Feedback Friday :: Dark

work completed :: 4 copywriting jobs / 3 hours of teaching. Slow week.
hours of Dutch learning :: 3. (Drie.)
physical gym visits :: 1
metaphysical gym visits :: 14
routine adhesion :: 7.5%
days spent in new home :: 29
rooms painted :: 1
things brought in from the street :: 3
plants kept alive :: 4
money owed to Donald Trump :: none

week 41/52 overall rating :: 9.1

little femke

This little girl – who looks to me very like a Femke – was left out by the bins on Wednesday.

I feel bad for her.

You can’t help wonder what happened to her. After the picture was painted. 

The painting is old, so the girl herself is probably a grown woman, at least middle-aged by now. She may be dead. Or she may have placed her portrait in the street herself, having finally grown tired of it after 40 years.

Who knows? I don’t. But I’d like to.

This is the first painting I’ve seen out by the bins. But I’ve seen a lot of other stuff.

I was telling a visiting London friend about the fact that Amsterdammers leave all manner of stuff out on the streets – furniture primarily, and other household stuff too (plus books) – and he said, ‘Yeah, just like South London’ and I wanted to shout NO! Right in his face.

It is not just like South London. It is like nowhere I have seen anywhere ever before.

On every street there are bin/recycling areas, and every day, all over the city, people put stuff they don’t want out by the bins. And much of it is broken or old, bound for destruction or landfill, but much of it can be restored easily or is just a little shabby but perfectly serviceable. Most of it is claimed by others and presumably repurposed.

Femke was claimed. But not by me. However, I did find and bring home three things this week: a piece of wood to be used as a desk, an IKEA table that needed a little fix and a wooden magazine rack that I may use to keep plants in but haven’t decided yet.

Also, it was whilst out looking for a discarded desktop that I stumbled upon Toon, a shop full of beautiful things. From outside on the street, Toon looked like a very classy place indeed. Chic and stylish and snazzy. In all honesty, my first thought was that somehow, it wasn’t for the likes of me. I instinctively imagined an assistant looking down her nose at me. Sneering at me. We don’t want your sort in here etched into her scowl. Why the fuck I thought any of that I don’t know.

Actually I do. It is, I think, due to the remnants of a lifetime of barely concealed bitterness, calcified in shoulder-chips that I’ve always kind of denied. Anyway, I shook it all off and went inside for a mooch.

It was a beautiful shop, full of ornaments and curios and arty pieces that I can not in good faith afford at this moment in time but at which, nonetheless, I delighted in gazing. There were also more than enough photographs and art on the walls for the place to pass as a gallery as well as a shop.

I thought it was beautiful, so before I left, I approached the woman behind the till. I said, ‘I’m not going to buy anything today.’

She said, ‘That’s fine.’

‘But I just wanted to say that it’s a very beautiful place that you have here.’

She was pleased. She thanked me and said that it was always really lovely when people bothered to say such things. I was very happy that I had made the effort. Then she told me that there was an exhibition in the basement if I was interested. It was by a photographer who had a few photographs upstairs too. As it happens, I’d been admiring them. The photographer was Cristel Mitchell.

The woman gestured behind the till, at the door that led to the basement. Cellar door. A row of tiny Trump-sized hand-torches hung from a row of hooks at the top of the door. I took down one of the torches, and turned the handle.


Forty-five minutes later, I emerged, having become embroiled in a documentary about transgender performance artist Rose Wood, entitled, I have since found out, Miss Rose Wood. ‘You took your time,’ said the lady of the shop, in a not at all accusatory tone.

I told her I’d become involved. Not just the documentary, but the whole place. The exhibition. The space. Like a partially illuminated cave full of beautiful, bizarre and wholly fascinating things. I’d only been looking for a bit of wood to rest on whilst writing, but I’d found so much more.


I introduced myself to the lady, whose name was Marina. She told me that the exhibition had received favourable reviews in the press. I told her it had received a favourable review from me also. She said, ‘There is another exhibition. If you follow the dotted line….’

I looked at the floor. Sure enough, a line of painted white dashes led away from the till, across the store floor and out of sight. I could think of no reason whatsoever not to follow it.

The line led me to another cellar door on the other side of the shop. Down the stairs was another exhibition, also by Christel Mitchell.


Entitled Asylum, this exhibition features images from a medieval mental home in the mountains of Nepal. It is disturbing and sad, but there is also dignity and nobility. I felt better for having seen it.

On Wednesday morning, I met a woman called Fleur in a local plant shop. I told her I’d just moved into the area and she told me it was very dangerous. I laughed because I thought she was being funny. ‘I understand it used to be very dangerous,’ I said, for I had been told.

‘No, now,’ she said. ‘People get shot.’

‘I understand people used to get shot,’ I said.

Which was when she told me about the person who was shot and killed on Friday night. More shocking still, they were killed right outside of Toon, my new favourite shop-cum-gallery, a matter of hours before I stumbled into the place.

I was shocked. I am shocked.

Maybe it’s my rose-tinted spectacles again, or maybe it’s the fact that I lived in the heart of Toxteth in 1988 and nothing will ever look bad after that, but this area seems perfectly safe and salubrious to me. It’s packed full of immigrants (like myself and decidedly swarthier), which I know would put a lot of people off (a lot of racist people), but for me, it’s proper suburban.

On Wednesday evening I left the house just before 10 on an emergency biscuit-run and my bike, which had been in the last trap of the bike stand in front of my house, was on the ground, on the road in fact, all vulnerable and panting like an old man in a stampede. Someone must have knocked it out of its trap whilst manoeuvring their own bike next to it, but rather than pick it up and replace it, they just watched it fall to the ground, its basket skittering across the concrete like a stray eyeglass, and thought, ‘Fuck it.’

I was saddened. This is the first time in the four-and-a-half months I’ve been here that I’ve seen such contemptuous carelessness.

Then there was the shooting.

And let’s not forget little Famke…


…so cruelly, callously abandoned.

It seems it’s not just the days that are growing darker.

But you know what?

It changes nothing. My spectacles were never so rose-tinted that I imagined people never did bad things in Amsterdam. I know that shit can flare up anytime, and anywhere. It doesn’t change anything. I still love it here like I’ve never loved it anywhere before. And I can’t see anything changing that. Not even winter. Not even murder. 





That’s all actually. If I’ve done that, I will be cockahoop.

As for you, have a fantastic week.

Make it so.



About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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