Last month I accidentally went undercover as a hotel breakfast waiter. It started with a sweet American lady asking me if I could get her some cream cheese (which I did!) and quickly escalated to the point where I was in too deep to reveal my true identity.
We were stuck in Haarlem, in the midst of a huge storm, and well, I guess it filled some time! One woman wanted to know when the trains would start running again, I couldn’t tell her, but I did help her friend download the Citymapper app for later. ‘We need to be in Leiden by 3pm! Can we cycle along the seafront?’ the woman said, obviously frustrated by my lack of service. ”Erm, I’m not sure that’s a good idea!’ I replied, as half a tree flew past the window.
It was Gale Force 11 at Ijmuiden dock. The wind was speeding in at over 90mph. Mobile phones pinged with government red alert messages warning everyone to stay indoors. Planes, trains, our afternoon Eurostar – all cancelled. We waited patiently for a lull, while Simone frantically booked our epic escape – a nine-hour ferry crossing from the Hook of Holland.
It took the driver four attempts before he found a route that was clear enough to get us out of the city. Crushed cars and fallen trees scattered all around. It was like something from a film and feels quite surreal thinking about it now.
Last time I was in Haarlem was March 2020, just before the first Covid-19 lockdown. And the time before that, I saw a woman get hit by a bus. If it wasn’t such a beautiful city, I don’t think I’d go back again!
I went to Utrecht for a sustainability research trip – took a vegan food tour, ate an excellent pastel de nata, and accidentally got locked in the Dom Tower.
I went to Petworth House and imagined how I could commandeer the Marble Room for my own use, ate millionaire’s shortbread in the café, and chased Egyptian geese for their feathers.
In London I stayed at Holmes Hotel in Marylebone (where I could have stayed forever), Citizen M in Shoreditch (where there was a weird doll that looked like me in my room), and the Pullman in St Pancras (where I was upgraded and then the fire alarm went off so I spent my spare 30 minutes stood on the pavement eating Doritos out of my handbag).
Someone tried to sell me a puppy at the car wash. It brought me a cigarette butt off the ground and dropped it my feet. Aww, tempting!
A man pushed in front of me in the supermarket, I didn’t say anything as I was too overcome by the mass of cobwebs that flew off his back, covering my face and arms.
The wood pigeon that lives in the wisteria above our front door has taken to flying at peoples heads when they approach. It brings me great joy.
I finally made it to the new wing of the Teylers Museum in Haarlem and it was worth the wait – it’s a whole 18th Century house, and it’s absolutely stunning.
I visited the conservation studio at the Rijksmuseum with the team from the National Gallery, and the conservation studio at Frans Hals Museum, to see them preparing paintings for the huge Frans Hals exhibition in London later this year.
I saw the sea, at Selsey. Stood against 50mph winds as salt water stung my face.
Charlotte and I went to see Barbie at the cinema. I didn’t realise that I had colour-themed, but I wore a neon pink hair bobble and a hot pink Cellulitis infected leg. Cute!
I met a baby turkey.
Apparently, Pablo Escobar had a giraffe called Margaret. I’ve got a chicken called Margaret. Make of that what you will!
Shutter Hub has been named Most Innovative Online Photography Gallery and Platform in the 2023 IT Awards. Our YEARBOOK 2023 exhibition and directory of photographers is now online, and amongst many other things, we’re getting ready to take the work of 120 photographers to France for an exhibition that runs for a whole year!
We’ve an AUTO PHOTO Meet Up next week with the Ace Cafe London, to Celebrate 85 years of the Ace, and next month we’ve another special Meet Up, this time for a private visit to Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.
This season’s reading list goes something like this: NOON by Meike Peters / Understanding Allergies by Dr Sophie Farooque / The Frans Hals Phenomenon by Antoon Erftemeijer / Britain’s Orchids by Sean Cole and Mike Waller.
If you’d like to keep up with what I’m up to work-wise (talks, events, exhibitions, that kind of stuff), you can find my Agenda on my website. Follow me on Instagram for everyday bits and bobs, and, for occasional updates about all sorts of other nice things, join my mailing list here.