I had a meeting this morning, one where I was offered the opportunity to exhibit my photographs in Brussels.
I'm excited. By emptying my life of 'Everything', I have left space for Some Thing. And while my Home & Away exhibition was an impulse that took me on an unexpected journey, this exhibition is going to be all about staying conscious ... in a way I didn't quite manage back in October.
I'm always learning. Always willing to learn.
It will open early in the new year and it feels like a good way to begin 2015. More news to follow as we decide on dates, times and all that important stuff.
The image below ... found on the streets of Genova.
Ruth had wondered, a while ago, if Miss 10 might enjoy attending some of the Christmas theatre happening here in the city. I said I was sure that she would and voila, Ruth booked us all in for a performance by the FroFroe Theater ... titled TROPOI.
The performance was based on the book and movie, The Parfum, with the main character being an exquisitely made, and stunningly operated, puppet called Castiglio. I have no idea where to lavish the most praise as the performance was mind-blowing. There were the puppets, the actors, the singers and the musicians, all coming together to create a stunning show that I feel so fortunate to have seen
Did I mention the superb medieval and baroque music played on original instruments...!
I could rave on for paragraphs but here's a taste of what the Belgian press wrote:
TROPOI shows what grand performances the puppet theatre is capable of giving. De Morgen. TROPOI is one of the best productions this season. De Bond. FroeFroe can add another success to its prize list. Zone 03. TROPOI shows you not only the magic of music, but also the magic of the puppet theatre. Impressive. De Standaard.
You can get a small taste of tonight's performance in the video below. I hope I get to see many more of their performances. Brilliant. Miss 10 thought so too.
It's taken me a week to even make an attempt to write about the weekend that was because it was overwhelming ... sublime, full of friends and laughter. It was full.
The photography exhibition went right to the wire, in terms of preparedness. I may have overcommitted myself a little but that's my style. I should know this thing about me by now. We had 6 house-guests over the 3 days but that was pure magic as well. I know so many good people.
Teresa arrived first, over from London and we had much to talk about. There I was cooking bacon and egg savouries for the exhibition opening, writing up descriptions for the photographs that Gert and Sander had helped me hang in the morning, drinking a little red wine from New Zealand, while Teresa and Miss 10 tied ribbons around little packets of postcards by Di.
Ren and Egil flew in from Norway. Shannon and Erik drove over from Holland. Kim also came in from England and before I knew it, it was all on. Cars, directions, trams, even bicycles. People arrived at the reception.
Hilde, from the Choice New Zealand shop here in Antwerp, was hosting the exhibition, and she made sure that the New Zealand wine flowed, as did tasty little NZ inspired snacks. Friends and family just kept on arriving and my heart sang.
But perhaps you get a sense of the atmosphere, the good people, the beautiful evening via this selection of photographs taken by Kim and Teresa. I'm so grateful. I'd love to have documented it but I was too far into it all, as warned when I mentioned I might take my camera.
So very into it. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me.
Murray arrived Tuesday and we've been incredibly busy in the days since then. Then yesterday, the Belgian bloke joined us and we headed for Flanders Fields.
First stop was in Mesen (Messines, in French) where we caught up with the remarkable Steven Reynaert, a treasured friend and highly respected historian, he was able to give Murray a sense of the history of WW1 in and around the area.
We were photographed with the NZ Soldier before leaving Mesen, as per the first image. Steven and Murray are there in the third image.
The middle photograph captures another favourite friend of mine out there in the Westhoek. Freddy Declerck is a truly special man and we were so fortunate in catching up with him in The Memorial Museum Passchendaele.
We had an early dinner in our favourite restaurant in Ieper - het Klein Stadhuis, as photographed below before rolling out the door and into the light drizzle, heading for the Menin Gate and the Last Post Ceremony. More to follow on that ...
It was a huge day. It was a good day.
An old friend from far-away flew in on Tuesday. I knew Murray back in those days when I was an airforce officer's wife living on that base surrounded by wineries located at the top of New Zealand's South Island.
