‘s-Hertogenbosch, also known as Den Bosch, is an absolutely delightful town in the southern Netherlands. It has a population of 153,000 (I am from London, we have a population of almost 9 million). It mostly rained while I was there but even so, I absolutely loved it to pieces and have fantasised about buying a house there ever since. People seem to have an enviable quality of life, there’s hardly any traffic, people cycle everywhere, there are farmers’ markets and unspoiled mediaeval buildings. The few pictures I have here cannot do it justice and I encourage you to google-image-search it because it is gorgeous.
There was a fair while I was visiting.
Despite being a tiny place, it has no less than three art museums! I went to Stedelijk Museum where the modern art is.
While I was there, they were having an exhibition of works by Chiharu Shiota, a Japanese artist who makes amazing installations out of red thread.
OK, that’s all my Dutch travel experiences. More travel photos coming right up.
I was lucky enough to visit Delft on my recent tour of Holland. I fell in love with it. It has mediaeval architecture, beautiful streets with quaint houses and tree-lined canals and a lovely, modern library.
There are two churches that you can go and look round to admire the architecture. I went to the New Church where William of Orange is buried, you can tell it is the new one because it was only built in the 14th century. The other church is old.
If you are in the area, you must visit this delightful bead shop. It’s not just about the gorgeous beads which are a riot of colour; the delightful Dutch proprietor will make you mint tea and sit you down at a table where you can chat for as long as you want while she helps you make a necklace. Highly recommended. Don’t buy a house in Delft, though, because I want one so don’t go taking all the good properties.
I realise it is the last day of February and therefore the latest instalment in the TLYW Year of Console Gaming is due to be published today. It is coming. I’m writing the post now so watch this space.
It’s New Year’s Day already and that means it’s time to do our annual Year In Review. At this time last year I had almost completely freed myself from a terrible, punishing job at the World’s Worst Company – I was almost at the end of my contract, slogging through the last of a huge pile of paperwork and looking forward to being formally released mid-January. I was in love with a Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with during the second half of 2015 and much of 2016 but by the time 2017 materialised it seemed to be really over, at last, and I formed a new and more worthwhile relationship with my Playstation that I had for Christmas.
By the end of 2017 I had visited 5 countries and set up home with someone new, in my first serious relationship since this blog began.
January arrived, as it is wont to do. I handed back my keys at the World’s Worst Company, left the building and returned to full-time self-employment. This was definitely the high point of the month. I was in terrible physical shape due to being overworked for a long time but I was optimistic for the year ahead. I joined a local community choir, to give my lungs some exercise and to provide an opportunity to keep dressing up in outrageous, huge-skirted, 1950s frocks, a habit I formed during the last few months of going to work. Check out this little number, it has dinosaurs, which turned out to be rather a theme for January.
I went to the British Museum again, to look at John Dee’s crystal ball. Dee was a 16th-century mystic who advised Elizabeth I. Then I went a third time, to see the South Africa exhibition, which was amazing. I felt relatively well-informed about South Africa, having visited in 2016 and learned as much as possible about its history while I was there.
I went to an exhibition of board games at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London, which is an extension of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In February I conceived the idea of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, an organised programme of console gaming, in which I lined up a total of 14 console games to be played at a rate of one a month. This programme continued well for the first three quarters of the year. Game of the Month for February was ARK: Survival Evolved, which was awesome and turned out to be my favourite game of 2017. I will definitely return to it. I will do a separate post about my 2018 plans for gaming.
I went to the gym and caught two colds, which was so predictable. At least I was trying.
I continued to be excited about music and went to hear the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Stravinsky’s Firebird. The below clip shows Stravinsky conducting the last three scenes of The Firebird himself, it was recorded in 1960.
The story of The Firebird comes from Slavic folklore, a theme which held my attention for the rest of the month while I was reading The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden.
I fulfilled a lifetime ambition by seeing the wonderful Marc Almond perform live in Camden.
Dress of the month was this turquoise Ophelia by LindyBop.
Game of the Month of was God of War III: Remastered.
My interested in classical music continued in April and I went to Royal Festival Hall yet again to hear Mahler 5. I’d been in hospital with cellulitis, having had a run of bad health for about three months, and they let me out just in time to go to the concert.
