by sandsmith50

A highlight of November was a return to Amsterdam after 33 years. I first went to Amsterdam as a very immature 18 year old towards the end of a month’s inter-railing around Europe. By this stage the three of us who set out together had decided to try taking slightly different approaches to inter-railing and had agreed to reconvene in Amsterdam. For my solo effort I had decided to visit as many countries as possible in a very short time, so I had made myself a cup of tea in Vienna train station, bought a flag in Vaduz, ate pizza in a very small Italian railway station, bought chocolate in Brussels and fell in love in a couchette. As you can see basically I saw and slept in a lot of trains and stations but not much else. We had agreed to meet at the Youth Hostel in Amsterdam and so on on arrival I set off for the hostel. Did I mention I was very immature, so I arrived at the hostel in a state of some nervousness having been accosted by several people trying to sell me drugs and then getting into a panic that I didn’t know the proper etiquette for saying no thanks to a prostitute. So I was somewhat devastated to find that the hostel was full; I think the staff must have detected the extent of my devastation, e.g. I probably looked like I was going to cry, so they let me sleep under a table in one of the living rooms. I went to bed early and slept fitfully under the table and was relieved to leave Amsterdam the next day.

A highlight of the trip for me was that we stayed on a lovely houseboat, some pictures of the houseboat and surrounding water below





I was pretty confident that I would enjoy Amsterdam more this time around and this proved to be the case though it was still managed to make me a little anxious. Everyone talks about how great it is for cyclists and I guess it is, but as a pedestrian you have to think very hard before you cross any roads as there seem to be cyclists coming from every direction. We generally had a very nice time and drank a fair amount of beer in a very civilized fashion. In one of our sojourns to the less salubrious parts of amsterdam we came across the Hangover Information Centre. It seemed very white and bright situation quite close to the middle of the red light district, we didn’t quite work up the courage to go in so I still can’t work out what an earth it is, an art installation, a con to make you buy water or some elaborate dutch joke. watch the video and see if you can decide.

I also had another go at Silversmithing in November. In 2013 I had really enjoyed making a silver spoon in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors who had been a silversmith. The spoon I made now occupies pride of place in the sugar bowel


It had been an incredibly enjoyable day, partly the physical act of making the spoon was exhausting (there is a lot of hammering involved) and rewarding but our teacher Steve Wager is really passionate about silversmithing and passing on his skills and knowledge. The class takes place in his own workshop under one of the jewellery shops in Hatton Garden, there is a nice story attached to this as apparently when he opened up the workshop the trade in the shop went up as customers assumed that the jewellery was being made in situ as it were. Viewed through my current educational obsession to do with apprenticeship it was a really fascinating day. I was prepared for disappointment the second time round, as I rarely enjoy anything as much the second time I try it but to my surprise I still came out buzzing and wondering how I could cut back on work so I could do silversmithing courses during the week. And I suffered a whole new kind of pain as my little finger went into a massive spasm brought on by planishing. Anyway I still need to do some more work to finish up the bowl but here is what it looks like


Recently I have been having a certain amount of fun trying to track down pieces made by Benjamin Smith, so far the highlights have been the Wellington Shield in Apsley House and the Presidents Cup in the National Maritime Museum.

So in the silver theme here is a very brilliant (no really you should listen to this if you have got this far) and modern although it doesn’t sound that modern track,

And another much older silver related track

Silver Machine by Hawkwind

And for no other reason than they popped into my head and I thought it was a long time since I had heard them, Religious as Hell by the March Violets