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I Get Through the Day Somehow

The coronavirus first made itself felt in my life, faster than I had expected. Not that I caught the disease itself, but I lost my side job as a playground monitor at a primary school because it had to shut down, the venues where I sell my paintings – the Sunday Market, the Pure Markt, the IJhallen flea market – are all closed until further notice, and my museum, cinema and gym memberships are completely useless. Oh well. To my surprise, I have no issue making it through the day. I do my groceries at Albert Heijn early in the day, when it’s still quiet. A staff member confided in me that the frustration levels of the customers rise along with how crowded the store is. The aisles are narrow, so it can be difficult to maintain the hallowed 1.5 distancing, especially when you add in the shelf stackers. After that, I stop in for a cup of coffee at Espressobar Tazzina at the corner of Willemstraat and Brouwergracht, which hosts a small exhibition of my paintings. Only one customer is allowed inside at a time, but it always takes a little while before their order is ready, giving them all the time they need to check out my work. After that, I head home and practice a bit of guitar while watching detective series on BBC First. I get bored just practicing guitar alone, and the same goes for watching TV, but combining the two works well for me. One day, I hope to play for a live audience, starting in Westerpark. Dream on, some people tell me – well, you just wait and see! (These days I play guitar at the farmer’s markets on Haarlemmerplein and Noordermarkt on Saturdays). The call for people to stay home is one I ignore. These last few days, motivated among others by the excellent weather, I have spent the afternoons going on long cycling trips to Het Twiske and the countryside to the north of Amsterdam, or – in the case of today – through the picturesque villages of Waterland: Holysloot, Randsdorp, Broek in Waterland and so many others. What really stands out to me is the silence – which is to say, the absence of noisy airplanes, because it’s not actually quiet: the birds make an absolute racket. I figure I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. Some of it also comes down to the idea that if disaster strikes and I catch corona, I’ll have much better odds if I’m in good physical condition. And sitting around at home all day every day isn’t going to make you feel any better, anyway. By the time I get home, the new RIVM figures are in. Not much to go by of course, since a lot of cases are not reported right away, especially on weekends. Sometimes the enormity of the virus’s impact on society just hits me all of a sudden. It may not have affected me personally all that much, but a lot of people have had their lives turned completely upside down. The two big issues are public health and the economy. Right now the priority is on health, but if we don’t find something to reduce the symptoms or a vaccine that can cure or prevent the disease, we shall have to start making hard choices at some point. Me, I’ve already seen quite a bit of the world and I have a decent amount of life experience, so I’m not all that bothered, but I hope that young people will be able to go back to living their lives and developing themselves the way they want in the near future. Time will tell.

In the evenings I play some more guitar while watching TV, or I phone family members and friends, because let’s face it, the circumstances do mean that I’m not seeing quite as much of them as usual. I never really plan more than a day ahead – speaking of which, tomorrow’s weather promises to be great for cycling…

by Harmen Hart

What’s going on behind the silent facades of the Jordaan district during lockdown? Verhalenfestival Jordaan – the Jordaan Story Festival – asked residents to submit their stories. What’s going on in their heads and in their lives?

Eight of the stories were read and recorded by local actors and used to create the audio walk Niets te zien (Nothing to See).


Het huis van Amsterdam met dank aan: Gemeente Amsterdam West Soundtrackcity