Rock rose

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It blooms for so brief a time, but even its fallen petals make an impact.

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City of God (2002)

Dir Fernando Meirelles

This was May’s mystery film. I was tempted not to stay – I was pretty sure I’d already seen it, and gangsters in a Rio favela are not really my thing. But I stayed and admired it without liking it. It’s high-energy, non-stop film-making with no moments of reflection so you are entirely caught up in it; it’s not until afterwards that you have the chance to think about what it must take to live decently in such poverty, violence, official indifference and corruption.

It was brilliant at portraying that life from the inside and opening your eyes to it, but it was depressing to see the murderous gang members get younger and younger. Those in the last scene hadn’t even reached double digits.

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Bird food

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It’s enjoyable sitting in the garden at present – not just because of the virtuous, relieved feeling of having got it back under control after the holiday (garden dictator that I am) or because of the lovely weather, but also because if I sit still a blue tit will land on the gooseberry bush right next to me and examine it for insects that it can take back to its hungry brood in one of the bird boxes behind me. (Great tits currently in the starling box and blue tits in the sparrow box. Honestly . . . can’t they read!)

Not many bees around yet.

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Woerden to the Hook of Holland

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Schipluiden

Got lost in Zoetemeer this time (and not for the first time either) but Delft was a breeze.

I noticed that my photographs make Dutch brickwork in the sunshine look like needlepoint tapestries.

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Delft and the spire of the Nieuwe Kerk

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Amersfoort to Woerden

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Former town hall: late Gothic base and Renaissance upper

On a map, the centre of Woerden is obviously star-shaped. I’m used to seeing the shape at the edge of towns: it’s usually the fortress. Here it’s the whole town that was fortified and bounded by the Singel. It was on the edge of the Dutch provinces in the 17th century and formed part of the defensive waterline. Just to underline the fortress motif, tonight we are staying in the town’s former arsenal.

It’s pleasant to be cycling in the Netherlands again. Great infrastructure, but I sometimes feel very cautious and lumbering when I enter a busy Dutch town and am caught up in the cycling rush hour. I think I gave Utrechters plenty to tut about this afternoon as I obeyed traffic lights and manoeuvred slowly round corners. (There’s a split in my wheel rim – damn’ Kopfsteinpflaster – and I’m not taking any chances.)

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Schwarmstedt to Hannover

The day began with skylarks and cuckoos and ended in the speeding bustle of Hannover.

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Soltau to Schwarmstedt

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The Alte Leine

A much pleasanter day’s ride, even if it was one I’d done before (albeit in the opposite direction). There’s something about a river – even a small one like the Leine – that holds a ride together nicely.

It was mildly interesting to note what I remembered of the previous ride. Not a lot, basically; much of it was generic German cycle-touring and could have been anywhere. I recalled Bad Fallingbostel but misremembered the café; the Schloss at Ahlden rang loud bells, but it hadn’t registered before that this is where Sophia Dorothea of Celle – George II’s mother – was imprisoned for 30 years by her ex-husband. A beautiful spot on a sunny day, but the thought still cast a slight chill.

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