Saturday, August 22, 2015

Montmartre-Sur-Haringvliet...Well, Sort Of.

When you are a teacher, there are always pupils who have a special place in your heart. It's not done to let this show in class, but as soon as they've left school it's all right to casually mention that you've always thought they had it in them.
David Slob of Fantastix Entertainment & Productions falls into this category. Winner of Best Living Statue 2012 of The Netherlands, he has been organizing fun projects in Hellevoetsluis. And Montmartre aan het Haringvliet (a strange but eclectic mix of living statues, live music, flea market stalls and do-it-yourself art) was his latest.

My home town is kinda famous for its maritime summer festival called "Vestingdagen", this month the free pop festival Wallenpop made a triumphant comeback and we enjoyed the Fokveedag, but there is always room for one more festival in my opinion. Everything that makes its 40.000 or so citizens happy is a win-win situation.

See this? This is one of the entrances to the old naval port, called the 'vesting'. A vesting is a fortified piece of land, surrounded by a moat and grassed up walls and fortifications. Hellevoetsluis is an old naval vesting. When I first visited it as an 8 year old girl, it was boring as hell. The navy had just left, and the (by now substantial) suburbs had not been built yet. Hellevoetsluis was a dying port full of old fogies. I would not want to be seen dead here, even then.

Circumstances beyond my control forced me to rent a flat here in 1986, swearing I would get out as soon as possible, but here I still am, almost 30 years on.
And it has grown on me. Yes, it can still be boring. But quite often it is charming.

This afternoon I sat on one of the many terraces and just watched the Hellevoetsluis world go by.
Lots of older men and even older women (Dutch women outlive their spouses by years and years) in the wrong shorts happily listened to The Amazing Stroopwafels, who have been performing in these streets since the fall of Rome, gawked at the living statues and rummaged through the junk, or had a beer. And it was so...pleasant. Innocent, almost.
In Brussels some lunatic tried to mow down Thalys passengers with a Kalashnikov, and here an artist drew butterflies on the pregnant belly of a young woman.

Let's hope it will stay that way, and we won't have to polish those canons!

So, I sat there, with my own beer, contemplating what makes the town I live in and the people I share it with so special.
I think that it has come of age. From a dying but-once-great-naval-port it has taken those 30 years and transformed itself into a laid-back melting-pot of quite a few nationalities. We had a refugee camp over here, and many of the people who lived there have stayed in this town. The troubles we had in the early nineties with people from the Dutch Antilles have evaporated when some of those people were relocated (literally) to another town that was better equipped to handle them. The ones who remained have adapted.
We have our share of troubled youngsters and also of troubled middle-aged. But on the whole this is a friendly town, especially in Summer when the water on our doorstep shows its best sparkly face.

For the life of me I could not find any resemblance with Montmartre. But who cares, it was a fun afternoon! Do it again, David, by all means! You've made your old teach proud.

For those of you who are interested in The Amazing Stroopwafels (they are quite famous in The Netherlands you know) I'll provide a link Oude Maasweg (live)

All photos ©RenéeKoopman