After Diane Arbus

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After Diane Arbus we had coffee and fresh orange juice in the cafe in the basement of FOAM. The Dutch are good at coffee and orange juice. The orange juice comes cold and freshly squeezed, round the back by the bins there will be a pile of the discarded skins and pith, there are bits in it and it puckers the mouth. The coffee is strong and black – as it should be.

There was talk of a market on Albert Cuypstraat and without giving it much thought four of us walked down there. The sky was grey and heavy over the city but after the rain of the previous evening the air was still. As we walked down through the streets there was a sense of a city and its people going about its business on the Sunday before Christmas. It was more low key than at home, the pressure to celebrate was not pushed up hard against your face, but there were lights and red Father Christmas hats.

We were not sure what to expect of the market and a lot of it was like markets anywhere, cheap fashion and tat, people walking through, eyes open for a bargain. Although, being Holland, a lot of the people were taller than elsewhere. Along the half kilometre street it ran down we passed stalls selling the whole range of Dutch food you could hope for.DSCN2919

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There was a stall selling soused herring out of wooden barrels to be slathered on white rolls and eaten with finely chopped onions and lip smacking relish. A  stall selling loempia, great, fat Indonesian Spring Rolls stuffed with bean sprouts, Chinese greens and a variety of chilli sauces. Two stalls selling poffertjes, small puffed up Dutch pancakes, just over an inch across covered with a thick dusting of icing sugar. And at the very end of the market a giant bag of frites advertising the stall next door, a jumble of chairs under some bare trees and a small queue waiting to pay for a cardboard white cone of the crisp hot potato and its covering of mayonnaise.

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At the end I was sorry not to have picked up a handful of the smoked eels we had seen at one of the fish stalls. Those would have fitted into the hand luggage.

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