Day 18: On Amsterdam
The journey is underway! The next week will see me embark on a three venue teaching tour with a double weekend masterclass at Mulholland academy and my first guest lecture at the University of Amsterdam. From there it will be Wow Air to Iceland before landing in San Francisco as my base for work meetings for the next few weeks.
The first leg of the journey has also allowed me to reflect on my home away from home for the last 18 months. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with a very distinct culture. As some of my friends are quick to point out, that culture is not always identifiably Dutch. It's a hub city with a lot of immigrants (like me) and an ever present army of tourists.
In some ways, you can almost let yourself be carried along by the utopian elements of it, from buzzing along on your bike to the endless infrastructure improvements that mean there's rarely ever a day where a road isn't being dug up. They have many different kinds of salami and cheeses. Everything is well presented, well maintained and inspire of whatever politics or values you may hold, it remains, uniquely and perhaps even defiantly European.
For me, it was the best kind of opportunity - a small, open artistic community and plenty of opportunities to excite people about creativity things. During and after Brexit, it became a refuge, or even a conscious picking of sides. Having lived on the European continent and worked in two or even three different countries, I am under no illusion as to the differences between them. Europe is, to an outside observer, ridiculously varied, particularly linguistically.
Therefore, one can easily take the position that to unify its peoples and group them together in institutions would look, feel and smell like a Monty Python sketch. It wouldn't possibly work.
Except that it kind of did.
As someone who became very involved in the recent EU referendum, I made any number of arguments in support of Britain remaining in the EU. I recall the night when the outcome of the vote became clear. I'd flown back to London in order to cast my ballot and like many, assumed that this would finally be the moment we could get on with being grown up europeans. My countryfolk did not agree and I was and remain, pretty mortified by it.
I'm not about to rehash these old debates, but as Britain prepares to leave the EU and I prepare to leave Europe, I begin to assess the situation in a new, more global light. I'm beginning to judge people and indeed, institutions not by their merits. In the age of 'fake news' these can be distorted and exaggerated to fit whatever narrative has the right backing.
No, from now on, I intend to judge the EU by its enemies. Regardless of the facts (for they are already being disregarded) I will not throw my lot in with Putin, Trump, Farage, Breitbart and the list of people wanting the unification of European nations to fail. That it is their desire is all the evidence I need, that even when the facts are removed from the debate, it's still possible to plot a course. We can always follow our nose, and I'd take garlic, a stupefying variety of cheeses over the smell that comes from the Brexit right.