Thursday, October 26, 2006

Around The Hague, 2006. Part 2

When in The Hague I buy an English newspaper. I don't know quite why, when it is printed on the mainland, has less in it, and costs almost four times as much as it does in England.

I buy it at the station. Outside the station stand a thousand or more bicycles. They make a fine sight, and a subject for my eye, pencil and paper.

One wonders how people can locate their bikes. Well, on close inspection, most, although superficially looking alike, are different. The saddles vary, as do the heights of them, as do handlebars, bells, mudguards and chain guards. And their locking-up devices vairy. One person painted his bell pink. It stood out. And then people do remember roughly where their bikes have been parked.

One matter bothered me. Why did there seem to be so many bikes parked at night when the cyclists should have ridden them home after work? I can only conclude that, being commuter bikes, they are ridden in pairs - one to reach the suburban station where they are parked, and one at the destination station on which to ride to work.

Holland (or I should say The Netherlands, as Holland is only part of that country) is a neat and tidy place - well ordered and well disciplined. And in a country that seems to have no tramps or sordid life (like New Zealand when I was once there) needs a visible balance of good and bad to reflect real life.

So whenever I visit the neat and tidy Hague, I visit a sex shop - and this one really balances the clean and tidy with the thoroughly sordid.

Inside the shop door is the usual mix of items for sale, like dildos of every shape and colour, and DVDs of most sexual acts.

A small fee is paid to a rather sinister-looking gentleman at a desk, and you enter a dark passage via a doorway draped with heavy black material.

On the left side of this dark passageway are rooms where it is possible to watch your chosen video in private or, if so inclined, to leave the door open in the hope that a partner might enter to share whatever. At the end on the left is a small room showing sado-masochistic films.

On the right hand side are two equally dark rooms with slightly raised and partly enclosed balconies at the rear that have a medieval-theatrical look about them. They are for semi-privacy.

Both rooms are furnished with side benches, hard chairs, rickety-plastic armchairs and a few tables - for cigarette ashtrays - many of the clients being smokers.

Through a black curtain and in the first room is a fairly small television screen showing continuous films of heterosexual acts with the participants of various colours doing much the same as heterosexuals do at home, but showing absolutely no imagination. This room is barely populated, with customers entering through the curtained doorway and leaving quite quickly.

In the other room, and again through a heavy black curtain, are continuous homosexual films, mainly of three men at a time pleasuring each other.

This is a crowded room with spectators sizeing each other up, or openly pleasing themselves.

And that's it - low, sordid life in the dark. It is too dark for drawing there, and to do so might put me in some danger.

I am fascinated to see that this life should exist, do not spend much time there, retreat to order a Leffe beer in a café, and wash my hands thoroughly before I quenche my thirst.

In Part 3, I go to Delft and Scheveningen.