Saturday, 29 November 2008

Personal Archaeology

The entry about Gregory (Nobody at Home, 8 October 2008) set me thinking about a dead person’s continuing presence in the land of the living. Here, memories are not enough. You want tangible proof of what once was and maybe still exists. Then I remembered the books we shared, which were often intended not as works of literature but as bearers of inscriptions. Greg favoured pulp gems like this autobiography of Diana Dors, Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, which he gave to me when he already knew he was dying. Inside, in Dutch, he wrote, “I love you”: a simple way of ensuring that I would never forget.
Photo: Annie

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Shady Lady

Photo: Annie. Taken in the window of Galerie Rademakers in Amsterdam. The painting is by Marian Siereveld and is part of an exhibition called Confessions of a Tender Mind. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Pierrot Speaks

The great actor Jean Louis Barrault, now a resident in an Amsterdam antiques shop.
Photo: Annie

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Master Is Expecting You

Like the candelabra held by human arms reaching from the walls of Jean Cocteau's film La Belle et la BĂȘte, this stylish doorknocker is poised to announce your arrival.
Photo: Annie

Saturday, 15 November 2008


As a child, I believed that photographs changed when people died, that they acquired a haunted quality as is demonstrated by this romantic but melancholy image. Five years ago, the young man, a British Jewish student named Jeremiah Duggan, was lured to a conference at the Schiller Institute in Wiesbaden, an involvement that proved fatal. Despite sounding like a sister organisation of the highly respectable Goethe-Institut, the Schiller Institute is a sinister, anti-semitic sect. It contends that Jeremiah committed suicide by running onto a busy autobahn where he was hit by two cars, a claim that is disputed by his mother who believes he was murdered.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Minox Redux

This portrait of the terrorist Andreas Baader was taken with a tiny Minox camera that had been smuggled into Stammheim Prison where he and three other members of the Red Army Faction were awaiting trial. Baader subsequently shot himself with a pistol that had also been spirited into the jail and hidden in a record player.

See also the Profoundly Superficial entry of 25 October 2008.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

What Price Love?

This Egyptian beauty is currently languishing at the bottom of a bookcase at a local auction. The catalogue carries no information about her origins, nor is there any estimation of her asking price. But I find her rather lovely so I photographed her for my Egyptologist girlfriend who - naturally enough - is in Egypt.

‘Would you like her for your birthday?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes!’ said Miss Bertje. ‘Is she the genuine article?’ I continued. ‘Or is she a fake?'

‘Her colours are not unusual,’ came the cautious reply, ‘but you never know with forgers. Some of them are extremely sophisticated. Even museum directors often don’t know for certain what’s real in their collections.’

So next Tuesday evening I will be perched on the edge of my chair at the auction. Will Beauty be going for a song and coming home with me? Or will the bidding go sky high on the assumption that she’s an ancient lady?

Photo: Annie. If you’d like to know what happens, check the comments section of this entry on Wednesday, 12 November.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Mystery of the Golden Boots

As if abandoned by some modern Cinderella as the clock struck midnight, these golden boots have been left amidst the dirt and cigarettes of an Amsterdam street. Perhaps they are waiting for another young girl willing to chance her luck on finding a fairytale.
Photo: Annie

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Potemkin Village in Amsterdam?

The construction of the North-South subway in Amsterdam is almost universally unpopular. It is exorbitantly expensive and is leaving chaos in its wake as it ploughs through the soggy mud on which this city is built. Houses have subsided; others have developed terrifying cracks in their walls. Even the mice and rats have been driven from their cellar dwellings and have ventured upstairs en masse, much to the horror of the human residents. Still the city council is putting a brave face on it, as is demonstrated by these photographs of real hedges attached to acres of steel fencing.

All in all, the futility of this gesture reminds me of a ‘Potemkin village’, one of those fake settlements created by Prince Grigori Potemkin as ‘window dressing’ to reassure Catherine the Great of her peasant subjects’ well-being.
Photo: Annie. Click to enlarge.