Saturday, January 23, 2010

It won’t be long…

Christmas decorations go up earlier every year in the US as retailers try to get a jump on holiday shoppers.

So, too, with Carnivale in Maastricht.

The pre-Lent celebration gets going in early February, but a few of the colorful decorations have already started to sneak into shop windows throughout the Wyck.  It’s a nice splash of color in the misty rains and early evenings.  The butcher shop (shown) has the best display so far.

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I took the train north to Amsterdam on Tuesday to visit my accountants, a couple of hours journey each way.  I always enjoy the trip, stretches of fields and waterways punctuated by now-familiar villages and cities.   The rectangular geometry of water-filled trenches bordering fields and houses grids the landscape everywhere: it reminds me of putting in the French Drains back in Seattle years ago.

We were digging a hole for my son’s basketball pole when it suddenly filled with water; I thought we’d hit a pipe.  We subsequently discovered the water table had raised, and that the home’s crawlspace and foundations were submerged.  It was caused by an uphill neighbor clearing trees from their back yard (Why move to the Pacific Northwest if you don’t like trees?).

The Dutch might have figured it out, I had to use trial and error.  Trenching and draining never seemed to solve it, despite several refinements. We finally had to put in a sump pump, it still whirrs several times a day to clear the cistern.

DSC09922 It’s not the best of time to visit Amsterdam.  The city gets wet and drab in winter,  everyone bundled in black overcoats and grey scarves.  There was ice on the rivers and the Centraal Station had a biting wind blowing through the long tunnel of platforms.

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Still, I like walking the canals and the joining the bustle of the city.  It’s easy to imagine the warmer weather, budding trees, and canalside cafes  that will arrive in a couple of months.

The days are already starting to lengthen and the ice has thawed out of the cobblestones in the South.  The bands will soon take to the streets; the fraternal icons will again be hoisted up lamposts.  Along the Maas, it’s almost time for Carnivale and I agree with the shopkeepers, it can’t come soon enough.

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