I also went to the Royal Opera House to see a performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The production took my breath away with its scale and beauty and I cried at the end. 10/10, would go again.
Then my interest turned from opera to ballet and I went to see George Ballanchine’s 20th-century ballet Jewels, performed by the Royal Ballet. It was glittering, as one might expect.
Game of the Month was Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
A fabulous month. There was more opera and ballet. I went on holiday to Spain and France. I fell in love twice, latterly with Harry, who was about to change my life by becoming my first serious partner in several years and moving in with me before the year was over.
Opera of the month was Mozart’s Magic Flute. I enjoyed it so much, I saw it twice. It was performed by the Charles Court company in the back of a pub in London’s Islington. The second time, I was with Harry and it was our second date.
Ballet of the month was Casanova, a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, performed by the Northern Ballet Company.
I went on holiday to Spain, where there was a resort and a beach, then I went to Paris, where there was wine.
Game of the Month was Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. It was glorious and I particularly enjoyed sailing ships and fighting at sea.
There were terrorist attacks in London and Londoners were annoyed. I went to the historic Black Friar pub in London, which was built in 1875 and has stained glass windows.
Then we had still another date and went to London’s Kew Gardens. The summer weather was beautiful, we had weeks of sunshine, not to be underestimated in the UK.
Dress of the month: Nadia, by LindyBop, in a nice guitar print.
I cleaned my house magnificently because of being in love. I had new, matching tableware from Portmeirion, the first of two sets this year.
Game of the Month was Red Dead Redemption.
July saw two things happen: Harry started cooking at my house, revealing fantastic cooking skills, and I went on a health kick. I purchased a Nutribullet, made smoothies twice a day and started doing a lot of exercise. I felt v healthy and only stopped with the hours of punishing cardio because my hair was falling out (I am not good at doing things in moderation).
There were some nice walks on Hampstead Heath.
We had an interesting meal at the Carousel restaurant at Tate Modern, including green matcha cake.
The restaurant has this view across the Thames. That’s St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side.
While we were at Tate, we also went to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (and finally blogged about it in September).
George Romero died and I wept.
Game of the Month was Battlefield 1.
My business life heated up. I had to blog far less and do less video gaming but I travelled more. In August I went to Rotterdam, Den Bosch and had my 51st birthday in Amsterdam. This is the point where I suddenly had a lot of photos and no time to post them, so you are still waiting for pictures of all these destinations. Here are some teasers.
Harry and I managed to squeeze in a date at London’s Camden Lock.
Game of the Month was Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Work was in full swing. By this point I was right in the middle of the busiest four months of 2017. There were no more fun dates around London or outdoor exercise sessions. I just worked and focused on meeting deadlines. I don’t even have any photos from that whole month.
Harry was supportive while I got all my work done.
Game of the Month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, arguably the greatest of the GTA series.
This turned out to be the last month of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming that I could fit into my diary. We are reviving the programme this January.
We celebrated the blog’s 7th birthday.
I went to Rotterdam again. Here are a couple more teaser photos. I’ll do detailed travel photo posts in due course.
I then went to India. Managed to get this quite nice snap out of the window on the plane.
Spent a few days in Bangalore.
Managed to carve out a very small amount of time to see some art, of which more later.
Finished working in India, went straight to Orange County in California.
Really nice weather, was like a British summer.
Back in London, Harry and I went shopping at The Japan Centre to celebrate his birthday.
Continued to work at a breakneck pace during the first half the month, then gradually began to slow down long enough to do a few Xmas things.
Harry and I went to see The Nutcracker performed by the English National Ballet.
Then, quite suddenly and very near the end of December, I finished work for real, cleaned my house, visited some relatives and settled in for a slightly delayed Christmas Day in London with Harry.
And that was 2017. I wish everybody a very happy and prosperous year to come. I wanted to say that before hitting publish last night but someone was very keen for me to get off my PC and come to bed. Anyway, happy new year.
We are seven! In fact it was the blog’s birthday a week ago but I’ve been so busy with work, I completely missed it.
Each New Year’s Eve, I do a review of the year on TLYW, but on the blog’s birthday I review the whole period since the blog started. A period which would not have been the same and perhaps could not even have happened without your readership and support! So thank you! Thanks very much indeed for reading along and sharing all my adventures.
