Category: Rotterdam

Urban Tatoos

Some years ago, the Rotterdam Council began commissioning  local artists to paint scenes on the walls of apartment blocks, shopping centres and even the pillars of underpasses – anwhere where there were available walls or spaces.

The idea is to brighten up the urban landscape and break the monotony of a high density city but also to express the multicultural character of a city with over 100 different nationalities and where Caucasians are a minority. 

I’ve seen similar murals elsewhere in European cities but these murals in Rotterdam are the best I’ve seen anywhere. To take these photos I walked all over the city and many of them I discovered unexpectedly; no doubt there are others which I missed. 













Rotterdam Solar Central

The roof of the new railway station in Rotterdam is entirely made of glass into which solar circuits have been worked. In other words, the station – a large and busy one (almost a quarter of a million people a week coming and going) – is a massive solar power generation plant.  

The Upsides of The Ukraine Conflict

Rotterdam Central Train Station

On the train journey to the south of The Netherlands, I noticed that the termperature inside the carriage was considerably lower than normal – a welcome change from the over warming of the carriages in the past. 

This was one of the measures taken to cut back on energy use – along with lowering the temperatures in offices and public places. People now have to get used to wearing jumpers if they feel cold. 

As a result of the new regime, the national energy use has declined by 35%. 

This should have happened years ago, not because of the Ukraine War and Putin’s energy blackmail but because of global climate change. Inadvertently the war has speeded up long needed changes. 

Another thing I noticed on the trains was the surfeit of litter lying around on the floor and the toilets permanently closed: not enough cleaners, another example of the labour shortage being experienced all over the world. 


The Sacred and the Profane

A famous and revered Monarch dies a natural death at a ripe old age and is consigned to the earth with pomp and majesty. A global media event witnessed by billions of millions of people from all over the planet. ‘The Crown’ live.  



Not so far away, in the killing fields of The Ukraine, the corpses of unknown people are excavated from that same earth. People committed to their graves with their hands bound and bullets in their heads. The words of Kurtz, the famous character from Joseph Conrad’s novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ reverberate in the silence: ‘The horror! The horror!’


The world we are living in: the sacred and the profane. 


The Ukraine and a ’59 Cadillac


A question I’ve been asked more than once by friends/family in Australia is whether the Europeans will keep supporting the Ukrainians during the winter, as the price of gas becomes an issue or the inevitable Russian counter attack ensues. There’s this feeling that the Europeans’ solidarity with the Ukrainians will inevitably crumble.

The best way to answer this, I decided, was by way of a metaphor.

On a bike ride in The Netherlands recently we stayed with a couple living just outside a village in the south of the country. A place remote from the big cities and, Europe at large. The man, an easy going affable kind of guy, was crazy about old American cars from the 1950’s/’60’s. This was his all consuming passion outside of working. He had recently bought himself a fully reconditioned 1959 Cadillac.

I wasn’t a car fiend – on the contrary, I had no interest in cars and much preferred to be on my bike. However, when I was a kid, I used to go to my uncle’s car yard every Saturday morning and wash and polish motor cars. I was a car nut then – and above all, I was crazy about American cars from the 1950’s/’60’s – Buicks, Chevies and Fords – especially the Ford Fairlane – and of course, Cadillacs. I loved the scale and flamboyance of these cars, with their big bonnets and tail fins. Intuitively I felt that such cars were manufactured during a time of boundless optimism. 

So when this friendly Dutchman told me about his Cadillac I immediatly asked to see it. As we discussed the Cadillac, he realised I knew something about them. That broke down the barrier of strangeness between us. 

At one point, in the evening, as he and his wife and Anya and I sat outside drinking beer and looking out over the nearby river and chatting, the conversation turned towards The Ukraine. Suddenly he became rather passionate – and not about old American cars.

Those people (i.e in The Ukraine) are fighting our battles. Here we are in western Europe, safe and sound, and they’re dying and suffering. We owe them and God help us if we ever betray them!’

That I told my friends in Australia was what so many people in Western Europe thought deep down inside. Most of them – including us – did not talk about it a great deal with others. I mean there was only so much madness in this world that any of us could deal with. One had to lead a normal life or at least try to.

Keeping up appearances was important.

But in our hearts, in the backstreets of our minds, we knew it: the Ukrainians were fighting our battles.

We would not, could not, betray them. They were us.

Even someone seemingly detached from the world, living in another time, a time of optimism and big ostentatious cars, knew that.

Knew it better than anything.

We could not afford to betray them