Friday, May 25, 2007

Cultural gaps

Rotterdam has thirty four museums - apparently. Whatever the precise number, there are a lot. I have been to just one of them, the Kunsthal, which is an art gallery. I've been to it three times, but it is the only one I've visited. I am ashamed.

I have never been to the Doelen, the city's fine concert hall, nor have I been to the famous Rotterdam Film Festival as a visitor. I have been part of a film crew that was making its own film about the film festival, but I have never watched any of the films being screened at the film festival itself(is that enough films for you?). I am still more ashamed.

Now tell me where I can find a piece of history and I will seek it out - the monumental windmills in Schiedam, the Pilgrim's church in Delfshaven, the old VOC warehouse in the achterhaven; show me books of the pre-war city, immerse me in the tales of devastating floods and the building of the great dykes and you've got me hooked. I will even drive over a hundred kilometres to see ancient ship wrecks exposed by the draining of the polder (pity they were no longer there when I got to the place!). Why then, can I not find the motivation to go to the fantastic collection of musea that are just around the corner?

It is quite expensive. That's one possibility, but if I really wanted to it wouldn't put me off. I paid handsomely to go to the Escher and Dali exhibitions - and I'm not Dutch - yet. Maybe they are also too close, as in they are always there; I can go any time which means I go at no time. But no. I think the real reason is that I find museums and art galleries are often oppressive places, where everything is out of context. The artifacts in museums were all once part of people's lives while the paintings of the old masters were intended to grace the walls of people's homes. To me, the only art that is at its best in a gallery is the more modern, abstract art which is often designed to be observed in isolation. Art for art's sake. As for history, it should be alive and around us, not locked in cases in pompous, featureless chambers.

When it comes to music, I love classical concerts as well as rock and this is something I really should address. There are recitals, dance performances and symphonic concerts going on throughout the year in Rotterdam, and I should and will be there. That then is my resolution. I know it's a bit late for new year, but I think it's not one to be shelved until the next year is in. if I start now, my cultural gaps may be closing nicely by the time 2008 comes around. What about the museums, though? Well, I guess I'll save them for when the family is here in the summer. Then I can ooh and aaah along with the best of them and still sound as if I mean it!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Flabby Blog Story

I’ve never been very concerned about my looks and appearance. For the most part, I’ve spurned the delights of make up and cosmetics of all sorts, preferring rather to pore over power tools and different grades of wood than creams and lipsticks. I even gave up colouring my all too plentiful hair a few years back, finally accepting the fact that my natural brown mop was now having to be unnaturally dyed every two weeks to maintain my self image as a brunette.

Nevertheless, I do have a secret vanity, or at least I did have until about a year ago. It was my jaw line, you see. Forgive the preening, but all my life, I had been rather pleased with the clean line of a chin that needed no help to keep it clear of my neck and had absolutely no ‘doubling’. In other words, It had always been firm and defined without even a hint of flab.

I was, I thought, justly proud of my superior profile.

For example, I would examine myself in the mirror each morning – not to see if my eyelashes were long or thick enough or if my skin was clear – no, I would turn my head this way and that and smile at the uninterrupted curve of my magnificent mandible.

But pride, as they say, comes before the proverbial fall, and last year everything changed.

Now, it’s no secret that I won’t see fifty, or even fifty one again soon, so I suppose it can only be expected that certain ‘bits’ will start to give up the fight against gravity. It doesn’t worry me too much and on the whole most of me is still in the right place and hasn’t shifted too far down towards my knees. After all, I can still put my bra on in the dark without finding I’ve missed the main appendages.

However, the big blow came when I caught sight of myself in the mirrored walls of a lift one afternoon last spring. I remember it clearly because I was almost traumatised with the shock.

There I was, minding my own business when I caught a glimpse of my right profile, and horror upon horror, there was a fold of skin positively hanging off my chin! It was simply awful! At first, I thought it was a trick of the light, so I shifted a bit closer to the glass to make sure I was wrong. There was a student in the lift with me at the time, so I couldn’t start too probing an examination. I mean what would he have thought of this potty old woman (anyone over thirty is old to them) pinching and pushing at the skin on her neck as if she was trying to shove it back into place.

Nevertheless, I thrust my chin out and raised my head high , and wonder on wonder, it seemed to disappear. Whew! What a relief. It must have been the lighting after all.

But, the reprieve wasn’t to last.

The next shock came when Koos took a photo of me when I wasn’t paying attention and my face had literally ‘slumped’. It seemed that everything was falling off my chin then, not just one fold of skin. To make matters worse, he wanted to publish it on his blog! Well of course, I completely forbade that and made him delete the offending image forthwith. I had my reputation to think of after all – you know hip, cool and trendy – that one?

After this, I started looking up remedial exercises on the internet:

“How to stop sagging chins in five easy steps”; “creams to firm up floppy flab”; “10 minutes a day keeps saggy chins at bay”. I tried them all – I did ‘press ups’ with my jaw every night; shoved my tongue against my teeth twenty times each morning to exercise ‘those no good lazy neck muscles’ and then furiously rubbed cream into my neck four or five times a day. Alas, it was all in vain. The dratted flappy fold of skin kept wobbling at me – sneakily and cheekily when I was least expecting it.

Then, at last, after months of agonising over what to do, I found a solution – not a cure, mind you, just a simple, easy solution. I realised that this was one sign of advancing years I wasn’t going to get rid of without external intervention, and as that is not an option, the only other way to disguise my deteriorating dermis was to smile!

Yes, indeed, I discovered that just a big wide friendly smile fixed to my face had the same effect as a face lift, but with even greater benefits. The fact is, oh friends of the blogosphere, that the old saying is absolutely true, because if you smile at the world, it smiles right back at you and all is good.

So, chin tucks and face lifts be damned, for those of us who are doing our best to halt the ravages of time...a smile a day keeps the surgeon’s knife at bay!!