Sunday, November 13, 2016

Misty morning, Maastricht

DSC05265 Stitch (1300x353)A damp and peaceful Sunday morning beneath dripping skies along the Maas.  I moved the car (late, but unticketed) and took a long wander around the old center.

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The Christmas decorations are almost all up, and the holiday chocolates are on display for Sinterklaas’ visit in a few weeks. Whie the twon square is still empty, waiting for the Market to arrive, the Bijenkorf already has their holiday windows up.
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Taking photos of familiar touchstones feels like econnecting with the city and the people, colourful bomen en paraplu's against grey kasseien en winkelpuien.
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bumping across the Channel

DSC05204 (1300x867)I gave myself three hours and a bit to get to the Ferry docks at Dover: its been raining hard all night and likely that the M25 would see some accidents even on a light Saturday morning.

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Predictably, my tablet (long since replacing my trusty TomTom) chirped disaster as I approached the ring road: a block with an hour-long delay forming near the Gatwick exit.  I sighed and turned into London, threading the neighborhoods to get around the block.  I turned up the radio to escape thinking about the week.

DSC05186 (1300x867)My podcasts were unified in their predictions of train wrecks after this week’s American election.  There’s more than a whiff of Brexit-shock in the American media at the moment: a ‘sure-thing’ outcome upended by the democratic process.  Change is needed, we need to move beyond Bush/Clinton.  But undoing eight years of Obama’s accomplishments is not going to be good for global stability or for most people.

DSC05194 (1300x867)So I’m not happy about the prospect of a President Trump, and voted otherwise.  I hope that multi-party democracy  survives in both the US (and the UK, where Labor is struggling).   In Trump, I’m hoping for the best, and that we will find that he governs (per Zito’s recent analysis) seriously instead of literally.   As Van Jones observed in David Axelrod’s interview, we haven’t looked in on his half of the country to see how they were doing under globalization.  In truth, they haven’t been doing very well, and we do need to take their problems as seriously as we do our liberal causes. 

DSC05198 (1300x867)Nowhere is this more clear than on immigration policy and multiculturalism.  The Economist published a study showing that the rate of immigration was the best predictor of anti-immigration sentiment, rather than the amount of it.  Humanitarian policies will need to adapt to this reality, limiting the pace of change for both sides, perhaps focused on keeping people in their homes rather than creating streams of refugees.

DSC05207 (1300x867)A recent This American Life illustrated clearly how the breakdown of trust between peoples happens.  Initially, for St. Cloud Minnesota, it was just a simple zoning dispute.  There were too many well-intentioned calls for more assimilation, too much false provocation by outside opportunists.  I think eventual solution must be personal ones.  Fears will abate once people on each side have friends on the other, as happened across racial and gay divides.  But it will take time and tolerance, both of which may be lost under President Trump.

Beautiful WallAt least we can hope for a beautiful wall, as Mexican artists recently imagined.
Arriving at the docks, the wind is gusting, beating waves against the breakwall.  It’s bitter cold on deck, winter not far away.  Departure was interesting: closer to the harbour barriers than usual, bringing out the spectators.  Once at sea, though, I got a bit of work done, and we pulled into Dunkirk at sunset.  A sprint across Belgium, and an early evening arrival in Maastricht. 
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My Dutch home is neat and cleanDSC05222 (1300x867), warm and familiar.  I take a welkom bierje from Bert in the streetside cafe, a change from the secret gardens favoured in the UK.  The world seems certain to draw apart in the coming years, it would be nice if political storms and economic winter were not a result.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

At the Hastings Herring Fair

DSC04976 (867x1300)This is Bonfire Weekend across the UK, celebrations of Guy Fawkes night held in communities and fireworks lasting towards morning.  We spent it in the seaside fishing town of Hastings, along the East Sussex coast between Brighton and Dover.

The town is famous for the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the tart of the NormanDSC05020 (867x1300) Conquest of England.  The battle between William, Duke of Normandy and King Godwinson of England was lost n October 14, and the town celebrates with historical reenactments and bonfires two weeks ahead of Guy Fawkes night.  So, the town was quiet, the nearest celebrations over an hour away.
However, luck on our side, Hastings was holding its annual Herring Fair
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A celebration of all things fishy, there were local deep-fried fish dishes, craft beers, and sea shantys sung throughout the day.  I avoided the cooking classes in favour of enjoying the music, the docks, and a few conversations with the locals.
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A few London-name acts appeared, but were mostly late and unenthusiastic comparedDSC05019 (867x1300) to the town-based musicians.  The smoked fish was excellent (my w.wezen gave me my first taste of milk-poached kippers and mackerels were prepared back at home the next day –actually a joy despite my suspicion of fish and egg combination breakfast), and the beers were pleasingly strong (especially when compared to the watery brews offered in Chicago’s pubs).