So, since Tuesday, we've had years of stories to catch up on ... his teenage children, my move out of New Zealand too but despite so many years passing, 'all that time ago' still feels like only a few months have passed since our last meeting.
And so we have been talking as I've introduced him to Antwerp and life here. He's enjoyed Antwerp's incredible printing museum, the MAS ... the Red Star Line Museum too. The photo above was all about me taking photographs using Murray's phone camera ... some laughter was involved, as I messed up more than a few images, adjusting to this new way of 'seeing'.
He arrived just in time for my birthday ... which was yesterday, and it turned out to be one of those lovely days where I just kind of birthday-ed the day away. Quietly. Jess made me my mostabsolutelyfavourite cake in the world ... an orange cake, and I whipped up a big old dinner of Persian Chicken.
I'm around but busy, just for a few days before he wanders on into Europe. Stories shall surely follow.
Crossing the pontoon bridge in Antwerp was so much more fun than I had imagined. I met a remarkable older gentleman and his wife as we queued. Together we laughed and chatted our way across that pontoon bridge.
On the other side we hunted down Choice New Zealand pies, discovered the Cava stand, and spent a good hour speaking to strangers at Hilde's pie stand, about New Zealand and pies of course. One man, who so very much wanted to live in NZ, proposed marriage to me. He offered my Belgian bloke his wife in exchange. There was much laughter. Benny was there with his fries in the Retro - Food bus too.
It was a truly delightful way to spend an afternoon.
Below is a view from the Left Bank back to Antwerp city ... with the story too.
A highlight of this commemorative programme is the contemporary reconstruction of the 1914 pontoon bridge, symbolising the connection between the past, present and future. The temporary pontoon bridge across the River Scheldt near Steen Fortress will be built by Belgian and Dutch engineer battalions on October 3rd, 2014.
The construction of a contemporary “Peace Bridge” is a technical feat. Above all the bridge will be a unique experience for the many tens of thousands of visitors who will be able to cross the River Scheldt on foot, following in the footsteps of the Belgian army as well as of the more than 10,000 refugees who fled a burning city in search of a safe haven. The reconstruction is a reminder of a significant historical moment in the city’s history as well as an invitation to build bridges in the present and work together to create a connected, inclusive city.
Here's another view of Antwerp's city cathedral - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal.
I discovered it reflected in a puddle out on Groenplaats one day. And loved it. And quite possibly looked insane as I stalked the puddle edges, searching for the best angle to capture the reflection at ... but I was compelled to.
Antwerp city... otherwise known as 't Stad, is a city with staying power. Quietly determined, she has stood here, growing, since Gallo Roman times, fighting off every kind of invader. A steenezel perhaps but so solid. Always solid, despite the Spanish, the Dutch, the Austrians, the Nazis and all kinds of other folk too, attempting to rule her.
The story goes that the city got its name via a legend that involved a mythical giant called Antigoon. He lived near the Scheldt River and demanded a toll from those using the river. If people refused, he cut off their hand and threw it into that river. The giant was eventually killed by a hero called Brabo who, in the way of mythical stories, cut off that giant's hand and threw it into the river.
Antwerpen or hand werpen, as in the Old English hand and wearpan (to throw), became the name of this city way back in those days when mythical giants existed ... somehow.
There are all kinds of other, more practical, stories regarding the name but this is my favourite.
Below is a glimpse of the famous river, giant-free, at sunset. You can see the exquisite Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, (aka Cathedral of Our Lady) in the background. Construction finished way back in 1521. The one finished spire stands at 123 metres (404 ft) high, and is the highest church tower in the Benelux. The largest bell in the tower requires 16 bell ringers.
It's a city where I've been lucky to find all the pretty ways home because there are pretty ways. And I do love the ancient heart of the city, its perfectly walkable, cobblestoned and full of all kinds of surprises. It's as quirky as you can imagine. Let me show you.
