Its a spring night
The full moon a bright orb in the sky
Shedding silver light over the still waters of the bay
On the train from the midlands to London. I listened to The Clash, London Calling.
Its both a distopian and resilient view of London. It seemed fitting as a bombing in the tube had set a sombre tone.
But London is London no matter.
Despite the confrontation London open day was in full swing as was Thames week.
And it gave a little sometime for mariner like me.
These 10 Thames barges had sailed up the river.
And were using their motors against the ebb tide to hold formation still in the water. Such seamanship.
And really there is something special about the English is their way with the sea and boats.
Be it Drake’s Golden Hind
Or the uniquely English narrow boats that carried goods and produce from the midlands to London prior to rail
And now provide floating pleasure.
So I did go to London!
Overlooking Newcastle upon Tyne the is the Angel of the North
An imposing piece of public art that hovers on a hill above the Tyne and Newcastle.
There were also some angels of the north at Mo Tech the Moto Guzzi dealer in Newcastle.
The provided me a bit of space out the weather to make a running repair.
Angels come in different forms
A hundred and fifty years ago Glasgow was the second city of the empire
A centre of heavy industry such as shipbuilding and textile manufacture
A centre of design, typified by the Glasgow architecture.
But a century or so later Glasgow was struggling to survive as a city.
Unemployment, poverty and significant population decline challenging the future of the once great city
While in the UK, in Australia, there is tension and a struggle about accepting migrants and refugees.
For Glasgow, have stabilised it’s population.
The cities motto “People make Glasgow” a reflection of the more diverse international city it has become.
People make Glasgow proudly on the new skyline.
Maybe we should all be thinking about people, humanity.
It’s been 17 years since I visited the UK
A cold wet winter of long nights and freezing days.
This trip its summer and the days are long, damp and cool. Not all the different from the Australian winter I left behind.
With help from local guzzista I have the mighty breva II ready for this adventure.
This adventure starts in Stoke on Trent, once the porcelain capital of the world. Here I collected the Moto Guzzi, I’ve bought in the UK.
I rode up the motorway to Glasgow through the damp air and rolling green fields.
To be greeted by the march of the orange men and woman.
Flying the flags trooping the colours and beating the drum
I reflected that this is what confronts and challenges the UK.
Great glories of the past celebrating victories a century or more old. Masking an underlying anger and frustration that divides the country. Orange VS Green, North VS South, the pro brexit VS the anti brexit. It’s a challenging time.
And as I ponder this there is the beautiful architecture of Glasgow.
The great Victorian design from designers like Rennie Macintosh.
And the music
In the streets and pubs.
Cold and damp Glasgow has struggled through some tough times.
But as the city’s new motto says
People make Glasgow
As the rest of Australia Swelters
In Melbourne has a top to day of 19c
As the Lunar New Year Celebrations draw to the end
There was Chinese dancing at Victoria Market
With traditional music and movement
Then in a change of pace the music for the chicken dance came from the speaker.
Not very Chinese I think
As kids got up to dance to a familiar tune.
But, of course, this is the Year of the Rooster
So why not use a European Drinking song which has chicken in the title!
Only in Multicultural Melbourne
Where cultures and traditions blend happily.
Sitting below the Sierra Nevada and above the fertile plane of Granada
is The Red
The site chosen by the Romans for a fort
Bought to its glory by the Moors as Christian Europe languished in its Dark Ages
Bought into flourish by the Nasrid Sultans over 700 years
Then occupied by Ferdinand and Isabella
Driving Islam out or Spain and establishing themselves as the Catholic Kings
In the Palace, Isabella signed the orders for Columbus to sail in search of the Americas
The dawn of the Golden Age
The centre of old Granada
Overlooking the Albacain, the Arab quarter
Ransacked by Napoleon’s troops in 1882
Alhambra still stands magnificent even though losing its former glory.
I saw the Dutch as having a stoic inner strength as a result of the battle the with external forces.
The Spanish temperament is shaped by the battle with their own wild passion.
Separatists in the Basque country and Catalonia seeking their own expression.
Living in the shadow of Spain’s “Glory Years”.
“Glory Years” that spread Spanish culture to the Americas, Africa and distant corner so the world.
Especially in the Americas where the Hispanic culture is still strong.
As it shows on the Hispanic Day parade from Plaza de Mayor of the Hispanic groups.
So the passionate Spaniards celebrate with parades of national days and saint days.
With a 100 or more buglers and drummers leading the parade of the patron saint of Cadiz
But in many ways the flamenco dance captures the raw passionate energy of Spain
The wild swing or the body
The rapid fire stamping of the feet
The dancer lost in the raw energy of the moment
The wild expression of the inner passion.
Having spent, off and on, a couple of weeks in the Netherlands and travelling a couple of thousand kilometres across Europe with a bunch of of Dutch Moto Guzzi riders has left me with some powerful impressions of this place and the people.
The core of the Dutch people are caught up in their history.
Having succeeded from the rule of Spain the Dutch have faced constant threat of invasion.
In the Rijksmuseum, The Threatened Swan, captures this aspect the Netherlands constantly threatened by the dogs of war.
Incorporated into France under Napoleon
Brutal occupation by Germany in WWII despite declaring neutrality.
There is the constant fight to maintain control of there country.
In the Rijksmuseum there is a further insight
Up past The Night Watch
On the third floor there plays a documentary video about the Dutch and the constant battle to control water.
Reclaimed land from the sea and mighty rivers
fighting flood and inundation
Water in the huge rivers flowing through the country to the sea.
Water in the canals and behind the dams and dykes of Amsterdam.
Tilting aparment buildings sured up against subsidence as the water tries to reclaim the land it once covered.
It’s this fight for control from outside forces that give the Dutch a core strength, an inner stoicism.
But the Dutch are more than stoic.
Riding with an eclectic group of Dutchies over 8 days revealed a certain joi de vivre that sat well aside the stoic determination.
An eclectic group; women on classic bikes, old veterans of the tour, white haired old men on new bikes, riders from all walks of life. All pushing hard on the tortuously twisty routes through southern Germany, Austria, the Swiss and Italian Alps to Mandello.
Every night laughter good food and of course beer.
The Dutch love to laugh, and drink the beers they are so proud of without losing control.
After all beer is mostly water!
This whole trip is a touch surreal
48 Moto Guzzi motorcycles shipped in containers from Melbourne
Then to Mandello De Lario to celebrate the marques 95th birthday before fanning out over Europe.
So the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres added a further element to surreal adventure.
The breadth and scale of the masters work is astonishing
With a truly surreal understanding of perspective
The installation enormous in scale, imagination and perspective.
The Mae West Bedroom installation for example. Each piece a artistic form
Then when viewed through a lens it is transformed into a new singular piece.
The installation in the central.gallery breathtaking in both scale and detail.
His work at the museum includes work in many media drawings painting in classical and surrealist styles, the installations, sculpture, still and moving picture.
Then the jewelry
Audacious and exquisite
And as surreal an anything else I was in Catalunya