|The current evening scene|
Looking back in my archives again, I found this post from June 2009. It made me laugh as I realise that not much changes in our harbour. I've only had to add a few updates...
I know my barge is in the middle of a serious city. I know that. I really do. What I can't get to grips with, though, is the total and mind blowing cacophony we have to live with. I was going to say unbelievable, but it isn't - unbelievable that is - it's only too real. 24/7, 7/7, 52/12 - all of them.
Nearly every morning I'm there I wake up thinking that WW3 has begun, or at least that we are under attack from giants with monster walking sticks thumping their way through the city streets. This starts at 7 a.m. Not so early you might say for a world war or crippled giants on the loose, but then this is after a night spent listening to riotous revellers who think that the people they are with and all the rest of the world as well are deaf.
Maybe I should backtrack a bit and explain that the dawn raids or in other parlance, early wake up calls, are from the pile drivers on the building site next to the harbour. Oh, I forgot. Not just one site. There are now..let me see...about four sites in very audible proximity to the harbour (I should say most of these have been completed now, but there are others...). They are all building ever higher tower blocks in competition with each other, and they all seem to need to start the race for pile driver of the day, every day and even on Saturdays, at the same time. (I wonder if there's a yellow jersey for the winner of each stage?). Anyway, the explosion of sound and vibration is worse than any rock concert ever, and what baffles me is that there are no government health warnings advising the local populace to wear ear protection when within five kilometres of such locations. Strangely, all the builders wear them, but we mere mortals are clearly unworthy.
As for the night time revellers, I'm sure they think everyone is deaf because I've stood outside in my PJ's at four in the morning watching them. Picture this. Two extremely inebriated students are standing less than a metre from each other. No closer of course. This is Holland, and not Italy, remember. In any other circumstances, they'd be close enough to whisper and still hear each other clearly. But no. They have to shout at the tops of their lungs, and just to make sure they've got their point across, they feel obliged to pick up a few tables and chairs and hurl them into the water for added emphasis. Vocal punctuation is obviously not enough. They need a few physical exclamation marks.
Sometimes, tempers flare and fights ensue. Given the state of inebriation, time is relative to the participants and what might normally be a few terse words is strung out into a long drawn out battle of howls of distress emphasised at intervals by the regulation chair and table throwing, and if things get really bad, then the bicycles fly.
This also goes on pretty much seven days a week (it did then and it still does, but I'm more used to it now; 7 years of conditioning have helped).
For a little extra spice, call up the trams squealing across their tracks from six in the morning onwards and the testosterone-boosted boy racers screeching their tyres as they u-turn at the end of the harbour where the road meets its end. Not to mention, of course, the gangs of youths who arrive at any time during the night with their car windows down and their heavy rap music which resounds across the harbour and double flips back to meet itself half way - right over our barges.
"What a gezellig place to live!" my Dutch students say when I tell them I live on a barge in the Oude Haven. I merely smile vacantly, and ask them if they'd like to sample a Friday night experience. I see them thinking of the implications. Many of them are quick to realise that they might well be party to some of my night hour distress. Then I tell them about WW3 every morning. Aaah, they nod sagely. It's a bit noisy yes? Just a bit, I say.