Meet the team. Belgium's Red Duivels - aka the World Cup Football team.
The story of the photographer and this project is over on Fans of Flanders.
The game begins in 15 minutes. People wearing 'the colours' of Belgium have been streaming by, on their way to the nearby park to support the team with like-minded souls. Apparently beer glasses were joyfully thrown in the air last time, Belgium had scored, so no one seems too worried about possible rain.
It's been muggy all day ... we're absolutely 'in theme' for Brazilian weather here.
Let's see how it goes.
Belgium 0 - Argentina 1.
Homelands don't exist. It's an invention.Great artists don't have careers, they have lives.
What does exist is that place where you were happy.
Susana Fortes, from Waiting For Robert Capa.
A sign you are getting better is when you care less what others think of you.
What does exist is that place where you were happy.
Susana Fortes, from Waiting For Robert Capa.
A sign you are getting better is when you care less what others think of you.
Today was mostly about a birthday, not mine but an early Miss-9-celebrating-10. Her birthday falls in the school holidays and she has made some precious school friends here in the city.
It was all about water fights and laughter, a toast made with plastic goblets, and gifts that made her swoon.
It was a good day here in the flatlands of Belgium.
Oh, and about this Flemish side of Belgium, the place where I live ... VRT News channels made this. It so captures the Flemish I know. They have their serious face ... and then there is this crazy-beautiful side that I sometimes forget about.
On my facebook page I wrote, 'One of the biggest secrets about Belgium is how amusing and wicked the Flemish folk are. VRT-Nieuws is our news channel of choice and it was hilarious (and yet unsurprising) to see them ALL dancing to Happy here. They wear a serious face oftentimes but scratch the surface and ... well, you get a sense of them here. Loved this.'
Or perhaps I should write, the new secondhand baby ...
The Belgian bloke and I were up early and out the door before 8am this morning. It's Sunday and we had decided to head out to the huge outdoor Sunday market in Waterloo.
The range of stuff you can find there is remarkable, perhaps even more so for a girl from smalltown New Zealand. There is so much really ancient stuff. 200+ stalls, laid out in an orderly fashion, allowing you to explore the entire market and not get confused. There's a delightful mix of genuine antiques, that stuff that looks like it's been pulled directly from someone's cellar or attic without stopping to clean it along the way, and more contemporary 'stuff'.
The new baby may have traveled that middle path, straight from the attic, undusted. It was quite stiff from lack of use and Gert had the unenviable job of breathing new life into it.
It's a little orange Standard Ugro and I can't find one online so far and now I'm wondering if it's older than we realised.
Anyway ... anyone who knew me back in those days that were filled with tortuous hours of learning to touch-type on old Olivetti typewriters would now collapse laughing over my delight at playing with this little orange machine ...
I love it.
I'm just in from an evening out in Antwerpen.
It's 1am, and I'm still recovering from seeing a young and relatively inexperienced Dutch team beat the pants off an experienced world champion Spanish team ... 5-0.
Extra time was a nail-biting experience simply because it still seemed entirely possible that Holland might score again and that, that would have been too embarassing to watch.
But I have to confess, there is something so good about finding yourself at a cafe in Grote Markt, sitting with a lovely Flemish guy you consider a friend, watching the football on a big-screen there at the cafe where you're attending an official function.
We drank our wine. Vic put up with my enthusiasm for the game while Gert was off and doing his work there in the crowd. It was quite the balmy summer's night and the sky was clear.
The football-watching crowd were divided. There were some who supported the Spanish however ... and I might be the only person who reports on this truth ... a large number of Belgians here were overjoyed when Holland won.
Towards the end of the evening, I met a small crowd of 20+ something Belgian blokes as we were leaving. One of them mistook me for an Australian and it quickly turned into a mocking kind of tournament.
An older woman, a friend of Gert's, leaned over and said admiringly of me, that I was one of those women with hair on her teeth ...
