a trip to Amsterdam in three parts; firstly water and boats.

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on my first day  in the Netherlands I visited Tilberg with S to see the mina perhonen exhibition at the Texteil Museum

which was enchanting and beautiful and inspirational. afterwards we were persuaded to go to the de Pont Museum nearby,

to see the building – an impressive modern gallery, industrial style – and the Bill Viola installation there.

the only part of this collection of videos that we felt impelled to watch for its full time-span was the last one. mysterious pulsating navy blue water filled a deep rectangular screen, the sound-track a beating heart or a wave machine, something mechanical with a driving energy. for minutes altogether lapping shapes emerged and disappeared in the depths; light or bubbles glinted, at the base of the screen something more energetic appeared to be happening, until at last a shocking pale figure laced and bearded with elongated bubbles pierced the image from below with a roar of crashing water.

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so, Amsterdam, a city full of water and boats, trees dropping their leaves in the water, coots and ducks and seagulls and a surprising numbers of cars, bicycles and clichés. I walk along the side of one wide canal, admiring boats, and rafts of shaggy wild water plants.

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up to the system of waterways curved around the centre of the old city, which I spend the morning exploring.

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gold and russet leaves in the water draw my eye as the canal tour buses swirl past.

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everywhere I look, pretty seventeenth century waterfront houses, boats, bikes, trees, birds, tourists and water bus wakes. how on earth can one find anything about Amsterdam that isn’t a cliché, while avoiding being run down by a cyclist?

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Bill Viola’s video stays with me all morning as I gaze into the murky waters of the canals (clean water is cycled into them every twenty four hours).

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an off the street life which is mysterious and inaccessible to the casual tourist.

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the cool northern light reflected back by the water.

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a small boat emerges from under a bridge, approaches, then turns and  zooms away again, a photographer aboard.

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some of these barges do tours of home life on a barge. I see locked plastic bio-loos on some quiet canal-side streets, presumably for barge dwellers.

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I am told that the canal tour buses are a great way to see Amsterdam.

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everywhere you can hear the sad off-key clang of the trams’ warning bell. I don’t get to ride on a tram until I leave in a couple of days.

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lee-boards. now there’s a thing. these essentially sailing boat stabilisers for flat bottomed boats only crept into my vocabulary about three weeks ago, and here they are on sailing barges, where they belong, and on this racy looking little motorboat, which seems very strange.

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mesmerising  watershapes.

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magnificent lee-boards

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cheeky little chug-chug boat

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an elegant green canoe

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so many eye-catching boats

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and grey reflections constantly changing

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