Zuiderpark, The Hague to be precise. Last weekend it had been Hyde Park, London with Grace Jones and Kylie. Last night it was UB40 followed by Duran Duran. Simon still has it – the voice and moves, now sexier than ever. To his right was John Taylor on guitar, equally hot! I didn’t recognise the smooth sax player but some of the other band members looked familiar even though their spiky locks were now shorter and trendier, in keeping with men of a certain age. My date had got tickets and a hotel room next to Mauritshuis which housed Rembrandts, Vermeers, Van Dycks, Holbeins, Rubens and many more Dutch and other European masterpieces. It had been a rocking weekend with high brow culture thrown in before I boarded the Thalys at Rotterdam enroute to the Eurostar back to London.
My European date had been charming and smooth, someone I’d met as Amy. He had sent me a text message asking if I might be interested in seeing Duran Duran live. I had thrown caution to the wind and messaged back – sure! would love to! Two weeks earlier, when he had put the feelers out as to my availability for another tryst I had hinted that Amy didn’t do much sex anymore; and so I was relieved to discover when we checked into the hotel on Saturday evening that we were in a room with twin beds. In any event by the time we had got back after the fireworks closed the show as Duran Duran waved their farewells, it had been two a.m. and we collapsed exhausted on our separate beds. A couple of midlife lightweights. Outside the rest of the city were still partying away as the distant muffled sounds of a rhythmic beat and whoops could be heard occasionally if you stirred in your sleep.
The following morning I woke early, showered and left him still slumbering. I took a walk around the neighbourhood and saw that there was a beach volleyball tournament at the bottom of the street. A few blocks away was the Binnenhof – the Dutch seat of parliament. It was an impressive and complex enclave with a gothic style building in the centre. I had thought it to be a cathedral but on googling it later at breakfast discovered that it was in fact a knight’s hall – the Ridderzaal. Later we saw the recently restored Saul and David now accredited to Rembrandt. It was a stunning painting, the tension quite palpable between the two figures, Saul, aged, paranoid, a wildness in his stare as he clutched and chewed at a curtain/wall hanging with one hand, the other grasping his spear and eyeing a young David who was demurely, with downcast eyes plucking the strings of a harp. Mauritshuis itself was a 17th century building, previously the residence of an old, respected noble family, recently renovated with the addition of high tech smooth glass lifts which lent a smartness befitting the national treasures housed within.
When we parted my date said he might checkout the beach volleyball tournament after all. It had clouded over and as rain threatened to pour from the heavens I supposed that from a male perspective there may be something pleasing about watching teams of women playing a ball game in wet t-shirts.
We had lunched in a restaurant perched over the high street lined with specialist shops, boutiques and department stores. Cyclists ruled the streets and bike parks abounded. In fact the cycling theme continued outside the city as cycle trails snaked their way along canal paths and alongside motorways. Occasionally a couple or young family can be glimpsed from the train window, peddling in the distance.
On the train on my own I decided that it had been a fun weekend but resolved that in future I would like to see the Netherlands in more congenial company.
The evening on Saturday ended with Rio and fireworks