Amsterdam – the week that was

I keep lists of everything –the better to think less- and that includes a travel list- what not to forget. So I was dismayed to find, when I hooked up my computer in my hotel room, that the cord connecting it to my cell phone didn’t connect. After the initial panic, calm set in. I’ve been on enough solo trips to know that plenty can and will go wrong. So I spent most of the day hunting down a telecom store. I think that most Amsterdamers don’t have cell phones (some of us in Israel have two and three), because there were no  tele-stores to be had over a wide area of the city. So, after an afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum and with an eye to postponing bedtime as much as possible after my 4:50 am flight from TA, I set out to city center, by tram. People here–locals and tourists alike– are friendly, really forthcoming, so tramming was a cinch. And eventually I found my store and bought my part. Must add it to my list!

Supper, which reminds me of the red cabbage salad, Diet Sprite, and rolls that, week by week, I ate in my hotel room in Eilat when I worked there, was a bought hotel-room chicken/macaroni/vegetable m salad– minus the yogurt sauce of course. And since my lowlow hotel rate does not include breakfast, I sneaked in my usual, soy milk, rolls, and slices of one of Holland’s ubiquitous cheeses. Now I’m looking forward to dozing off  over a book I just purchased at my daughter’s behest. Good night.

Exploring new worlds ——–>

I’m  often commissioned to write about  obscure topics, ones that I would never-ever research on my own.

Since my curiosity is boundless and the Internet is at my fingertips, I’m always entering new worlds.

(This reminds me  that until we built, I knew no building  terms in Hebrew, for example)

My latest project is antique botanical prints,  slated for a well-known online/print collectibles magazine.

And suddenly, I’m exploring

Hand-laid paper:press to enlarge

hand-laid paper:  featuring  ribbed texture imparted by its manufacturing process

Laid paper was hand-made with the size of the sheets limited by the  size of the wooden mold.  It features  patterns   impressed into the paper by  wire mesh. This  pattern of  wires, closely spaced lines with a mesh of  crossing lines at wider intervals,   is called chain lines.   Paper makers  sometimes  attached wire designs,  like  crests, dates or initials, to the mesh. This creates a matching design in the paper, called a “watermark,”  which  is often  used to help determine the date or manufacturer of the paper in question.

wove-paper  is mechanically-made paper, in which  the pulp is formed  on a woven belt.  Wove paper was invented in the eighteenth century.

foxing:  age-related spots and browning seen on vintage paper documents

Foxing: press to enlarge

toning: softened or altered coloring

other possibilities: speckling, soiling, bleeding, staining…

–and what is verge: ???

Future areas  include Armenians,  fine wines, Chinese export silver, and more…..

Stay tuned.

Pesach at the Dan Gardens, Ashkelon

By the worn rugs, the flaking doors, and the marbled walls, this is obviously an acquired Dan– not one of the luxurious ones that dot the country– and it’s geared to the kiddie-crowd. Our Pesach visit was memorable– enough kids in the dining room for a luna park, screaming, crying, and been begged to eat. And a sign (so Israeli): Forbidden to Take food out of the Dining Room. Yet I saw a man lop off 7/8 of a pound cake at the buffet– then tuck it in his wife’s (oversized) pocketbook.

At least we had the seder elsewhere, with family.     Ashkelon_Israel_Map–But what to do in Ashkelon?



A walk along the beach, a side trip to Zikim shore (watching my better half brave the waves), and seeking food in nearby Ashdod (MacDonalds on Pesach in a deserted mall–is there anything more depressing?)

But rest and relax we did.

Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, Sri Lankan Treasures…. finally seeing what I write

Not just genealogy–

Qing porcelain made for  the Asian Market: Late 19th century very Large Famille Rose Green-Ground 'In and Out' Offering Dish (painted both inside and on the underside of the rim),
Qing porcelain made for the Asian Market: Late 19th century very Large Famille Rose Green-Ground ‘In and Out’ Offering Dish (painted both inside and on the underside of the rim)

courtesy Michael Backman Ltd, London, UK

I also explore collectibles for several  online/offline publications, including Antique Trader and Collectibles Trader. I generally learn each topic (Satsuma, Sevres porcelain, and Steuben glass, say) from scratch, hoping that, by the final editing,  I’ve  created a semblance of clarity and order. Yet I’ve rarely seen the rare and unusual objects  I write about.

Seeing is believing–

So what a treat. while in London,  to pop by Michael Backman Ltd,  a museum-like gallery  devoted to anything from Indonesian gold earrings to Spanish Colonial silver to Nepalese bronze ewers to Burmese palm leaf manuscripts … and  more.

We were   regaled with  explanations of

his expertise and experience

his background (France, Indonesia, Australia)

his fascination with trade and migration routes

his  sourcing ( local  estates and  from Brits  whose ancestors visited  these lands)

his  works on Asian economics  (published in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese and Indonesian)

A feast for the eyes and the imagination.

Standing Cup  and  Cover, c.1860, Hoaching
Standing Cup and Cover, c.1860, Hoaching

courtesy Michael Backman Ltd, London, UK

Visit him at

Michael Backman, Ltd.

No. 1 New Burlington Street
London  W1S 2JD
United Kingdom

St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London: Not Just Bach

While recently in London, I attended  a wonderful, candlelit  concert– several Bach Brandenburg Concertos   performed  on original instruments– at St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church.  These pieces (6 in all),  which were presented to Christian Ludwig Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721, are regarded as the epitome of Baroque composition.

The Fourth ( in G M) was especially enjoyable, since I myself, in  my day,  performed it tens of times throughout Israel.


Yet the next day, meeting one of the church bell ringers was just as memorable. The 19 year old, who has been ringing bells since he was 6, carries a small book full of intriguing  belling-sequence notations, all of  which, he allows, he has nearly learned by heart. And the accent is on heart– his eyes glowed as he described his hobby, his heritage (his father and his father before him were bell ringers as well) and the joy of pealing out joy.

So if you hear bells at  St-Martins on Sundays…..

Church bell from Saleby, Västergötland, Sweden containing an inscription from 1228 in the Runic alphabet

According to Wiki,

Method ringing in action

The “Blue Line” of Plain Bob Minor. This has 72 changes. Note that, for clarity, the row at the bottom of each column is repeated at the top of the next.

The plain course

This defines the changes over a relatively short sequence, ranging from a mere handful up to a few hundred changes at most. To learn this, a ringer must memorize the course taken by his or her bell during this span, called the plain course. To help learn it, ringers often use a diagram in which a plain course is written out, row by row, and a particular bell’s course is given visual shape, being traced by a blue line.

A method’s plain course begins and ends in rounds and thus can be considered as a performance in its own right, albeit a brief one.

Calls and compositions

In a longer peal, the plain course is repeated a number of times, but with defined break points at which one of the ringers, who is also acting as conductor, makes a call directing the ringers to make a slight variation in the course. (The most common calls are called bobs and singles.)