One of my favorite routes for a jog or a stroll in the neighborhood is the Dijksgracht, a canal close to Central Station, running parallel to the river IJ, just below its south bank. It is a secluded and tucked away haven for free spirits and people-with-a-relaxed-sense-of-style, right on the edge of the city centre. There is a variety of barges turned houseboats and other floating constructions, serving as sheds, patio or garden.
I have been there a few times this week and I just love it, it really picks me up: the way the inhabitants treat their space is encouraging, making me want to just ‘go create’.
Somewhere halfway the Dijksgracht a tree is planted in honor of Ramses Shaffy, a Dutch singer and actor, who was big throughout the sixties and seventies and went on to become a national symbol of the bohemian spirit. Spirit to enjoy life while surviving, more than anything, as the text next to the tree explains. He had a tough start, to begin with.
Shaffy, the lovechild of a Polish-Russian countess and an Egyptian diplomat, was born in 1933 in Paris. He grew up with his mother in Cannes, but was sent to live with his aunt in Utrecht when she fell ill and died. Eventually he was adopted by a Dutch family.
His life was one of ups and downs and battle with the bottle, but with a definite lust for life. Apparently he lived on a boat along the Dijksgracht for years. I never knew this. Triggered by the tree I looked into his interesting life story, online, only recently. To me Shaffy was the intense voice of French chansons with Dutch lyrics. And his songs are tied to the my memory of long hot Technicolor summers, together with that other breathtaking song I’m not in love.
And isn’t it amazing what knowledge can do to your eyesight?
Somehow the image below, is not some lost corner of the world with a monument gone wrong, no, it is the very nest of a phoenix just before the show begins. I can see sunflares and hear the wistle of Rogier van Otterloo’s theme for Turks Fruit taking me back to childhood, in the suburbs, in the seventies… knowing summer will always be back. This tree is about to explode!