Friday, May 30, 2008

follow me to the slagroom, where we will toss hoengkwee into a cockring

You'll have already seen the collection of photos we took on our weekend in Amsterdam. Here's a few randomly assembled thoughts about the weekend.

Dutch is a language that seems to lend itself well to the generation of words and phrases that have unfortunate connotations in English. A small montage of some of the best ones we found and photographed is displayed below.

Just a quick run-through:
  • U kunt means "you can"; the full sentence read U kunt ook met muntgeld betalen, which means "you can also pay with coins".
  • hoengkwee appeared on the menu in the Indonesian restaurant we went to (see below); it was translated as "hoengkwee" which left us none the wiser. We didn't order the item in question (some sort of sweet coconut drink) so I can't speculate on what it might be; probably just as well.
  • slagroom is Dutch for "whipped cream"
  • SISSY-BOY HOMELAND appeared to be some sort of clothes shop
  • AANSLAG appears to mean "onslaught"
  • TOSS is some sort of game - not entirely clear about the rules but I suspect the naked ladies on the box may provide a hint
  • and finally COCKRING did genuinely appear to be some sort of sex club
Playing Scrabble with a set designed for words in another language (as we did in the La Tertulia coffeeshop we went to on Saturday afternoon) is slightly odd; not only does Triple Word Score become 3X Woord Warde, but the letters aren't worth what you're used to them being worth. A Dutch set, for instance, has more Js and Zs than an English one, and they're only worth 4 points each as a result. So my JIZZ, for instance, is worth considerably less under Dutch rules, which is a shame. Tile distribution for each country is as below.

We ate at the excellent Indonesian restaurant Kantjil & de Tijger on Sunday night; a bit of a nostalgia trip for me as we lived in Indonesia for a couple of years when I was a child (8-10 years old, roughly). So the nasi goreng and the rendang brought back some memories, as did the Bintang beer which I recall my Dad & others tucking into at various expatriate gatherings.

The Rijksmuseum is currently undergoing some extensive renovations, so various wings are being closed off at different times. They keep the major attractions on view at all times though, which I guess for most people will be the Rembrandts, the Vermeers and the odd Frans Hals (though not the Laughing Cavalier as this is in the Wallace Collection in London). I like Vermeer a lot; the rest I can take or leave.

Possibly more interesting is the Van Gogh Museum, depending of course on whether you like Van Gogh's work or not. Personally I do, so that's good.

And you probably have a moral duty to go to the Anne Frank House as well, though if you are going to go I seriously recommend getting there before the 9am opening time, otherwise the queues will be round the block. Doesn't take long to get round the place, maybe an hour or so at most, because it is, after all, quite small. All very sobering; funny the things that strike you at these times though - "Anne" was short for "Annelies", and with the German/Dutch pronunciation would have been rendered as "Anna", or near as dammit anyway, so we've been saying it wrong all these years. There are various quotations written on the walls in the museum; the one that brings a lump to the throat is Primo Levi's:
One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: if we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.
I must confess I've never read the diary; it's a cliché but I think its main appeal is to girls of a similar age. If you want a holocaust memoir then Levi's If This Is A Man and its follow-up The Truce (generally available as a single volume) are pretty much indispensable, I would say.

The history of the Netherlands is very interesting, particularly the massive civil engineering effort required just to stop the entire country slurping inexorably out into the North Sea, being as it is largely just a collection of low-lying silty deposits and sandbars. None of which is going to save them from being first against the wall come the revolution; well, them and Bangladesh. And Norfolk.

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