Why yes, that is a compliment here. I was worried it was about not brushing however it simply means that I'm not someone who can be easily taken down in conversational combat. (or something like that. i may have to stand corrected.)
I was quite proud, as the last person who congratulated me on my mocking brilliance was Vinnie Paul, way back when I was 16. It's been a while.
Anyway, all that to simply write, it's been a lovely evening here in the flatlands of Belgium tonight.
Forgive me if I fail to write coherently about the food at yesterday's 50th birthday party but I think the photograph at the end of the post goes some way to explaining why I fail ...
It was things like the fact that I don't like the idea of veal but ohmygoodness, it tastes like THAT!??
Jayne hosted the most exquisite party, invited a whole lot of lovely people, and made sure glasses were kept full of champagne while tempting our tummies with the most divine nibbles.
And I picked up a camera not my own and took photographs to my heart's content. I drank champagne, again ... Why yes, I was that woman who formerly claimed she didn't like champagne, who has shamelessly consumed 'quite some' (as the Belgian bloke has been known to say) these last 48 hours.
It appears I have seen the light with regard to good champagne.
Mmmm, and so it turns out a recipe for surviving a 29 celsius weekend here in Antwerp involves some champagne, much good food, and more than a few excellent people.
Normal service shall resume here tomorrow.
We wandered out into our small pocket-sized garden after dinner and read until 10pm. It's been hot here. We have summer. It's for sure now.
There's even talk of 31 celsius at the weekend. We have a BBQ to attend, a birthday party too. Oh, and the monthly expedition for supplies.
But anyway, the garden ...
Note of caution, based on what I read in Gert's mind ... if you want peace and tranquility, best not take a photographer.
I thought I could be tough on what was 'good enough' with this documentary-style series capturing the Hangi. But I'm finding that I want to include almost everything because all the photographs seem important to the story.
I realised that it's not just about cooking food in the ground, it's about the community that forms as people work together. And it was about the people who came and went during the process - it was kind of tidal, with different folk appearing at different stages.
But most of all, it was about the people who worked on it - those on a tour who saw help was needed and climbed into it with their experience from 'back home in NZ', with their strength, despite wearing boat shoes or white sneakers.
In the end it was all about the feeling surrounding the process ... it was quite staggeringly beautiful.
At the moment, I'm not sure one photograph captures it all. It's a story to be told with many photographs.
I'm off to Norway in August. There's a photography workshop to run for the rather extraordinarily talented woman who is Ren Powell.
And there was an invitation to a Hangi too, in London.
However there are 137 documentary photographs from this day of labouring, 137 that I a really pleased with ... although there are 'quite some' to go. I think it might be another night and day here in the chair.
Meanwhile ... I love this image of the Maori flag firmly planted in a Flemish field ...
And now, to cook some Persian chicken for dinner.
The fire that heated the stones used in the hangi pit ... was beautiful. Out there in a ploughed paddock on Flanders Fields.
Today is all about processing the 400+ photographs I took out on Flanders Fields, in the village of Mesen, on the occasion of ANZAC Day.
My grandfather was at Gallipoli, Turkey ... and later he was out on the Somme, in France, with his horse. Whether he made it to Flanders Fields with the rest of the Otago Mounted Rifles, I don't know ... he was injured on the Somme and found the experience of war so appalling that he would rarely speak of it.
I went twice to Gallipoli, while living in Turkey. The Turks have forgiven the invaders and actually take good care of the soldiers who fell there. In fact ...
Turkey became a republic in 1923 and Kemal became the first president. During his 15-year rule, many sweeping changes were introduced to the political, legal and socioeconomic fields. He was an immortal hero to his people and an extraordinary leader and peacemaker. Kemal said in 1933, "I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship". In 1934, he accepted the title "Atatürk" (father of the Turks).
In 1934 Atatürk wrote a tribute to the ANZACs killed at Gallipoli: Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
This shot was taken in Mesen, as the New Zealand navy greeted Bruce Simpson of Ngati Rana, the London Maori Club.