Sunday, 24 May 2009

places I remember: Delft

Every week, I’ll write a little piece about the places I’ve lived or visited, based on my own feelings, thoughts and memories – and most likely a bit of history.

Little MJ from number eight lived hereDelft, The Netherlands - Delft is where I spent my formative years - and more; between moving there with my parents when I was two until moving to Gouda last November, I’ve lived in Delft for just over 34 years. But not that many of my memories from that time are tied to locations. Perhaps because of all the time I spent there, which made all the other places more ‘special’.

Foreigners (all of my three or four readers) may know the town for it’s pottery, Delfware being one attempt (of many around Europe) at imitating Chinese porcelain before the secret to making porcelain was known in the western world. It also has a pretty mediaeval inner city, with canals, a couple of old churches, a city hall etc. And the monestary where our patris patriae, William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, was assasinated in 1584. His misgivings about the place turned out to be correct all along, even if for the wrong reasons. (William didn’t like the Old Church tower that loomed over the monastery, something went wrong in building it and the tower is slightly tilted towards it.)

William was buried in the New Church, although the man who probably wrote what was to become (as late as 1932!) our national anthem, Filips van Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde, was buried in the Old Church, together with a handful of heroic admirals and of course Johannes Vermeer. (Hardly any – if any at all – of the shots you see in Girl with the Pearl Earring is from Delft, although I did hear hear from my mother at one point around the time that it was being made that a film crew was shooting in the inner city.)

The crypt underneath the New Church is still in use, but is only opened for members of the Dutch royal family. Most recently in 2004 for Prince Bernhard. A couple of years earlier, after the death of Prince Clause, this gave me a rather peculiar dilemma. I lived in Delft, which was partially cordoned off and I worked at De Kuip, the Feyenoord stadium, which was being used as a staging area for the military and veterans lining the route. Fortunately I was going in the opposite direction than the mass of people both on my way out and back home.

Of course trips to these locations were a given for schoolkids in Delft. At the monestary, which is now Museum De Prinsenhof (the Prince’s Court) you can still see holes in the wall where the hit the wall after going through the Prince. They look impressive, but I don’t doubt they’ve been widened by many fingers over the years (they’re behind glass now).

‘my’ kerbWhen we first moved to Delft, we lived under the smoke of the factory where my father worked, in a quiet little neighbourhood. Not too long before I moved away from Delft I went back and took some pictures. There were four blocks like the ones you see in the picture above, with fields between the first and second and third and fourth. It was as quiet as I remembered it, although there were more cars in the little side-street that we used to play “stoeprand” (kerb-stone) in than I remember. Of course beyond the pavement one side was completely empty because the old church building has been torn down since and not yet replaced.

It’s strange, I’ve been trying to recall strong emotions, but I still can’t. I seem to have glided through what may amount to between half to a third of my life without taking notice. I didn’t fall in love there, I didn’t form any lasting friendships with anyone in Delft, it’s all a bit of a fog. That’s not to say it’s the town’s fault. Just that the period of my life was fogged over. At least it was in Delft that I finally came to my senses too.


Uroskin said...
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Uroskin said...

I rubbed the hole in the wall left by the bullet that killed Willem Van Oranje.
A schoolboy experience indeed.

more cowbell said...

hello - foreigner who only knew Delft for pottery here! I like this series.