By way of a little celebration, here are 7 of my favourite things since the blog started. I wish I had kept it my whole life. I wish blogs had been a thing when I was a child in the 18th century. Anyway. Here are 7 of my very favourite things, in no particular order.
Party in Trenton, New Jersey, 2016. What a TREAT! Thank you so much, Trentoners, for welcoming me while I was there on business from London.
South Africa, 2016. Beautiful. Had my 50th birthday here.
Netherlands, 2017. What a lovely country! I would seriously consider living there and keep mentioning it to Harry. I had my 51st birthday here. You are still waiting for photos from this trip; there are plenty of them! Below, a performer on stilts at a fair in Den Bosch.
Miami, Florida, 2012. The trip of a lifetime. I went to Disney and stayed in one of their most fancy on-site hotels for a week and then I went to Miami Beach, where I stayed in the breathtaking W Hotel. It was the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in and Miami is one of my favourite places in the whole world, due to the impressive Art Deco architecture. What I wouldn’t give to be there right now.
Miami Art Deco, with pink police car
Istanbul, Turkey, 2012. Such an amazing place. I took a sight seeing trip on the river.
New Delhi, India, 2012. Sculpture park, as seen below. I wasn’t in India for very long but it was really educational. I’m going back this year.
Egypt and Jordan, 2013. Gave me an enduring love for the Middle East. Become more peaceful, please, because I want to bring my tourist money to your countries.
Not forgetting: France (several times, Paris, Nice); Sweden; Greece; Germany; Switzerland; Belgium; Hungary; Canary Islands; more United States including visiting friends in Michigan, also San Antonio, Texas; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Shanghai, Beijing, CHILE! And in the UK: visits to Yorkshire to see my good friend C (several times), seeing U-Roy play live at the One Love Reggae Festival (lifetime ambition fulfilled, check), seeing Marc Almond play live in London (check), seeing a whole bunch of operas, ballets and classical music concerts at the Royal Opera House and Royal Festival Hall, London.
It’s been amazing. I hope there’s more to come because these have been the best years of my life.
I must go, business has gone wild and there is no more time for blogging. I will visit 3 countries in the next 4 weeks so there will be a lot of travel photos when we finally get to the end of the year.
I can’t believe I was foolhardy enough to invite Harry over when I was right in the middle of de-cluttering the spare room. I had already pulled all the junk out of that room and it was all over the floor in the living room and hall. It was well past the stage where I could just shove the junk back where it came from. The only way out was through. That’s why I’ve been doing housework for 24 hours now and yet I’ve only just arrived at the stage where I can vacuum the floors.
Anyway, he is coming to tea tomorrow and I am looking forward to it. My house will be as clean as it ever gets by then and we will be able to use my Portmeirion tea set, which I have been looking forward to. I do love a nice tea set. This one even has matching spoons. You can get yours here.
A little more Paris, just to fill you in on the remaining events. As I mentioned, after I left Alain in Paris I had a spare morning – really, most of the day – which I intended to use. So I started by going out to lunch, naturellement, and drank wine with the intention of going to the Pompidou Centre to look at some photography by Walker Evans. Most art is much more enjoyable after a couple of glasses of wine, and I say that as someone who is almost teetotal. I ambled off to the Pompidou Centre and was outraged to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. Gah! Now what? I am in the middle of Paris in the middle of the day, I am slightly tipsy and the art I wanted to see is Not There. I walked down the street, in somewhat of a huff, and I found myself passing a shop selling art, albeit of a different kind. It was, in fact, a tattoo parlour.
I looked at the designs on display outside the shop (very run of the mill, actually, just what you’d expect). Because I was a bit intoxicated, I briefly contemplated getting a tattoo. Then I remembered I already had one! It is 32 years old! It was once a tiny butterfly with brightly-coloured wings but over time it faded a lot and almost became indistinguishable. I went inside and asked to talk to a tattooist.
He was an extremely nice man but he spoke no English whatsoever. My French may accommodate romance but does not extend to tattoo-purchasing situations. It was like the worst possible conversation you could have with a tattooist. I was a bit drunk and neither of us could understand a word the other person was saying. Eventually we secured a contract by means of my pointing at my tattoo and making expansive gestures with my hands to signify “make it brighter”. So he did.
And that’s how I finally returned to London with both sunburn (Spain) and a leaky new tattoo to look after, and thus resembled every British holidaymaker ever.
