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The Hague

Music by Hayzee off Last FM free dutch music site

I’d left my camera bag on a train and was stuck in Brussels.  I had been really stupid or rather been too excited discussing the nature of people and places with a most interesting Anthropologist I’d met on the platform of Roosendaal station in the south of the Netherlands. We had just been walking in the same direction along the platform trying to get to the correct end for the international train to Belgium. I can’t really remember what we talked about now but it must have been interesting enough because we sat down together in the carriage. Sanne works for Cordaid an NGO that specializes in structural poverty eradication in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We didn’t talk that much once the train was going as she had to prepare for a talk. Once she had done that we began to talk again but it wasn’t long before we arrived at Brussels central. I was not sure what was what. And began to get all my bags together. She, it seemed, was staying on the train and I now assumed she was going on to another city. I’d given her my card so I assumed this was a farewell. It was a bit of a scramble to get my stuff as to fit my pack in the luggage rack I’d had to zip it into three pieces.

I bolted to the door only to find a man in a fluro orange junp suit directing me forward along the train. Back I stumble through the carriage past my new friend who is looking a bit confused as were all the other passengers. I got to the next door but the fluro orange guy had run along to it and now was furiously shaking his head. The train was now overtime. I had to go to the next carriage and finally got out on to the platform. Once I put my bags down I realized to my horror my camera bag was not there. I ran to the train trying to get back in. The guy in fluro had already had enough of me and instantly was franticly yelling “The train is leaving please step back” I raced down the train not really knowing what I was doing but looking for Sanne. I got through the whole length of the carriage without seeing her and had begun to feel like it was a dream. I went back more slowly thinking it’s impossible I can’t see her. We were sitting on the other side of the carriage and there were still quite a few people so I had to shift my head in all sorts of weird directions to counteract the reflection, glair and the passengers. Just as I was thinking they all looked like shapeless blobs I recognized one blob as her. I banged on the glass not accounting for my heightened state of emotion. It was kind of loud I suppose as everyone in the train instantly turned. The guy in orange guy was right at the point of blowing his whistle because it was all so out of his control. All those years of doing charades now came to my aid. I did a few short mimes indicating bag shoulder strap. She bent down and in a moment she emerged with my bag. I mimed typing on a keyboard and she nodded and I knew everything was ok.

I wasn’t even going to go to Brussels I was hoping to just get fairly far south on local trains. But now I had to consider it seriously. This is a good thing as Brussels is a key player in my story I felt. It’s just that I didn’t want to stay there.  It took some time to find out that the train we’d been on only had one more stop and that was the next station in Brussels. Still it took all day and then well into the night for Sanne to reply. She had left Brussels and was back in her home town in the Netherlands. She suggested I come to the Hague where she worked the next day to pick up my bag.

I spent the night in the weirdest hotel ever. (see the last entry on Brussels) but had a really fantastic North African fish dish in one of the many Aribic restaurants near Midi station.

So fairly early I set out to go backwards. This is when I had got a message that I a friend had left had an important memory stick in my computer bag. This was getting somewhat ridiculous but hey so I hopped on the earliest train I could and went all the way back to Amsterdam dropped off the stick off and headed straight back to the Hague. So far this doesn’t sound like an amazing day but I like trains and I had a really engrossing conversation heading to Amsterdam with an artist who only worked on beer coasters from bars. All in all I just decided to not struggle with circumstances and accept. It paid off as it always does. I reached the Hague early in the afternoon and after getting my bearings which took about an hour I ended up at Cordaid. I really wanted to get to the nub of Sanne's work but in the end the interview just touched on her work as a post grad. Somehow we never really got to grips with the big questions I needed to ask so I suspect I will try again next year. Still and all it was interesting and really have a lot of respect for the work she is doing in regard to women and violence in Africa.

After I left I tracked around a couple of monuments and a huge sculpture of a head and then ended up outside a junk shop. This is kind of unusual in the Hague. Upon entering the owner seemed to act like I was his lost cousin from a forgotten branch of the family. I soon had a cup of tea and was watching a video of Malak's that was shot in 2004. The program had gotten five people from the Hague to express their feeling about connections to the city. It was kind of weird to have the subject and the object next to each other and have an instant five year age difference by glancing from one to the other. He had really funky things but most defiantly a truly amazing collection of super and standard 8 cameras. All in all I spent about an hour there.

Since my forgetful friend (ok I am on thin ice calling someone else forgetful) bought me a return ticket to Brussels I headed back to spend one more night in the unofficial EU capital.

Because of the train I did however have two more fascinating conversations. One with a Belgium art historian and architect about his research into the development of scientific measurement instruments in the 17th century. This is one of those core issues for me as the film I want to eventually make is concerned with how space, landscape and civic form has altered with measurement from place to resource.  If he is reading this please write back.

Then as I was leaving the station I noticed this woman photographing escalators. This looked like something I would do so when I also saw her photographing a kiosk I said “I thought I was the only person took photos of obscure corners of railway stations.  Turns out she was a documentary film maker working out of Brussels. Had a most enlightened discussion.

It was then it struck me that no matter how dire the day might seem there is always that chance that people will amaze you. That life is always just waiting to turn extraordinary in the most unexpected ways.