Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kuifje in the Netherlands

Breakfasted at small cafe near hotel mere feet from major tunnel-work on Vijzelstraat where a subway line is being created. Trekked back up to Spuistraat to look in some bookstores like the Athaneum. Picked up a PB copy of The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, (which I have in limited HB edition in a box somewhere, having left Australia before getting a chance to read it) and an audio book of Jonathan Coe's What a Carve Up (one of my favourite books of the 1990s).

There are many bookstores here with very tempting English-language selections. Nonfiction is a typically a mix of Dutch, Engish, German and French, intermingled for their polyglot local customers. I found a comic-book specialist store (also multilingual) with everything from Asterix & Tintin* to recent American small-press graphic novels. There were also some homages to the more famous titles, such as Tintin (Kuifje in Dutch) in the Netherlands, and a soft-porn Asterix title.

It's simultaneously useful, entertaining and maddening that the Dutch uniformly speak better English than most native English speakers. While I was frustrated in my attempts to get a second language under my belt at high school, the reality was that decent English teachers were a rarity, and English grammar fell off the curriculum around 1974. A simple 'Spreekt u Engels?' in Amsterdam will invariably allow you to converse with any local, if they haven't already clued into your alien* status.

Lunched again in Leidseplein square at Boom Chicago (English improv troupe) cafe, where Bondi sprawed out on the entrance mat for an hour while I gabbed with the Scottish lighting technician, and finished reading Richard Morgan's harrowing thriller Market Forces.

Napped through late afternoon and then went for dinner at a Persian restaurant I'd been eyeing near the hotel. It proved to be somewhat of a disappointment, the ultra-slow service didn't mask any careful preparation in the kitchen, with the main course not showing any signs of promised spices and marination. Read about 20% of Alan Hollinghurst's Booker prize winning novel The Line of Beauty. I haven't particularly liked any of his follow-ups to his first novel (also Booker short-listed) The Swimming Pool Library.

Took Bondi for a late night walk up to Rembrantsplein and then down Utrechtsestraat to Frederiksplein fountain, along Weteringschans and back to the hotel. Was really hoping to find a late night market to save me raiding the mini-bar but none to be found.

* and I'm not referring to my Ripley (Sigourney Weaver ) haircut

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