The Walker Evans exhibition is on at the Pompidou Centre in Paris until 14 August. Closed on Tuesdays.
Let us begin with Maxime. He seemed to be holding out a romantic fantasy of a spontaneous marriage. I suspected that I am far more reckless and up for romantic adventure than he is, so I thought it would be fun to start testing. I started picking out wedding packages in the Bahamas (I so want one of those), sent him links to long, dreary pre-marital counselling courses in London and asked him if he’d told his parents he was engaged. Ha ha, it was great. He tried to keep up but became uncomfortable. He said his parents wouldn’t care who he married (I think this unlikely) but he’d sent a message to his best friend to announce that he had found The One. I was just on the point of suggesting that we go ring shopping and consider waiting to have sex until after the wedding, when he cracked under the pressure and started getting to the point, which was that he did want sex after all and in fact had a shopping list of racy activities that he regarded as achievements and wanted to accomplish, this being the actual point of his messages to me. I knew it. I knew it all along. I mocked him and he stopped texting me. Job done. A pity, he was really good looking.
And now, a few more photos of Paris, and we will come to news of Alain in due course.
Paris was great. I was only there for three nights but several exciting things happened. I did some excellent business in Paris, finished one work project and secured a new contract for another. I took up drinking. I no longer drink, in my everyday life in London. I am more sensitive to alcohol than I used to be and only a small amount can give me an appalling hangover. To my surprise, I find that this doesn’t apply in other countries. I don’t know why. I can go to France or Chile or somewhere and sit in the blazing sun in the middle of the day, drink half a bottle of wine with lunch and think nothing of it. It was great. While in Paris, I drank a lot of Bordeaux. When I wasn’t eating out, I lived on Camembert, white peaches and strawberries. I did very little sight-seeing. I spent a lot of time in this utterly charming little room that I rented and this was because, unlike Chile, you can’t make love in the park. You have to stay indoors for that.
You will notice that so far, in the epic romance known as Starry Skies, I have had absolutely no sex. There was one kiss at the tube station after I had dinner with Harry and that was it. It was time to remedy that. I received a visit from Alain, in fact he came every day, for three days.
Alain fell in love with me in London in 2015 and we had not seen each other since then. We kept in touch in between for business reasons and because I cannot fail to be interested in a man who is in love with me. I told him I was coming to Paris. He said he would like to have dinner with me. Plans evolved from there. Eventually the result was that he appeared in my tiny French room, in the evening. We sat at the table, in front of that window, and talked about business and generally caught up. Then we stood up, to go out for some reason, probably to get coffee or wine. We stood facing each other. He’s young. He’s slim. He’s wearing his bag over his shoulder, ready to go out. He’s staring at me very intently and we are exactly the same height, so we are eye to eye. Time stops. Both of us lean in, about one millimetre each. Then we kiss. Then, without saying anything, we take off our clothes and lie down on the bed, where we spend much of the next couple of days.
We came to know each other very well over that weekend. He just wanted to make love, it was really that simple. People in London are a bit obsessed with sex. Like Maxime, they often have a list of achievements that they are trying to fulfil, or they’re tamely experimenting with some kind of kink, or they’re building up the world’s largest collection of sex toys. Alain could not have been more removed from this culture. It was not his opinion that sex with someone who you’ve loved for two years needs to be equivalent to sport. He just wanted to make love, in a completely straightforward, unspoiled way that focuses on engaging with your partner and not on some irrelevant checklist with accompanying hardware. It was amazing, he did me a lot of good, I felt like I’d been to a spa. It was very cleansing and refreshing. We did a lot of gazing into each other’s eyes, kissing, saying each other’s names, giving massages. I felt renewed.
Not surprisingly, after three days of that, we’d formed quite a bond and saying goodbye was hard. I cried and we spoke a mixture of English and French (I know more French than I think I do, when the occasion demands). He said “I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life.” Then he went back to his life in France, as we planned, and I had one morning left in Paris and then I needed to go back to London to see Harry and get on with some work.
After I arrived home in London, Alain emailed me to say thank you. He said he’d found a new confidence because of being with me. I was touched.
Gloria Startover achieves some life goals, chats about dating, travel, art & gaming, plays some righteous reggae & hip-hop.