceptional, with the obvious exception of Wheatfield With Crows, which is childlike and spooky and “I’m so totally contemplating suicide” and all.
Cheery! Shall we take a break, discuss how vile Amsterdam is some more, then get back to it? (Don’t worry – short of actually being in Amsterdam, that was the most depressing aspect of this blog.) The thing is, I wanted to love it, and the art/architecture were totally making me gag for it, but the reality of actually being in Amsterdam was so awful; the streets were filthy, the markets were boring, I don’t smoke weed (though I contemplated taking space-cake to make the jarring awfulness of FOAM gallery go away) and I found the way they were so finicky about RULES to be demented, given the fact that they don’t mind you taking drugs, getting a hooker and banging her in the public gardens. Really? You can have all that but I can’t have a HANDBAG in the palace – but I can carry a much bigger plastic bag (for no reason) with everything in my handbag in it? Oh and I can queue for this? GREAT. Every time I was all “Okay, Amsterdam, you and I don’t see eye-to-eye, but lets DO THIS,” I was sooooo let down.
Last up: the Impressionists at the Hermitage museum. Cue the John Lennon cry of “don’t let me down!” Thank goodness, they were all they needed to be. I had recently read Zola’s The Masterpiece, so I particularly enjoyed this exhibition, which talked about how shocking and radical these pieces were, and how they faced ridicule in the Paris Salon. The collection displayed the Impressionists along one wall, and the most popular and widely-acclaimed artists of the time along the other, so it was a fabulous contrast. Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and Sisley alongside Delacroix – yes, please. Monet’s Woman in the Garden and Charles Hoffbauer’s In London were particularly stunning up close, and I was privileged to have time alone to absorb many of the works, as the crowds had not yet begun to shuffle in and stare (or whistle).
Disappointingly, I didn’t make it to Anne Frank’s Annexe, as there was a two hour queue, which would have been endurable had it not been for the complete ASSHOLES standing behind me, who were droning on and on about how much weed they’d smoked and reminded me of Juggalos. Time/Place? So disrespectful. It turned out that they were actually from Toronto, which left me mortified and having to leave the queue before I was bound to turn around and get into an argument about “do you have any respect for the place you are about to enter?” which would inevitably lead to more of a scene, so best to split. A few more museums and blah blah blah, and then, thank goodness, it was time to leave the hellish city of foul canals and boring boat-tours.
My verdict? Probably a place that if I smoked weed, needed to learn about “how to do sex”, ate meat/gross fast food, and had grown up going for crazy weekends in as a teenager, I might have some affinity for, but as it was it was simply not the place for me. Now lets all buy a ceramic pepper shaker in the shape of a cock and a snow globe and GTFO already. AIRPORT, PLEASE.